Realistic Feathered Raptor Costume--In Progress, Looking for Tips!

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ArtisticThingem

New Member
Hi RPF! I've stalked these boards on occasion, but I've finally made an account and thread all my own for the titular project--a full-body costume of a raptor dinosaur, Deinonychus. It's intended to be as accurate as possible within the limitations of my artistic skill and human form, and I hope one day that I'll not only be able to live my childhood dream of running around pretending to be a dinosaur, but perhaps doing educational appearances for museums and such as well. Every dinosaur paleontologist I've shown my mask (the only finished part so far) has loved it, and I'm sure once the whole thing is done it'll make quite an impression. But it hasn't been without its challenges and puzzles, so I hope some of my questions can be answered by helpful folks here.

Anyway, I'm sure you're wondering what this thing looks like right? Well, the plan for it is to end up something like this:
raptorcostumeplansfinalcropped.png


The head will be perched on top of mine, hopefully with a mechanism to open and close the jaw based on my own movements; I'd love to get animatronic eyes but i don't know enough about coding to feel confident in attempting it, and I'm also worried about noisy motors breaking the illusion. The body is padded using upholstery foam, and will be covered in a few different types of faux fur; the wings and tail fan are in progress now and made of fabric interfacing supported by a wire 'quill'. Here's some pics of what I have so far, though note that the pictured head is being remade:
raptormasknew.jpg raptorleg.jpg raptortail.jpg

I don't have the prettiest or most spacious workspace, which has been a limitation on what kind of materials I can use; a lot of things with toxic vapors like spray paints or adhesives just aren't an option, so a lot of my questions will likely be regarding alternatives. I'm also open to suggestions and resources regarding additional puppetry or 'animation' I could incorporate, as the more life I can give this thing the better; tips for eyes would be the most obvious, but I've also considered adding articulation to the hands and claws.

So, any tips, questions, or encouragements are welcome; this project has been ongoing for many years now and I'd like to finally get it done, but I'm only one person trying to put together all the information and techniques I've found into one big experiment. I don't know if it's going to work, but I'm going to do my best to share it here with all of you.
 

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ArtisticThingem

New Member
Did you see Billie's youtube on 3d printing feathers?
Ooh, I had not!! I've wondered if it was a possibility, so I'll have to check the video out and see what I think. I already have most of the feathers made, but it'd be a good thing to keep in mind for future iterations--thank you for sharing it!
 

ArtisticThingem

New Member
Hmm, hope it's ok to double post if it's been a while... Well, I'm sure I'll hear from the mods if not. Just a small update, but an update nevertheless! I finally got around to finishing the base structure for both feet and have carved the foam for the toes; next steps (ha) will be maybe refining the symmetry on the foam and then beginning patterning. I still need to get some materials, but really once I do the end will be in sight for this part of the costume. Apologies for the bad lighting in the pictures!

I'm leaning more and more towards modeling the teeth in Blender and having them printed; sculpting about 80 very small pieces of apoxy is... less than fun, and it's killed my momentum on finishing the head more than once. If anyone has recommendations for Blender tutorials as well as services for 3D printing (like shapeways, or maybe smaller makers you've had good dealings with), I'd love to hear them!

Thanks for reading, and hopefully I'll have more updates soon.
 

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ArtisticThingem

New Member
Update time! I finally got around to finding some blender tutorials, and set about creating the teeth. I definitely still have a lot to learn and there was probably a better way to do things, but I was able to sculpt all the teeth I need in the course of a couple days. They're low-rez and I'm not sure how well they'd print, but a start's a start, and it was a lot faster and less frustrating than trying to sculpt the full set by hand.
teethmodels.png


The nice thing about theropod dinosaurs is that their teeth are pretty uniform; being able to copy and paste a mesh and then modify it was a lifesaver.

I think I might model the claws the same way--I wasn't looking forward to sculpting all of those either, so that'll be my next project. Stay tuned!
 

Too Much Garlic

Master Member
Looking awesome. Love the design choices. Though Deinonychus is a cool raptor, it really is too small to have a person inside. There are raptors that are larger and would easily fit someone inside, such as Utah Raptor and I believe another one I can't remember the name of - maybe Dakota Raptor or something. Of course, if it is Deinonychus that is your favorite you should definitely go with it.

The teeth can easily be printed on a cheap FDM filament printer and then you can use bondo putty, filler primer and sanding to make them smooth and pretty.

I think you should, however, try to brush the fluff backwards on the face, similar to a hawk.

You could also consider getting a 3D pen. When I saw this thread I remembered this video:

A thought could be to make the underside of the wings brightly colored to attract mates, since they don't really show the inside of the wings when just moving around and when hunting. Same could be true for the underside of the tail fan.

Wish they would have added this type of design to Jurassic World when they had the new park up and running, instead of the same old tired designs that now has a million teeth because that apparently seems more scary.
 
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ArtisticThingem

New Member
Too Much Garlic Heheh, I hear you on Deinonychus being a little small to fit a person inside--however, I am a very small person myself! I'm only 5' 3", so even if my costume turns out a little larger than the known specimens, I think it'll at least be within the margins of individual variation. Many of the fossils are from subadults, so maybe they still had some growing to do.

As far as the facial fluff placement goes, it's actually not so different from the hawk; you can see in this close-up that the bristles around the edge of the beak point forward:
1198-642.jpg

Dromaeosaurs didn't have a beak, and some of the smaller ones had feathers right to the tip of the snout; there's nothing indicating what Deinonychus would have so I went with what looked like a reasonable arrangement for something that would be eating large prey. When it comes to the display feathers, though putting them on the underside is a good thought, I can't think of many real-life examples of birds who display with the underside of their wings or tail. But, my first reference image is no longer accurate! Instead of a single large patch inspired by ducks, I'm going for a more banded, speckled look that takes after kookaburras. They have a lovely subtle iridescence that I think will work much better, and I've commissioned a friend of mine to paint a scene with this new coloration--I'll have to share it here when it's done, he's a fantastic artist.

I'm still working on the 'printing' part of 3D printing; I don't know that my local libraries' maker labs are open yet, but they're at least doing online workshops that'll give me a good idea of their resources, and they can probably direct me to more. I love libraries and I can't believe I forgot it was an option... but I guess a pandemic might have something to do with it.

I got to play with a 3D pen once, but wasn't terribly impressed--but then, maybe I just haven't seen it used well. I'll definitely be watching the video you shared! It might be a good alternative while most maker spaces are likely closed, and will be for a bit yet.

And yeah, I really feel you on Jurassic World. They had every opportunity to update the dinosaurs--not just the raptors, but many of the other species as well--but they stuck with an aesthetic that's some 30 years old. It's a shame when the original Jurassic Park did so much to update public perception; the World films are fun, but they're doing more to entrench outdated ideas than get people excited about what dinosaurs were really like. And yeah, no one should be getting their dinosaur facts from pop media, but unfortunately that's what people do--hence a lot of the frustration from the paleontological community, which gets stuck with trying to fix a lot of the resulting misconceptions. I've done museum docenting and work helping educate folks about dinosaurs, and I've had kids come through that think the Indominus was a real dinosaur...

So I'm really hoping this costume will help make a lasting impression on anyone who sees it. I'm not sure if it'll be part of some skit or a walkaround 'character' appearance that people can interact with as they please (in either case I'd have a handler to both guide me in costume, and do the talking), but I definitely want it to be a learning opportunity.

As for updates on the costume, I've got most of the foot claws modeled, but I'll share pics when I have them all ^^
 

animator

Well-Known Member
I'm looking forward to watching your build!

This may not be an option for you, because of the ventilation issue you mention, but ended up making teeth for my T-Rex puppet out of Sculpey (which actually is really quick to do) with tooth pick roots for reposition and registration, then sculpted the gums in Monsterclay and placed the teeth. I made a silicone mold of that and cast the teeth and upper palate in FlexFoam-It 15 which is incredibly light, looks hard because it skins, picks up great detail and soft so no one will get hurt. I originally cast the teeth in resin, but then quickly realized people would want to put their hands in the dinos mouth and resin would actually do damage. Also resin is heavy and foam is light. This picture is after the base coat of color.

IMG_1885A.jpg


For the project I am doing now, all the mouth, teeth, horns and claws will be cast in FlexFoam-It 15.
 

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ArtisticThingem

New Member
animator Ahh yeah, whenever I'm showing the current head, I use it like a puppet and people always want to get "bitten"! It's often kids, so I'm always very careful, but it's pretty funny that it's such a common thing. I guess everyone wants to say they got bitten by a dinosaur, lol.

Your cast looks great! I really do wish I had the space for molding and casting, there are so many cool materials out there and being able to make something that is both light and flexible would be a dream. Maybe that'll be for raptor head 5.0.... and just not let people put their hands in the mouth in the meantime. With a full costume, they may not be so willing to try it!

I'm curious about your puppet as well--I may have seen it (I've lurked on these forums for ages) but I definitely want to take another look! :D
 

Too Much Garlic

Master Member
3D printing is definitely the best bet if you are in a small space and can't do molding and casting. Printing in PLA plastic on a FDM printer such as the Creality CR-10 which I'm using which has a pretty large build plate of 30x30x40 cm would be able to print most of what you need and it will be lightweight. Though, there are newer printers on the market now that may be easier to level the printing plate before printing.

Oh, regarding the fluff I was talking about brushing it backwards from the tip of the snout, as it seemed it was going towards the snout.

Having seen many bird documentaries and seeing their mating dances, some often have their most brightly colored feathers hidden in daily life and then only display them when they are courting a mate. And since the hands of the raptors turn upwards when they stretch them out, you see the inside of their plumage, which you normally don't see, so I thought it could be an interesting courting move to stretch out the hands to show the bright colors on the inside. Same with the tail, lifting it up and turning around. I believe this picture is a screen capture from the Velociraptor video from the *Your Dinosaurs Are Wrong* youtuber.

Skærmbillede 2017-01-30 kl. 18.11.24.png
 
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ArtisticThingem

New Member
Too Much Garlic Yes! Seeing Adam working on his own JP-style raptor has gotten me excited to work on my own costume, hence a bit more activity here. It'd be so much fun to make one of the larger puppets with an appropriately-sized species; there are so many mid-sized theropods that would make great candidates for something like that--something distinctive like Dilophosaurus or Cryolophosaurus would be perfect. Alas, I don't have a giant workshop with a bunch of tools and materials lying around... but maybe one day.

I'm honestly still skeptical about putting the display feathers on the inside of the wings; while it's true most birds do have some way of concealing their displays, it's more that they're folded out of sight and then extended or puffed up when in use rather than kept on less visible parts of the body. But, I remembered why I wanted to have iridescence in the first place--it's not just cool factor (which admittedly is a reason XD): the feathers of a small relative, Caihong, seem to preserve structures that would have produced iridescence. So, having something like that on this costume is an educational point! :D
 

ArtisticThingem

New Member
Not a huge update on any major piece of the costume, but bits and pieces have come together; first of all, part 3 of Adam Savage's raptor build answered something that's eluded me for ages: blinking eyes! All the tutorials I was finding for blinking eyes on puppets were no help, as the vast majority are for a binocular eye setup--both eyes face forward. Now, raptors did have some degree of binocular vision, but the eyes themselves were placed on the sides of the head. While I'm fairly creative, I'm not particularly mechanically inclined and I couldn't figure out how to translate the binocular blink to a side placement. But Adam, with his years of special effects experience, both knew exactly what to do and helpfully showed it right in front of the camera--and now I know what to do too.

I've ordered some new eyes that will hopefully arrive shortly, and I can start construction on the eyelids soon. It'd be cool to set up a blink timer and servo that does the blinking automatically, but I'd want a very quiet motor and I don't know if those exist. I may have to figure out some means of puppeting it manually, but I haven't done much research into it yet. So, ideas for the future.

I'll wrap things up with a pic of the new head in progress; it's currently the world's worst hat but that'll change one day.
raptorheadWIP.jpg
 

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ArtisticThingem

New Member
Bits and pieces once again; I've worked out how the moving jaw triggers--it's nothing complex, just strings connecting it to a chin strap. I'm considering seeing if pulleys would increase the efficiency, but it should move regardless.

I've also decided I want the eyes to blink! With the (disappointingly now private) video from Adam Savage's raptor build, I have an idea how the blink mechanism works. I'm far less sure how to puppeteer it... The most obvious solution is a servo on a blink timer, but I neither know how to program nor do I want the noise of a motor to potentially break suspension of disbelief.

I may have a solution to this, and while it doesn't solve my programming shortfall, it may help with the noise: an electromagnet that's on the blink timer, pulling the eyelids closed when activated and then opening when off. It seems like it should be quieter than a motor, and could probably be padded to further reduce any noise of the magnetic surfaces coming in contact. If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear it! I only know the very basics of electronics and am not sure if there are any potential drawbacks to this solution...

As always, thanks for reading--hopefully I'll have more exciting updates soon ^^
 

Too Much Garlic

Master Member
You could potentially do a string method for closing the eyes - just use a spring mechanism to keep them open, so they keep opening when you let go of the string.

Didn't know the A-Savage video had gone private. I was wondering why I didn't see any new updates on the feed.

Also, found these 2 videos from another builder. I actually like the way she made the head move. Seems so much more simple and fluid. And she doesn't have the weird bent upper thigh look to her build, as I've seen in so many others':


And on another note... am still amazed by the Asian dinosaurs, where you can't see the guy inside.
 
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animator

Well-Known Member
As Too Much Garlic suggested, you could build a simple string system to blink the eyes. There are puppet builders on YouTube that have simple blink options. Stan Winston's online school also has some nice puppet building courses that show how to make blink mechs with wire, springs and string.

What did happen to Adam Savages raptor build videos? I was really enjoying them.
 

ArtisticThingem

New Member
You could potentially do a string method for closing the eyes - just use a spring mechanism to keep them open, so they keep opening when you let go of the string.

Didn't know the A-Savage video had gone private. I was wondering why I didn't see any new updates on the feed.

Also, found these 2 videos from another builder. I actually like the way she made the head move. Seems so much more simple and fluid. And she doesn't have the weird bent upper thigh look to her build, as I've seen in so many others':


And on another note... am still amazed by the Asian dinosaurs, where you can't see the guy inside.
Oh yeah, the Dino-Alive show has some amazing costumes, they're some of the best of their kind I've ever seen! I'd love some that are even more accurate, and maybe presented in a more naturalistic way, like the Walking With Dinosaurs live show. But I guess I'll keep working on mine XD

Yeah, in regards to Adam's build, apparently it's being made into exclusive content for somewhere else. I was pretty disappointed, to say the least <:/

Anyway. The thing is, my costume isn't structured quite the same as either of these. I thought I mentioned it, but I guess that was another draft of that post--I won't have my hands free, they'll be inside the raptor's hands. So I can't really do anything that relies on using my hands to flip switches or pull lines. Hence either no blink, or some kind of electronics to do it automatically. If I ever get to make a larger species where one of the 'sit on the shoulders' costumes is appropriate, just using a string or maybe even air brakes like I've seen is definitely the simpler option. But apparently I'm doing things the hard way :"D
 

animator

Well-Known Member
If your hand is already in the Raptors head, why couldn't a finger do the blinks? In a puppet, the blink mechanism can just be a key ring on a string you slide a finger in and pull down when you want a blink. This way the blinks become more of the performance rather than just automated and mechanical.

Otherwise, if you want to use servos, Stan Winston has a series of videos "How to Build an Animatronic Head" that could be really helpful. I think the second one covers eye mechanisms. When I am trying to learn tips and techniques, I think Stan Winston videos are amazing and well worth the cost.

It's a shame that the Adam Savage videos are down. I was learning a lot from them.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of your progress! Your project is very ambitious!
 

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