Saturday, April 13, 2013


I was going to title this blog post something intelligent, like 'progress for the Beta Experiement' or whatever, and then realised that there was a much more succinct way of expressing what was going on at the current time.

See, I'm still constructing the patterns for Tex, and Ironfest is not this weekend, but next.

I'm still to cut up the patterns, transfer them to foam, cut and shape the foam, construct the armour, paint the armour and modify the wetsuit I bought to wear under the armour.

I mean, last week it was all fine. I was on break, fighting the printer. Suddenly, I'm not sleeping properly and working entire days sticking paper together and hoping it will come together in time.

And my weekend's pretty much booked out.

Not sure what I'm doing at this stage. I think it's mostly just putting my head down and trying not to think about the deadline too much. Everything else is kind of on hold, and I really just want some sleep.

Now that I've whinged to the internet about current standings, let me give you a diagnostic on how things are at the moment:

I've completed the patterns for the forearm, shoulder, thigh, shin and head. I'm halfway through the boot, and have been saving the hand for later, since it's the smallest piece. I haven't started the belt or the breastplate. Started that yesterday.

"Oh. Hey, Lopez. How'd you get there?"

Dunno man, the chest piece just freaks me out. I know that there's like six pages of struts in there, but it was still a thirty-one page document. I'm going to die.

Let me walk you through how I make the paper armour, before I lose all sense and reason and find a corner of the library to curl up and cry/sleep in.

Uh, yeah. I'm writing from the uni library at the moment. So this post is being constructed and designed for photos, but all of those are at home. I'll have them up shortly. (Better now).

The process actually starts with a software program called Pepakura. It's a Japanese-designed program and can be downloaded for free. It's for papercraft - folding paper into 3D forms. Well, Pepakura and the files for the armour.
If you want to get it.

Pepakura has a freeware version, and then just has the ability to save/export files disabled. So, I load the files into Pepakura, rescale them and rearrange them for printing.

It's important to address how I scale things at this stage.


See, your standard Spartan from the game Halo is something like seven foot tall. I am not seven foot tall, and had to scale the patterns so they'd fit. To accomplish this, I started with a turnaround.

A turnaround is an image of a character in a neutral pose, viewed from the front, back and side. One of these is generally used when showing the basics of a character or their outfit. They're used in gaming and a bunch of other things. I make them occasionally to make sure that I know what I'm doing with a costume. In the fashion industry, they're comparable to technical flats, which are the final drawings given to a pattern maker before they get to designing the thing.

I measured (In cm) how tall the turnaround was when printed out onto an A4 page, and then worked out the scale needed to match it up to my height. Then I applied that scale to the armour pictured in the turnaround. This meant that I could figure out a rough estimate on the maximum length (y-axis) of the armour pieces. I checked this by grabbing a ruler occasionally and making sure that yes, having a forearm piece that was 26cm long was going to work for me, and then rescaled the pattern pieces with this in mind.

It's a technique that is difficult for me to explain, but is really simple in application and use. I figured it out back in year 8 so I could make tiny medieval weapons to scale for a school assignment.


So, the patterns were rescaled, and then reshuffled to allow for printing, and then I proceeded to have a fight with every printer I could come into contact with. I solved this problem when I went home for the Easter break, and printed out the whole lot.

Then I got to work on the 3D bit.

I kept the individual documents separate, to avoid mixing up pages from different patterns, and things kind of went like this:

1. Cut piece from pattern sheet

2. Fold all lines on piece

3. Glue down any tabs that stick to the single piece

4. Pick a couple numbers (usually ones next to each other) on the piece and go look through the document for ones that correspond. Or stick the piece to the main body, if it wasn't the first piece to be cut out.

5. Consult your sulking fish.

I learned a couple of things along the way that actually made things a lot more livable.

1. Only cut out a many pieces as you can manage at one time (One most of the time. Two if the second piece was also visible and immediately stuck to the first piece)

2. Try and just build the individual pieces onto one form. If you can help it, you want to avoid multiple pieces floating around that you have to work on.

3. Scan for a couple of numbers as opposed to just one. Don't focus too heavily on the individual numbers; speed read the pages. Two-digit numbers are actually the easiest as most of the patterns have at least a few hundred glue tabs (The breastplate, for the record, has over 1400. TT.TT )

So, I start sticking things together, and usually have headphones in. In spite of the tediousness of the folding, and the enormity of the project, it's actually kind of meditative to do it. Cut, fold, stick, press. Snicker at whatever is going on with the podcast I'm listening to and keep going.

Probably the most rewarding part of the process, aside from actually having a finished item in your hand, is the point where you suddenly recognise what part of the armour you're working on. So, you might have a vague idea of where you're starting from, but there comes a point further down the track where the spatial reasoning part of your brain remembers what it is you are constructing and you get to see it. And that is actually my favourite part of any costume-making process. Getting to see what the final thing will actually end up looking like while it's still in the process of being made. Progress and stuff.

Ugh. What was it? I had something in mind that was also about the process, and now I can't remember what it was. This is going to drive me nuts.

Well, at least for the next little bit. It's 1:22 AM because I got back from a bible study thing at 10:30 and had drive, so kept working on things.

GAH. COME ON, Brain. Get it together.

Oh. Do you know how satisfying it is to finish punching all the pieces of a pattern out of one sheet of the document? Because, like I mentioned earlier, the breastplate is 31 pages of document, and when I finish chopping out all the pieces in one page, it's an amazing feeling. That's one less page I do not have to scan when I'm looking for the next piece.



As you progress through a piece, eventually you get to be able to see what chunk you need next. The search field is able to be narrowed as you scan for something that's vaguely triangle-shaped and things become a lot easier to find.


I'm realising, as this is being written over three separate sessions, that there's a lot of things I type in that are often made redundant. I leave these in because it makes things more entertaining. I think? If it doesn't, you need to let me know.

This segue is kind of important, because I realised something important and a little sad over the last three days.

We had a crew of four coming to Ironfest. And then two of them had to drop out, because being a uni student with a job often means you have to work weekends. One of those folks is the spearhead of this trepidation. So, that's kind of put a lid on whether we can or can't go to Ironfest.

I'm a bit sad about this, since the costumes we took last year were popular enough to warrant bringing back this year, and fit the title perfectly. Plus, you know, I spent weeks at the beginning of the year telling everyone how I was going to make Halo armour to take to Ironfest (so I couldn't chicken out), and now I can't go.

But in all honesty, it's probably a little bit helpful. The pace I'd have to get this sucker done at is faster than I can manage (and I usually make stuff at a pretty fast pace anyway), and I can't afford to go. Probably better to save time and money and sanity and take this to Supanova or something.

I dunno. Is it cold at Supanova? I'm going to be wearing a modified wetsuit under the armour and I don't want to get heat exhaustion.

And somehow, I know that this is all justification. Trying to make feel better about backing out of something I said I'd do, and I hate having to do that.

That said, I'm not going to be slowing down on the costume a whole lot. I still have one more for Directed Studies to make, and it's going to be a big procrastination tool otherwise. Generally, if I have a thing to do that will cause procrastination, the best outcome is to bury myself in it and get it over and done with.

It usually results in withdrawals, but hey. I need to get this project finished.

Group photo progress shot.

I guess one of the other, on-the-side advantages to giving myself a little more time to finish the Beta Experiment is that I won't be worn out when it's finished and at the convention. Being worn out can be a problem. The upside is that I might even have enough time to train a little, so I can at least partially sell the movements of the character.

Anyone feel like teaching me a bit of MMA before Supanova?

That'd be a laugh.

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