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Theatrical Blood Effects for Realistic Casualty Simulation: Part 4

In part 3 of this series we covered some important elements to keep in mind for maintaining high realism results when selecting and using theatrical bloods in your casualty simulation event or training exercise.  You may want to review theBlood previous blog installment that talks about the three essential requisites for realistic portrayal, as well as the importance of blood undertone colors, surface mobility factors, and the 5 basic textures of blood products, which can be read by clicking here.   In this final installment we will share a few extra tips, tricks, and techniques we have employed and that you might find useful for your own active bleeding scenario requirements.  Although we use modified versions of some of the basic techniques shared below, these are easy for a beginner or novice casualty simulation moulage artist to try for a successful outcome.  Once you get some creative experience in rigging blood loss you will find your own ways to customize the application process and function that will allow you to trick out or push up the realism up where you need it.

Active bleeding is arguably central in creating a believable injury simulation psyche, from drips to flows, and there are a number of ways to rig blood loss from small areas all the way to significant hemorrhaging.  For instance, blood trickles or drips from the mouth can be easily achieved from pre-filled gelatin-based blood capsules held in the mouth until bitten to give a slow bloody drip effect.  We like to rig a small cut piece of cell-like sponge soaked in edible theatrical blood, and when placed in the mouth next to the lips it mixes with the saliva to make a nice dripping consistency.  When ready to drip it out the actor simply inserts the sponge and manipulates it a bit with the teeth.  For nosebleeds we also use specially made reticulated sponges prepared with edible blood that, when inserted in the nostrils, will “bleed” automatically upon the actor breathing through the nose.  If you need a semi-drying dripped blood look from the ears, mouth corners, or nose that needs to be more stationary, we use blood colored gelatin to which some blood paste or additional glycerin has been added for a slightly wet effect.  Our favorite trick is to use a scar making material mixed with some theatrical blood product.  This method gives very high realism for film and TV use, and the best part is it’s durable and waterproof in wear.

squibSquibs and pump assemblies are great to use when you need a more significant amount of blood flow, such as from gunshots, impalement (stabbing), amputations, etc.    Blood squibs are small sealed bags of liquid blood that are hidden under clothing, and that can be pyrotechnically rigged to explode, mechanically operated to flow by pneumatic liquid means, or simply break open upon surface impact.  Pyrotechnic blood squibs involve electrical charges that trigger a ballistic action to spatter the blood bag, and that can be very dangerous or fatal if not done by a professionally trained and licensed technician.  We prefer to use mechanically rigged squibs and pump assemblies because most often on a training exercise these have to be operated directly by the role player portraying the injury.  One type of safe squib we make is from a dissolvable plasticized material containing blood powder, and rigged with a fast acting dissolving fluid that creates a gravity blood flow.   This works great under clothing for gunshots or impalements.  You can make your own blood squib bags to size from many kinds of pneumatic capable or collapsible containments, such as litre bottles, plastic zip close food bags, and even small cut off fingers of disposable gloves.  They can be custom rigged to flow or release theatrical blood in a variety of ways and in the manner you need them to flow.

Pump assemblies allow you to generate a sustained blood volume flow over a period of time, especially when you need a “bleeding out” scenario that reflects a more critical injury situation.  There are a couple of ways you can create pump assemblies using fillable bags, tubes, and syringes.  We like to use empty hospital type saline solution IV bags with long thin tubes that can be attached directly to a prosthetic injury appliance, and the blood flow actuated by a hand pump placed in the tube line.  Another way is to rig a length of thin tubing to which one end is attached to the end of a liquid volume syringe fitted with an adaptor, and the other end attached to the apsyringepliance.  The size of the syringe needed will depend on how much sustained simulated blood flow will be needed for realism in the injury portrayal.  One handy item we always have on hand is an air pump style garden sprayer  in which we mix up a solution of blood powder and water.  We use it several different ways such as for rigging long tubing lines or to dress out a casualty simulation scene that calls for blood transfer or splashed effect.  It’s also an easy way to create a bleed out scene on the ground.  Another handy item is “blood bombers” made from large plastic syringes in which the needle connector has been closed off and additional random holes punched into the bottom of it.  Fill the barrel with thinned theatrical blood and replace the plunger at the top.  When ready to use aim the syringe where you want it and quickly pop the plunger with the palm of your hand to force the blood though the holes on the other end.  The end result creates a very realistic looking blood hit effect similar to an exploded squib.

Whether you are working with theatrical bloods indoors or out, on a field training exercise or on a film set, always treat these products safely and securely to avoid accidental spillage or leaking.  To us this means making sure bottles, jars, and buckets are always closed tightly or sealed off immediately after using the container.  Believe me, theatrical blood “oops” CAN happen as blood seems to have a way of sneaking out of an unsecured lid and leaving very inconvenient messes where you don’t want them!  Also, keep a big supply of paper towels and wet wipes handy and within instant reach. Obviously this needs no explanation if you have worked with blood products before, so it goes without saying.  Keep all tools you use to apply blood products in a separate containment and away from your other moulage supplies.  We like to keep a large bucket and large plastic bags handy for temporary storage on site so we make double sure we don’t cross-contaminate blood application tools and supplies with other equipment.  And finally, always keep theatrical blood products at normal room temperature for best application results.  This means keeping tBlood Colorshem out of excessive heat or direct sun, in which we use rolling coolers to store them while in use on site. Likewise, if working under cold climate or freezing conditions make sure you keep them warm enough in an ambient temperature that won’t cause them to be thickened or compromised in their normal performance.

We hope you have enjoyed this series on theatrical blood effects, and found it useful for your casualty simulation endeavors.  We hold several casualty simulation moulage workshops throughout the year and teach extensively on high fidelity techniques.  Come and learn some more great things you can do with theatrical blood products for your next exercise or event.  We welcome your comments and suggestions on this series so please feel free to post your thoughts!

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