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Did you know that theatrical blood is used in other areas too? It is not just a toy of Hollywood

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Posted May 28, 2019

A lot of movies contain fighting scenes, which involve at least one character bleeding. Of course, injuring actual actors is not a good idea, which means that real blood has to be substituted with theatrical one. It is often made from red food colouring, cornstarch and water. But did you know that theatrical blood has many different uses that do not involve cinema? Here are some of them.

This is a jar of fake blood, used by U.S. Air Force – it is a great tool to make training exercises to feel at least a little bit more real. Image credit: U.S. Air force via Wikimedia

Theatrical blood became a staple of movie industry. Back in the day, when movies were shot in black and white, colour wasn’t important that much. For example, Alfred Hitchcock used Bosco Chocolate Syrup as fake blood in his 1960 thriller Psycho. It was brown as you might expect, but in colourless picture it looked pretty darn real. Later on more sophisticated props had to be developed. A retired British pharmacist John Tinegate used to make all kinds of fake blood for movies – fluids of different colours and viscosities were offered to directors. This product became known as Kensington Gore in 1960’s and 70’s – the name, which was later used to describe all theatrical blood.

Nowadays theatrical blood can be made in-house during the production of the film. Various natural substances are used to recreate the colour and viscosity of real blood. But why aren’t they using real blood to begin with?

Well, for starters, real blood is gross. It would make actors disgusted and they would struggle to focus on their craft. It is also not very sanitary. But the biggest reason is that real blood coagulates, which limits the working time. This really doesn’t work well in movie industry, where every scene needs to be shot several times.

However, theatrical blood is not limited to film making. It is actually used in other areas as well. For example, it can be used to study blood splatter patterns in crime scene investigation. Students are learning to recognize different patterns by observing theatrical blood splattering against the walls, ceilings and various objects. Of course, cow’s blood is sometimes used too.

In the same way, theatrical blood can be used to train emergency response doctors. It allows creating hypothetical situations with realistic victims and accident scenes. Finally, theatrical blood is great in Halloween costumes and such.

Theatrical blood is actually a bit of an art form. Viewers are able to differentiate between real and fake blood really easily. Poorly made theatrical blood disturbs the illusion and makes the entire movie look sloppy. Prop makers have to be trained to make really good theatrical blood, but everyone ends up having their own unique secret recipe.

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