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  • Orbitae Films

Noseless villains: when SFX meets VFX

Updated: May 28

When you’re creating a villain, you better make him or her with features that are easily and immediately recognizable. This is important, as they need to be memorable. You can achieve this through the profile, the voice or a specific feature, like a scar or the absence of a nose. In fact, removing this central part of the face - a part we all take for granted-, makes the villain less human and closer to death, therefore more of a potential threat.

noseless villains, when SFX meets VFX
The ghoul in Fallout, the series | Amazon Prime

That is why it is common in the villain arena to have noseless antagonists. But you guessed it, creating a character without a nose is no easy endeavor. To be able to make it believable, you have to blend the practical with the digital. It’s a perfect example of SFX with VFX.


THE GHOUL - FALLOUT

Walton Goggins is the actor that plays the Ghoul in the recently released series adaptation of the game Fallout. The SFX make-up, designed by Vincent Van Dyke and applied by Jake Garber, took around 5 hours to put on, including prosthetics and dentures, but they were able to narrow it down to 2 hours.


In order to remove the nose, they painted a few white dots over it and it’s VFX Studio FutureWorks India, who stepped in to remove it in at least 500 shots, according to Looper. The actor said to Deadline that the transformation was “extremely anxiety provoking” at first, as he had to figure out how to act, express himself and talk with all these prosthetics on.


VOLDEMORT - HARRY POTTER

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had a serpent like nose which was very hard to create. According to Shaune Harrison, key prosthetics Designer who worked on the Harry Potter & The Philosophers stone movie, the producers initially wanted the nose to be removed practically. “Even though we knew it was fairly impossible, we went ahead and sculpted a version which of course was rejected”, he describes on his website. Therefore, they opted to remove it digitally, adding tracking dots on the face, which proved to be incredibly hard.



In an interview with RatioTimes.com, Paul Franklin, the visual effects supervisor of the movie, said that Voldemort’s nose “had to be painstakingly edited out, frame by frame, over the whole film. And then the snake slits had to be added and tracked very carefully using dots put on his face for reference”, and added: “The art and time that goes into those nostrils should never be underestimated”.


RED SKULL - CAPTAIN AMERICA

Red Skull is such an important and recognizable character in the Marvel comics, that it was a great challenge to recreate him for a life-action movie. The beautiful 7-pieces silicon prosthetics applied in around 3 ½ hours by SFX make-up artist David White, were designed to make sure that the features of the actor, the one and only Hugo Weaving (LOTR, Matrix, etc.), were never lost. Then it was time for digital enhancement.

“His nose had been simply left black by make-up, and we had to paint that out replacing it with a CG cavity complete with sinewy tissue in his sinus”, Fawkner, VFX Supervisor.

Left: make up with tracking dots | Right: final look with VFX ©Walt Disney Company


What seemed like a relatively simple brief of nose replacement, became more complicated than expected, as Jonathan Fawkner, Visual Effects Supervisor from Framestore, explains: “the mask is a beautiful piece of work, but, ultimately, it sat on top of [Hugo’s] face, with all that that entails. It bulged over his neck, over the back of the head, it had too prominent a chin in some shots (…). Hugo's performance pushed the mask into places which prosthetics couldn’t anticipate”.


So, what did they do in addition to remove the nose? Well, in the end, they had to recreate a full 3D version of the head, among other things. Here’s the list:

Red Skull VFX enhancements


VECNA - STRANGER THINGS

With Vecna, the Duffer brothers, directors of Stranger Things, wanted an iconic villain, akin to the Night King. So, it was only logical they contacted the man who brought to life the Game of Thrones villain: Barrie Gower.


Inspired by the concept art made by Michael Mayer, the team at BGFX made a full body cast of the actor, in order to sculpt and mold up to 25 different prosthetics. In total, it took around 8 hours for the team of make-up artists to apply and paint all the body, head and face appliances.

noseless villains, when SFX meets VFX
Vecna's breakdown by Rodeo FX

“It was very clear from day one that we would work very closely with the VFX team”, explains Bower to Vanity Fair, in order to make enhancements, like the removal of the nose (painted black with white dots), but also the moving vines all over his body.


In addition to that, although they sculpted and practically created Vecna’s left hand, it had to be completely replaced by a CG one, because “the on-set practical suit wasn’t enabling to have proper acting with it. So, every time you see this mutated hand, it’s the work of the animation team”, as explained by Julien Héry, VFX supervisor at Rodeo FX. See the full breakdown here.  

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