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The Illusionist
Xiao Jin shows a monster claw made by him.jpg The current studio is proving too cramped and Xiao's company is getting ready to move to a bigger place in Hebei.jpg A silica gel glove made to look like a human hand.jpg Xiao Jin (center) and American teacher Nicole Chilelli assess trainees' work.jpg 5.jpg
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  • Xiao Jin shows a monster claw made by him
  • The current studio is proving too cramped and Xiao's company is getting ready to move to a bigger place in Hebei
  • A silica gel glove made to look like a human hand
  • Xiao Jin (center) and American teacher Nicole Chilelli assess trainees' work
  • A student who is receiving training at Xiao Jin's studio makes the final preparation before his/her work is evaluated by teachers
  • Xiao Jin shows a monster claw made by him.jpg
  • The current studio is proving too cramped and Xiao's company is getting ready to move to a bigger place in Hebei.jpg
  • A silica gel glove made to look like a human hand.jpg
  • Xiao Jin (center) and American teacher Nicole Chilelli assess trainees' work.jpg
  • 5.jpg

Photos by Wei Yao

Xiao Jin is a magician. He can turn ordinary men into bloody corpses, zombies and even aliens.

The more prosaic would call him a special effects makeup artist who has a studio near Beijing's 798 Art District. While studying stage art in college, Xiao was amazed at the artistic level of American movies, especially the special effects. After he started working, he got to know that these effects can be created by art. At that time, China's domestic TV soaps were using special effects but the techniques were far from mature. So he went to the United States to study special effects make-up in 2008.

Today, his studio has become a company with around 40 people and he has changed from a technician to a manager. During busy seasons, artists from home and abroad join them temporarily, forming a team of more than 100 people.

This year, the company plans to move into a film-making industrial park in north China's Hebei Province, with a bigger work area and a more stable future.

From February to March, the company holds a training course. But though many do the course every year, few of them choose to work as special effects makeup artists because it takes talent, ability and breaks to work in this field.

Xiao says that special effects makeup companies in China are facing stiff challenges and both his company and the industry need transformation. On his desk lies a book by Weta Workshop, the five-time Oscar winning New Zealand company that has done designs and special effects for films like The Hobbit, Avatar and Chronicles of Narnia. Xiao says Weta Workshop is his company's role model.

 

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