How to Clean for Pretend

Grime-ology: The skills and knowledge necessary to “fake” a mess and clean it up.

For some people dramatization is a dirty word but for us it’s an art. We were recently invited to be the resident grime-ologist  on a commercial shoot for a leading cleaning products company. Our goal was to simulate dirt and grime to visually demonstrate the effectiveness of their products. Called dramatization, this style of commercial is very popular; the dirt and clean-up are replicated without using the actual product being advertised. It’s important to reflect the actual results in the damatization so the product’s effectiveness is never misrepresented.

Fake grime for cleaning product dramatization,
Fake grime on garage siding for cleaning product shoot

We start the process by getting descriptions of the locales and the surfaces that will be made dirty. Then we formulate products that are the same colour and texture as the product but will wash off easily with just water. Many different food and cosmetic grade ingredients are used to accomplish this. Multiple tests are done with the replicated products to be sure they will work for the client. In this instance we even used an employee’s garage door and the bosses’ bathroom wall to test their effectiveness.

Deck clean-up dramatization.
Swabbing the deck on cleaning product dramatization.

On the day of the shoot every product has to match the advertised product and perform well so the final look is believable and realistic. The grime-ologist  on set applies the product and checks with the client to make sure everyone is pleased before the look is shot. The actor hired for the shoot is in charge of simulating the cleaning process with only water in the cleaning containers. It is also important that should the grime product get on the actor’s clothing, that it is very easily removed as they may only have one costume per scene. Multiple shots are taken and the grime is touched up between each one until the director and the client are happy with what they have captured on film. After the shot the set is cleaned thoroughly.

Often these commercials are shot in show homes so it is critical that the products do not stain nor leave any residue at the end of the day. The grime-logist comes prepared with an arsenal of cleaning supplies to make sure everything is left exactly the same as when they arrived. And as marketing guru Terry O’Reilly stated in his tweet (@terryoinfluence) yesterday “White shows dirt easier, then sparkles faster when clean. Ideal for the camera.” There are all sorts of behind the scenes tricks to best showcase the company’s cleaning products.

Colour Me Dirty sticks
Colour Me Dirty sticks in 7 colours

The art of making things look dirty for a film shoot can be a major part of the set decorator and costume departments’  jobs. There are a range of products used, many of which we carry at Bleeding Art Industries:  Our own Colour Me Dirty sticks, Grime, Movie Paint Dust, Bentonite, Movie Paint Aging Mud and Dust, Movie Paint Permanent Age Wax, Schmere Dirt and more. Click here to see our full range of Dirt and Dust products.

We hope this sheds some light on the little known world of grime simulation.

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