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I've been watching a lot of Silent Witness recently and I'm intrigued by how a lot of the post mortem shots are achieved.

A typical story line involves a supporting character (one we certainly recognise by sight) being murdered. We often see them freshly discovered and again on the autopsy table. Autopsy scenes are often fairly explicit (you can often see face and nude torso along with any injuries), although surgical shots are often zoomed in (so are almost certainly a model or duplicate of sorts).

I'd like to know how prolonged shots of dead characters are achieved, are actors given makeup and told to lie very still (while being examined)? Or are some sort of models used?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Actors call it "corpse duty", and many of the shots that you see are actors in makeup with various molds to mimic things like the "Y" incision of an autopsy, and bullet holes, cuts, etc.

The rest is done with makeup and makeup effects, depending on how they "died", how long ago they passed, etc. Some shows will use dummies made to look like the actor, but these can be cost prohibitive to do on a frequent basis.

Here is a link to a WSJ article where a reporter is a "corpse for a day".

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