Lady Gaga Cosplay - Making the LED Matrix Mask From the VMAs

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Introduction: Lady Gaga Cosplay - Making the LED Matrix Mask From the VMAs

About: Hi! I'm Natasha. I'm a Tech-Crafter, Maker, and the Designer of TechnoChic DIY Tech-Craft Kits. Technology should be chic!

Lady Gaga's LED Matrix Mask from the VMAs was inspirational. I had to make one!

In this instructable, I'll show you how I discovered the tech behind Lady Gaga's LED mask, tweaked the design to be more appropriate for cosplay, and created the sine wave code for the LED matrix. I've included links to all of my research, references, and code so that you can follow along and make one too.

Watch me make the mask:

When I started this project, I had never worked with an LED matrix before so I was super excited to have the opportunity to go into a second dimension! Another big first was working with spandex - I also build the entire bodysuit and learned a ton!

To see how I made the custom spandex bodysuit, check out the instructable here.

This LED Matrix Mask is part of this complete cosplay:

Lady Gaga LED Matrix Mask Cosplay Overview

Supplies

Adafruit DotStar 8x8 Matrix

Adafruit Itsy Bitsy M4

Microphone

Wires

2mm Cosplay Foam

Craft Cardboard

Assorted Vinyl

I've included links to all of the supplies, and some are from Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission on purchases made through the links above, and that helps me make more tutorials like this. Thank you!

Step 1: Research

My first big challenge was to figure out what type of LEDs to use for my Lady Gaga mask, and how to make the sine wave animation on the front. I was lucky enough to find a post by a company called Smooth Technology - they were the creators of the original mask, and they had posted a process shot to their Instagram. This showed me that it was in fact a matrix of DotStar LED matrices from Adafruit, not an evenly spaced, single LED matrix. I also learned what microphone they used, and I used the same. You can see links to these in the supplies list.

Step 2: Build the Matrix of Matrices Display

Now that I had the example from Instagram, I made sense of it by sketching my own plan in my notebook. My first task was to clip the mounting holes off of the matrices with wire cutters and sand the edges so that all 9 matrices would sit flush together perfectly.

Step 3: Solder the LED DotStar Matrix

I taped the matrices to a piece of cardboard to keep them in place and soldered them together according to my diagram. I also added the microphone and an Itsy Bitsy M4 Express to control the display.

Here's a diagram of the whole circuit:

Circuit Diagram for LED matrix of matrices

Step 4: Follow the Example LED Matrix Code

I followed the Adafruit DotStarMatrix Library setup tutorial to test and orient my matrix correctly.

It was helpful to test with a color wipe to be sure that all pixels were operational and showing in the correct order. This was a bit of a tedious process but the tutorial helps with this.

Step 5: Code the Sine Wave - Processing

To learn to create the sine wave animation, I started with what I knew - a program called Processing. I followed this example by Daniel Shiffman to learn the concept of coding a sine wave. I recently discovered that he also made a video about coding sine waves on his YouTube channel - here's the link to the video.

You can also view my code that makes a pink sine wave in Processing here.

Step 6: Code the Sine Wave - Arduino

Now that I had a sine wave on my computer screen, I translated the concept into Arduino. To do this, I used the Adafruit GFX library for Arduino to create the graphics on the display.

Once I had a sine wave moving on the display, I made it respond to the signal strength of the microphone.

Step 7: Create the Project Enclosure

It's build time! Lady Gaga's original mask was 3D printed, but I don't have a 3D printer, and that's totally ok because I love making things from cardboard! So, I recreated the box around the display with cardboard and vinyl. I cut the pieces out of cardboard first.

Step 8: Add Vinyl to Make It Look Like Plastic

Then, I added vinyl. The ring was shiner than the box so I used shiny black vinyl to cover the ring and matte black to cover the box.

Step 9: Add Cosplay Foam to Make the Mask

I cut a piece of cosplay foam to make the part of my mask that touches my face, and two more pieces to make the LED matrix stand off of my face a bit.

I glued the two side pieces to the matrix box and sewed those side pieces to the main mask piece. While sewing, I created a path for the power cable to escape on one side so that it could run down my back to a battery pack sitting inside my belt.

Step 10: Add a Reset Button

I realized that the tiny reset button was hard to reach with the mask on my face, so I added a larger button to the bottom so that I can easily press it while wearing the mask.

Step 11: Finishing Touches

To finalize the mask, I added black spandex to the sides to match the fabric look of the original and a white square of vinyl because Lady Gaga's mask had a white reflector on top.

I added a standard USB battery pack to my belt and plugged in the mask.

Lady Gaga LED Matrix Mask Finishing Touches

Step 12: Rock Out!

And I was ready to rock!

I hope you enjoy this tutorial! If you want to see more of my work, you can follow me here on Instructables and on Instagram and YouTube - Please Subscribe! You can also buy tech-craft kits designed by me at TechnoChic.net.

Lady Gaga Cosplay LED Mask Dancing

Thank you!

:)

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    22 Comments

    0
    duncanis
    duncanis

    10 days ago

    I wonder how much more weight would be on the mask if it was self containted by putting a small battery pack in the mask (connected to the M4) rather than an external USB power supply.
    Great work though, not being critical just thinking out loud! Love the reference links to learn more about your research that helped you.

    0
    TechnoChic
    TechnoChic

    Reply 10 days ago

    Thanks. :) Yeah! A small battery would totally work - a tiny lipo would be perfect. However, the USB pack being a part of the build doubled as an aesthetic choice as well: Most performers wear a mic pack at the waist, and Lady Gaga did have a large black pack a the back of the costume (two actually- I assume one was the radio control and battery for the mask, and the other was for the microphone that captured her actual singing voice). So adding a battery at the waist made me feel more like a rock star! :-D

    0
    Arnov Sharma
    Arnov Sharma

    22 days ago

    You could make a full mask with these matrix, that would be super cool as well

    0
    Arnov Sharma
    Arnov Sharma

    Reply 18 days ago

    yup, seen it. pretty kewl

    0
    dirty_valentine
    dirty_valentine

    22 days ago

    Awesome Instructable! You totally need to get a 3D printer though. They are so cheep you almost can't afford to not have one. Especially for someone as creative and smart as you obviously are.

    0
    TechnoChic
    TechnoChic

    Reply 20 days ago

    Thanks so much for the compliment! Yeah, the 3D printer craze did get me - I actually owned one for about a year but never wanted to use it, so I sold it. I'm simply a paper/cardboard/fabric/code sort of maker! :-p

    0
    bryans workshop
    bryans workshop

    25 days ago

    Wow! One of the best 'how to' videos I've ever watched. It looks like you're wearing the same Gaga costume.

    0
    TechnoChic
    TechnoChic

    Reply 24 days ago

    Wow, that means a lot! Thanks so much!

    0
    Knexified
    Knexified

    26 days ago

    I never thought this was possible! Pretty cool there! Also, I like the costume! Was it a portable charger of some sort that the mask was connected to?

    0
    TechnoChic
    TechnoChic

    Reply 26 days ago

    Thanks! Yup- it’s powered by a standard USB battery pack, like the ones they sell to recharge your phone on the go. :)

    0
    Knexified
    Knexified

    Reply 26 days ago

    Well, ok! Does the speaker project Gaga's voice when you sing or talk (any of those)?

    0
    TechnoChic
    TechnoChic

    Reply 25 days ago

    The project doesn't include a speaker, but yes the sine wave reacts to the volume of my voice when I talk into the microphone. :)

    0
    Knexified
    Knexified

    Reply 25 days ago

    Ooohh. Makes sense! Is it still together today?

    0
    n4mwd
    n4mwd

    25 days ago

    Very clever. I like your costume as well. You said you didn't have a 3D printer, but as clever as you are, I suspect your next project will be building one out of an old shoe box and some duct tape. :)

    0
    TechnoChic
    TechnoChic

    Reply 25 days ago

    Haha the only 3D printer I need is my glue gun!

    0
    IanCharnas
    IanCharnas

    25 days ago on Step 12

    Natasha this project rules. Keep it up, we love your work!!

    0
    TechnoChic
    TechnoChic

    Reply 25 days ago

    Thank you! 😊

    0
    Celian_31
    Celian_31

    25 days ago on Step 12

    This is a really nice project, and also quite well documented. Props to you.

    0
    TechnoChic
    TechnoChic

    Reply 25 days ago

    Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed seeing the process!