Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Geek Break V: Who's the Boson?



Q: What is artificial light composed of?
A: Fauxtons.


* * *

A photon checks into a hotel. The bellhop asks, "Can I help you with your luggage?" It replies, "No thanks. I don't have any. I'm traveling light."



Monday, April 25, 2011

Transformation

I know, I know ... I have to finish taking pics (and video ... yes, I finally got a videocam!) of my HALO armor, I felt like doing something a little different and perhaps, a little easier than slipping into all of those layers and armor.

A realistic face mask.

I'm sure that you've heard of the guy - Conrad Zdzierak - who was convicted of robbing several banks in Ohio wearing a "Hollywood Quality" African-American mask. The mask was so good, that some guy's mother actually identified her son as the bank robber!

So I decided to get a hyper-realistic mask from Composite Effects. As I've said before, Wes Branton is an absolute pleasure to work with and we quickly came to a design based on his newly-released "Mac" mask. Tanned complexion. Chestnut hair. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to look like, so I sent him some pics. I wanted a high and tight like this:


With a thin, razor cut beard like this:


After I received it, I put it on and showed a couple of my LEO buddies. Needless to say, they were impressed. It was a total and complete transformation into a rather ominous bad-ass. I also added some accouterments to reinforce that somewhat sinister image:

  • septum crescent
  • Galco jackass rig (from Ebay - where else?)
  • solid plastic "practice" Glock 19 (sprayed with black Plastikote vinyl dye)

And it does look amazing. Thanks to Wes and his crew (particularly to Marissa for the incredible hairing job!), I have an amazing stone-cold alter ego to use.



Monday, September 27, 2010

HALO - foundations

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'd be documenting the process of getting into the HALO armor, and the first step is the foundation layers.

The Body

Looking at the now-famous Master Sergeant picture, you need to have some type of skin-tight black layer that serves to cover you up and provide some contrast to the armor. The choices that we have are:
  • 0.45mm or thinner latex catsuit
  • "Classic Suit" from Slickitup*
    * This site may have content inappropriate to minors. Please view responsibly.
  • lycra one-piece dive suit
  • UnderArmour HeatGear compression shirt and leggings

Latex: HOT!

In terms of actual "look" - the latex catsuit would most be the best. It would also be the warmest, most expensive, and the worst looking if it did not fit exactly right. Not to mention the most difficult to get into and out of. A good latex catsuit would run at least $300 USD and would take at least 6 weeks to fabricate. Also, there are really no decent manufacturers in the States. The best ones are in either the UK or in Germany.

If you decide to pursue this alternative, some of the most reliable and accommodating vendors are:

Skin Tight Rubber (www.skintightrubber.com) - UK

Blackstyle (www.blackstyle.de) - Germany

Libidex (www.libidex.com) - UK

Get something between 0.45mm and 0.55mm. Anything thinner would not hold up.


It's "Slick", but ...

The SlickItUp "Classic" suit is extremely well cut and is made out of a coated lycra material that can either resemble leather or latex. Again, these are a bit on the pricey side (approximately $175) and they are really sold to be worn by themselves. Perhaps it's too well made to hide under the armor. I don't know how well the coating would stand up beneath the other base layers and rubbing against the rougher interior of the suit.



Back to Basics

The dive suit is designed to be worn in the water or underneath a wetsuit. It's meant to take a bit of a beating and is "breathable". UnderArmour HeatGear is very similar - well made, skin-tight ("compression fit") and is made to wick perspiration from your skin.

So I decided on purchasing a dive suit. The one I got was from PleasureSports. It's called a NeoSport by Henderson and was about $34. The big selling point for me was the fact that one of the options was to have a black suit with blue stripes, which would be a perfect accent for my suit. There are other ones out there with different colored stripes (or plain black) if you want to complement your armor color.



The Face

Again, we have a similar lineup of materials to choose from:

  • anatomical latex mask
  • anatomical lycra/spandex mask or dive hood
  • tactical balaclava
While we wouldn't have the same fitment issues with the latex mask as with a latex catsuit, the issue of heat buildup would still be there. I can tell you that the armor suit is a bit on the warm side, so unless you are going to be wearing this in cold weather, I'd pass on this option. Prices range from about $35-$60. One place that looked very promising was Eurocatsuits in the Czech Republic. The neck can be extended as much as needed.

I had an amazingly HARD time finding a spandex hood or even a dive hood. Everything was made of neoprene (the wetsuit material) and the few I came across had a very short neck. Or no eyes.

The important thing with the hood is to provide a seamless black transition from the body to the head. The HALO helmet does give some space between the armored shoulders and the head, so you don't want to have any skin peeking out.

That left the last option - the balaclava - and that was extremely easy to get. These are the type of hoods you see worn by SWAT or military personnel on a raid. Just do a search for "balaclava" in Google and you'll be presented with a wide range of ones to choose from. I got a UnderArmour HeatGear hood for $24.

Below is a pic with the balaclava and dive suit.




Bulking Up - MX Armor

Shawn also recommended that I use some MX armor to "bulk up" a bit beneath the HALO armor. As it happens, I have a Thor Impact Rig Special Edition. This item has poly-urethane shoulder caps with ram air vents, side-mounted zippers around the chest plate, molded foam panels, tension straps and elbow and forearm guards. It also comes with a removable kidney belt (which I did remove). Price is about $140. What's really great about this armor is its red accents on the shoulders. When I slip the HALO armor on, you see these two strips of blood red polycarbonate at the upper arm joint, which looks very, very intimidating - just the type of thing you'd expect from a super-soldier who takes every advantage he can of his enemy. Another nice feature of this suit is that the material on the shoulders of the Impact Rig act like the fuzzy side of velcro - the anchor strips for the upper arm pieces adhere very well to the Rig without any further work on my part!

What's also great about this MX armor is that it feels so good. It's snug without being tight, the shoulder, elbow and forearm protectors are well shaped and comfortable, and you look like a superhero just putting this on!


How's It Hanging? The Belt

In order to get the butt, hip and codpiece armor onto the suit, there is a velcro belt that you place the pieces onto. Be forewarned, however - this piece of material does not have the holding power to keep the thigh armor up and in place. The thigh armor has loops at the top that you slide the belt through; the armor is held in place just like a pair of fishing waders. Necessity is the mother of invention, so I grabbed a 1.5" black leather belt I got from American Eagle Outfitters and cinched it on. The belt has to go above your natural waistline, so make sure you have one that you can buckle very tightly. This isn't just holding up your pants!!

The velcro belt looks perfect going right over this.



Boots and Boot Covers

I had originally planned to use a pair of reef boots with the outfit, but when I received the boot covers from Shawn, I saw that I would have to wear either shoes or boots with laces. His covers have a metal "tongue" that slides into the lace-up area. This holds them down very tightly. A pair of black sneakers works best - for three reasons:

  • One, you have the thigh and lower leg armor on, it's a little difficult to sit and put on boots,
  • Two, you can't put the boots on earlier since you couldn't get the lower leg armor on over them, and
  • Three, the lower leg armor is so snug, you can't get boots under them!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mars Attacks!!

"Being a galactic overlord isn't the easiest of jobs. There's rebellions to quell, planets to crush beneath my heel and hell, even stars to make go super-nova.

The worst thing is - you've got to be 'on' constantly. Can't afford any slip-ups with the cutthroats and brigands I call my crew. That also includes looking my best all the time.

My beard was getting a little long and unruly so when my fleet entered the Sol system, I decided to give you humans a break. Even though I was feeling particularly cranky.

If I could find someone who could make my goatee look presentable, I'd allow your little blue-and-green planet a chance to join the Empire on their own, instead of enslaving the population as I was planning to do.

I may be ruthless and despotic, but I do keep my word. It's a point of honor with me. Just ask the inhabitants of Canopus IV ... oh, wait. You can't. I told them I'd blow up their planet if they didn't bow to my will. And they didn't.

But, hey - that proves my point, right? RIGHT?


I tracked down this Terran named "Russ Sharek" and I was mightily impressed by the fact that he didn't faint dead away when I teleported into his studio. I told him what I wanted and the stakes that were involved.


He got to work right away - and I *am* one happy conqueror. Beautiful, simple, elegant and quickly and skillfully done.


You've got Russ Sharek here to thank for your continued existence. And you'd better be nice to him ... OR ELSE."


Praxis
Commander and Overlord
Galactic Third Fleet
S'karian Empire

For the longest time, I've always wanted a really good looking, evil alien mask along the lines of Ming the Merciless from the old (and new) Flash Gordon productions. But I never found anything that quite fit the bill.

Then, I came across some of the custom creations from Wes Branton at Composite Effects, a special-effects studio out of Baton Rouge. What struck a chord with me was his creation of a blue genie reminiscent of the djinn from Aladdin:


So I explained what I wanted to Wes and he was more than happy to oblige. Like Andrea and Russ, it's a great feeling to find someone who's not only extremely talented and creative, but amazingly down-to-earth, with a killer sense of humor, and has a VERY firm grasp on customer service.

Wes and I can discuss a project and our back-and-forth produces an amazing result.

When I got the mask, I noticed that the beard was a little longer than I had wanted it - Russ, of course, being the completely twisted individual I know and love - came up with the idea of an "alien beard ornament" to keep the goatee in shape. So, I promised him a product shot. And a testimonial to go with it.

So, I can add Wes Branton to the short list of "amazingly capable artists" and more kudos to Russ for making a galactic despot a happy camper.



Sunday, July 18, 2010

HALO - the saga begins

Well, it's been a while.

Other things have been taking up a bit of my time, but that hadn't stopped me from pondering my next project.

And yes, that means getting another costume done. I still seem to be on my video game kick. First it was Chris Redfield from Resident Evil 5; now it's the Master Chief (or a Spartan II supersoldier) from the HALO series of games on the Microsoft xBox.

I came across several videos on YouTube with guys in HALO armor (though the proper term is 'Mjolnir Armor' ) - some of it was just plain sad and laughable, others were some damn impressive pieces that folks were wearing. I did try to contact one company - Nightmare Armor Studios - but the place went out of business. Several places offered do-it-yourself kits, but I don't have the time and inclination (or wide open spaces) to take on a project like that. Some of the places that offered full sets had a one-size-fits all policy (which from experience, never works) or were way to expensive.

For some historical background:

MJOLNIR battle armor is a fictional suit of battle armor in the HALO series of video games and novels used by the Spartan II super soldiers, most notably by the series's protagonist Master Chief.

This powerful armor has recharging energy shields, and a head link for AIs' (Artificial Intelligence).

In the 26th century, soldiers have used performance enhancing equipment for hundreds of years, and the MJOLNIR battle armor represents the current pinnacle of military technology. The armor was envisioned by Dr. Catherine Halsey, who realized that no normal human could wear the armor without literally shattering every bone in his body through a horrifyingly violent and uncontrollable chain reaction of muscle spasms; The armor endowed its wearer with a very powerful amplification of physical strength, to the point that a human without surgical augmentations and a lifetime of grueling physical training would be crushed by his own amplified strength. However, the Spartan II Project super soldiers are capable of using the armor with devastating expertise.

The suit of armor stayed in the "nice to have" category until I came across one of the best looking suits made by a Canadian FX company - FilmProps Inc. Shawn (the owner) had posted a few videos on YouTube and I was completely blown away by how professional the suits looked. Video link is here.



(I haven't had exactly great luck with Canadian vendors - long-time readers will remember my so-so Boromir clasps from Wareham Forge and my rusty scabbard from Darksword Armory)

So I contacted Shawn and we started to talk about the suit. He would make it to my measurements and I could have it in any color I wanted. The suit itself is made of a two-part polyurethane resin used for rotocasting. The material is poured in layers and cured in silicone molds to create thick, durable armor. It would include LEDs in the helmet as well as in the weapon. (weapon? Of course, I got a weapon!)

So I sent off a custom measurement chart to Shawn and let the project begin. I decided to get a medium-dark metallic blue with battle damage.

I must say, third time is the charm - Shawn was a pleasure to work with; he always responded to emails, always kept me up to date with the suit's progress and was good enough to pose in the armor for me before he boxed it up and shipped it. As it turned out, Shawn and I were approximately the same size, so this was an added bonus!

Here are some of the work-in-progress pics that he sent me.





I'll be posting more pics as well as the adventures I had getting into the suit the first time.