Here's a video of the completed costume. It is operated by two "controllers" that I built into the costume, giving me real-time control over whether it's showing up in the mirror or not, the expression, the mouth moving, and the mask looking around.
Here is a list of the required tools/materials
Nylon case tool (optional)
15" LCD Monitor (Preferably 12V in)
Cheap Picture Frame
1x2 Furring Strip
Relevant parts (continued)
Can of expanding foam
Mirror Finish window tint
AA Battery Holders
1.2V NiMH Rechargeable batteries (2000 mAh) (20)
Double Stick Tape
I was looking for a way to make this thing without using a heavy wooden frame that wouldn’t give me many options for support, and any of the wooden ones that were of the ornate style that I’m looking for are very heavy. Since I’m going to be wearing it around, weight is an issue.
I started out by picking up a Lenticular from an unnamed Seasonal Halloween store, and when I told the manager that I was just going to tear it up he gave it to me for $4.99 instead of the $24.99. This was the picture that I picked up
I took everything over to our local maker space and got to work.
To begin with, I started with the flimsy plastic picture frame, glued in the plexiglass, and built a wooden reinforcing frame.
I filled the frame with (too much) expanding foam and pressed the wooden frame into it, and let everything cure.
These are pictures of the frame, as well as the test fit in the mirror.
To fix this I decided to try and use some kind of black to clear color gradient along the edges to help hide backlight where the mask won’t appear. The downside of this approach is that it limits me from using some of their other digital puppets, so I may re-think this again. After hunting for transparency film that I could print in my inkjet printer (and discovering that it costs $60 at Staples) someone suggested that I try Kinko’s/Fed-Ex. It turns out that they print transparencies for $0.75/sheet so I drove on down and had my gradients printed out. I ended up doubling them up to get a better effect.
The first two pictures are without the gradient, the third is of the gradient, and the last two are after the gradient was installed.
I finished a battery drain test with all 20 batteries installed and at the lowest brightness managed to get 3 hours and 45 minutes out of the thing. I'm expecting between 2:40 and 3 hours on the highest brightness setting. Right now it's got two banks of ten series-connected 1.2V NiMH batteries run in parallel. All of the batteries are rated a 2000 mAh, so the whole thing is good for 4000 mAh.
I attached the battery holders to the frame. I used the same clear silicon to hold them in place that I used for the plexi; it seems like it should be a good choice to bond to the slippery plastic of the battery holders as well as the wood. The holders have little holes in the ends of them, so I also ran some steel wire through each one and tied it of to screws so the silicon isn't the only thing holding them in place, and if it fails the wire should keep them from falling off. Durability is the name of the game here. I also soldered up the wires and put heat-shrink on all of the connections to prevent any risk of shorting or tape coming off. There is some electrical tape on there, but it's only there to help keep some of the wires neat. I also chose to run the wires on the mirror frame, not on the LCD or the mounting bracket. This way I can remove the LCD easily by simply unplugging it.
It's not that sturdy on its own, but by attaching it to cardboard you create an extremely sturdy structure. Expanding foam works well to make the attachment.
This is the wall frame. It's mostly made of 1/2" pipe, but those two crossbars are 3/4" and are where the mirror itself will attach as well as the harness.
I'm using an external-frame backpack frame for my setup. It came from a surplus store (Not military surplus, they charge a lot more than normal surplus stores) and I discarded the bag portion of the backpack.
I attached two pieces of 3/4" CPVC to the pack frame to act as attachment points. On one I used some zip ties and a lot of electrical tape, the other is just attached with electrical tape. It doesn't sound like it would be sturdy, but it works wonders (and is cheap if you buy a 10 pack of the cheap stuff)
This project needs a hip belt to work correctly since the weight will cause the whole thing to tip forward. A hip belt will prevent this from happening, and my pack came with one built in.
I realize that a simple sandwich sign or something similar would have been much more simple, but it's fun to overbuild things and I like the process involved.
When I finally got things all glued together I tried it on. While it did work, there were problems. As I'd feared, the pipe wasn't nearly rigid enough and there was a lot of sag in the system. That was without all of the extra weight that still needs to be added, so clearly this wasn't going to work.
After bouncing some ideas around overnight I decided that a whole new idea might be the best solution, but that's not really an option since I have money/time into this setup. I decided to go buy some angle aluminum stock from Tractor Supply (It was a lot cheaper than Home Depot or Lowes) and use that to brace things. I put in four diagonal braces. One from each corner to the backpack frame, and also attached the aluminum to the pipes that connect the wall and backpack frame. I just used electrical tape for this too.
Once the foam was set it was time to start attaching the mirror to the frame. I used four PVC straps to do this. I don't have a picture, but they're with the rest of the CPVC joints at the hardware store. I'd designed the wall frame to match up with the wood in the mirror and it fit perfectly. I cut a hole slightly smaller than the mirror and used the brackets to attach the mirror to the wall frame.
In my over-tired haste I somehow forgot that I might want to see out of this thing and "bricked" right over the area I'd planned to cut a hole to see through. I removed two of the foam blocks, cut a hole out, and glued in some black see-through fabric.
I also realized that the black fabric covering the back of the costume would be resting on my head, so I made a quick CPVC hoop and taped it to the frame. That way it will rest on the hoop, not my head.
Then I finished spraying down the new foam blocks in gray, and put down another coat of stone texture paint.
Two pockets appeared at the folds in the upper edges, so I hand-stitched these together.
I realized that I still needed a way to hold the laptop, so I took an old backpack and strapped it to frame.
Since I need access to this I couldn't glue the fabric all the way around. To fix this, I glued velcro onto the frame and onto the fabric. This will give me easy access to the backpack, and allow me to close up the costume.
Here are a few pictures of the finished costume.
I got into the finals at a local costume contest; unfortunately the only picture of the finals that they posted is when I'm at the back of the stage.