Saturday, February 15, 2014

Decapitated Head

I tried a version of this project 4 years ago, when I was just starting out doing props. It didn't turn out very well. 
The idea was to find a cheap and durable item to serve as a decapitated head. We didn't need a realistic face or hair, as the head would be wrapped in a bloody cloth. We just needed believable shape and weight. 
The first time, I started with a base of a hard rubber ball, then tried to sculpt the face around it. I think I ended up getting the shape close to right, but the weight was all wrong. The way the head moved and swayed in the hand of the actor revealed immediately that it was too light, and therefor clearly fake. 
This time, I again planned to use masking tape to do the sculpting, but instead of the rubber ball, I started with a 5lb bag of sugar as my base. In addition to the weight, it had the added benefit of already being larger and a more oblong head-shape, which saved me some work in building up bulk. 
I covered the bag of sugar with an initial layer of the masking tape, to make sure the sugar was sealed and prevent me from accidentally causing a tear in the bag while I was working on it. 
Sculpting with masking tape is done by creating long twisted strands. I tear of a long piece, stick the other end to a table, then proceed to twist the tape, sticky side out, in to a long rope. 
The ropes have far more bulk that just a single layer of tape would. I layer the tape ropes, first all over to round out the base shape, 
And then gradually in a more deliberate manner to sculpt the face. 
Until I have something that I think will be believable. 
Once the head is completely sculpted, it needs the final finish. 
A couple layers of masking tape stuck flat and face down creates a nice smooth skin.

I meant to finish this post with a photo of the head, wrapped in the bloody cloth, but I never managed to get a photo of it. I am pleased to say though that it was a success. Just before the head was brought onstage, the ASM dipped it into a bowl of watered down stage blood. It was gruesomely effective as the actor hoisted the head in the air and we could see the blood dripping down onto the stage.

To keep everything in good shape, the ASM wiped the head down nightly so none of the blood dried onto it, and the bloody cloth was put in with the laundry, to make sure it didn't get crusty. 

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