Practical Movie Magic: How to Make Realistic Bodysuits for Film and TV

'Bill and Ted Face the Music'Credit: United Artists Releasing
Ever wondered what artists on movie sets do to achieve realistic prosthetics and makeup?

The term "movie magic" extends over a lot of things that go into making a film the best it can be. Elements like costumes, makeup, and special effects play a major role in making a movie look its best. And though a lot of credit goes to the artists behind the scenes who are designing the visual effects onscreen, those who craft practical effects are still hitting it out of the park.

In a video recently released by Insider, viewers were shown the intricate process of making bodysuits for film and television. Special effects expert Kevin Yagher shows us his impressive work on Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter’s muscular suits for Bill and Ted Face the Music. Check out the video below!

Here are the steps that go into making the bodysuits we see onscreen.

  • The first step is getting a life cast of an actor’s entire torso. The cast is made with two types of silicone rubber. Some of the rubber has oil in it to ensure that none of the actor’s body hair is ripped out when the cast is taken off.
  • Once the silicones adhere to each other, the actors are wrapped in a temporary plaster jacket to hold them together. This jacket will eventually be replaced by a fiberglass shell, which forms the mold that shapes the bodysuits.
  • The fiberglass shell then gets laid up into the silicone impression, which then gets covered in clay to be sculpted. In this stage, the bodysuit starts to take on realistic qualities.
  • After sculpting the shape of the bodysuits with all the details in the clay, a mold of clay is made using thicker silicone. It is then combined with the life cast torso shell and injected with foam latex. 
  • The outer layer of foam is then removed and replaced with a skin-colored layer of silicone.

Silicone is obviously a huge aspect of making these suits. Foam wrinkles easily, and silicone can soften those wrinkles. More importantly, Yagher says silicone absorbs light the same way human skin does.

This is perfect for making the suits look realistic on camera. Additionally, perfecting the skin tone of the bodysuit can be tricky. Artists start off with a color that is close to the complexion of the actor’s skin tone.

The accuracy of the suit’s skin tone is what will make or break the entire thing—if the color isn’t convincing, it can’t work. For example, in Bill and Ted Face the Music, artists had to anticipate odd ways to achieve certain colors. In one shocking find, they realized that a mixture of green and red paint would best replicate the look of chiseled abs. 

Hey, looks like there’s still magic in the movies after all.

What are some of your favorite practical effects from film? Let us know in the comments.     

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