Earlier this year, our video production team started coming up with ideas for a Halloween costume project. They probably thought the Ars editors would suggest some standard pop culture “nerd” ideas, revolving around famous sci-fi or horror characters. Instead, they sighed after going through our long, technically challenging list of things like robot suits and devilish, person-sized parcel-sniffing devices. (It was an attempt to put the “trick” in “trick or treat”.)
In the end, we opted for a project that leans a little closer to the traditional, affordable, last-minute costume ideas you’d find on the internet, but with a decent DIY techie: your own transparent flesh wound.
The above video details the concept design and execution in the capable hands of costume designer Lowri Best. It starts and ends with little more than a tablet, a nylon belt, a sewing kit and a small webcam. How much more you need to buy depends on how crazy you want to go with your version. You may just need the right cords for your smart device to communicate with the webcam. (We chose an old Samsung Galaxy tablet, because we want to use a free Android app – USB Camera Pro in our case – to communicate with an external webcam.) Or maybe you want to increase the fleshiness of the wound by using silicone and mixing a ridiculous amount of fake blood (which Best did, with great success). Either way, the effectiveness of the effect usually comes down to having your smart device’s screen and rear-facing webcam aligned fairly well. If someone swings their arm behind you and it can be seen “through” your chest, you’re solid.
Our Times Square test was perfect for showing off the costume’s effectiveness, given how bright that part of town is. (Fun fact: We initially tried to gather public reactions in Union Square, but the native New Yorkers who filled Union Square didn’t even blink — seen a girl with a giant hole in her chest, seen them all, guess I. The tourist crowd in Times Square, on the other hand, was everything we hoped for.)
When building this costume, you’ll want to play with the brightness of the screen as you move between indoors and out, but don’t worry too much about people complaining about the realism or the off-the-wall perspective. Finally, you made a self-built gaping chest wound. The complaining folks probably made an “Eleven from Stranger Things” outfit at the last minute. Who wins? you to win.
Update: as several commenters below point out, this is certainly not the first time this idea has been implemented – we even had a Wired UK interview with a client creator who had done something similar several years ago.