Check out This Mind-Blowing SFX Tutorial That Shows Some Skin for Less Than $250

You know -- there's more than one way to skin a guy's arm. The London-based filmmakers of the short film He Took His Skin Off For Me have come up with a unique and intriguing premise for a film: a "story of a man who takes his skin off for his girlfriend, and why it probably wasn't the best idea." If that's blowing your mind right now, just take a gander at their tutorial that shows you how they created the "skinless" SFX. If you have $250 and a team of dedicated and talented artists and filmmakers, you could be well on your way to making excuses to make a film about people with no skin. Check out the tutorial, videos, photos, and a few words from director Ben Aston after the jump.

Alright, did I mention that these SFX are mind-blowing? Well -- they are. I have an affinity for affordable SFX for indie filmmakers, namely because SFX and VFX can be costly enough to limit your creativity. When cost doesn't enter the equation, in any and all areas of filmmaking, that's when we see the unencumbered and unhindered filmmaker shine.

Here is some test footage they shot:

Aston said that the team spent less than $250 on materials -- and the skinned arm looks incredibly realistic, which is no surprise. Special Effects Artist Colin Arthur, former assistant to stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen, has been enlisted to mentor the filmmakers on the project. The SFX artists studied the anatomy of a human in preparation, painstakingly sculpted each muscle group in chavant, then carefully painted the "skinless" body using Skin Illustrator. Aston told NFS:

We knew we wanted to go practical as we love the way it photographs and wanted to make sure someone watching the footage really FELT that there was something there. Jen Cardno was the SFX supervisor. She spearheaded the cast of the hand and the moulding of the muscle pieces. Tom Smith and Hermes Pittakos handled additional moulding, painting and application. We approached it knowing we had to follow the anatomical form, but also knowing we had an element of poetic licence.

Here are a few photos from the creation of the skinless arm:

Sculpting muscle groups in chavant

Skin SFX Tutorial

Silicone molds of individual muscles

Using a Q-tip and acetone, artists pulls edges tight

If you're interested in learning more, you can find the tutorial here, which offers incredibly in-depth explanations on how they achieved the realistic look they were going for.

He Took His Skin Off For Me currently has a campaign on Kickstarter. Check out the video below:

Even though they recently reached their goal of almost $11,000, the filmmakers are looking to reach their stretch goal of a little over $15,000 in order to afford to film the rest of the movie on a less restrictive schedule.

Since getting their actor in full makeup eats up the majority of the time they have to shoot, having time on their side would allow them to invest more in the actual filming of their film (what a concept, huh?)

Time is money, especially on a film set. The lengthy makeup application means we will only ever have a handful of hours in a shooting day to deliver the sequences you want to see! If we only shoot for 4 days we have to significantly cut back on the what we can show, both in terms of story and a SFX. We want to have the freedom to accomplish EVERYTHING in maria's story and deliver on the promise of the SFX team. A whole extra day of shooting is going to give the team more time to ensure the team is able to make this film the BEST it can possibly be.

Their Kickstarter page and their how-to guide are definitely worth taking a look at. I'm truly amazed by these artists' work.

What do you think of the methods these filmmakers used for their SFX? What are your go-to budget SFX techniques? Let us know in the comments.


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Your Comment


Movies should not rely too much on vfx and more on story!!!!!

August 3, 2013 at 3:19PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Common sense

Agreed -- but obviously that's not the case here.

August 3, 2013 at 3:28PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

V Renée
Content Manager at Coverfly

Did you see the title of the movie? In this case the VFX is the story.

August 3, 2013 at 3:33PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


VFX for the sake of story: good
VFX for the sake of VFX: not so good

This film: VFX for the sake of story

August 3, 2013 at 3:57PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

V Renée
Content Manager at Coverfly

Dear Readers....
All movies should be like every movie and no one should try to do anything different.
If you try to do anything different you are just dumb and should feel dumb.

Sincerely the best commenter ever...DUH


August 3, 2013 at 5:08PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Nice simplistic take, grandma.

August 3, 2013 at 11:41PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


agreed with renee, and isn't it special effects (in-camera) -- not visual effects (digital)? or am I just turned around?

August 5, 2013 at 12:39AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Fantastic! Lil' blood and satire is always fun!

Odd that 7k euros are needed for it though... my SPFX guy made 3 full blown, highly detailed bigfoot suits for 9k Canadian. He gave us a crazy good deal, but still. /shrugs/.

Long live practical FX!

August 3, 2013 at 4:23PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I really really like the filmmakers. They seem so genuine and passionate. The sfx look awesome. Totally believable. But it's just too creepy for me. I can't watch it. But I applaud them for their diligence. Good work.

August 3, 2013 at 5:42PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Great sfx.

July 13, 2014 at 1:14AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Just to clarify, this is SFX not VFX.

If it's done in camera = SFX
Done in post = VFX

July 13, 2014 at 4:30AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Reminds me of Hellraiser

July 13, 2014 at 4:31AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


I have to say I disagree here, it is a bit of a case of "how can we fit a story around this cool SFX we have come up with", Which is fine in some contexts... but:

Whilst I think this would make an excellent conceptual art film, listening to his rationale and description of the desired longer film and story in the kickstarter video, "the perils of living without skin... ...getting cold at night...losing clients at work", I think he is taking what in reality is a ridiculous concept far too literally, which is going to make for a film that it is impossible to suspect disbelief our over.

I could be wrong and he might just be explaining it poorly, but it does feel like a story for the sake of SFX. That is, the story that it sounds like he is choosing to tell.

Plus it will always be compared to Hellraiser ;-)

July 13, 2014 at 4:41AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM