Special makeup effects (FX) have played an incredibly significant role in the development of the movie industry, helping to create some of the most memorable and iconic characters and visual effects in movie history. The history of special makeup FX reflects the changing tastes of moviegoers over the years and demonstrates the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary expertise in tv and movies. Makeup artists and special effects technicians have always worked closely with directors, cinematographers, and other members to help bring each director’s vision to life. This article will take a look at the evolution of special FX from the early days of silent movies to today.
The Early Years
One of the earliest pioneers of FX special effects makeup was Lon Chaney, who used makeup and prosthetics to transform into various characters in the silent movies of the 1910s and 1920s. In the 1930s and 1940s, special effects makeup became more common in Hollywood movies, particularly horror and science fiction movies. Makeup artists such as Jack Pierce and Dick Smith developed new techniques and materials to create realistic-looking monsters and creatures, such as Frankenstein’s monster and the werewolf. This was tied to the rise of horror and science-fiction movies which led, in turn, to the development of new makeup techniques to create these monstrous and otherworldly creatures. Indeed, as Jack Pierce said, “the sole reason for any makeup, particularly character makeup, is not to proclaim the skill of the artist or the actor, but to help tell the story”.
Advances in Technology
In the 1960s and 1970s, technological advancements, as well as the rise of independent moviemaking and the counterculture movement, led to a new wave of experimentation and innovation in special effects makeup. Makeup artists such as Tom Savini and Rick Baker began pushing the boundaries of what was possible with prosthetics, fake blood, and other materials, creating some of the most memorable and iconic movie monsters of all time. Makeup pioneers such as Dick Smith created a fake blood recipe still used today and invented customized dentures to change Marlon Brando’s appearance in “The Godfather”. Another of Smith’s techniques still used today in Hollywood is making actors’ masks out of several layers molded on their faces rather than using just one piece. Some of the most iconic movie characters- from Freddy Kreuger to the Midnight Cowboy- were brought to life by these pioneers.
Special FX Makeup Today
Today, special effects makeup is an integral, constantly evolving aspect of contemporary moviemaking. Advances in materials and technology have made it possible to create increasingly realistic, complex, compelling effects while also making the process more accessible to aspiring makeup artists and moviemakers working on limited budgets. The advent of social media and the wealth of YouTube and Tiktok tutorials are also making the profession become more and more popular, with large online communities forming in which budding special FX makeup movie artists can share tips and tricks for advancing in the industry.