Jump to content

Creature Suit Analysis - Part 3 - The Mime Inside


Recommended Posts

Creature Suits Analysis - Part Three The Mime inside

PHYSICAL STRESS OF BEING IN A SUIT

"Put on this suit and walk that way for 100 yards." Sounds pretty simple, at first thought. But experience with costume suits will reveal considerations which need to be clarified.

Having built creature suits and worked in them, I can state with assurance that you start sweating by the time you finally get the headpiece on. You can sweat off a few pounds of perspiration just walking casually in the suit. If you don't break off the head section and let at least your own head dissipate the heat, plus drinking water or gatoraide copiously, you'll likely pass out after awhile. That's why I ended up, in the movie Swamp Thing, dying in a South Carolina swamp instead of Ben Bates, the stuntman hired to do the villian Arcane Monster suit work in Swamp Thing. Ben was grounded by the paramedics on set when he felt faint after wearing his suit for the first few scenes of the fight. (**** Durock, as Swamp Thing, just plopped down into the swamp water between takes to cool off, so his suit was fully irrigated by that action).

After every take, I had my crew break off the head mask and take a Hudson Sprayer with cold water and spray it into my suit to cool me.

Now you might think, "I rented a suit from a costume shop for halloween, and it didn't kill me". Chances are, the suit was loose when you wore it, allowing a fair amount of air to flow around inside, making heat dissipation easier. Generally, the tighter, more form-fitting the interior padding is, the hotter the suit gets. So your average Halloween rental costume may get hot inside, but nothing compared to a studio suit with snug, custom fitted padding throughout.

Filming a person in a suit, at least one assistant is usually never more than 30 feet from the person in the suit, always ready to assist and help cool the performer inside the suit. If a suit mime has to go from Point A to Point B and the assistant can't be in both places, then you need two assistants, one at each point, ready to serve the mime and cool him off.

As I look at the figure in the PG film and try to look at it from the suit perspective, I invariably keep asking myself," where's Patty's support crew, if she's a suit"? I've seen a stuntman who's in fine physical shape taken down by the stress of working in a suit, and Don McLoud in the suit for Tanya's Island near died when he fainted and no assistants were close enough to break him out of the suit immediately. The profuse sweating caused his body to dehydrate and at some point, the body's electrolyte function fails, and the person just black's out.

In 1967, human's had the same physical limitations, and fur suits can kill, especially when worn by amateurs who go running around with no concern for the stress they are subjecting their bodies to. And the cool suit technology now used in suits wasn't introduced until the early 1980's (I tested one of the earliest versions in 1981, while bidding on "Congo" when Micheal Crichton was planning to direct it, and so I know it wasn't available in 1967.)

In fairness, I do have to acknowledge that like any physical training, a person can train to have greater endurance in a suit, and can do more physical activity and stay suited up longer, with conditioning and practice. But we are now talking about a professional suit mime, stuntman (or woman), or somebody starting out very athletic and having weeks, or months, to train in the suit day after day. But throughout that training, the suit mime has assistants, to help dress into and out of the suit, to help cool off the mime, etc.

So if, as some have suggested, Janos Prohaskus was the mime in Patty, where's his support crew. He's a veteran suit mime pro and know's the stress and danger. If he's "Patty", I can't imagine him not having a support crew to insure he survives the shoot. If it's an amateur like BH in the suit, he should have been dead by the time Patterson ran out of film in his camera.

Another note about costume assistants worth mentioning: A person in a gorilla or ape suit can't get himself into it and out of it. He can help get into the main torso parts, but needs an assistant to close everything up and groom the fur. A mime trying to suit himself up is incapable of securing the head well, and can't groom the head/neck fur on the back to blend seamlessly into the back, as Patty's fur appears. I cannot see that kind of smoothness on the head/neck flow into the back without a suit asistant there at the filming, grooming the suit immediately before the camera started rolling.

And the mime inside needs an assistant to help get the head off and provide some cooling assistance (like a battery operated fan, cold water spritzed in the face, water or gatoraide to drink, and help sitting down often) after each shot or rehursal.

If a suit was used to make the PG film, the need for having one or more suit assistants on site to assist the person in the suit would be standard professional practice. And if such people are present, the entire hoax does become more complex. While not conclusive of itself, it factors into any probability a hoax could be successfully pulled off.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Wearing any mask that extends the mask mouth area significantly outward beyond a mime's real mouth presents a problem for the mime. When a person normally expells the breathe, all that expelled air (which is oxygen depleted by the body, and rich in CO2) dissipates into the air, so on the next inhalation, the person again inhales what is generally normal oxygenated air.

But with a mask on, if it has an airspace outward of the mime's real mouth, that mask airspace tends to hold some of the deoxygenated air inside, and when the mime then inhales again, some of that deoxygenated air goes back into the lungs, thus giving the mime less oxygen. If the mask space is large enough, and the mime's breathing shallow, this can lead to an oxygen defficency in the mime's body, similar to being at a very high altitude.

Add the exersion of the suit itself, and it increases the prospect the mime may faint during the suit wearing session.

I have built suits whereby I added a battery-operated air pump (sold at aquarium stores for people transporting fish and needing a portable pump to airiate the transport fish container). It runs on two D cel batteries. I've run that tube into the ape mask so there is always full fresh air even inside the mask airspace, insuring the mime has good air continuously, even if they breathe shallow.

Additionally, communication with the person in the suit is essential. A mime in a full suit it actually almost "cut off" from the world around him, in terms of vision (often having tunnel vision and a hard time just turning a mask head), in terms of sound (the head mask muffles a lot of general noise and people talking nearby), and even in terms of general physical sensation due to the suit stress. So for a 1987 commercial for AST Computers, a job with five ape-suited mimes, I built two-way walkie-talkies into the head masks with a voice-activated setting, so we could always talk to the mimes (once the headpiece is on, they can't hear very well) and the mimes could talk to us and guarantee the'y be heard if a problem arises.

These are both professional considerations to insure greater success in working a person in a suit. An amateur can forgo these but, the absense of these further diminishes the prospect an amateur suit and an amateur wearing it will succeed in accomplishing a very sophisticated hoax.

STABLE FOOTING

One curious, minor and generally overlooked aspect of the rigors of a mime in a suit is the matter of what his/her real foot is doing inside a prosthetic foot. The reason this actually is important is in the matter of giving the mime a sense of being "sure-footed", a critical sensation for a mime to safely perform in a suit.

Old fashion "big feet" (prosthetic feet) were slush latex cast, a method which simply means you take liquid latex and pour it into a foor shaped mold and slush it around, and then pour out as much as you can, and the latex buildup on the mold wall becomes the prosthetic foot when dry. It produces a shell of latex with the largest interior, and thus the design that allows the most number of people to wear it. The opposite is a form molded foot cast, with flexible polyfoam poured into the mold after the latex slush has hardened, and a positive shape of a mime's real foot or shoe is incerted into the mold so the polyfoam fills in around it. This customizes the prosthetic to be worn by a person with that foot or shoe size only, but gives the person a better fit and a much surer walk.

Using a loose slip latex prosthetic foot presents an additional danger to the mime wearing it. The perspiration that occurs when the mime is suited up can drip into a latex foor prosthetic, and the inside surface of a slush cast latex piece is already rather smooth. With perspiration added, the inside of the prosthetic foot can actually be so slippery that the mime's own foot slips inside it, enough to cause the ankle to twist or the mime to lose balance.

So I personally, in all the suits I've built, added an athletic shoe of the mime's size foamed into the prosthetic foot, to give the mime the best sense of sure-footedness possible, a vital safety feature as far as I'm concerned.

FILMING "AVERAGEFOOT"

Let's assume Patterson is planning a hoax filming. The creature he's planning to film isn't called "averagefoot". It's called "bigfoot". So the hoax suit better have big feet, shouldn't it? Like about the size of the footprints often found?

Suit makers in Hollywood have struggled with this issue for as long as I can remember, and probably long before I was born, Circus clowns struggle with the same challenge. If you extend the foot beyond the real toes, with any kind of bigger shoe or mock large foot, you must literally re-learn how to walk. The extreme example, which you are all aware of, is the "swimfin" walk, where a person wearing swinfins around a pool must raise the knee and carefully hold the foot straight level with the ground to take a step. If the walker lets down his concentrated effort to walk that way, and slips back into a normal walk cycle, he will stumble over the extended part in front of his toes.

The challenge of suitmakers has alway been that if something about the design requires a foot on the suit to be longer than the actor's real foot or shoe, there is a risk the actor will stumble trying to walk. We spend all our lives learning to walk so we lift the foot just enough and bend the toes just enough to skim safely over the ground as we make each step. It's totally subconscious and automatic. And as soon as you change the length of the toe to extend further than what the walking person is used to, the whole autopilot walking motion goes out of whack.

The person must re-learn how to walk, finding a new safe height to raise the knee, and a new angle of the foot to hold as the foot steps forward. A professional mime in a suit usually has weeks, maybe even months to rehurse and learn the new walking cycle. An amateur does not, and an amateurish hoax scheme usually doesn't allow a few weeks for rehursals.

I haven't seen yet the studies on the size of the foot in the PG film, as compared to a normal man's foot, but if it's significantly bigger, I look at the fluid and confident walking of Patty and especially the head turn with no worry about keeping an eye on the ground ahead, and I have to conclude the figure walking is not wearing feet bigger than the feet it had all its life. It's just too sure-footed and relaxed in it's walk over that terrain.

Want to test it yourself? Go get a cheap pair of swimfins and cut them to the size of a "Bigfoot" foot cast. Then go walking around in the local park, think more about looking around for any sunbathing cute chicks, and see how many steps you can take before stumbling or falling flat on your face. Bet you can't walk as far as Patty does in the film.

FOOT MECHANICS

I have heard of three various concepts of putting mechanics into feet, which are 1. to pump fluid/air into muscle simulation areas of a suit. 2. to use a mechanism to bend the toes of enlarged prosthetic feet for a more natural walk cycle. and 3. to use mechanics to pull the toes of an enlarged prosthetic foot down to fascilitate making big footprints with the mime's feet while walking.

The first I mentioned in a thread in answer to a question about fluid pumps in the feet to help make muscle dynamics in a suit look better, but I am repeating the answer here.

When "The Howling" came out (1980), everybody in the business was trying to do everything with bladders, every producer wanted them (bragging rights), and nobody ever got anything working well with fluid bladders, just air bladders. It's the flow rate through a tube, plus tube length. We did a lot of blood tube stuff for bleeding wounds, cut veins "spurting" blood, etc. at the time.

You couldn't put a very big fluid resivoir in the foot to step on,and it would have to be shaped like a rigid hydraulic cylinder, not just a loose pouch or bag, because you must guarantee the fluid, once "stepped on" would flow only into the tube, not just expand the bag in a sideways direction in the shoe, the tube up to the "muscle" would slows down the reactive time (internal friction in the tube), and the rigid fur would overpower the fluid pressure, so the bladder would expand sideways or down back toward the mime's body, not outward. Bladders of any kind only worked well under thin foam latex prosthetics, because the foam has great elasticity and stretched so easily, so the bladder could expand it. No such luck for the fur areas.

The second concept is to give the larger prosthetic foot a more natural look, by allowing the appearance of toes pulling up during the walk cycle. Absent this, the prosthetic toes extending beyond the real foot inside simply stick straight out and do nothing. I've heard of a simple level mechanism driven by pressure on the heel to curl up the toes, or pressure on the ball of the foot. I have never seen an engineering drawing, much less a working mechanism of either, and in contemplating both, I haven't seen any effective way to actually impliment this.

The third device uses some weight of the body on a part of the real foot to force a mechanism in the prosthetic toes to pull downward, to "grip" the ground better, to make a better footprint (since the prosthetic toes, if rigid, would greatly increase the risk of the mime stumbling, and if flexible, would negate any prospect the prosthetic foot could make a strong toe print in the walking process. It's very flexibility that would fascilitiate the mime's walking would pervent it from making an footprint.) I have never seen an engineering drawing, much less a working mechanism of either, and in contemplating both, I haven't seen any effective way to actually impliment this idea either.

All these elements may have been theorized by proponents of suits to explain how a larger prosthetic foot could either A). pump fluid to make suit muscles bulge; or B). make the big foot prosthetic move more naturally, or C). make the prosthetic foot capable of accomplishing the big footprints.

I have yet to see any of these accomplished in a working mechanism, to accomplish one of the three results, and I cannot imagine a mechanism that might accomplish two or three of these things. So if an argument for a suit is advanced, and it includes any description to a foot mechanism doing any of these things, I would expect to see a working mechanism before I would give any creedance to the claim.

More to Come (and soon to be posted):

Creature Suits Analysis - Part Four Rebuilding Patty

Photo attachments:

I've attached a few photos from a commercial I did in 1987 for AST computers (don't think they're still in business) where they wanted to parody the 2001 Space Oddessy Dawn of Man opening sequence. I have a contract to build five full suits, and one hero character needed a 12 function RC servo controlled mask for various facial expresions. I had three weeks and a crew of 10 to build everything.

One photogroup below shows the mask substructure (clear vacuformed plastic) which has the teeth fixed to it (the Stuart freeborn design) and you can see the walkie-talkie built into the mask. On the photo, I've marked the earpiece, the mic, and the antenna wire. the black cord went to the receiver controls box, and we tucked that into the padding the actors wore on their backs under the suit. The aquarium pumps tucked into the same back pouch. And for the hero head with all the servo motors, the back pouch help the RC receivers and battery packs. The foam faces, before and after hair is attached are shown too.

Another photo shows the full support crew on set working the five actors in suits. And just to assure you we all have a sense of humor, included was a "The Right Stuff" parody photo we did of our team of mimes ready to undertake their "mission".

Link to post
Share on other sites
bipedalist
BFF Patron

Again Bill thanks for the progress on your analysis and expertise B):)

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest RedRatSnake

Hi

I want to throw in my thanks also, good to have someone like you Bill, we can all get some super info on suits and the way they work, B)

Peace Brother

Tim

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest nightscream

Thanks again Bill. The rhetoric that is spawn by others that attempt to support the theory that it would be a "walk in the park" - no pun intended - to accomplish such a "hoax" stacks up about a nanometer high after reading your posts. I remember about 8 years after the PG film came out my father took me to the movies to see a film that showcased what I thought were fantastic special effects at the time - Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Listen people, nay-sayers, skeptics, disinformationists or whatever. Could it have been a guy in a suit? Its not impossible. Its not impossible that it was Queen Elizabeth actually wearing the suit, so therefore, seeing that BF have never been proven to exist, we must therefore establish in a Scientific Journal with a review of our peers that it was more likely that it was Queen Elizabeth than an actual Sasquatch.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Incorrigible1

Bill, I surely appreciate all the time and effort you've put into your postings, and gratefully acknowledge the years of experience with which you speak. You rock! B)

Link to post
Share on other sites
So if, as some have suggested, Janos Prohaskus was the mime in Patty, where's his support crew.

I don't think I understand, are you expecting to see them ( the support crew) in the shot?

Someone suggested that Janos was the mime? I thought it was only someone's opinion that he had a hand in creating the suit, if in fact it actually was a suit. I must have missed that.

If he's "Patty", I can't imagine him not having a support crew to insure he survives the shoot.

Who's to say that there wasn't a support group there? They certainly wouldn't have been on film. I would think that they could have been available in case of an emergency even if they had to stand more than 30 feet away from the mime.

If it's an amateur like BH in the suit, he should have been dead by the time Patterson ran out of film

I'm no expert on this whole suit thing but that statement sure seems hard to swallow.

edit to add................... B)

Don't want to be perceived as a grouchy old skeptic.

Edited by mkianni
Link to post
Share on other sites
Could it have been a guy in a suit? Its not impossible. Its not impossible that it was Queen Elizabeth actually wearing the suit, so therefore, seeing that BF have never been proven to exist, we must therefore establish in a Scientific Journal with a review of our peers that it was more likely that it was Queen Elizabeth than an actual Sasquatch.

nightscream, this statement confused me so much that I needed to stand up and go outside to get a breath of fresh air. When I came back in, I still didn't understand it.

Edited by mkianni
Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest soarwing
I don't think I understand, are you expecting to see them ( the support crew) in the shot?

Someone suggested that Janos was the mime? I thought it was only someone's opinion that he had a hand in creating the suit, if in fact it actually was a suit. I must have missed that.

Who's to say that there wasn't a support group there? They certainly wouldn't have been on film. I would think that they could have been available in case of an emergency even if they had to stand more than 30 feet away from the mime.

I'm no expert on this whole suit thing but that statement sure seems hard to swallow.

edit to add................... B)

Don't want to be perceived as a grouchy old skeptic.

- - -

Concerning the support crew - or the claims of needing one in the first place:

I think the question is more along the lines of:

Where are they now?

How many were involved?

Why haven't they come forward?

Could Patterson, Gimlin and BH have done it alone?

Edited by soarwing
Link to post
Share on other sites

Mkianni:

The support crew, if there, would not be expected to be on camera, no. I am just pointing out two hypothetical prospects. One, if it's a hoax, more people should have been involved that just Patterson, Gimlin, and BH. Or, two, if Gimlin wasn't in on the hoax, but was a true believer and was being hoaxed himself, why wouldn't he have seen some evidence of other people around (the support crew) and wondered who they were? Or were they all hiding as well, and hiding all their supplies and equipment?

But both are hypothetical as applied to PG film, and factual in a regular filming situation. Just bringing to people's attention what is involved in filming a person in a suit.

Bill

To all the rest, thank you.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest soarwing
Mkianni:

The support crew, if there, would not be expected to be on camera, no. I am just pointing out two hypothetical prospects. One, if it's a hoax, more people should have been involved that just Patterson, Gimlin, and BH. Or, two, if Gimlin wasn't in on the hoax, but was a true believer and was being hoaxed himself, why wouldn't he have seen some evidence of other people around (the support crew) and wondered who they were? Or were they all hiding as well, and hiding all their supplies and equipment?

But both are hypothetical as applied to PG film, and factual in a regular filming situation. Just bringing to people's attention what is involved in filming a person in a suit.

Bill

To all the rest, thank you.

- What you Said!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest MANGLER

Bill,

Gimlin is said to have also been there but we never see him either, maybe they were all together hang-in out by the cooler.

The impression casts are 14.5" x 6" if I remember correctly. My feet are 12.5" x 5" and the shoes I'm wearing right now are 13-3/4" x 5.2". I see no problem with the walking. Another thing, are you aware that these 952 frames consist of 3 and possibly four separate scenes? As I recall the subject never walks more than 100', give or take, in any one scene, that's if there are three scenes, four would be less.

It can't even be said with absolute certainty that the film wasn't spliced as compared to the camera simply being turned off. Without the master there is only speculation.

m

Link to post
Share on other sites
I look at the fluid and confident walking of Patty and especially the head turn with no worry about keeping an eye on the ground ahead, and I have to conclude the figure walking is not wearing feet bigger than the feet it had all its life. It's just too sure-footed and relaxed in it's walk over that terrain.

Wow, thank you for that statement! As has been said "the devil is in the details", so for someone to really know the complications, problems, and even dangers of any project it takes someone who kinows the details. In this case you certainly know your stuff to say the least. Thanks again Bill. B)

One skeptic from the Sci-Fi channel when shown the PGF film flat out said "that would be so easy even I could do that" and he was given his chance. I have to give him credit for actually trying after which he ended up laughing at his efforts along with the others in the show and he openly admitted "it is much harder than it looks". In fact he called it quits because of the sweating problem and he was not using a form fitted - to his body suit.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • gigantor unpinned this topic
×
×
  • Create New...