A good cosplay costume doesn’t have to just be some old, second-hand clothing you found at Goodwill anymore. With the reduction of cost and weight of today’s technology it is easy to make custom pieces and add lights, sounds and even screens. But even with the electronics that can be brought in that doesn’t mean you only have an on/off button. Smartphones and tablets are a great way to add even more control and functions to your cosplay that you just couldn’t do a few years ago.
Adding lights to a costume can make it feel a lot more professional without adding a huge cost or too much effort. One of the main advantages that LEDs have over other types of lighting is that they can be extremely low profile, they’re very energy efficient and they don’t give off much heat — all of which are pluses when adding it to your costume.
Depending on the style, whether they are added to a handheld prop or into your costume, you can easily hide a battery bank or keep spare batteries with you to keep it running throughout the day.
Controlling the LEDs can easily be done through a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection generated by the controller and accessed through your smartphone. With simple LEDs this can be turning them on and off or controlling the brightness. With full RGB LEDs you can also control the color and set up patterns for the lights to cycle through.
Depending on your costume, adding a screen can be a fun way to show graphics or photos or even a face if you so choose.
A popular way to integrate your smartphone into your costume is to use a wrist gauntlet holder. These can be made by modifying a fitness armband slightly to fit on the wrist rather than the bicep. 3-D printing is also an option to emulate the Pip-Boy Bethesda released with the special edition of “Fallout 4.”
A more ambitious way to integrate a screen is to use your smartphone as a VR rig in a helmet with a camera giving you the ability to take photos or help you navigate.
One of the most advanced ways to make your cosplay costume stand out is by adding moving parts. One of the most impressive implementations of this is by cosplayer Elmins Cosplay, who recreated the wings of the “League of Legends” character Kayle. These wings were made of EVA foam around an aluminum frame that opened to more than 12 feet.
While this is an extreme example that doesn’t mean that many of the core concepts can’t be integrated into smaller moving plates or antenna. Small RC motors can be controlled by an Arduino or Raspberry Pi computer, which is small and light enough to be integrated within a costume and can be given commands through Bluetooth from a smartphone or tablet.
One of the other advantages that having a smartphone be part of your costume is that you can still take pictures with other cosplayers or just yourself without having to carry around a dedicated camera that can take away from the aesthetics. Because cosplay costumes can be large, a super wide-angle selfie camera like the one on the LG V10 makes the whole experience a lot easier.
Aaron Foster is a Phoenix-based film maker and photographer. He has worked on projects ranging from short films to commercials.