The Zoidberg Project, Part 12 (Finale and Recap!)

Even though The Zoidberg Project has been wrapped up for a while now, it’s not over. I got sidetracked back in May with the Gore Magala build for Capcom’s Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate display, and I still owe you all one more article!

So let’s back track a bit….back to early April. Leading up to the debut at WonderCon, I had a ton of finishing to do on the Zoidberg costume. The feet that Carson and I sculpted and molded needed to be cast up and painted. We opted for a simple latex and polyfoam casting. To make this cast, we brushed in about four or five good coats of latex into the mold, giving plenty of time for them to dry between layers. If you don’t let the previous layer dry enough, you will end up with wet layers sandwiched between dry layers, which will make the skin too soft and prone to stretching out of shape.

Since this mold for the feet are stone, I could have just filled it up with latex and let it set for an hour to form a “skin” around the outer edge, then dump the excess latex back out into the bucket and let it dry. But I felt that manually brushing in a few layers and drying them with a hair dryer between layers would be the fastest route. Once this layer of latex skin is set up, I mixed up a batch of Flex Foam 3 from Smooth-On and just rolled it on the surface until it started foaming up. I didn’t need it to be a solid foam casting because I still need room for my food and ankle inside.

This finishes the casting, which could then be demolded and trimmed up while the second foot was being done. I like to use an electric turkey cutter sometimes when I’m trimming foam, and it helps to hog out big sections quickly. Once I find the right fit for my foot, I used a little Barge glue to tack the latex down to the foam, as sometimes it can delaminate. That was it for the feet, but we all know that Zoidberg doesn’t walk barefoot.

Zoidberg wears sandals, too! To replicate this, I thought some white L200 foam would work great. L200 is a dense foam that also comes in black, and also comes in a denser L300 version. It’s similar to the EVA foam that cosplayers and makers like Bill Doran use to make Mass Effect armor, but I can buy it in 4×8 sheets of various thickness from places like Foam Mart or Atlas Foam here in Southern California. This foam is also best glued with Barge. To make the sandals, I took the foot forms and drew it out on some paper, then estimated out the shape of the sandal around the foot. I then cut a couple strips to make the foot straps of the sandals. Pretty simple. But before I glued it all together, I needed to get the feet painted so I didn’t have to worry about getting color onto the white sandals.

WonderCon was coming up fast, and we needed to get onto the body form of Zoidberg done too. Since I had a ton of stuff going on at once at the time, I called up my pal Ben Bayouth, who you might recognize from the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge show to help with the body form and claws.

Carson testing the body frame. Carson testing the body frame.

I grabbed a mannequin and Ben quickly jammed out a framework for the body in a couple hours. Starting with the belly diameter, then the profile, he simply cut strips of L200 foam and used masking tape to tack them together into shape. As the shape started to take form, he would just simply add more strips to fill out the form and give it a smooth shape. Originally we had planned for this to serve as a pattern to make a final version, but because of time, we opted to just use this as a final version, and just put some thin batting on the surface to hide the ribbing a bit.

Then Ben took the claws I made and started into assembling them. He first glued the plastic claws onto a pair of leather gloves then using some L200 to make some sleeves. Once this was all glued together, he had to hide all the seams between the claws and the sleeve, so we decided to take some latex and make some strips and sheets by stippling it onto a table top, then glue that into the parts to bridge everything and form some folds.

I had originally had a costumer offer to make the wardrobe for Zoidberg, but apparently got overloaded (ie. flaked) so I had to scramble for someone else to build it on such a short notice. There are many nuances to Zoidberg’s wardrobe so I couldn’t justify just getting a lab coat and scrubs to make do. I remembered back to a film I worked on called Return of Zoom, which had a costumer who was really fast and efficient. She came into the shop and took some measurements of me and what the body form, neck, and wrists were. We decided making the costume a dickie for Zoidberg’s collar that would Velcro in back. Then she made the lab coat, which only has a pocket on one side, and a few buttons. Last were some pants with suspenders. And boom–she had it completed and back to me a few days later!

My pal Harrison Krix (Volpin Props) helped me out and took those clear eyes forms and laser cut a whole in the center for me. It was just an easier option than to try and drill or dremel it and risk a wavy cut or crack in the plastic. We settled on a specific diameter for his pupil, which is the size that Pete Avanzino, the supervising director from Futurama drew on the eye form for me back when he visited the shop. I wanted these eyes to maintain their gloss, so painted them from behind with some acrylic, using a couple different colors to mottle up the color. I thought this will look better than just painting it a solid color. That subtle break-up in tones will look nice and a bit more natural. Once a few coats were on to make it opaque, I airbrushed some black over the whole thing and onto the rim of the hole that was cut. This matte black will help hide the fact that I’m looking through little holes in the eye forms.

The eyes have become a bit of a controversial point. When I looked for reference and watched the show a million times, I had never noticed that Zoidberg’s eyes were light blue. When you do an image search for Zoidberg, I now see that about half of the pictures have white eyes and half have a very light blue. Even when I had the directors of the show over to see Zoidberg, or when they saw my final version, none of them mentioned his eye color! Again, it was a simple mistake that I made his eyes white-ish, but am repainting a set to be the light blue. So now the internet can calm down from their tizzy. Next time I wear Zoidberg, he will have light blue eyes.

The final thing to be done on Zoidberg was painting his claws and head.

To paint latex (or foam latex) rubber cement is my go-to. I feel that it sticks best to the material and if you do it right, and doesn’t build up a skin layer that could clog small details like pores and wrinkles. Like all paints, you need three things: a binder, a solvent and a pigment. The binder for this is rubber cement, and you can usually find it in craft or art stores. The solvent is Naphtha, which can be found at paint or hardwear stores. And the pigment, in this case is oil paint.

The ratios you mix them in all come down to personal preference. I usually start by taking a mason jar and pouring some rubber cement in, then the naphtha to dilute it until it seems to be a viscosity that I could airbrush with. Sometimes this ratio needs to be altered depending on the air pressure that you prefer in your airbrush, or maybe if you are going to use a regular brush to paint it on. For the oil paints, I like to take a small jar and mix my preferred colors in there with some naphtha to thin them out also. This helps in mixing the paint into the rubber cement base. If you just squeeze a glob of oil paint into the naphtha, you have to spend a ridiculous amount of time shaking it up to disburse, and still might end up with specks of un-dissolved paint. I’ve even lately been keeping squeeze bottles of thinned oil paint to mix as needed into other paint bases (like silicone).

So, to get the paint onto Zoidberg, I mixed up two base colors that I brushed onto the surface and alternated between to give some tonal breakup. Then I went in and started airbrushing some details with Tim Gore’s Bloodline paint. This as a great new line of paint from Createx. It’s a water based paint with excellent pigment concentration and colors available. My only gripe is the color names, which are cool, but takes a while to get to know which color is associated with some of the names.

After I put in some details, I wanted to wash them back to make them appear sub-dermal, so I painted a thin layer of the rubber cement paint over the whole thing. This helped subdue some of the crispness of the lines and help layer the colors a bit. You can see a lot of these steps in the video that was shot for he process.

But after Norm and Joey left, the next morning I came into the shop and decided to repaint the whole thing. Just like when I was working on the initial designs and sculpture, I started out making it too detailed and trying to add in too much realism. I reverted back to what I found I the sculpting and simplified the whole paint job. I took those initial base colors and re-sprayed them all on, making them less blotchy. Then I made up a darker version and lighter version that I also sprayed on to highlight and contour the forms a bit, but this time, I used my Iwata g3 airbrush with the air pressure turned down a bit. This makes the paint spatter a bit and gives a speckled look. Using this spatter technique to highlight and shadow helps relieve that “airbrushed” look a bit. Rubber cement is a contact adhesive, so freshly painted parts will want to stick to each other (like the tentacles). There is a great product called V-matte and V-gloss, which are coatings that can be brushed or sprayed on after painting and between coats to resolve this.

The same treatment was done on the feet as I mentioned above. The hands were a bit of a different story. Because the claws were epoxy while the wrists were latex and the arms were L200, I had to mix and match paint a bit. I sprayed the latex parts with the rubber cement paint, then made an acrylic paint mixture of all the colors that were used and painted the claws and arms.

But after all that painting and finishing–right up until the day before WonderCon–we have finally finished The Zoidberg Project! Thanks so much for following along through all these months, and please leave your feedback in the comments below!

PREMIUM – Tested Builds: LEGO Sandcrawlers, Part 12

This is it! The grand finale! Not only to our two weeks of LEGO speed-building, but to our whole month of projects for Tested members. Thanks so much for following along, and we hope you learned something interesting about 3D printers, papercraft, quadcopters, and even LEGO. Let us know what you thought about this series and what projects you’d like to see us tackle in future months. To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

How To Make A Replica Hybrid Mercury IV Pressure Suit

(Editor’s note: One of Adam’s favorite costumes is his Mercury program spacesuit, which we’ve previously featured here on Tested. It’s one of the costumes he wore at this year’s Comic-Con. Elizabeth Galeria of The Magic Wardrobe, who made the costume in collaboration with Adam, reached out to us to share the process of designing and patterning this suit to meet Adam’s specific needs and requests. This is the first in a series of articles in which Elizabeth and her partner explain their fabrication process fort his project. Feel free to ask Elizabeth–Tested user “antylyz”–questions directly in the comments section below.)

An accurate replica of any costume or prop is only as good as the source images and what budget a “detail enthusiast” is willing to spend to get what’s envisioned. When Adam approached me to make him a Mercury suit, his celebrity factored into my quote. I really wanted to do this project having been a fan of MythBusters for many years.

Adam had no shortage of images to show me so quoting him was pretty easy. It’s not often you get 100+ high-res images of the actual suits from the Smithsonian so I was able to count stitches-per-inch as is often the case needed for detail enthusiasts.

Adam was very specific that all he wanted was someone to do the “soft parts” and he would provide all the “hard parts,” which made the project easy. Adam was also very specific about what details he liked about the various iterations of suits used by NASA in the Mercury space program, and he focused on the following image in particular.

The biggest challenge in almost any replica costume or prop is finding the same or similar fabrics and materials used to make the original. Adam was very specific in describing the fabric he thought the original suit was made of. It’s something he has described in his videos about the suit.

1. Finding a Suitable Fabric

I tried to find something like the original source material, but I focused on finding something I knew would be affordable, “move well” when worn and accommodate alterations or modifications to requirements specifications changing as needed. Serious detail enthusiasts often have change order requests as projects evolve when their budget is flexible. Many clients go to extremes when it comes to getting what they want. They often spare no expense when they start seeing “in-progress” pictures and their vision and expectations are validated. But more on that later.

I always first send pictures of the fabrics selected to a client. Several fabrics were dismissed by Adam immediately, but that was expected. It’s a good way to gauge a buyer’s expectations and eye for detail. The hardest part of the job is finding the perfect fabrics and materials that we both like and will work well for costuming.

Adam didn’t initially choose the fabric finally selected by pictures alone. I knew I had to get fabric swatches, which aren’t always possible. Vendors either don’t sell swatches or you have to buy a minimum amount of yardage to even look at it. Frankly, there’s often no substitute for touching, feeling “the hand” of the fabric, how it moves and drapes in person. But I was able to get Adam the two final choices in person to inspect and approve.

Here's just one example of the many reference photos Adam was able to provide. Here’s just one example of the many reference photos Adam was able to provide.

I almost always buy two or more fabric choices in enough quantity to have a back-up plan if something goes wrong. Sometimes, your first choice vendor sells everything in inventory just before you need it. For instance during the helmet build, Douglas and Sturgess in Richmond, CA ran out of the silicone Adam recommended and I had to drive to the San Francisco location to get it as we needed it the next day. (I’ll be covering the helmet build in a future article.) Projects can go sideways quick if you don’t have a back-up plan for some aspects of a project.

None of the local fabric stores had anything like I needed, including Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, which almost always has what I need but it’s usually my last resort. Adam even went to Britex himself when I told him there were no local sources for the fabric. I’ve found that many detail enthusiasts will go to any length to get perfect fabric, especially if it is screen-used. I will go to any length myself for the perfect fabric, including exceeding forecasted budget, making it if possible and having representatives go to the fabric marts in L.A., Chicago and N.Y.C. in fabric quests. Not kidding. One could produce a show like Adam Richmond’s Man vs. Food in quests for the best or widest range of quality fabrics sources. There are just an innumerable resources available.

As it turned out, Adam didn’t select the fabric I liked best out of the two final fabric swatches. I must admit I was initially frustrated and waited a few days before taking a persuasive stand on why I preferred his second choice. I anticipated this stand could be Adam’s first disappointment in his purchase. I didn’t realize until later after several instances of indecision and decisions needed that Adam is very flexible, highly communicative and reasonable about everything. Not many clients say up front that there’s no hurry. No deadline. I knew this project would turn out very well right then and it became a labor of love because I could really take my time and do some of my best work on a project I would enjoy. Circumstances like this just don’t come along that often. My experience usually is the higher the client expectations the more demanding the client relative to how much is spent.

I explained to Adam that the silver stretch clothing vinyl fabric I liked was better than his first choice because it would hide needle holes better if I had to make alterations or design changes and would “move” better than his first choice because it stretched slightly in two directions: side to side not up and down–or worse not at all.

I knew Adam would be wearing his suit when not displayed and it would have to endure some potentially rough treatment, alterations and potentially adverse conditions, such as in putting it on in haste. A suit like this requires help putting on. We got lucky and found not only a viable fabric in L.A., but a source that had a huge supply, so I bought enough to accommodate mistakes and new orders.

2. Measurements Needed and Desired, Muslin Prototype for Testing

With the fabric figured out, the next step was to make measurements. Let’s face it, no matter how much you spend on a costume or who makes it, it has to fit perfectly or you will not find as much value in the costume as you desire.

Most costume vendors sell standard sizes or a single one-size-fits-many. Our costumes are totally custom and hand-made to fit the intended client. I could make this suit fit anyone big and small and it would look correct. We ask for around 50 measurements on a costume like this. A designer/seamstress needs to consider what’s going to be worn underneath the costume as well.

Frankly, when I see Adam’s Mercury costume pictures and the videos of him putting it on, I reflect on the choices made during fabrication. You must ask your client if the costume is going to be worn with clothing underneath, if so then with how many layers, and will the costume eventually be displayed on a mannequin and under what conditions. Some clients don’t bother to consider temperature for props or direct sunlight on fabrics. All of this matters.

Another important variable is how long the costume is going to be worn each day and where, because even with breathable fabrics you are going to get warm, even hot and sweat when you factor in helmet, gloves and boots, no air-conditioning and outside temperatures. What are your options for changing under garments or even changing a new shirt for the one you sweat through. For example, some clients will buy multiple shirts for our Han Solo costume.

I knew Adam was going to wear clothing underneath the suit, but I didn’t expect him to wear a shirt and medium to heavy jacket with pants as in one video of him getting dressed in the suit. This is not an easy suit to put on to begin with and I winced a few times imagining zippers, seams and stitches tearing as he put it on. Fortunately, I anticipated hard-wearing and it appears the suit is holding up very well as expected. Adam gets how the suit is constructed and should be put on which helps my work hold up.

One unintended option for the suit I thought about including was a NASA lining fabric designed to wick away perspiration. I used it for the cowl but I never completed the full suit lining as I hoped because I wanted to wait and see what kind of holes Adam would be making for all of his biometrics and accessories (and alterations desired). Eventually, I hope Adam will let me sew-in the inner suit NASA lining which will make the suit cooler to wear. I’d also suggest he wear a t-shirt and boxers but I heard somewhere he has ordered a special pair of long johns for the suit.

After Adam completed our measurements form, I had the opportunity to ask additional questions needed to get the right fit. Often, clients don’t understand certain important measurements, such as “girth” for a costume like this. That’s when I need the opportunity to help clients get it right. Always get help with measurements; never try to do it by yourself. Our work is only as good as the measurements we get!

The next step is the “muslin prototype” made from the pattern pieces which I sometimes make using an inexpensive similar type fabric and send the client for trying on. This is to make certain all the measurements given and specifications desired translate into a well-fitting prototype. I usually ask for front, side and back view pictures of the client wearing costume items to see for myself but Adam assured me it fit perfectly like a glove so I didn’t second guess him as this isn’t his first time through the sizing and fitting process. He returned the prototype made of the NASA fabric and I was ready for the next step: cutting the fabric.

3. Patterning and In-Progress Pictures

First to be cut were the sleeves. There are as many versions and designs of the Mercury IV suit sleeves as there are suits, boots and gloves versions. For Adam, the project called for a “hybrid” approach to the design that combined elements of a few of the suits. I don’t usually send clients pictures of my patterns but volunteered to do so with Adam because I felt that he could appreciate the in-progress work more than most.

Our hybrid sleeve pattern (version 1) is pictured here:

I usually start with the shape of the sleeve as a whole. Is it a basic sleeve shape or something funky? Then I break it down into the individual pattern pieces on the master sleeve, making sure the ratio of the upper sleeve works with main part of the sleeve. I consider whether interfacing is needed and what type looking at the original source material and whether a piece looks really firm or soft and comfortable without any firmness. And also whether pieces are cut larger and gathered to fit and the order in which I sew them. There’s a lot of starting and stopping with this type of sleeve with very few continuous lines of stitching.

Sleeve design for Adam to approve. Sleeve design for Adam to approve.

Generally, before this process begins I consider using a pre-printed manufactured pattern piece that’s close to what I’m looking for in overall shape because I’m not re-inventing the wheel–a sleeve is a sleeve–and I just alter the heck out of it. I did that in this case–it’s a worthwhile tip from a seasoned guerrilla seamstress. For the torso and even the legs I used the same basic pattern process as I used for the sleeves. I was lucky and I could get almost all the basic pattern designs from one manufactured pattern.

The body of the leg was pretty much a no-brainer. I just had to make sure that the ratio of piece-to-piece worked. That’s why I draw everything on a master pattern first, so I can actually visualize what it’s going to look like before I finish. The most difficult part of the leg is the top of the leg and the shape that the angle of the brief area of the suit. Are they going to fit? Will it work?

And, of course, while doing all this you have to make certain it will fit the person it’s intended for (plus size or tiny, male or female). The first pattern has to fit the intended measurements. After creating a proof of concept prototype, I usually feel very confident in increasing or decreasing sizes to fit children and adults from the first patterns.

I spent more time on the zipper lines around the body and across the torso than on any other part of the suit. I also made-to-measure my own zippers. In fact, when I couldn’t find the correct zippers in black, I told Adam that I was having difficulty and he suggested perfect army green zippers that were used for making sleeping bags. I bought all of them for future projects because the price was right and the inventory not being re-stocked.

Next was figuring out the design on the sleeves with all the parts and pieces and flaps and patches and stripes. There’s no one long seam to sew, you sew part way up one way, then you have to add another piece on, then you have to go back to the stitch line you were sewing before and then of course not forget about the other piece you have to add in…it’s like a Chinese puzzle box with instructions written in Farsi.

Now for the torso pattern pieces. First, it’s a flat front pattern, no darts, the same with the back and the upper back yoke. Once I’m happy the dimensions fit I then make sure that all the extra design work works on the pattern piece so there’s a lot of drawing and erasing making sure there are certain patches and they all have to fit just right like a checkerboard.

This is also the same point in time I make sure that the details from the front line up with the details on the back, shoulder, armseye (arm hole opening) for total torso fits the sleeve and that everything lines up from the torso to the legs. The torso sort of works like a wagon wheel with the neck, arms and legs acting like spokes of a wheel. If stuff doesn’t line up I have to start over.

Finally, there’s the cowl that attaches the neck ring with the helmet and the body of the suit. When we first started this project we weren’t aware that Adam had specific a neck ring in mind, but he did give me circumference measurements for the openings of the rings for both neck and wrists. Coming up with a working pattern required making sure the neck opening of the suit had the correct circumference and trying to keep it as close to a round shape as possible. That way, by the time the zippers were put in, they didn’t overlap the zipper on the left shoulder.

This is one of those times when you just have to eyeball the pattern pieces and the many parts that all have to fit together. So often when you work on one piece you have to tweak them down the line to make them fit with what you just tweaked. It wasn’t until I was actually putting the suit together that I came up with the working design of how to attach the suit to the neck ring. Fortunately, the same solution worked for the wrist rings that Adam provided.

Adam initially wanted to attach the neck rings and wrist rings himself but I persuaded him to send them to me for me to do it. It was a good decision and a perfect example of how well we worked together. Everything I asked for he cooperated on. Often that’s not the case with clients as they don’t want to disclose details of their solutions or proprietary designs on parts they or someone else is doing. Adam’s approach is open-source, which is what these articles are all about. How you approach your problem-solving is more interesting than just the result.

I was blown away by the neck ring and initially thought Adam machined it like the wrist rings. The neck ring actually comes from a MIG high altitude helmet and they aren’t easy to find unless you buy a MIG helmet. I found an almost unlimited source of neck rings I am happy to share and promised one to Adam when the helmets are done and shipped.

We now have two solutions for joining the helmet with the cowl. One with the MIG neck ring like Adam’s and one without the neck ring. Adam’s solution is by far the cleanest and easiest to put on and take off. The following is what Adam’s helmet looks like without the MIG neck ring on another version of the suit (black version 1) for another client, intended for use on an upcoming album cover.

The faux neck ring you see above simply attaches with Velcro, while the details of the tabs are concealed by the MIG neck ring on Adam’s version.

Next is the brief area for joining the legs to the torso. These are very sexy briefs for an astronaut as they are high-cut ladies style French leg openings that any European man would be proud to wear to the beach but might find some resistance in some places stateside. This is one of the more difficult pieces both to pattern and to add the detail of the zippers. First you have the zipper that starts on the left leg front and unzips completely around with a very specific curve and you have the main torso zipper that has gone down the front of the torso and ends up on the brief area backside. Zippers are not meant to go around curved places so to make sure everything works well it’s pinning and repinning, readjusting, tweaking and tweaking again. With each suit I get faster, but there’s a lot of time spent getting it right here.

The kind of reproduction work I do rides between the lines of designer and techie. On one hand, I’m trying to make it look right but I’m always wondering if can I actually make it work with the pattern pieces I’ve made. I’m riding the razor edge at the client’s expense and risk to our credibility.

Here are some more in-progress photos sent over to Adam for comment and questions:

Mistakes happen, too. Notice in the image above that there’s a circle on the left sleeve for one of the biometrics. It was inadvertently stitched to the right sleeve instead of the left sleeve like on my pattern. Adam would have eventually noticed it if I said nothing so the solution was simply adding another support patch where it belongs and leave the mistake alone as few would notice. That was very gracious of Adam not making me redo the sleeve.

Another mistake might be the color of the cowl. It’s been pointed out that it should be more orange-y and I agree it maybe a little pale:

4. The Hard Parts

Next, all the straps, carriers and sliders. As I mentioned I didn’t give much thought to the “hard parts” including sliders as Adam said he would provide them. When I needed them to do the straps we had to buy them. Adam and I went back and forth suggesting various sources until we settled on two vendors. I picked what I wanted and he bought and shipped them to me. Prior to deciding on these sliders though I found some authentic aircraft strapping and hardware that I thought might work with some modifications. I recommended them initially but changed my mind. It would have been a mistake. Adam bought the items anyway but we never used them. Not everything goes as planned and Adam absorbed the cost anyway. It was one of the very few mistakes and bad recommendation.

We also made a mistake buying the NASA patches initially but eventually found the correct design, but I had to whiten the border as perfect reproduction patches don’t seem to exist. If you look at the suits pictured in this article, you can see the difference between the patch with the blue border and the one with the white.

As for all the straps, there are four major straps, all optional, but the suit looks better when all are used. Strap #1 is 1″ white (Adam dipped them in a coffee mixture to discolor) webbing for the upper chest strap that connects to sleeves with O-rings and slider. Then the next chest strap fitting as high as you can take it and holds tight to the body with a slider. The strap is 1.5″ to 2″ wide nylon webbing. The second chest strap has four carriers, two in front, two in back and the 1″ wide straps that start at the hip and cross in back, loop through the back carriers over the shoulders where there are two carriers and then straight down the side where they connect to short strap with a slider.

And here it is, all pieced together:

By now you have seen many pictures of the suit Adam has worn on Tested and at Comic-Con. Thank you for interest and I’m looking forward to questions and sharing more details! Stay tuned as we continue this series with a look at creating a replica Mercury program spacesuit helmet.

Photos courtesy Elizabeth Galeria

Elizabeth Galeria – a.k.a. antylyz – majored in theatre arts in college. Her favorite work is custom costumes. She has designed or worked on almost every costume era from prehistoric to space aliens.

While working as a show dresser in Reno, NV, she worked with exotic dancers and mastered the fine art of rip-away costumes. Her fashion design work includes many different styles and eras of costumes, clothing, lingerie, corsets and headwear for all walks of life including several female impersonators such as Holotta Tymes of Tyme of Your Life Productions. Her background includes seasons at the local Renaissance Faire, The San Francisco Opera, and many small theatre groups in the Bay Area. In 1993, she worked for the Redwood City Community Theatre and designed costumes for their production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which earned a nomination from the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Guild.

She’s done a lot of work over the years for some impressive clients, including Bette Midler for The San Francisco Opera in Walt Disney’s Hocus Pocus. She also worked on costumes for MC Hammer and crew for his Comeback Tour. Fourteen years ago, she credits her partner with the vision of this company and it’s growth. Mark and Elizabeth have since created several other websites to specialize in certain markets.

Find Elizabeth and Mark’s work at The Magic Wardrobe and Etsy

Adam Savage Incognito at Comic-Con 2014: Mercury Spacesuit

For Adam’s second Incognito walk through Comic-Con (which was actually done before the Alien spacesuit), Adam donned his Mercury program spacesuit replica and explored the convention hall. His use of a polarized helmet visor shielded his identity, but fans still managed to pick him out in the cosplay crowd!

Bits to Atoms: Building the Millenbaugh Motivator, Part 2

Sean Charlesworth recaps his project working with Adam building the Millenbaugh Motivator for the Hellboy Mech-Glove project. This week, he discusses how he built the plans for his design, based on reference photos provided by Adam.

I have been tasked with building a 5″ x 4″ mechanical block with a crankshaft assembly and a variety of small ‘valves’ that clop open and close. It’s the Millenbaugh Motivator for Adam’s Hellboy Mecha-Hand replica, so named for Scott Millenbaugh, the original fabricator at Spectral Motion. Scott machined the original out of metal (aluminum, I think) and there are many tiny precision pieces all driven by a small crankshaft. A lot of work went into this–all the parts are tiny and I can’t imagine having to machine all of them from metal.

Original Motivator Photo credit: Adam Savage Original Motivator Photo credit: Adam Savage

Having made replicas like this for many years, Adam knew exactly what was needed: lots and lots of good reference. As Harrison Krix discussed in his Halo Needler build articles, blueprints are the Holy Grail for building a replica, but these usually aren’t available or may have never even existed. For us mere mortals, reference typically comes from ‘Art of the Movie’ books, DVD extras, movie screengrabs and, if you’re really lucky, at Comic-Con or similar events where the original may be on display. Often, this original will be in a case or roped off so it becomes a game of fighting the crowd to snap as many pictures as possible through the display case which reflects everything and is smeared with nerd-grease.

Original Mecha-Hand Photo credit: Adam Savage Original Mecha-Hand Photo credit: Adam Savage

Adam has a lot of friends and connections and was able to get access to the original prop at Spectral Motion and took tons of great photos and most importantly, measurements! For the most useful reference photos you want to make sure to not use a wide angle lens as it will distort the image. Using a normal or telephoto lens will ensure the pictures look closer to how they do in person (at least 70mm).

Original Motivator Photo credit: Adam Savage Original Motivator Photo credit: Adam Savage

I pored over the pictures and started making notes, but I was in the middle of another project and couldn’t start modeling yet, so Adam and I were emailing back and forth about details. This was around last December and even before any of the Inventern stuff, my wife and I had bought tickets for the NYC MythBusters- Behind the Myths show and when Adam found out he made sure to get us backstage. The show was great and I was recognized as the Inventern twice which was weird for me but nice nonetheless. We went to the after-show meet and greet where they took pictures with fans, answered questions and handed out signed photos. We briefly met Jamie who was under the weather at the time and looked really tired and Adam really like my wife’s Zorg t-shirt.

On our way out, Adam waved us back and said he was having a get-together afterwards and we should come – swoon. We thought it was going to be an after show party with the crew, etc. but it turned out to be a small get together with his friends and family! We’re looking around the group and there’s Tom Sachs and John Hodgman – what!? To be honest, we felt a little intimidated and quietly drank our beers in the corner.

Eventually, we struck up a conversation with an older couple next to us. Turns out the gentleman was Alan Rose, the creator of The World at Your Feet papercraft books that Adam has mentioned many times. Adam was such a big fan, that he had invited Alan and his wife, who both seemed to feel as overwhelmed as us, they were a very nice couple. Adam made sure to take time to introduce us around and was like, ‘oooo! There’s someone you really need to talk to!” and for the next hour we found ourselves chatting with David Dunbar, the Executive Editor of Popular Mechanics. I dropped some 3D printing knowledge on him while Kate chatted with Mr. Hodgman who came over to congratulate me on the Inventern win–it was a weird night. Adam was very kind to invite us, was once again a gracious host and we ended up having a great time.

Credit: Adam Savage Credit: Adam Savage

During our adventure, Adam and I were able to quickly work out some motivator details in person rather than play email tag. The picture above was the key piece that Adam sent me: a head-on picture of each side, combined into one photo with a known measurement. This made things much easier and made it possible to use Photoshop to figure out most of the other measurements. Here’s how I went about doing that:

Taking reference measurements with Photoshop

After a few hours in Photoshop with various reference photos, I had a hi-res printout covered with measurements. This was the guide I used to build a lot of the motivator and spec hardware. Even with really good pictures and Photoshop it can be tricky to get accurate measurements. Sometimes I would have to measure the same part in various photos and average it out. Sometimes the measurement I took just didn’t look right when I built it in 3D and I would have to fudge it. Whatever works!

With proper measurements, I could start building in 3D which required figuring out all the components, how they related to each other, and possible problem areas. I imported the primary reference photo into Cinema 4D and resized it to match the known measurement of the block. I could now use it for the size and spacing of many of the parts. I didn’t want to get too detailed with what I built until I confirmed what was needed with Adam. Fast forward a few weeks and I had expected to have a rough version built but was held up doing revisions for another job. Adam emailed to check on progress and I was kind of mortified to tell him I hadn’t even gotten started! I sent him the following photo and told him I had drawn up plans and made great progress, he thought it was pretty funny, told me not to worry about it.

Detailed Plans! Detailed Plans!

Shortly after, I was able to sit down and model a very rough version that represented all of the separate pieces as I saw it, proportions and how they would go together. Even with all of the reference pictures, this was tricky as there were some pieces that I couldn’t get a clear view off and had to infer details. There were internal structures which couldn’t be seen at all and even lighting and shadows could make things appear drastically different from picture to picture. Overall, Adam agreed with my proposed structure so we were set to start building parts for real. I asked Adam if he wanted the entire motivator 3D printed or more of a hybrid assembly and we bounced back and forth on this a few times. Initially, Adam thought he would have the thinner top plates cut out of metal and maybe the valve domes as well. Regardless, I would build the entire thing in 3D so it could all be printed if needed, even if it was just for reference. To cover our bases, I also picked metal stock sizes that were as close to my Photoshop measurements as possible and used those for the top and bottom plates and the body of the motivator. This way we could 3D print the parts or easily cut them from metal stock right off the shelf.

Rough Assembly Rough Assembly

While building the rough version I realized that I couldn’t make a lot of the parts that way I normally do. I do a lot of box modeling, which I have demonstrated on projects like the MintyBoost box, which is taking basic geometric shapes and continually extruding and modifying them outwards to keep everything as one big, clean mesh. The valve arms in particular would be very difficult to build this way, so I would have to do something else for the final version. As Adam has said, he’s always learning something new and I know exactly what he means. I ended up trying a lot of different ways to build the motivator, some worked out really well and some crashed my computer. It may have not been the most elegant way, but it turned out alright in the end.

Tune in next week when we dive into building the fine model of the motivator, spec out hardware, do some test prints and work out the mechanics.

All photos courtesy Sean Charlesworth unless otherwise indicated.