We've seen a lot of Adam Jensen cosplay over the past year, and they almost had one thing in common: the trenchcoat. Sure, trenchcoats are badass, but why no combat outfit? Simple. Those cybernetic arms are damned hard to make! Luckily, we found two fantastic fabricators who dared to take on the project.
Meet Sloan and Zook_one, who have been documenting their builds on the Replica Prop Forum, a community of makers of props, costumes and scale models. Zook is an architect from Southern California with a passion for elaborate Halloween costumes. Sloan is an environment artist in the video games industry, who also helps out his friends at Blue Realm Studios in his spare time (they did the Halo 4 Master Chief suit from the live-action trailer!) The two have been sharing their progress, pictures and patterns for months and they have kindly agreed to show us how they made the two iconic elements of the Adam Jensen look: the shades and the arms.
Sloan and Zook modeling their work
Sloan: When I decided to attempt the entire costume, I started with the arms. My mentality was, "if you don't do the arms, don't bother with the project." Adam Jensen is recognized by two things: his glasses, and his arms which he never asked for.
The interesting challenge for me was getting back to human anatomy. It wasn't enough to simply copy the reference images I had. I needed to give myself a little refresher (from art school) on the muscles of the upper arm in order to understand the mechanics of what I was creating. It was very important to me to make it so the muscles bulged in the right shape and appear to terminate at the correct bones. Perhaps one of the most inspirational and useful reference images I had for this was the part of the live action trailer where the man is throwing a football to his son. More than any other images I had, that one showed the muscle movement and posture the best.
Zook: I hadn’t seen anyone really nail the arms yet and thought I could pull it off. I knew it would take a depth of skills, ranging from the technical computer side to practical pattern making and sewing... I was up to the challenge. With fashion, it comes down to fit, right? I made a lot prototypes and re-worked and re-worked them and then worked on them again. If you could just do it right the first time, this hobby would go a lot faster and cost a lot less... But the hardest part was growing that pointy beard! It took months, my wife hated it.
Sloan: It was not hard to find sufficient reference. I took screen-grabs from the HD trailer, and some from the PC version of the game using Fraps. It was no surprise that the in-game specs had some subtle differences from the trailer ones. I decided to go with the in-game version because I felt it was the most recognizable silhouette.
Zook: I have lots of in-game screenshots. I also exported out every single frame of the HD trailer to study every part of the costume. The 2012 Adam Jensen costume folder on my PC weighs in at 2.07 GB of data. There are actually quite a few subtle differences between the HD trailer character design/model and in-game version. For example, on the tactical vest, the number and placement of bolts, color and shoulder closure straps differ. Unlike Sloan, I chose to work off the HD trailer design.
Zook: I ended up making the spec frames without the lens, mostly because I was running out of time.
I used a technology/software called Pepakura to create a paper 3D model of the specs. I assembled the papercraft using superglue, using cotton balls to fill the hollow void of the paper craft. Soaking the cotton balls with superglue creates a pretty nice lightweight filler lattice. Then I just appliqued more details out of chipboard and sculpted a couple parts out of epoxy putty. Paint and done. They were attached using costume spirit glue adhesive and held up pretty well despite the hot weekend in SD.
Zook vs Sloan's take on specs
Sloan: I used cheap sunglasses from the grocery store which closely matched the shape of Adam's glasses, with JB Weld and Sculpey for the rest of the shape. I created a quick-and-dirty tutorial a while back that describes the steps I took pretty well.
As a side note, I’ve noticed with almost every other Adam Jensen glasses build out there, people always include that little, black arrow shape on the gray circles. When I started my build, I was a bit amused because I quickly realized that the black arrow shape was the Eidos Montreal logo! As such, I did not include that detail since it’s not actually part of the Deus Ex universe.
Zook: The project started with a lot of patterning work. Patterns were needed for everything (editor's note: click to download the patterns awesomely provided by Zook!): the vest (back plate, belt plate, shoulder straps, vest itself), upper arm, leg bags... From there it was an iterative process, building prototypes either out of chipboard for the vest or scrap vinyl fabric for the arms and then refining the patterns, over and over till I was satisfied. The rigid parts of the vest are made of fiberglassed papercrafts
Making the Pepakura pieces
Vest made of 1/2" thick EVA foam
For the upper arms, I initially was working with a carbon fiber embossed automotive upholstery vinyl that looked awesome, but was just too heavy and stiff to utilize. I had to switch to the thinner more flexible 4-way stretch patent vinyl. They were definitely a challenge, it took a lot of prototypes to arrive at the final assembly. I tried about 3 or 4 different construction methods until settling on a modified version of the method Sloan developed. I chose to stich all my elements though instead of relying on glue. There is a lot of stress applied around the shoulder area and I didn’t want anything breaking. Lacing the arms to the shirt to allow additional movement was my innovation as well.
Upper arms attached to shirt under vest
The forearms were 3D printed. In order for them to have the sculptural appearance they have in the game, I had to recreate a high-poly 3D model to send to the printer. This essentially involved reverse engineering the model manually and then recreating the game art using 3D sculpting software.
From 3D model to 3D printed piece
Sloan: Once I settled on materials, I began by using templates I had drawn in 3DS Max and Photoshop to trace the individual muscle shapes onto 1/8” craft foam sheets. These would serve as the base of each muscle and create a little flange upon which I would add the gray boarders. Next, I sculpted the actual muscles with an electric knife from upholstery foam. I hot glued the upholstery foam shapes to the craft foam shapes then began the very tedious process of covering each of them in the black, shiny fabric.
Building muscle mass
Unlike Zook, I have no sewing machine skills, so I opted to use fabric glue (Fabri-Tac) to attach the fabric to the muscles. Once the muscles were covered, I glued a strip of gray fabric around the flange of each muscle to give them the same detail as the in-game Adam. I used strips of elastic to connect each muscle. This was fun and interesting since I pretty much had to place these strips like tendons. They had to keep each muscle in position, but also allow each muscle to move and pivot from the correct points.
I hit my first major snag when I tried on the upper arm for the first time. It’s a bit hard to explain, but the entire shoulder was bending and creasing around my arm in all the wrong places. I then realized I need something stiff to support the shoulder muscles. I used 1/4" craft foam to create the gold section of the upper arm to be an anchor for all the shoulder muscles. This worked out great.
Shoulder with anchor
The next step was to borrow Zook's method of attaching the muscles to the shirt. I sewed a series of very small plastic buckles onto the chest and over the shoulders of the shirt, then I attached the other ends of the buckles to the ends of each muscle. During this whole process, Zook had been working on his outer vest and was just starting to work on his arms. So I asked him if he wanted to trade his vest templates for my upper arm templates. Having Zook’s awesome vest templates made building the outer vest immensely easier. It may have saved the whole project since it saved me so much time.
The next snag I ran into came after I made the inner and outer vests. The muscles were too big and were pushing the vest upwards. This made it very difficult to move, and the collar was choking me. I had to do something drastic to fix this. I cut about 1-2” off the ends of each muscle, re-attached the fabric, and re-sewed each buckle. I also needed to make the shoulder straps of the inner vest narrower so that the muscles were not jammed up under them. The last tweaks I made were adding more elastic “tendons” in various places to keep the muscles in their rightful position when I moved.
The forearms were much more straight-forward. I created low-poly versions of each arm piece, brought them into Zbrush, then sculpted the contours and other smaller details. A friend of mine at work had a 3D printer, and agreed to print out the forearm pieces. Once printed, I sanded, primed and painted each piece. Next, I used elastic strips to hold the pieces to each other, and onto my forearms.
3D printed forearm
It's as easy as that, you guys! Hope this gave more Jensen cosplayers inspiration to build their own cybernetic arms. Make sure you invite us to your augmented gun shows.
Both Sloan and Zook_one wished to thank their wives for allowing them to take over the house with their projects. Awwww! We want to thank them for their insane dedication and hard work, we look forward to running into them at the next con for an augmented fist bump.