After spending a lot of time testing various materials of different thickness, I’ve decided to use a pure cotton base layer for the hexagonal print, and neoprene ‘panels’ for the armour. To get that tight look seen in the Tron Legacy film we’ll have to sew the foam to the underlayer. I bought 3mm thick black neoprene foam from eBay. It’s soft enough to sew and thick enough to hold electronic components without warping too much. I’d say the tight-fitted look is what separates the top 10% of Tron costumes out there from the rest of them which tend to use motorcycle clothing or leather jackets.
I used a company called Woven Monkey to print out 2 metres of the hexagonal print design. They’re a great company and I strongly recommend them.
And to get that tight-fitted look we have to sew the neoprene to the cotton. I’ve done a couple of test stitches and it seems strong. I’ve also tried bevelling the edge of the neoprene and that doesn’t work.
I then began making the vest. I cut a waistcoat-shaped piece of neoprene out and draped it over my shoulders. There’s no easy way to do this but you basically have to try it on, take it off, trim it some more, and repeat that until you’re satisfied with the shape. I also attached a zip to the front in order to simulate the tight fit.
The back of the vest should have ‘wings’ which wrap around your middle and connect with the chest panel at the front. I’ve been using Loctite superglue for these parts and reinforcing with stitching.
After that you’re ready to start creating parts of the underlayer. Again this isn’t easy. Start with the armpit/rib cage area. Try the vest on over a tight-fitting black t-shirt and mark out the area the vest exposes in chalk. Add an extra inch or two before cutting out the cotton panels as you’ll need these for hems.
I actually glued the cotton ‘windows’ to the inside of the vest before I started sewing. Carpet adhesive is great for this. But don’t get it on your fingers. Use rubber gloves, it takes ages to get off.
I decided to revisit this costume and make a more accurate version. Here are the reference photos. From what I can tell, the base layer is a polyester/cotton/nylon fabric. Then there’s a neoprene rubber layer with windows cut out in the moveable areas and for ventilation. The lights are not electroluminescent tape (EL tape), they look much more flexible than that, and are probably a patented technology called Elastolite.
The neoprene exo-suits were made from moulds of the actors’ bodies, and require serveral people to put the suit onto the actors. I don’t have those luxuries so I’ll be making a best effort to replicate the suits from in my own home. I’m still testing materials and adhesives but will publish a list of requirements soon.
Et voila! My home made custom designed Tron costume!
Your Tron Legacy costume is almost complete. For the gloves, just get some basic black gloves from a DIY / electrical store, and cut out completely the two middle fingers, and partially the little finger, leaving a ring for the little finger. I also cut a strip down the crotch of the wetsuit and stuck on a velcro fastener so I could go to the toilet without taking the costume off.
I wasn’t satisified with the security of the disc on the holder, so I duct-taped some larger flat magnets onto the Tron disc, and it now sits on there very securely.
And now the considerations of wearing the costume:
- It takes 15 minutes to put on, and 15 minutes to take off
- You have to be completely naked to put it on. No underwear, no jewellery
- You get really hot indoors, and you sweat
- Wearing a wetsuit for hours makes your muscles ache
- It’s not waterproof, drunk person proof or council estate proof
- You can’t do anything that involves bending too much as the foam panels will break off. Sitting on a chair, walking and grabbing/replacing your disc are pretty much all you can do in it
Otherwise, enjoy the costume, and send me photos.
This is probably the most time consuming part of the process. Basically I cut out lots of ‘panels’ on foam, bevelled them out to run wire along them, then put a hole at each end of them for the wire to stitch in and out of the wetsuit. Avoid elbows and knee-caps, but make sure to leave slack on the wire inside the wetsuit in these places. I also made special panels that housed the wire in a coil for the back hoops. 3m of EL wire is enough to run from the neck (where it will attach to the battery) down the arm, back up the arm, down the back to the back hoop coil then down the leg. So I used one wire for each side. Again, don’t forget to leave slack in areas inside the wetsuit where there’ll be a lot of bending.
For the waist hoops, it’s much the same process as making the vest. You’ll need a splitter to connect them inside the wetsuit, then run the wire up so its connector comes out of the neck of the wetsuit.
Most of the EL wire would be thread through the wetsuit and glued down onto small panels of the foam. But the larger EL strip components are too fragile to risk bending. So I decided to attach most of the EL strips to a vest, that would attach on top of the wetsuit. The items to attach to the vest are:
- 2x 40cm EL strips
- 2x “L-shaped” EL strips
- 2x EL hoops
- 1x 3m EL wire
I cut out a waistcoat-shaped area from the sheet foam and used relfective tape to mark where these areas would be. I then cut out a shoulder/back brace area and attached that to the front area. The back brace would eventually be glued to the back of the wetsuit, then, once the wesuit was on, I would pull down the front part of the vest over my head, kind of like a seat belt on a rollercoaster. Threading the wires through the vest took some patience, as did creating the bevels for the EL wire to sit in. Once I glued down all the components, I labelled all the wires and attached the back of it to the wetsuit.
Finally, add small velcro patches (around 5cm x 2cm) to the sides of the back brace, and to the bottom of the front part of the vest. This may seem like a lot of work. Well, it is, but if you want your Tron costume to look smart, and tight fitting like in the film, this is the best option.
Right, you’ve got the materials, and you’ve made your very own Tron disc. You’re half way through making your very own Tron costume. Now we need to add the main lighting to the suit. I wanted to make my costume resemble Sam Flynn’s costume as much as possible. That meant examining lots of footage from the film as well as photo stills and behind the scenes footage. In the end, there were some aspects of the costume used in the film that would have been very difficult/expensive to emulate, but the overall effect was achieved.
First, I mapped out the design of the costume as seen in the film. Then, I mapped out a configuration for the various EL strips and EL wires that I had, that roughly fitted the design. Bear in mind all wires needed to be connected to the battery which is held around the upper back area.
Here is the configuration I used:
- 2x 40cm EL strips down the chest (32cm would be fine but my supplier only had 40cm ones so I used black duct tape to hide parts)
- 2x EL “L-shaped” strip along the breast
- 2x EL hoops above the breast
- 2x EL hoops at the waist
- 1x 3m EL wire for the chest and back
- 1x 3m EL wire for the left arm, back hoop and waist
- 1x 3m EL wire for the right arm, back hoop and waist
Note: these circuit diagrams were drawn before I decided to add the two “L-shaped” EL strips to the costume.
After a lot of testing the battery in the disc runs out. It uses 6 little watch batteries which aren’t easy to replace. I wanted to wear this costume out, and if I ran out of batteries, I wanted to be able to go to the nearest shop and buy batteries to stick into the disc, without having to open it up with a screwdriver.
The only place to fit a 9V batttery is at the top end of the disc. This is where the break in the inner “C” ring of the disc is. Currently that’s where the speaker and sound chip are stored. The 9V battery will not fit completely into the disc but will stick out discreetly. Open up your Tron disc again and cut out the speaker and the chip it’s attached to. Tape up exposed wires. Now heat a screwdriver tip or a sharp knife over a candle, and cut away the plastic that held the speaker and chip. You will also need to cut a small way into the disc rim on both halves of the disc. Make sure you only cut away a hole that in the end makes a tight fit for the 9V battery.
Next, unscrew the battery door, remove the original 6x watch batteries and replace the battery door. Now open up the disc and disconnect the wire we ran from the circuit board to the battery neg line, and instead connect it to the battery neg line on the 9V battery clip. Next, connect the battery clip’s pos line to the disc’s original battery pos line. Run the battery clip wires neatly along the disc down to where the 9V battery will slot in. I used a lot of electrical insulation tape to cover up exposed wires.
Attach a 9V battery to the battery clip, tape it up so it’s black, and test. You’ll find your Tron disc now shines about twice as bright as it did with the original watch batteries. Close the disc and push the taped up battery in. You may have to cut a little more around the disc rim in order to get the battery to fit perfectly.
Note: You will now have to make a small notch on the battery disc holder so that the disc fits on with the battery protruding out of it.
The main challenge here is that the wetsuit has a zip running up the back. I wanted to create a disc holder that could be attached to the back of the costume once it’s zipped up, and removed before unzipping.
But first, I needed a mechanism to hold the Tron disc on the disc holder. This tutorial suggests using magnets inside the disc and inside the disc holder. I bought some strong 5mm Neodymium disc magnets from eBay for quite cheap. So, open the disc again, and stick down two or three magnets onto the inside of the back of your Tron disc, directly behind the four ‘notches’ that you can see on the back of the disc. Then tape them down with some duct tape. I orginally used two magnets in each corner but it wasn’t strong enough. Seal up your Tron disc and pop some magnets onto the outside back of the disc just to test they’re attracting.
Next, make the disc holder out of the packaging that came with the disc. Stick some more magnets down in the corresponding areas and tape them up. This piece of packaging actually makes a great place to store the battery pack and inverter which will power the EL lighting in the costume. So trim the edges of the disc holder before sticking some cardboard on the back of that holder, then tape the battery pack and inverter into the hole in the middle. Spraypaint the whole thing matt black.
To attach the disc holder to the suit, turn it over and superglue two velcro strips onto it. Then superglue the reverse velcro strips onto the back of the wetsuit. The disc holder should now sit on the back of the costume, with your Tron disc held safely in place.
I bought the Tron Legacy Deluxe Identity Disc for around £20 from eBay. It’s not really as exciting as the Tron disc in Tron Legacy; out of the box, the on switch starts a pretty unimpressive sequence of LEDs lighting up sections of the disc. (There’s another button to activate a sound that’s supposed to be somehow related to the film but to me sounds pretty naf so ignore it.)
I wanted a Tron disc with lights that remained on.
I followed this tutorial which showed how to open up the disc and modify it so that the lights stay continuously on. You need a small Phillips screwdriver, a soldering iron, some solder and some thin electrical wire. Unscrew the six screws on the back of your Tron disc and gently lift off the back plate. You should now see the chip which controls the sequence.
Here’s the science bit: connect pins R3, R4, R5, R8, R9 and R10 to the battery in series. That’s it.