Friday, October 21, 2005


The Problem With Severed Heads

Why can't Hollywood special effects people make convincing severed heads? I'm not talking using effects to make an actor's head look as though it has been severed, I'm talking the severed head props. I've been watching the HBO tv series Rome and am surprised that in 2005, prop heads still don't look convincing. Now, having never handled a human severed head, I can't be 100% sure about this, but from what I've seen in documentary footage and war photos, I know why they tend to look so fake: Effects gurus spend all their time trying to make the skin look real that they ignore certain physical laws. It's the neck. In movies, when a severed head is placed on a table or flops to the ground, whatever, the neck remains stiff. A real human head placed on a plate is NOT going to be supported by the neck, as movies portray. The neck, if there even is one left, depending on the method of decapitation, would just be a limp flap of meat. It would NOT retain the ability to support the head. Even if there is a stiff portion of the spinal cord attached to the base of the skull, the head still would not sit up straight. It would topple over like an upside-down bowling pin. What the effects guys need to do is dispense with the neck altogether and just have the jaw rest directly on the table, pike, what have you. They do it when they show just skulls on a table or piled up, so why not to the same with a freshly severed head?

And before anyone posts about "You must have a lot of time on your hands to think about this nonsense" think about this: If the guys in Hollywood were doing their jobs right, I would not HAVE to think about this nonsense.

Your sketch (I thought of posting a pic of a real severed head here, but I'll save it for a special occasion)

excellent post! blood is also often to red and runny. what do you think?
Totally. And it seems most FX people don't even try to show any coagulation. I know it may not be easy as a practical effect, but if you have someone who supposed to be lying in a pool of blood, it seems you could do something to show the blood chunking up around the edges. And blood should only be bright red if it's highly oxygenated ( a guy gets his head chopped off in the middle of a sword fight: bright red is fine. Guy gets his throat slit unexpectedly as he's eating a bowl of pasta: bright red bad, especially if he's drinking wine)
I agree. Plenty of times I have seen movies (by and largely, horror movies) where the character is attacked or somehow covered in blood and by the end of the movie it is still bright crimson.
By the way, you have a lot of blood in your head. More than you might think.
Take it from a guy who has seen somebody get shot in the face.
Get off David Williams JOCK

You still RULE!!!!
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