Tutorial: Learn How to Make Zombies Digitally

Digital ZombiesIf you're making a zombie flick, but you don't have a talented makeup artist, but you do have a talented digital effects artist who can composite the bloody, rotten, festering features of the undead, then maybe it'd be a good idea to go digital with your characters' zombification. A recent tutorial by Ryan Connolly of Film Riot shows us how to use a handful of digital tools, such as After Effects, Mocha, and MonsterFX Undead, to create a believable, decaying, and altogether disgusting zombie for your film.

The great thing about creating these effects digitally is that your actors don't have to spend hours in makeup, both sitting in a chair and walking around a hot set all day needing touch-ups. You can shoot your scenes and deal with the makeup later. However, not everyone likes, or is convinced by, the digital aesthetic, but a good VFX artist, like a good SFX artist, blends the unreal with the real, making the artifice invisible.

Okay, so here are the tools Film Riot uses in the tutorial:

The MonsterFX Undead pack comes with 575 hi-res drag and drop assets -- textures for eyes, mouths, teeth, limbs, skins, you name it. Mocha is a planar tracking and root utility that Connolly emphatically expresses fondness for, so check it out, get the trial version, and see if it works for you.

Check out the tutorial below:

I think it goes without saying that you have to be sure to continue this process on the neck, hands, arms, legs -- whatever is showing -- on your zombie characters to get the full effect. Otherwise, your zombie will seem less putrid and more -- sprightly -- like he just got back from a nice tennis match.

Do you have any tips on creating digital zombies, or any other monsters for that matter? Any other trackers or asset packs that you recommend? Let us know in the comments?

[via Film Riot & Filmmaker IQ]

Your Comment


I've been a frequent visitor to this site for a couple of years and this article is sort of making me rethink that. Worse, it seems to be part of a growing trend where the target reader is less and less experienced. This article is a far cry from something like the write up on Cannis Belli.

Also, and I mean no disrespect, but V seems to have adopted a quantity over quality approach.

For example, while the cost of the full Mocha is listed, nowhere in the article is it mentioned that a version of Mocha is included with AE (since CS4 or 5). I have no doubt V is aware of this, but it may have slipped her mind as she was preparing the three other articles that she may post (or repost?) today. This info may be in the video, but I couldn't make it all the way through the tutorial's demo just to see how to pull off a mediocre effect, that would be far easier, cheaper and more convincing to do with actual makeup.

Here's an alternate tip, find a local makeup artist from Model Mayham and get in touch with them. I guarantee you'll get better results.

And while I'm thinking of it, if you are going to be reposting tutorials created on other sites, couldn't you at least use some of Andrew Kramer, Stu Maschwitz or Freddie Woo's stuff? Film riots stuff seems to be aimed people who are just starting out and still think "fix it in post" is a good idea.

Hopefully, I'm not being too harsh on V, but I've seen (and expect) a lot better from her.

October 28, 2013 at 9:20PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I guess I don't understand. If you don't like the articles, don't read them. Why go around cr*pping on V, film riot and nfs?

October 29, 2013 at 7:34AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I am not a fan of the "if you don't like it don't read mentality"

Ari's comment was balanced and constructive in my opinion, and while I did enjoy this article I am not a fan of the simple reposting of other blog's content that NFS has taken in the past year.

It seems the few times they actually feature a short it's often a Vimeo staff pick, which I've already watched because I check the Vimeo Staff Picks frequently. I would love it if they did their own homework and highlighted work that was excellent but maybe not receiving the love it deserves.

This one of the view channels I've found the post interesting videos based seemingly not on views but on content, I don't know how he finds so many interesting things but I love it.

October 29, 2013 at 10:54AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


yeah...the "if you don't like it don't read it mentality" is for 5 years old children. But if I want to know if I like some article at first I have to read it.... I think is nice to have some variety of articles in differents skill levels...we still can learn...but yeah....lately this site should be called "no film kindergarden"...No offense :)

October 29, 2013 at 12:16PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I'm not trying to cr*p on nfs, V, or even film riot. I have really liked many of V's posts, and nfs has been one of my most frequently visited sites in the last year and a half.

I was simply giving the feedback that the new direction of material lately hasn't been as useful for me (a longtime reader) as in the past. I didn't intend it as hostile.

October 29, 2013 at 1:16PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Thanks for the feedback Ari. Your points on more advanced tutorials/articles are heard loud and clear :)

Andrew Kramer's tutorials were actually the ones I cut my After Effects teeth on.

October 29, 2013 at 12:39PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

V Renée
Content Manager at Coverfly

As the writer of the Canis article I'm kind of touched that you even still remember it! Funnily enough that film got lost in the post process and we just couldn't work out how to finish it. A year and a half on and finally we have.

In defence of V R I generally find a lot of her posts interesting and not material I would normally have sought out myself. I do agree that we appear to have lost a bit of the thought leadership the site used to have.

October 28, 2013 at 11:46PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I couldn't even get through that 2 and a half minute intro to watch the tutorial before turning it off.

Why on earth does a tutorial have to be so obnoxious? Just show me how to do it please.

November 19, 2013 at 4:26PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM