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I was watching a move the other night and the main character slits the throat of another person. The camera stayed on the victim the whole time this happened. I'm wondering how this is achieved.

Similar question is head shots (via gun fire) where someone gets shot in the head and you see an entry wound and the exit splatter all without cutting away then coming back.

I'd imagine some kind of exploding blood pack on the back of the head for the splatter, but what about the forehead wound/neck gash spurting blood all over? Some of the cuts go pretty deep too.

How do they film/setup these types of shots? How are these types of "live" shots achieved without cutting away to another shot, then coming back?

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+1. Good question and one I'm very interested in too. –  Andrew Martin Mar 3 at 20:42

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

For movies within the last 10-15 years, many makeup effects like this are often combinations of practical effects (foam latex prosthetics, knives that squirt blood, exploding blood packets called "squibs", and so forth) plus CGI. When I say combinations of practical effects and CGI, I mean that in many cases computer artists will "enhance" the practical effects after the fact. If a squib sprayed a little bit of blood, the CGI artist will draw more droplets of blood and other gunk on the digitized film, matching the trajectory and splatter pattern of the original squib so it the CGI looks realistic but the effect looks more intense.

However, before CGI the makeup artists had to rely on prosthetics, tubes that could squirt blood, little inflatable ballons under "skin" makeup (as in some werewolf effects from the 70's and 80's), stop motion animation, using puppets instead of real people, and the like. Another simple trick was to film the actor in position without the gory makeup, then keep the camera in the same place and apply the gory makeup and have the actor "react" or whatever, and then cut those two shots together to make them look like one continuous shot in the same location (since the camera hadn't moved).

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I just remembers knife blades that retract into the knife handle. Those look pretty convincing too, if you do it quickly enough (and they squirt blood). –  BrettFromLA Mar 3 at 22:48
    
Pre-CGI stop motion - the one scene that always comes to mind is in the original Total Recall when Arnold removes the atomic head in the terminal (you know, when the head keeps saying, "Two weeks..."). So clearly stop-motion, even back in the day. –  Johnny Bones Mar 4 at 13:27

For off camera exit wound headshots wearable devices are used that are either actor triggered or remotely. These devices blast out an amount of blood at the back of the head, yielding a realistic splatter pattern. These devices yield a realistic trajectory and saves the trouble of doing a correct flood simulation.

For on camera exit wounds so called 'squib heads' are used. These are blood packs which can be detonated from a distance or again by the actor himself. These squib heads are placed on the actor and blasts out blood and "stuff" in the desired direction.

For the more deep headshot wounds often prosthetic are used that blast out everything the director wants using air ratchets to pull out the inside of the prosthetic.

For complete blast offs of the head they might use silicon heads filled with blood packs, which they just blow up. This however, requires a cut from the acting actor to the silicon head.

Above techniques can also be applied for throat cutting, especially the prosthetics are really useful as well as the blood squirting devices.

CGI can be used to give a wound more details or to add some splatter, however, it will look quite fake if overdone, which with the "real" prosthetics and squirting devices is not the case since these are by definition physically correct.

For more info watch this documentary from the Dawn of the Death remake. Note that silicon heads are expensive and hard to make realistic, as is shown by the original Dawn of the Death, which has an "hilariously" puppet headshot.

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Depending upon the scene is filmed and in what type of genre it is in, in most lower budget feature any more CGI rendering is used. This is because even blown scenes can be used (if a squib fails to explode you have lost the shot and it can take as long as 1 1/2 hour to set up up the same again if this occurs incurring greater expense) and the digital gunshot wound(s) can be added later. in most medium to higher budget film, both squibs and CGI are often used in unison to make the scenes "look" more realistic as so far digital only wounds rarely do.

As far as throats being slashed, these scenes are rarely shown in a single edit. What usually happens is the knife is used to stab or slash in one scene and after an edit (and often a change of camera angle) the results of that injury being inflicted are shown. This also for the characters to be positioned in such a manner that bloodpacks and fake knives aren't easily detected by the viewer. For copious amounts of blood, a closeup of the victim is usually shown with their hand over the wound, defensively or in shock. This conceal the tubing that is run up into their clothing or costume and through which the fake blood for the wound is pumped.

There are almost no "live shots" of this as it is technically a stunt and according to union rules ( at least in Hollywood) that requires a stunt performer. The main performer is often replaced by a stand-in or a stunt person to achieve the shot as the risks of injury are high and injuring an expensive star or co-star of a film can cause production shutdowns and lawsuits. This means that any such scene is carefully choreographed beforehand, the scene is film several times and each"take" is done as closely as the one before to prevent obvious continuity issues.

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