‘Were it so easy’ – The making of the first Arbiter costume

Once upon a time, I made a costume for a convention, this is the story. 😉

First published March 2009 in the 405th Source Magazine, via the 405th Infantry Division forums.

Download the full issue here (PDF format)

          

Were it so easy…” How Sean Bradley made the first Arbiter costume.

Sean Bradley, 405th Staff/Moderator

 In the very late hours of August 31st, 2008 at the Dragoncon convention in Atlanta Georgia, an unexpected (yet strikingly familiar) character emerged into the Halo costume community. Cameras flashed and whirred and onlookers pointed as a towering creature clad in sacred Covenant armor strode onto the convention floor, flanked by a squadron of noble Spartans and Marines of the 405th Infantry Division.

 The Arbiter had finally arrived.

 The first notion I had of attempting this costume was after a conversation with Charlie “Redsleighdown” (of the 405th and Nightmare Armor) at Wizardworld in June ‘08. Charlie teased me a bit about being a sculptor and starting a Pepakura based costume. “You should do something nobody else has done.” he suggested. I pondered this advice and by the time I arrived home I had decided I could build the entire Arbiter costume in 3 months. If Spartans and Marines would be marching in Atlanta, everyone’s favorite Sanghelli should be there, walking tall right beside them. That, I thought, just might surprise everyone. J

 The first step of creating this costume was to research of every scrap of info on the anatomy of the Elite characters, and cataloging every available resource. Using photos of my own body and screenshots from the game I planned a way to fit myself inside the body of the Arbiter while allowing reasonable movement.

 To re-proportion my own body to match the Arbiter’s height would be no easy task. Being only 5’10” myself, this would require custom stilts, a bodysuit, and a sculpted head apparatus. After exhaustive research on the changes to the Arbiters digitigrade knees made between Halo 2 and 3, I concluded that I could achieve the effect with custom-made stilts. The first design was an abysmal failure (I took 2 steps and pulled a muscle!), but I refused to be discouraged. I revised my design, and solved the stability problem, ending up with stilts that were instantly easy to walk in.

 To make the Elite head apparatus, I was offered a huge favor from Link4044, who provided me with a light casting of his sculpted Elite skull. Using this as the base for my costume head saved me precious time, and I cannot thank him enough. I made some adjustments, adding a racheting headband, and articulated jaws that open and close by via a cable/spring system.

 The articulated hands were fabricated in light steel, again using a cable/spring to open and close the fingers. They were covered in sewn gloves to which I spray glued 1” grey packaging foam. The hands were ‘sculpted’ in the foam using razor knives and fabric shears.

 I started the bodysuit that gave me the distinctive Sanghelli anatomy by molding my whole body and strapping the cast into my stilts. I fit some lightweight garments over the form, and glued down more grey foam and ‘sculpted’ it just as the Arbiter’s hands were made. I only needed to define the musculature in key areas of the Arbiters body not covered by armor. I left the back of the bodysuit open to allow for ventilation. When the body was completed, I patterned and sewed an undersuit over the form. The undersuit was hand stenciled, with the hexagonal pattern of the Arbiters clothing.

 Now that I had a wearable Elite-proportioned body, I began the armor. Using the pepakura (papercraft) process, I made prototypes of each armor piece from 3-D models found at the 405th website, and laminated them with fiberglass resin and body filler. I hardened the paper armor in place to ensure that it would fit accurately. Once hardened, I smoothed and detailed all the armor with rotary tools, files and sandpaper. I left the detailing loose, figuring that I could always improve on accuracy later. The armor was painted in silver, misted with a bronze/gold color, and weathered.

 That day I left for Dragoncon, almost a day late, and without having slept! I simply packed up all my supplies and tools and started on my way. My wife and I arrived very late and very tired, with the costume still untested, and unassembled! I caught up on sleep the first night after borrowing my prototype Energy Sword from Charlie for the weekend. The next morning we registered for the convention, marched with the other 405thers in the parade, and tried to get the whole group together to chat,  all the while worried that the Arbiter still wasn’t finished!

 On unveiling day, my wife and I spent the entire day in our Hotel room, finishing the costume. Day turned to night, and we were still unfinished. At 11pm, Adam convinced me to call it ‘now or never’, put on what I could of the costume, and get down to the convention. I was met at the door by 23Magnum (Matt) who led us to wherever the rest of the gang was waiting. Then, in a hushed silence I walked into a room filled with a dozens of photographers and costumed 405th members who exclaimed, as if they had rehearsed it “there he is!!!” My marathon costume build was finally over!

 The following hours were a blur as everyone helped me in and out of my costume for staged photo op’s and walking from room to room. The one major oversight of the costume was the combined weight and discomfort of everything worn together. Any single part of the costume was manageable, but with everything combined, it was excruciating. At one moment I decided to try to walk in the entire costume from the photo room to the convention floor, after which my legs turned to jelly. Everyone was very understanding, and seemingly just thrilled to see the costume and take photos, and I remain so very grateful to everyone who helped me make my appearance that night. With all the help and countless favors along the way from our community we finally got to see the Arbiter big as life, and in person.

 The Arbiter now stands in my workshop, awaiting our next excursion.  I learned so much from this trial by fire that will undoubtedly make the next appearance (and every one after) all the better. …but never ‘so easy’…! 🙂

 Thanks to Vexona, Chris Bullitt and everyone at the 405th Source that helped publish the article.

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