Monday, July 6, 2015

Group Project: Colonial Marines (Aliens)

Alternate title: What I Learned While Managing A Group Cosplay

A few weeks after Dragon Con 2014, I was talking with Adam Greene of Pixelbash Props about what the "cosplay community" really was, and how people connected - or didn't connect - outside of conventions. Specifically, we got on the subject of how Dragon Con can attract tens of thousands of people - many from the Atlanta area - and yet there doesn't seem to be any large group or gathering of cosplayers out in the real world. I assumed that either A.) there was an existing group / meetup and we weren't aware of it, or B.) it didn't exist. Being optimistic, I believed the second option and we created a monthly social event at Freeside, creatively called the Atlanta Cosplay Meetup.

After meeting for a few months and making a lot of new friends, we started talking about the possibility of doing a group cosplay. A project we could all work on together! I'd never done a large scale group project like that before and it seemed like a great challenge and a lot of fun. After some debate, we settled on what seems like an obvious choice - Colonial Marines from the Aliens franchise.



The plan was to break the costume down into manageable chunks and spread the work out amongst the group. We decided to use Pepakura for the majority of the armor segments, with some sections 3D printed to be molded and cast. There is an open door policy at the public events at Freeside, so we anticipated a lot of people who would come to learn who would have little or no experience using these techniques. It would take us a while to really form a core group of people who were apart of the project, but we quickly moved right into building.



In order to speed up the tedious pep process, we utilized Freeside's laser cutter and went with cardboard rather than card stock. This made it a lot easier to get the basic shapes down and assembled, which was good because at the start of this project, no one had ever used Pepakura before! The first few build sessions consisted of cutting out the cardboard pep pieces, gluing them together with hot glue, then coating them with fiberglass resin for strength. Once everyone got their hands dirty putting together the Pepakura pieces, the process went really quickly.



From here we applied bondo body filler to the surface of the parts to smooth them out and sculpt them into shape. This is by far the most tedious part of the build, and we spent most of our build days working the bondo into the correct shapes. The "bondo minions" made quick work of everything and the armor masters looked really great.



One of the machinists at Freeside helped by lathing up some grenades. We'll eventually mold these and pour cast copies.




Meanwhile, Adam was working on 3D printing the Pulse Rifle and some of the armor bits. The Pulse Rifle was taken from the Aliens: Colonial Marines game and put through a process (which I will detail more soon!) to increase the detail level. It was then sliced into sections to fit into the various 3D printers we have access to, and printed in parts. Once it was fully printed out, it was assembled and several work days spent cleaning up the print lines so it wouldn't look like a 3D printed gun.



We were also working on a couple Xeno costumes as well. Kevin was working on the Xeno head sculpt.



Valentin worked on a mechanism to make the Xeno tongue action work in a really dynamic way. The tongue mechanisms were laser cut out of acrylic with a few 3D printed bits, all driven by a geared DC motor and controlled by an Arduino.






Going back to the Marine armor, once we had our masters finished and ready, we were going to vacuum form several of them and slush cast others in resin. Molds were made of all of the parts, and for the vacuum forming we poured plaster into the molds to create the forming bucks. Here, Adam is working on pulling copies of a few parts of armor.



Other molds had Smooth Cast 65D resin slush cast in them in several coats, to create the armor bits. We had a few duds due to some incorrect resin measuring, but that's the price of learning!





Meanwhile we cleaned up the vacformed parts. We had to cut off the flashing and trim up the edges, and set them all aside to get ready for paint.





The Pulse Rifle was also molded up in probably the biggest 2 piece block mold I've ever seen. This was used to rotocast and back fill with expanding foam to create a light weight, rigid prop. We actually wound up taking the mold to MomoCon and did a live casting demo at the booth!

 


We were down to the wire building and painting armor. About a dozen of us worked in teams painting on base coats, then doing the camo patterns. Each set of armor consists of about 15 pieces and each had to be painted.



The last 2 days before the con, we got very little sleep! Here, Adam and Elliott passed out in the living room.


Wednesday came and went, and unfortunately we simply ran out of both time and steam. There were some issues with the Xeno head sculpt as well, causing it to crack before we could get it molded. Thankfully this was found before we spent the time (and materials!) molding it.


The good news is that MomoCon was a huge success. We had a lot of fun at our booth and we met a ton of people. We got to show off our work and Freeside, and introduce a lot of people to the idea of a hackerspace!





It was a really long weekend.



As it stands, the project is nearly complete. We need to fabricate a few more sets of armor and do some painting, then put everything together. We'll be together at Dragon Con, so be sure to check back for photos in September!
About Unknown

I am an Atlanta based artist making props, weapons, and armor from my favorite video games and comic books. I am interested in 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC, and all manner of digital fabrication. I am involved in the Atlanta hacker / maker community, doing everything from Arduino art installations to maker education.

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