When we needed to capture hair at a macro level we tested an old trick but a good one; the practical route.

For more about our digital hair work for the same project, check out this post.

The world of FX requires a ton of testing. This is where silly ideas become great ideas, it’s also the time that happy accidents can happen and I don’t mean falling down a manhole while laughing…

We were presented with a visual challenge; find a way to show hair growth and retraction, which would form part of a shift transition from one person to another.  At the pre-production stage of the project, it wasn’t known how we’d see hair grow and retract, so we tested some different options. What we did know was the pseudo mythology about how the hair would change. This provided us with a canvas, which guided our thoughts, designs, and processes, together.

What we did.

Armed with some prosthetic skin, a small hair rig, a military endoscope and HD camera we fashioned these components into the setup you see below.

Hair punching around the play area.
The endoscope rig firing up for a take

The endoscope has a lens at 90° and is approx. 10mm in diameter. For small subjects to be seen, the scope has its own built-in light source which does some of the work of lighting the skin and hair. A supplementary 2K lamp was used as a general fill to get more out of the scene.

The skin was hair punched into a small collection of hairs, which we rigged from behind, to enable the hairs to be pulled through the skin in a controlled way. If one was to reverse this footage, it would provide the effect of the hairs growing. The rig was set-up vertically providing more control.

The hardest part of the test was the photography. Because everything was so tiny, it could be difficult to locate and frame for a hair that was going to move.  After several attempts, we got the knack of finding, lighting and operating the hairs, which you can see in the selects video above.

This technique wasn’t used in the show because it was decided that going to a macro level wouldn’t fit the vision, however, the experiment produced some quick and interesting shots, that have quite a realistic, grungey feel to them.

Please get in touch, if you’d like to know more.