Sorry it’s late, but it’s time for another GAMMA.CON Cosplay Spotlight! Today we are looking into the relatively new area of 3D printing with one of Canberra’s best and well know prop builders Chris from Combustible Props
GAMMA.CON: When did you start cosplaying?
Chris: I started cosplaying in late 2014 just in time for a specific event at PAX AU in Melbourne. As a prop builder I am mainly setup to provide commission or prop services for film/TV/cosplayers so taking the cosplay plunge was a big thing! My natural environment is in a workshop.
G: What inspired you to start?
C: I started as a prop builder around 2009/2010 when I wanted to buy an Aliens pulse rifle from the US but then finding out about Australia’s strict gun laws. So I had to make my own (which is still unfinished to this day!). This, along with Volpin Props making his debut builds showed me that anyone with a bit of a practical mindset can create amazing items. It was only after building the pulse rifle and starting my first Pepakura (a type of paper model) helmet (Fallout 3 T-45b power armour helmet http://combustibleprops.blogspot.com.au/…/fallout-3-brother…) that I realised that I liked the idea of building props more professionally. I’ve heard it said that a good prop builder will think about builds 24/7. For any budding builders aiming at a more professional level (over hobby), if you can’t see yourself living and breathing it 24/7 it might not be for you.
G: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start 3D printing, what models, resources etc would you suggest?
C: Do it! It’s totally the way of the future. I purchased my first printer to future proof my career and started with no idea about 3D modelling. As a start I would try using all the free software like Sketchup and Blender (Netfabb for manipulation) to create your models, then I would check out all the libraries of models and printing a heap to get an idea of how your printer functions. Finally there are heaps of facebook groups where you can ask for help if you get stuck. ‘3d print props’ for example. In short the best way to learn is to do.
G: What materials do you specialise in when making a costume?
C: Currently I mainly specialise in 3D printing, but I try to have practical experience in most building methods. Pepakura, EVA foam, vac formed plastic, wood builds and moulding/casting etc. As a quick aside, I have seen heaps of comments about 3D printing being cheating or that people will do everything by hand. Keeping in mind that 3D printers aren’t a be all and end all, they are something that shakes up the industry. The people who say they do all this by hand (would you not use a scroll saw just because it made certain things easier?) are all well and good but when (for example) the film industry needs something made to an actors digital scan, there is no other way of doing it. But then that isn’t the end of the picture either. You want something finished you still have to massively manipulate the product, then cast it. Like this specifically:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXpGVqiZfag
TL;DR just another tool in the tool box with its own pros and cons.
G: Take us through the steps for deciding to do the prop/costume to finally taking it out to a public event.
C: The full steps to create the props or costumes have (mostly) been documented in my various builds logs but I’ve got a very large back log I need to get through though so there should be more in the coming months. As for a decision to take them out in public, I generally pick an event beforehand and work to have the costume (and various props) done by then. The deadlines are horrible and awesome at the same time but certainly helps things get done by a specific time.
G:How do you get the files to 3D print, where are they available?
C: There are three ways currently. The first is design the 3D model yourself, which is hard to do without previous experience. The various applications can be very complicated and hard to learn. Second is one of the many free 3D model libraries, where you can download and print finished items. Finally you can extract models from games and manipulate/clean them ready for printing. This is mainly what I do with Star Citizen costumes.
G: What 3D printer do you use and what are the tools and costs associated with printing something?
C: I use 2x UP plus 2 printers which seems to be one of the better plug and play printers out there. Over the 2 years I’ve had it them I’ve put over 80kg of filament through both, super reliable. I also use ABS filament at $30 a roll/Kg, acetone for fusing the parts, XTC-3d for filling the print striations, a cordless oscillating sander, mouse sander, hobby and normal files, body and spot filler, primer filler and heaps of sand paper. You can print and paint a 3d print, but unless you spend heaps of work getting it smooth it will only ever look like a printed 3d print.
G: Have you taken commissions? What is the strangest thing anyone has commissioned or inquired about making?
C: I do take on a few commission here and there time permitting (my commission slots closed currently). And I think the single craziest thing I’ve been requested to make was an actual firearm part from someone in the US… my reply was to “Walk down to Walmart and buy one directly, why are you requesting this from someone based in Australia with super strict gun laws…” paraphrased obviously lol.
G: What is your favourite part of the process?
C: Oooo… there are two favourite parts actually. The first test fit that shows that all the work leading up to it works and it fits correctly! And the last part where you don’t have to do any more work grin emoticon
G: What is your favourite part of being a cosplayer?
C: Being able to show off my own work. It kind of self-promotes my work the more people that end up seeing it, so i tend to try and really pull all the stops out.
G: What has been the most difficult thing and what has been the most fun thing to bring to life?
C: The most difficult is taking a virtual model and scaling it to fit an actual human shape in real life and making it function. One thing I’ve noticed is that game designers don’t take the practical issues into account. For every cool suit of armour you see in a game, there is the mystery of how the character can get into it.
G: What is the most rewarding thing to come out of your time as a cosplayer?
C: The very first cosplay I did was for the RSI space suit from Star Citizen and at the FPS reveal I was invited up on stage during an international live stream. Super scary but was so amazing. Being able to impress the game developers was a nice bonus.
G: Who/what are you planning on cosplaying next?
C: I have no set plans at this stage as I am concentrating on getting a few props ready for moulding however the following are ones I would like to do:
Fallout 4 T-60 power armour.
Bubblegum Crisis 2032 Priss Hardsuit.
Edge of Tomorrow powered Jacket.
G: What was your first costume?
C: My first costume was the RSI civilian spacesuit from the game Star Citizen. It was made with the models extracted from the game, modified/scaled to fit my body (though not my belly…), then 3D printed. I specifically made it as the creators of the game were coming to PAX AU and I felt it was the perfect opportunity to test out my skills. All up it took 3 months solid work to complete.
The full build here: https://forums.robertsspaceindustries.com/…/pax-australi…/p1
G: Tell us what your first costume was like compared to your latest?
C: My most recent costume was a Heavy UEE marine from Star Citizen. This time I wanted to take the build to the limit (dances!) and really push what I could do. Full head to toe armour as opposed to the simpler first build. This one took 4 months to complete.
The full build is here: https://forums.robertsspaceindustries.com/…/pax-australi…/p1
G: What is the meaning behind your cosplay name Combustible Props?
C: Well! It all stems from a day back in high school where you could get away with more things. From there it became my online presence and it just made sense to keep using it. Also it sounds awesome! The only issue is that I can’t label my packages with my prop name out of fear that they are destroyed by customs… lol.
G: What is it like cosplaying in Canberra?
C: From what I’ve seen, the Canberra cosplay community is small/tight nit and everyone I’ve met has been pretty cool. Along with events like GAMMA.CON it has forged something pretty amazing in a short time.
G:What do you consider the ultimate achievement as a cosplayer?
C: I’m not really sure but if you make it big and nurture the community, you can’t go wrong.
G: Ever had any cosplay malfunctions?
C: Yeah a few times, I guess it happens more often with complicated builds. I had a nice person knock/shoulder barge a prop rifle off my back (Connected with mag plates) which then fell and broke apart… The upside was that it allowed me to meet Capt Patchit in the Cosplay repair room! It’s also given me a few ideas about how to connect things more securely in future.
G: What cosplay do you feel the most connected to?
C: Definitely the Star Citizen related costumes. There aren’t many people in the world doing SC costumes as they appear in game yet (I’m one of 4 that I know of and indeed the first to do the Heavy UEE marine armour) and this kinda makes me feel like I’ve found my niche.
G: What makes you choose a certain character to cosplay?
C: For me it’s less about a specific character and more about the costume/armour/thing itself. It has to be something I want to make, but also something I really, really like.
You can see more of Chris’ work at http://combustibleprops.blogspot.com.au/