Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Project Background: HALO Costume

I don't think I've written this project up in this blog, so here goes.

A couple of years ago, I was brainstorming some ideas for Halloween costumes with a handful of friends. The plan was to save time and money by pooling our resources. After a bit of discussion, we decided to go as the characters from the online cartoon
Red vs. Blue. The show is easily the most famous example of a burgeoning animation style called "machinima" which uses video games to render character action. In this case, they use a multiplayer version of the game HALO.

The beauty of this particular idea is that all we'd have to do is make several copies of the same costume and then just paint them different colors.

The end result should look like this:

With the internet in our lives, it turns out you can always find someone somewhere who has already done anything you can think of. In this case, I found an entire forum of like-minded geeks making HALO costumes called
the UNSC 405th Infantry Division. These guys have come up with all sorts of creative ways to replicate this costume. Most notably, they use a Japanese shareware program called Pepakura to transform the 3D meshes from the video game into paper folding models.

Using this method, I started by building a low-resolution model of the helmet to make sure I had the size right:

Once I was happy with the size of the low-resolution model, it was time to crank out a more difficult, detailed version:

As you can see, there are a lot more folds and cuts involved in the high-resolution model:

The funny part is, I screwed up and printed a smaller version of the helmet and didn't realize it until it was 75% built. I figured it makes sense to go ahead and finish it anyway so I can have a rough-draft version of the helmet to experiment with before I waste time and mess up the larger one. Here's the three versions of the helmet I built:

Once the paper models were assembeled, they were coated with polyester resin (the cheaper laminating resin for fiberglass) to make them more rigid:

Once the polyester resin had set up, I coated the inside of the helmet with several layers of urethane casting resin for strength:

This left me with at stronger helmet that would hold up to the rigors of mechanical sanding and shaping:

After only a couple of days' effort, I had gone from nothing to having the smoothing and bondo work about half done:

If I had sculpted this in plain clay like I did with
my last helmet project, it would've taken me at least a month worth of evenings to get to this point:

Just to get an idea of what it would look like, I had to test-fit the face shield:

And try it on:

And pose like an idiot:

With the initial shaping and smoothing done, it was time to add in all of the annoying little details, such as the recessed area under the brim:

For the sake of simplicity, I decided to forgo the bulk of the little problems on the smaller helmet:

The full-sized one got the full treatment and a quick shot of the final color it would wear:

I'm especially pleased with the details around the back of the neck:

The next trick was to come up with a workable template for the details on the faceplate:

Then the final fitting of the gold visor with it's clear styrene overlay:

So here's what in-game version looks like:

And here's my prototype:

The next step was molding and casting. When I was done, I was suddenly able to make lots of helmets to add to my stack of helmets needing work. Here you can see some of my HALO helmets in the left side of the pile:

Then I made a low-resolution model of the torso armor to test the fit:

Once I'd settled on a size that fit me properly, it was time to build the high-detail version. The high-detail version was filled with all sorts of tiny little bits and pieces and was tedious as hell to build:

Once it was assembled, I went ahead and set it up with one of my helmet castings to get an idea of the proportions:
And the side view:

The helmet looks a bit big on my size of torso armor, but it should look just right when coupled with larger sizes.

With the first one built, it was time to reinforce it by coating it with resin:
And another shot for size comparison:
Once the resin had set up, it was on to bondo and fairing:
HALO MC Armor 1st fairing
After the first couple of rounds of filling and smoothing, it looke pretty good:
So I had to separate the front from the back and test fit the whole thing again:
Test Fitting
Then prime, fill, sand, prime fill, sand, prime fill and sand it again:
Fairing back plate
Then it was finally smooth enough to be ready for moldmaking:
Halo back armor
And the chest piece:
HALO Chest Armor
The paper model also included the abdomen plate, but I decided I didn't like the way it looked and had to fabricate my own from scratch. I made the basic shape in MDF and then added some urethane foam to build thickness:
Ab plate roughed out.
Then I sanded and smoothed it a bit before adding some relief details to the surface:
Ab details
Speaking of details, here are some of the smaller parts I added to the chest:
Sternum Details
On to moldmaking, here's a shot of the detail coat of silicone rubber being applied to the armor. This picks up all of the fine parts on the surface of the piece:
Detail coat
After building up a few more layers of silicone, it was time to move on to building a mother mold. Here I've added some water-based clay to the surface of the rubber mold. Once the mother mold is built, the clay will be removed and more silicone will be poured in to fill the void it leaves behind. This guarantees a good fit between the rubber jacket mold and the fiberglass mother mold that will keep it straight. The plywood parts are the frame that the fiberglass mothermold will be built onto:
Mother Mold WIP
Proper Personal Protective Equipment is a must when working with fiberglass. I'm in a large, well-ventilated shop, so I can get away without a respirator. I must still wear rubber gloves however:
Prepping for 'glass
The mother mold after the application of several layers of fiberglass mat saturated in polyester resin:
Mother Mold Finished
And the first casting pulled from these molds:
First HALO Chest Casting
For the next step, I assembled a size tester for the upper arm armor:
Left arm bicep and shoulder test fit.
And just for giggles, I went ahead and painted the size tester to get an idea of what the whole thing looks like at this stage:
The forearm armor I picked up from another maker, but I have since made a few of my own. Oh, and it's not pink, it's light red.

Since then, I've fabricated two larger sizes of the chest armor, two sizes for the calf armor, two sizes for the forearms, and a whole host of other parts. Here's a bunch of pieces I cranked out while I was out to sea aboard the M/V Moku Pahu last year:

When I paid off the ship in New Orleans, Ana and I fiberglassed the insides of the paper models and then I moved them back to California where I filled them with foam in preparation for all of the sanding, filling, shaping, detailing, and molding:
Since I had a couple of weeks to kill in September of 2008, I decided I needed to make a custom pair of boots to go along with the costume. Here's a shot of the uppers that will go with them:

And here's the prototype soles:

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to finish the molds in time to have a wearable pair by the time I shipped out, so I was back to building additional sizes for the armor parts while I was in Afghanistan:
pep parts2
pep parts3
This includes a light red codpiece:
Photobucket I've also made one of the older style helmets (as worn by one of the characters in the latest seasons of the show):

Finally, here's the middle sized version of the torso armor I've been making in the hotel in Washington DC:


This is the abdomen plate that goes with it:

I'm doing the fiberglass work on the roof of the hotel in order to avoid killing myself with the fumes.
Hopefully the staff here won't notice and I won't have to explain it. On the other hand, I suppose it's not the most unsettling project I've got going on in the room. There's also these other minor works in progress:
Mal Pistol

That's the captain's pistol from the sci-fi series "Firefly" and the movie "Serenity."

And here's my set of Wolverine claws which still need a lot of shaping and polishing:
Wolverine Claws

More to come. Stay tuned.


  1. they have a name for that coloUr its PINK!

  2. I have a son that is turning 9 and is having a Halo party 11/1. I want to suprise him and show up as the Master Chief. I have started the Process with pep and the low def pieces. I fear it may take too long. I saw the forms you made. do you produce armor to sell? Your work is awesome. chuck4man@gmail.com

    Thank you.

  3. Hey Same qeustion as chuck really im looking for a detailed version with no piant and a visor so i can Custom it up im had a quote form somone buh would like ot know if your selling and for how much? Hinchmiester_general@hotmail.co.uk

  4. Holy crap that is origami from hell! :) You rock brother. would love to learn if you're willing to spend a few minutes talking about the process. :)

  5. All,

    I don't tend to notice when someone posts comments here. If you're interested in helping to offset the costs of this project, please email me at sthorsson99@yahoo.com.


  6. I stumbled upon this when looking up Wolverine's claws. What you did just blew my mind, thank you for posting! Now time to continue research on claw building!

  7. Can you make master cheifs armor for me as well? feketterer3@gmail.com If so how much?


  8. How much for the whole HAlo Suit with helmet bro? will pay you via payapal. my email is eurololos74@yahoo.com

  9. How did you do the extra detail for the underside of the brim? Also for the face shield?