How to make a monster for horror movie?

HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out
edited November 2018 in Practical Filmmaking

I'm making a short horror film and the "beast" haunting this character is basically a giant... glob. Imagine Venom, but with less humanoid and more... formless sludge. It also would only be about 6 feet tall, as the actor who will play the beast is six feet. How can I create this "beast"? I don't have any ideas other than either CGI somehow or basically trash bags around pillows duct-taped to this guy. Either way I have no idea what to do. Any ideas? I have Hitfilm Express (latest version) with no add-ons, but I really don't know of any way to create a CGI monster with that. What are some ideas, please?


  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    I am making a short horror movie, and the main character has a fat, orange cat as a pet (based off of Garfield, basically).  However, I cannot just train a cat, so what options do I have? It's a low-budget film, and all I have is Hitfilm Express (latest version) with no add-ons. I do have Blender but I have NO CLUE how to use it. This movie will be in production early 2019, but I'm currently writing the script for it and want to know my options ASAP. Can I create a digital cat very easily, and insert it into scenes? The cat is only in a few scenes and the most complex thing he ever does is jump into a bathtub and quickly run out. So, either I have a CGI cat, or I get a realistic puppet of some sort. Ideas?

    If someone can find me a very simple tutorial on how to use Blender in this way, please let me know or explain it to me. However, that seems like more work than I'd have time for because I know animating is complex, so I doubt that's really an option.

    The other idea is to find a realistic cat puppet/doll of some sort. Anyone know of anything that would work?


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,216 Ambassador

    @HeySiri I merged your cat and monster threads. Ultimately, they are the same question. 

    In Express you'll have two options: animate in Blender (very complex , especially the cat), or make practical puppets. 

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    Does anyone have any ideas? Digital or practical effects? I plan to use the less is more idea so you don't see much of the monster at a time.

  • DafterThingsDafterThings Website User Posts: 878 Enthusiast

    OK. I would do cut-out or image animation. 

    Personally I would use Anime Studio pro.... but that's only because I have it.

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    @DafterThings Unfortunately I can't afford Anime Studio Pro—My budget is already low enough. That, and I'm worried that 2D animation may not look good in the final product.

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    @jsbarrett do you have any ideas? You respond do a lot of posts, wondered if your expertise might help.

  • tddavistddavis Moderator, Website User Posts: 4,168 Moderator
    edited November 2018

    @HeySiri There are a couple of fairly low cost models I found that might be coaxed into doing the trick with a little Blender lovin' to make it fatter and the coloring you want. (it is available in OBJ & FBX formats also)

    There are also a couple of free ones but unrigged here:

    Something to ponder maybe...

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    @tddavis thank you that last model might be perfect! So moment of honesty, I have no clue how to use Blender I only got it because it was free and recommended. I definitely want to learn so in the next few months of pre-production for my movie I will research Blender tutorials and learn how to rig and animate. Do you use Blender at all, and if so is it pretty easy once you get the concepts down? Is rigging as simple as just putting the rigs within the model then animating it how you want, and lastly how do I use Blender models in Hitfilm as footage,  for example how do I animate the cat and then put the cgi in my movie?

  • tddavistddavis Moderator, Website User Posts: 4,168 Moderator
    edited November 2018

    @HeySiri I play at learning Blender.  Rigging is a bit of a challenge as I have never tried it myself, but I hit the Blender tutorials on Youtube rather hard when I need to learn something new.  That's the reason I started with the pre-rigged pay versions.

    The hardest thing to get down with Blender (and after a while it becomes normal) is to use the right mouse button to select stuff.  There is a setting to change it but I found I had gotten more used to right click when I tried changing and it was like starting over.  Change the setting if you're just starting out and not used to it the way it is already,  There is a really great series of tutorials by Jacob Lewis that got me up to speed pretty quick on Blender when I started out.  It got me to where I could search for random tutorials of interest and follow along. Here's his play list:

    Myself, the way I would probably try to do it, is to animate the cat in Blender using a few stills from the scene as background references and then export the action as a PNG sequence with everything transparent but the cat model.  Then import that into Hitfilm and composite it with masks and layers into the video footage.  Blender is not natively supported as a file in Hitfilm so you would have to go through the process of exporting it to 3ds or obj or fbx (which will hold animation data so that IS a possibility) and maybe needing to relink all your textures and whatnot which gets really complex when you're just starting out.  Hope this helps point you in a direction.

  • CleverTaglineCleverTagline Moderator Las Vegas, NVModerator, Website User, Ambassador, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 3,027 Ambassador

    An animated cat is certainly possible, as is an animated blob. However, as @Triem23 pointed out earlier, believable cat animation isn't easy, and while a blob might sound easier, animating one that doesn't leave the audience thinking "Man, that's some cheap CG" could be more difficult than you think.

    You admitted that you don't know how to animate yet, so I don't recommend animating anything yourself until you've spent a good bit of time studying and practicing animation (and by a good bit of time, I'm talking at least a year, more like two if you want to really hone your skills to the point that you can create a product you're proud of).

    An alternative route is to find an experienced Blender animator to add to your production team. While it's admirable to try and do everything yourself, there are times when it's wiser to enlist the help of others. Do you have a budget to add crew to this production? If not, consider approaching animation schools and asking if they can post a crew call to their students, ideally those closer to graduation. Depending on where you live, you might have a brick-and-mortar school that has an animation course. If so, they probably have a reel of student work you can look at, which might help you spot a student who can do the job. There are also online schools like AnimSchool (where I teach) and Animation Mentor (where I used to teach) that turn out lots of high-quality animators and modelers/riggers. There's also a monthly animation contest at, which can give you look at the animation skills of lots of different people who might be interested in joining your crew.

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    @jsbarrett I would totally hire someone if I could, but my film basically has a budget of less than $100, so it'd be extremely difficult to afford. We are trying to create as many practical effects as we can, and have figured out a practical way to make a "blob" monster using slime. However, we're considering using CGI to add a few globs that would kind of reach out onto walls and stuff. Would animating something that simple be relatively easy?

    I have started studying Blender as of yesterday morning, and I have about six months before filming is hopefully set to begin because we want to film during summer. Hopefully, that will be enough time for me to learn how to animate a semi-realistic cat, but if not we will use a realistic looking practical effect for the cat, like a doll or something. The cat is in very few scenes, so while I know it will take some effort to animate, the actions are fairly simple relatively. The most complex thing the cat does is jump into a bathtub, then sprint out. But, I know it won't be an easy task, either. I just don't have the budget to hire anyone to help.

  • CleverTaglineCleverTagline Moderator Las Vegas, NVModerator, Website User, Ambassador, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 3,027 Ambassador

    @HeySiri "we're considering using CGI to add a few globs that would kind of reach out onto walls and stuff. Would animating something that simple be relatively easy?"

    Probably not. While the concept and look may seem simple, the execution in CG for animating a viscous substance where you want it to ooze and stretch under your control is seldom easy. I've never messed with anything of that nature myself (not to mention I haven't touched Blender in about 18 years), so I wouldn't even know where to begin. I'll leave that to the Blender gurus to talk about specifics.

    It's good that you won't need to dive into the creature animation right away. However, I can tell you that, unless you're a very gifted student of 3D character animation, six months of study probably won't be enough to let you animate a semi-realistic cat.  I'm speaking not only from experience teaching others how to animate in CG, but also from my own experience studying it and how long it took me to even feel barely comfortable with animating a human, not to mention a quadruped.  The two courses I'm most familiar with (mentioned above) focus on taking someone from knowing nothing to animating humans, and it's about a year to get to that point. To learn quadruped animation is another several months beyond that.

    "I just don't have the budget to hire anyone to help."

    Which is why I suggested looking for student assistance.  Unless a student has already started their own freelance business, they won't be looking for a paycheck from one-off gigs right away.  Students need material for their reel, and material from someone else's project is always a plus. They get more experience working with a director and taking feedback, and come away with something (preferably) cool to add to the mix.  If a student wants to take this on while they're still finishing their course, you may be able to set it up for them as an internship.

  • Andersen01498Andersen01498 Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 919 Enthusiast

     @HeySiri I'm an animation student right now but anyway what are you exactly wanting the cat model to do?

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out
    edited November 2018

    @Andersen01498 It mostly just walks around, takes a nap, bites the human's feet (although for simplicity I might just have the cat lunge at the human's feet, then a shot of waist up and the guy going "hey, ow" and then back at the feet and he is backing off, so the biting it implied but not seen which would be hard to animate. At another point, the cat jumps up into a bathtub, freaks out from the water, and sprints out. That's basically it. Are you interested in doing animations for the movie? I can't provide pay and I am myself a student, so this isn't some official movie that will get you a huge career boost or anything. This isn't even for any classes, this is just a personal project I'm taking on with a friend who really wanted to make a horror movie based off an idea he had, and so I agreed to help him. However, this could I guess be "experience" which could benefit you purely by having the experience of animating for a job, even though I couldn't pay you.

  • GavinBarkerGavinBarker Staff Website User Posts: 98

    In regards to 'the blob' style monster, it might be worth pushing the 'less is more' approach. In most monster movies, the slow lead-up to its eventual reveal is almost always better than once it's on screen. This tends to be because the audience has seen the horror the monster has caused and creates an image  of the creature that most scares/disgusts them. Because everyone's different, it's rare for everyone to walk away content. 

    If you don't mind me throwing in suggestions, (and apologies if any of this is already part of your plan! :) ) the main thing I'd look to do is see if you can utilize 'slime in a tin'. Anything/anyone that encounters the monster ends up with this gross slime all over it/them. If they're dead you can play with making the bodies look scary themselves (horrifying death-masks, sunken eyes etc).

    Also you could crib from the Sam Raimi playbook. Shots where the monster attacks/moves towards victims etc you could simply use the Evil Dead, 1st-person 'camera attached to a branch' trick. Again, it gives the monster more mobility than you might be able to give it using only vfx and an actor, plus you can play with the speed in post depending on how nippy you want the monster to be.

    For both of these it saves you valuable time trying to figure out how to show the monster multiple times and keep it scary, plus lets you play with more practical effects.

    Obviously feel free to completely ignore all of this :p In the end you know how you want it all looking, you know the general creature design and the style you want to work with. 

    Either way though, please keep us updated on how it goes!

  • Andersen01498Andersen01498 Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 919 Enthusiast

    @HeySiri maybe but right now I have to focus on school 

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