We read a lot of comic books at Contagious but our favorite this year hands down was Saga. It’s an incredible space drama written by Brian K Vaughan filled with love, war, flawed heroes, alien mercenaries and weird families. It's basically everything you can ask out of a story. Fiona Staples illustrates a bright, surreal world filled with fantastic creatures and beautiful details. (She’s my favorite…) The character designs instantly appealed to all of us. Prince Robot IV quickly became Mike’s favorite.
Prince Robot IV was hands down our favorite build of the year. Sewing fancy-man clothes with luxurious materials was a fun change of pace. Fine tailored menswear is totally different than the spandex superhero garb we've been working on lately- creating with silks and nice wool suiting was delightful- only the best for the prince!
We’d been working on the design, patterns, and blueprints for a couple months but we had to fit this build into the three weeks between “family vacation” and HeroesCon. It resulted in us having to pull several all nighters but we finished just in time for the con!
Most of the problem solving went into the helmet. We started by researching screens to screens to build the head around. Getting the scale right was the most important part of bringing IV to life. Computer monitors were too large and an iPad had the wrong aspect ratio, so we settled on a 12” digital photo frame that could also play video clips - an older version of this: NIX 12 inch Hi-Res Digital Photo Frame with Motion Sensor & 4GB Memory)
We pulled the screen and guts out and laser cut a new frame out of MDF. After some careful measuring, we carved a busk out of styrofoam, coated it with Bondo, then vacuum-formed the outer shell . We reinforced the shell by slushing around a bit of quick-curing resin. We then cut the neck out with a Dremel. A small plastic flange was installed around the lip that housed several rare-Earth magnets. This allowed the neck-piece of the helmet to snap into place easily. Finally, we secured a hardhat into the top for support.
Next we tackled the vision issue. Our all-in-one solution was a digital doorbell- a pinhole camera that came attached to a tiny LCD screen (Digital Door Viewer). We secured it to the front frame and added some plastic mylar covers over any exposed electronics inside for safety.
One of our favorite parts of the helmet is the front screen- Prince Robot IV has a sleek CRT head and the flat LCD didn’t give the right effect. We took a piece of clear acrylic, heated it on the vacuum form table until it sagged in the middle and let it cool without turning on the suction. We then filled the curve of the acrylic with some clear curing resin. Trimmed up it made the perfect “glass” front for our television!
After adding a vent in the back we painted it grey, added a few more cosmetic details, then locked everything in with an acrylic bezel.
The final step was the creating the video loop for IV's head. Mike blew up and recreated some of the screens IV flashes through the comic, then animated them together with some television distortion effects to help sell the CRT look.
The battery pack is held under his sash which helps keep the weight down. The entire head weighs roughly 6lbs and is awkward but not impossible to wear as long as there is someone close to act as a handler and help communicate.
With more time and a better budget, there are a couple tweaks we would have made. The digital doorbell was pretty useless- the focus is set very close, so you can’t see more than a few feet directly in front of you. Now that we have a 3D printer, we’d probably try to make something like these: Video Glasses and pair them with a Rasberry Pi and a camera. The TV glasses seem like a neat option, too. (http://www.adafruit.com/products/1452)
A small fan hooked up to the vent would also go a long way (and help counter balance for comfort). An earpiece/speaker combo would be a nice addition... it would be delightfully intrinsic for his voice to come from speaker and it provides not only the ability to communicate in costume but a fun opportunity to play with a robot voice. You know, next time.
Prince Robot IV Build Photos: