Tron Legacy Sam Light Suit

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Tron legacy was a Disney film released in 2010 as a sequel to the classic original 1982 film that was a pioneer in computer generated graphics and visual effects. The film reprised key elements from the original including the iconic light cycle races and the glowing lines of light of the costumes.


I have mixed feelings about the film, as many do; it is visually stunning. The light suits and lightcycles in particular are in my opinion up there with the very best film costumes and vehicles of all time. The soundtrack by Daft Punk is fantastic and fits with the visuals seamlessly. Unfortunately I was left feeling somewhat disappointed that the story doesn't fully match up to the visuals.

Whilst much of the film is CGI, there are significant, and important elements that weren't, and having an interest in practical effects, these really appeal to me. Key sets were built fully practical, and incorporated the iconic lighting (End of the Line Club, Flynn's arcade etc.), and importantly the light suits and other costumes were completely practical. I was therefore inspired to try and create a real, practical light suit myself, and so embarked on the significant task of working out how...

I started my costume build by deciding that as others may be interested, I wanted to be able to create more than one costume. I therefore decided to put effort into creating drawings, patterns and moulds to be able to produce multiples of parts. I also wanted to experiment with some techniques and materials not familiar to me, and this gave me a good opportunity.

My vision for the costume is not to produce something fully screen accurate to the film, but neither to create something simple but Tron like. Rather I would make something that to a general observer looks like the film versions, but is of a far better quality than cheap Halloween costumes, is durable, and most importantly has real functioning lighting. It would be very difficult to replicate the cast foam latex method used in the films without a serious budget and a lot of time, and so I chose to use a laminated flexible flat foam method instead.

It has always been my desire to make the costume fully lit, not relying on retro-reflective tapes as others have done. I therefore considered a wide range of options for lighting, but settled for the more expensive, but lower work option of using a kit of pre-cut electroluminescent shapes (from EL wire craft). This ties in with an easier ability to make multiple costumes.

The project started with an information gathering stage- there is a lot of information scattered around out there. My key reference sources are listed later.

The second stage was to do design work before starting builds- this started with the identity disks.

I have primarily used Draft Sight software for design, this being a free CAD program similar to Autocad that I'm familiar with in my day job, allowing me to produce accurate dimensioned drawings and patterns. Downloads of these drawings are available in PDF format for those interested.

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Step 1: Step 1: Materials

EL Tape
There are many possible suppliers of EL tape and sheet to manufacture the light up elements. Many of these will be selling the same products, manufactured in China, and so I find there is little to differentiate between suppliers, with the notable exceptions of EL Wire Craft in the UK and E-Luminates in the US. Both sell full sets and components pre-cut to the correct shapes.

EL Wirecraft http://www.elwirecraft.co.uk/

Electro Luminescence Inc http://electroluminescence-inc.com/

Foam

The foam in this project is cross-linked Polyethylene, commonly known as XLPE. In Europe, the common brand name is Plastazote, manufactured by Zote Foams. In the US it is available under the brand name Minicel, manufactured by Sekisui Voltek.

The foam is sold by density as well as dimensions and colour. In Europe the most widely available is Plastazote LD45, for the US L200 is the most common. These two aren't directly comparable; Minicel L200 is most similar in density to Plastazote LD33 and Plastazote LD45 is most similar to Minicel L300.

Other manufacturers produce similar XLPE foams and these will also be suitable for costume use if you find them. XLPE is chemically different to EVA foam that makes its way into a lot of costume use. EVA is commonly used for floor mats, camping mats and yoga mats although not all.

Manufacturer Websites http://www.zotefoams.com/ http://www.sekisuivoltek.com/

UK Plastazote stockist http://www.thamesvalleysupplies.co.uk/

Connectors- JST RCY Series

Pin Contact SYM-001T-P0.6 (reeled), BYM-001T-P0.6 (loose)

Socket Contact SYF-001T-P0.6 (reeled), BYF-001T-P0.6 (loose)

Pin Housing SYR-02TV

Socket Housing SYP-02TV-1

Other Parts Required

Evostik 528

3M 76 adhesive

Cotton lycra zip back, full length catsuit

Black calico

Hi-Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) sheet

Wire

Heatshrink

Low profile hook and loop fastener

Plastidip Matt Black Spray

Hot-melt glue

Superglue

Silicone mould rubber (Smooth-on mold max 20 or similar)

Glass fibre continuous strand matt

Polyester lay-up resin

Polyester gel coat

18mm MDF

Spray primer

Spot putter/ filler

Gloss spray paint

Clear silicone sealant

Workshop consumables

disposable gloves, wet & dry paper, masking tape, double sided tape, knife blades, solder etc.

Step 2: Step 2: Identity Disk

The film is reported to have a number of variants of disk (a), but for ease of handling my design is based on the more common 10" disk. Many earlier costumes have used the Disney deluxe toy disk, and modified it; however these are now becoming uncommon and expensive, so I took the decision to make my own mouldings.

I made a few minor changes to the screen part for the sake of easier manufacturing (such as the angle of the light ring), but it keeps the general theme, and also ensures that the disk can be easily handled. I am familiar with woodwork and have a good range of tools that made making the pattern relatively simple, although I still had to buy a large 45 degree router cutter- it will be easier to sculpt from clay if you don't have the workshop facilities.

The master disk is made from MDF- but you will probably need many layers of primer and paint, spot putty and a lot of careful sanding to get a good finish. I have since learnt of the trick of using superglue to seal MDF that may have save you quite a lot of time.

I used Mold Max 20 silicone from Smooth on to make the mould, and backed with plaster- there are plenty of instructables on casting. I recommend moulding in GRP to make the disk stiff enough.

The illumination is by EL wire sunk into the C ring and glued in place. The inverter is inside the disk. This is a standard inverter with the case removed and the battery holder replaced with an AAA unit to make it fit. The on off button pokes through the disk and is un-obtrusive. To diffuse the light on the disk, use clear silicone sealant mixed with a small amount of talc to make it more translucent than transparent or use polyurethane resin instead.The disk is held together with 4 small screws.

Step 3: Step 3: Costume Part 1

I had chosen to use pre-existing EL tape shapes, and so tried basing the design off a number of still images from the film and details from the supplier. Unfortunately the EL shape drawings supplied were scant of information and distorted, so I had to wait until I took delivery of actual parts to measure and re-draw.

The costume design started by tracing drawings from film stills and production photos into 2D CAD. Unfortunately there aren't many good full view photos, so I have had had to piece together the design from many different images. Once traced in I overlaid the design with the EL shapes. Unfortunately there are quite a lot of differences in these to the film. I therefore had to create a hybrid design using elements of the production design where possible, the EL shapes where necessary and tweaking to suit my body shape with patterns on a duct tape dummy. This sounds simple but has been a long-winded process and in the end might not have been the most efficient method, although it does result in drawings published here.

My wife helped me produce a duct tape dummy to use during the build. There are plenty of tutorials out there that will give you a good idea how to do this, however there are definitely a few key points I discovered that you may find useful;

It is very difficult to get the dummy accurate without distortion, both during the wrapping stage and the filling stage- you will need to be very careful to produce the least distorted dummy possible.

You will need a LOT of stuffing. I cut up foam from old sofa seat pads and scrap upholstery foam on the bandsaw into cubes of about30-40mm. I got through over two dustbins full of it. Packing it in enough to give a firm shape compressed it a lot.

I recommend creating a simple wooden skeleton that to either hang the dummy from a screw eye at the neck or stand on the floor. The ability to change between these methods will be useful. My skeleton was built with flexibility at the waist and ankles to ease getting the costume on and off. No skeleton was fitted in the arms.

The costume construction concept is to use two layers of flat sheets of foam fitted over a matt cotton-lycra catsuit. (Plastazote LD45).

Plastazote may be a bit more expensive than the commonly used EVA foam and camp mats, however I take the view that one of the key areas of failure in a project can be materials. If I am carrying out a project such as this where I am making a significant investment in time, then I want to be sure that the materials used of a good quality and importantly consistent. With the Plastazote I am able to order to a defined specification, and to be able to order more material to that same spec at any time I need. In addition, the Plastazote tears significantly less easily than the thin EVA foam that was available, a distinct advantage, although the surface structure is somewhat more open. It is also difficult to find consistent EVA foam in the UK in the 5-6mm range needed.

Before starting the build in earnest, I recomend gathering samples and carrying out tests of materials and techniques so that I could have confidence the final project is going to work and be durable.

Most of the established foam fabricated costume sites are US based and so recommend 'Barge Cement' as a suitable adhesive for bonding foam together. In the UK this is not widely available, so I chose to use Evostik 528 as this is readily in reasonable size cans- I bought mine from the local builders merchant. It is also possible to get a thinner/ cleaner for it which can come in handy. So far it has proven to be a good choice.

The foam is cut into shape using a very sharp knife (you will need to sharpen regularly) to the patterns, and bonded together using the contact adhesive.

In areas where joins are made or, places where the foam will not take the stress on its own reinforcet using black calico. This is particularly important round the base of the torso section and is used to attach the velcro needed around the waist.

Low profile hook and loop tape to is used to secure the EL wire to the costume .This has a mated thickness of approx. 2mm and so is fairly unobtrusive,

To attach the disk, I manufactured a plastic moulding that snugly fitted into the disk centre by making a wooden mould and vacuum forming HIPS sheet over it. The battery sits in a separate moulding made in the same way and the two are linked together by a sheet of HIPS. This is then laminated into the back of the costume. mount number of powerful magnets in both the disk and the moulding- This is sufficient to hold the disk, but make it easy enough to remove. If you don't have access to a vacuum former, these parts could also be moulded out of GRP, or you may be lucky enough to find a plastic container of a suitable size.

The Evostik adhesive isn't suited for bonding to the cotton lycra, it tends to peel too easily. For these areas use 3M 76 spray adhesive. This is quite a lot more expensive but is much more effective. As it is a spray adhesive, parts not to be covered needed masking up with a combination of cling film and masking tape.

The gloves are made from a pair of neoprene diving gloves with the fingers cut off and embellished with foam and then painted with the Plasti-dip.

Once assembled, parts that required it were masked off and the foam sprayed with three coats of black Plasti-dip giving a rubbery and durable matt black finish.

Step 4: Step 4: Costume Lighting

EL Lighting
The panels come with a wiring harness, but I chose to redesign this to my own needs. Firstly the connectors used are 9mm thick, thicker than just about any other part of the costume and so would be difficult to conceal. The supplied harness was made with a lot of connectors as joints to connect sections together, again giving me more of a challenge to conceal. I therefore made a harness with splits spliced by soldering in unobtrusive places and insulated with heatshrink. I used a high spec PTFE insulated wire I happened to have a reel of to get the wire diameter down significantly and used JST RCY series connectors. These are 4mm thick- much easier to conceal! I used strips of calico to secure the wires in place. If you want tidy wiring- I would recommend making up your own harness.

The EL panels can paralleled up on the under-suit, with some of the cabling run inside the catsuit and the remainder between the foam and the suit. A connector can be brought out to a point under the torso where a connection can easily be made.

You may need to Cut the EL panels. This can be done with a sharp pair of scissors with superglue (Cyanoacrylate) applied to the cut edges to seal them.

Step 5: Step 5: Boots

I spent some time investigating possibilities for the boots (dance boots, fashion boots, boxers boots etc.) but didn't find anything I was truly happy with. I bought a pair of used motorbike boots of a style not too dissimilar to the film, but once I started experimenting with them I decided they weren't a particularly good option. The leather and lining together were fairly thick, but the boot was going to need covering with foam to give the right shape to accept the EL wire and doing this would end up with a very bulky finished part. As the boots are fairly stiff, and are designed to be worn with leathers the boot opening is largeand therefore didn't give me the look I wanted. . At this point I by chance did a Tron search on Ebay, and found someone with a pair of UD Replicas Tron motorbike boots in my size, in virtually new condition in and the UK. After a nervous wait I was pleased to win them for a very good price, and so my boot dilemma was solved.

I doubt you will be so lucky- I would therefore suggest modifying a pair of cosplay superhero boots- they are much thinner and fitted the calf much better, but were still relatively expensive for something to be modified.

Step 6: Step 6: Helmet

I looked into making my own Sam helmet, and probably will still do this at some point in the future, but decided that I didn't have either the skills or time needed to complete it.

It is perfectly possibly to use the costume without the helmet, but I wanted to do the whole job, I therefore looked around for a good cast from a cosplay supplier/ prop maker but unfortunately didn't find one so took the decision to use a Rinzler helmet instead that Replica prop forum member Crimson590 has produced. This has not disappointed! The cast is excellent, the turnaround time has been really good (a couple of weeks) and his communication has been thorough and friendly. If you want to buy a helmet I cannot recommend him highly enough


The helmet was supplied as a raw cast which firstly required trimming. This was done by using a cut-off disk in a rotary tool followed by sanding drum and finished with hand sanding. Slots for lighting were cut out also with a rotary tool and finished by hand. I masked the vision area inside the helmet and following some tips from the supplier sprayed the inside Rustoleum matt black. After a thorough clean the outside was protected from overspray with cling film, enabling the helmet to be held up to the light during spraying to ensure an even and opaque coating. One important thing to note- the clear polyurethane was very susceptible to heat and softened under the hot water used to clean it- luckily I noticed before any permanent distortion.

Lighting is by a length of EL wire. I planned the route out and used black heatshrink to cover the wire where light isn't needed. The wire was then fitted into the helmet with hot glue. A few pads of scrap foam, also hot glued in finished the inside off and made the helmet fit securely.

Step 7: Step 7: the Finished Costume

The only significant thing I would change in the design was how I attached the EL tape on the arms. I will now change this to more pieces with a split at the elbow to allow better flexibility, but could have avoided the problem originally.

This type of project can be very time consuming, especially if you are trying techniques you haven't done before, like I did. My total time investment was in the order of 150-200 hours spread across about 2 1/2 years from first starting the disk. There are ways this could have been reduced, particularly with familiarity with the materials and techniques, and if I didn't have lots of other projects on the go. However, if you are starting from scratch, you will need to devote a considerable amount of time to a costume like this, even if you have the skills and experience.

This project was relatively expensive- the cost of the various materials, especially Plasti-dip paint and spray glue mounts up as do the electroluminescent panels- again bear this in mind before you start.

I created a fitted & padded crate from scrap material to store the helmet and identity disk in and use a motorbike helmet cover to avoid scratching. The main part of the costume is stored in a suitcase.

Good luck with your own version- I'd love to see it!

Step 8: Resources

I have more information, and other projects on my own website www.superpants.net

The RPF Tron Thread: http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=88230&high...

Foamsmith- How to Create Foam Armor Costumes, Bill Doran, Punished Props, ISBN 9780692388969

Evil Ted Smith Channel, http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=88230&high...

There is a fair amount of info available from people who have made costumes before, and on that used in the film, but it tends to be scattered quite widely. The replica prop forum in particular has a very comprehensive thread on the Tron Legacy film costumes, running to over 200 pages, as well as numerous individual build threads.If you have further useful links or info, I will be happy to add them to this page.

The RPF Tron Thread: http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=88230&high...


Working with Foam

Foamsmith- How to Create Foam Armor Costumes, Bill Doran, Punished Props, ISBN 9780692388969


Evil Ted Smith Channel, http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=88230&high...

Original Sources

The Art of Tron: Legacy, Justin Springer, Disney Editions, Oct 2010, Hardback, ISBN 978-1423131496

Cinefex 124, http://www.cinefex.com/backissues/issue124.htm


General Articles

http://chrisoben.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/tron-legac...

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/digital...

http://www.tested.com/art/movies/520562-putting-or...

http://clothesonfilm.com/tron-legacy-light-suit-co...

http://hollywoodmoviecostumesandprops.blogspot.co....

http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=88230&highl...

Reference Photos

I have gathered many reference images together on my Pinterest page;

http://pinterest.com/mrsuperpants/tron/


Film Suppliers
The costume budget was reportedly $13 Million, and included at least 130 Foam latex based suits manufactured by Quantum Creations FX;

http://www.quantumcreationfx.com/

The film Helmets were manufactured by Ironhead Studios;

http://ironheadstudio.com/

The electroluminescent panels to light the costumes are Elastolite, manufactured by Oryon Technologies Inc, unfortunately now bankrupt. some details:

http://uk.archello.com/en/product/elastolite

All three companies custom manufactured parts for the film, and will not supply individuals, although limited trial kits for the Elastolite are available through Sparkfun https://www.sparkfun.com/

Inverters appear to be NDL series parts from JKL, unfortunately no longer available.

https://www.jkllamps.com/

Other Costumers

There are a number of very good write ups on other people's costumes around, notable ones for me are;

Quorra

http://www.fashioningtech.com/profiles/blogs/tron-...

http://battle-arleh.livejournal.com/3998.html

http://www.nerdsociety.com/sexy-awesome-quorra-cos...

Sam

https://www.instructables.com/id/Sam-Flynn-Suit-fro...

https://www.instructables.com/id/Tron-Legacy-Costum...

Rinzler

http://s1121.beta.photobucket.com/user/FXFAN/profi...

Daft Punk

https://www.instructables.com/id/Daft-Punk-Tron-hel...

https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-Daft...

http://volpinprops.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/daft-pun...

Sirens

http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/en_uk/blog/the-...

http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=131753

http://annisse.deviantart.com/art/Siren-Gem-284992...

Identity Disks

http://tektonten.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/tron-legac...

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    9 Discussions

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    1234567guy

    Question 6 months ago

    Can you modify the size if you are a kid?. LIke for example the torso.

    1 answer
    0
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    superpants1234567guy

    Answer 6 months ago

    You could- The main issue will be that the kit pieces are a fixed size.

    0
    None
    _Gyro

    7 months ago

    This is absolutely awseome. thanks for sharing

    1 reply
    0
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    superpantsPerfect DIY

    Reply 7 months ago

    It's not too bad- no dancing the conga or doing squats, but as long as you stand up it's OK. Worst bit is pulling on the legs without damaging the EL panels. If I did it again, I would also split the EL tape where it goes over the elbows.