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Building a Borg: Lessons from a Star Trek makeup legend

One of Star Trek's most frightening enemies comes to life in a live makeup demonstration at the 50th anniversary convention in Las Vegas.

This Borg didn't try to assimilate the audience.
Amanda Kooser/CNET

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Michael Westmore, the legendary makeup artist behind hundreds of Star Trek episodes on both TV and film, knows more about the anatomy of a Borg than anybody else in the galaxy. He shared his insights on the complicated makeup process during a build-a-Borg workshop at the Star Trek 50th anniversary convention here in Las Vegas.

Westmore told fans no two Borg were ever alike. Each day, makeup artists swapped components and prosthetics around to avoid reusing the same combinations of pieces.

The model for the Borg demo is also a cosplayer who worked on her own Borg costume. Before arriving on stage, artists applied a bald cap, layered on the initial makeup, applied shading and raised places on her face where the tubes are attached. Westmore -- also one of the mentors on the long-running movie-makeup competition show "Face Off" -- described the process while two other makeup artists applied the makeup and electronic bits.

Most Borg featured working electronics powered by hidden battery packs on the back of each character. In an interesting bit of trivia, the lights in their eyes blinked in Morse code, spelling out the names of cast members, producers, friends, family and even a pet pooch. The Borg was one of the deadliest, most unrelenting sci-fi villains ever created. Westmore said it typically took three to five hours for each Star Trek Borg makeup session. The convention demo lasted less than an hour. Check out all the action shots in the gallery below.