Step 1: Research
I’d like to credit them all but there were simply too many. Off the top of my head, the following people are responsible for giving me the most inspiration:
But I salute you all, fellow creators.
Onto the costume itself. A lot of attempts seemed to use a boiler suit or leather biker clothing. In my opinion those costumes looked too baggy. If you look at Sam Flynn’s cotume, it’s pretty tight fitting, obviously custom made. I saw a behind-the-scenes clip once of Garrett Hedlund putting on the costume (actually someone else had to put it on him) and that cemented in my mind that it needed to be a tight fit. So I thought of using a wetsuit as the base. For the lights, I’ve seen some pretty amateur efforts using glow-sticks – the kind that you see at raves, but they’re quite inflexible. The obvious choice of technology is electro-luminescent (EL) wire and tape. This was the technology used in the film, so why not? I’ll tell you why not – it’s expensive. But it’s worth it. Next, I decided to use sheet foam for the panels that would be worn on top of the wetsuit and house the EL lighting. The foam would be attached to the wetsuit using a mixture of velcro, superglue and fastenable straps. Finally, the Tron identity disc. You can buy the toy from the US over the internet. Some modification would need to be made to get the lights to stay continuously on – then the real challenge would be how to mount it onto the suit.
Step 2: Materials
Tron: Legacy Deluxe identity disc
2m2 black sheet foam
matt black spraypaint
electronics: 2x 40cm light blue EL tape, 2x 12cm light blue “L-shaped” EL tape, 4x EL hoops, 3x 3m light blue EL wire, splitters, inverter,battery pack. Get it all in a bundle from EL Wire Craft
8x AA batteries, 1x 9V battery, 1x 9V battery clip
25g superglue (I used 8x 3ml Loctite Superglue Ultra Gel)
40x 5mm diameter Neodymium earth magnets
black duct tape, white adhesive reflective tape, soldering iron, solder, screwdrivers, wire strippers, electronic wire, scissors, box cutters, tape measure, pliers, marker pens, 1m velcro strip, Blu-Tack, candle
1l Famous Grouse
Step 3: Disc Modification for Continuous Lighting
I followed this tutorial:
which showed how to open up the disc and modify it so that the lights stay continuously on. You need a small Philips screwdriver, a soldering iron, some solder and some thin electrical wire. Unscrew the six screws on the back of the disc and gently lift of the back plate. You should now see the chip which controls the sequence.
Here’s the science bit: connect pins R3, R4, R5, R8, R9 and R10 to the battery in series. That’s it.
Step 4: Attaching the Disc to the Costume
But first, I needed a mechanism to hold the disc on the disc holder. This tutorial:
suggests using magnets inside the disc and inside the disc holder. I bought some strong 5mm Neodymium disc magnets from eBay for quite cheap. So, open the disc again, and stick down two or three magnets onto the inside of the back of the disc, directly behind the four ‘notches’ that you can see on the back of the disc. Then tape them down with some duct tape. I orginally used two magnets in each corner but it wasn’t strong enough. Seal up the disc and pop some magnets onto the outside back of the disc just to test they’re attracting.
Next, make the disc holder out of the packaging that came with the disc. Stick some more magnets down in the corresponding areas and tape them up. This piece of packaging actually makes a great place to store the battery pack and inverter which will power the EL lighting in the costume. So trim the edges of the disc holder before sticking some cardboard on the back of that holder, then tape the battery pack and inverter into the hole in the middle. Spraypaint the whole thing matt black.
To attach the disc holder to the suit, turn it over and superglue two velcro strips onto it. Then superglue the reverse velcro strips onto the back of the wetsuit. The disc holder should now sit on the back of the costume, with the disc held safely in place.
Step 5: Disc Modification for 9V Battery
The only place to fit a 9V batttery is at the top end of the disc. This is where the break in the inner “C” ring of the disc is. Currently that’s where the speaker and sound chip are stored. The 9V battery will not fit completely into the disc but will stick out discreetly. Open up the disc again and cut out the speaker and the chip it’s attached to. Tape up exposed wires. Now heat a screwdriver tip or a sharp knife over a candle, and cut away the plastic that held the speaker and chip. You will also need to cut a small way into the disc rim on both halves of the disc. Make sure you only cut away a hole that in the end makes a tight fit for the 9V battery.
Next, unscrew the battery door, remove the original 6x watch batteries and replace the battery door. Now open up the disc and disconnect the wire we ran from the circuit board to the battery neg line, and instead connect it to the battery neg line on the 9V battery clip. Next, connect the battery clip’s pos line to the disc’s original battery pos line. Run the battery clip wires neatly along the disc down to where the 9V battery will slot in. I used a lot of electrical insulation tape to cover up exposed wires.
Attach a 9V battery to the battery clip, tape it up so it’s black, and test. You’ll find the disc now shines about twice as bright as it did with the original watch batteries. Close the disc and push the taped up battery in. You may have to cut a little more around the disc rim in order to get the battery to fit perfectly.
Note: You will now have to make a small notch on the battery disc holder so that the disc fits on with the battery protruding out of it.
Step 6: Circuit Design
First, I mapped out the design of the costume as seen in the film. Then, I mapped out a configuration for the various EL strips and EL wires that I had, that roughly fitted the design. Bear in mind all wires needed to be connected to the battery which is held around the upper back area.
Here is the configuration I used:
2x 40cm EL strips down the chest (32cm would be fine but my supplier only had 40cm ones so I used black duct tape to hide parts)
2x EL “L-shaped” strip along the breast
2x EL hoops above the breast
2x EL hoops at the waist
1x 3m EL wire for the chest and back
1x 3m EL wire for the left arm, back hoop and waist
1x 3m EL wire for the right arm, back hoop and waist
Note: these circuit diagrams were drawn before I decided to add the two “L-shaped” EL strips to the costume.
Step 7: Vest
2x 40cm EL strips
2x “L-shaped” EL strips
2x EL hoops
1x 3m EL wire
I cut out a waistcoat-shaped area from the sheet foam and used relfective tape to mark where these areas would be. I then cut out a shoulder/back brace area and attached that to the front area. The back brace would eventually be glued to the back of the wetsuit, then, once the wesuit was on, I would pull down the front part of the vest over my head, kind of like a seat belt on a rollercoaster. Threading the wires through the vest took some patience, as did creating the bevels for the EL wire to sit in. Once I glued down all the components, I labelled all the wires and attached the back of it to the wetsuit.
Finally, add small velcro patches (around 5cm x 2cm) to the sides of the back brace, and to the bottom of the front part of the vest.
Step 8: Body Wires and Waist Hoops
For the waist hoops, it’s much the same process as making the vest. You’ll need a splitter to connect them inside the wetsuit, then run the wire up so its connector comes out of the neck of the wetsuit.
Step 9: Final Touches and Considerations
I wasn’t satisified with the security of the disc on the holder, so I duct-taped some larger flat magnets onto the disc, and it now sits on there very securely.
And now the considerations of wearing the costume:
It takes 15 minutes to put on, and 15 minutes to take off
You have to be completely naked to put it on. No underwear, no jewellery
You get really hot indoors, and you sweat
Wearing a wetsuit for hours makes your muscles ache
It’s not waterproof, drunk person proof or council estate proof
You can’t do anything that involves bending too much as the foam panels will break off. Sitting on a chair, walking and grabbing/replacing your disc are pretty much all you can do in it
Otherwise, enjoy the costume, and send me photos.