Creature Effects Terminology
The creature special effects film industry uses some unique terminology. To get the most out of your tour thorough this site you may want to familiarize yourself with the following terms you will encounter on the tour.
A prop used on set which is controlled by one puppeteers located outside of the camera's field of view.
A puppet built to perform a full range of motions and/or expressions. Designed for use in close-up scenes where detailed performance is required.
Cable Articulated Puppet
A puppet which is controlled through the use of one or more cables operated by levers. The fully articulated Shriekers for Tremors 2: Aftershocks for example were controlled by 13 different cables which required 13 puppeteers to operate, far more than the film's budget would support. The solution was to have other crew members working the handles when complex creature movements were required.
A puppet which is operated though the use of electronic servos and/or hydraulic pistons, often controlled though a computerized interface.
Simple puppet directly controlled by the hand of the puppeteer. No cables, electronics or hydraulics are required. Most often used when complex movements are not required. Several scenes of the graboid from Tremors were effectively accomplished on a miniature set with a simple hand puppet to represent the head of the worm coming out of the ground.
A puppet which is controlled by hydraulic pistons. Hydraulics are most often used to move large or heavy puppets. Because of the great power of hydraulic systems, they can be somewhat dangerous. Often times puppeteers control hydraulic puppets through complex computer interfaces which help protect cast, crew and even the puppet itself from an accidental dangerous moves or a malfunction of the system itself.
Motion Controlled Puppet
A puppet for which all, or almost all, movement is controlled via computer, so that moves are precisely repeatable. The head of the Goro puppet from Mortal Kombat, for example, was programmed with a specific series of lip movements which were timed to lip-sync to the character's voice track. The puppet's head performed the lip movements correctly on every take, allowing the puppeteers to focus on other aspects of the performance.
A fully functional (fully articulated) puppet designed for use in close-up scenes where detailed performance is required.
A puppet lacking full functionally (not fully articulated) designed for use in wide shots or quick scenes were a fully articulated is not required. The stunt Shriekers in Tremors 2: Aftershocks for example were only capable of movement via crew pulling on fishing line and were used primarily for quick death shots. Their bodies were filled with bags of innards and small explosive charges were used to simulate bullet strikes. When the explosive charges fired, the crew let go of the supporting lines letting the creatures fall limply to the ground.
Crew member specially trained in performing some or all movements of a puppet. Often, many puppeteers are required to create all the required movements
A sculpture or puppet created in the actual size in which it will be represented on screen.
A sculpture or puppet built smaller than the size it appear on screen. Miniature sculptures are used in design and testing and miniature puppets are used for photography on miniature sets when creation of a full scale puppet is not feasible
A mechanism worn by the puppeteer which, through a series of strategically mounted potentiometers, reads the puppeteer's body movements and translates them to a computer system. The computer system interprets the movements and sends corresponding movements to a puppet. The advantage is that this device one puppeteer to control far more movements at once, such as raising a multi-jointed arm, or closing all five fingers. This technique cuts down on the number of puppeteers required. It also cuts down rehearsal and shooting time because the puppeteer's movements are intuitive, allowing for acting based performance than more traditional means of control like radio controlled airplane transmitters or pulling on cable articulated levers.
An accurate, life-size "copy" of the face and/or body of an actor. It is created from impressions taken of the actor in plaster or other materials. Clay is sculpted over the resulting life cast to create the desired creature parts or make-up effects appliances.
Small electric motor used to remotely control puppet movement. Often used for the small detailed movements required for facial expressions.