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Bioshock's Big Daddy Talks About Cosplay, Beer and IKEA

Not common material for Gamasutra but still a fascinating look into the mind of genius prop-maker Harrison Krix and the creation of one of his best-loved costumes: a 7 feet tall Big Daddy Costume.

Cassandra Khaw, Blogger

January 7, 2011

7 Min Read

Crossposted from TK-Nation. TK-Nation's a South-East Asian gaming site that plays home to news about quality underdogs from the gaming world, indie cosplay and video game collectibles. 

Harrison Krix is perhaps best known for, well, his jaw-droppingly realistic props. His most recent accomplishment includes supplying a replica of the Portal Gun for a Child's Play Auction. Though not really the kind of material that Gamasutra is famous for, I couldn't resist the temptation to share an interview with this creative mastermind. 

Normal people make costumes, Harrison Krix makes monsters. 

No, really.

Well, that depends on how you intepret the Big Daddies from Bioshock.

Some might see them as an imposing hazard while others, much like Mr. Krix, might look upon them with a more sympathetic light. Either way, there's no questioning the fact that Harrison Krix's enormous rendition of a Big Daddy is one of the most shockingly realistic yet. With animatronic hands, fully-functional drills and a little bit of an Ikea sticker stuck on the inside, his Big Daddy cosplay is a study of household ingenuity.

If you think about it, he's kind of like the McGuyver of the cosplay world.

TK-Nation managed to catch up with Harrison Krix recently to interview him about the trials and tribulations revolving around the creation of his Big Daddy suit. Surprisingly, we also learned that he didn't make film sets for a living; he's a graphic designer. 

Who knew?

Holy Huge Costumes, Batman! We've never quite seen anything on the scale of your Big Daddy costume. Our first question is going to be a rather standard one: what inspired you to make the Big Daddy costume? Weren't you at all intimidated by the technical difficulties revolving around creating something of that scale? 

Technical difficulties nothing. I should have been worried about what that monster did to my back after wearing it for three days straight.

The inspiration was Bioshock itself. The narrative of that game, making the player ex-amine the "why" of a first-person-shooter, was genre breaking. The Daddies - hulking murder machines that would leave you alone if you left them alone - were always fasci-nating to me in a "morality" sense. I wanted to bring something like that to life as accu-rately as possible. I wanted to walk down a hallway and have someone think, even for a split second, that there was a real Big Daddy just around the corner. 

Technically speaking, the biggest hurdle was weight. Size isn't as daunting an issue as people might think - you can always make something big - but creating a giant suit thats also strong and lightweight is a real challenge. In the end, I kept the thing under 60lbs, which seemed to be as "light" as possible for my techniques. 

How long did it take you to design and implement the costume? What materials did you use? One of your notes indicated that the drill in the outfit was, in fact, functional. Does that mean you could turn it on for dramatic effect? 

Design took maybe 2 weeks, actual construction took 7. Materials ranged from house insulation foam to a security camera dome, electrical conduit to an old hiking backpack. Its a mishmash of various found objects and cheap solutions. The main body itself is tension fabric stretched over a foam frame, fiberglassed, then carved out from the in-side. Not the most glamorous solution in the world, but it worked.

I used a fair bit of cardboard in the framing as well, a lot of which came from some old IKEA furniture my wife and I had just bought. On one part of the suit, you can still see the little picture of the endtable from the inside, since that cardboard part was fiber-glassed in permanently.  The drill did function, and would spin frighteningly quick. This would be at the expense of my elbow joint, but you have to suffer for a good performance, I guess. 

What kind of complications did you encounter while developing the costume? While the entire thing looks hellish to make, were there any aspects in particular that were notably more painful to compose compared to the rest? 

Not terribly so. As weird as it sounds, everything was pretty much exactly as much of a pain in the ass as I expected it to be. I kind of walked into this thing expecting it to fight back, and I wasn't disappointed in the accuracy of my prediction. 

One of the more backbreaking tasks was removing the carved foam from the body cavi-ty piece by piece. A lot of this had to be done by literally clawing at it with my hands, ripping off a chunk, then going back for more. That got old quick. 

After that, cutting the security dome was an exercise in butt-clenching nervousness. Those things are super brittle once you so much as cut a little chunk out of them, and mine threatened to shatter into a million pieces more than once. 

Writer's note - Yeah, we're definitely leaving cosplay to the professionals now.

Where did you first debut the costume? I'm going to imagine that the reception was extremely positive. Did you succesfully make any little children cry? Any amusing ancedotes to share with us in regards to the costume and the public's response?

I debuted the costume at DragonCon 2009, and it was a HUGE success. My friends and I were staying at a hotel down the street in Atlanta from one of the main events, and I actually managed to walk about 1/4 mile in it, outside, from one hotel to another. Thats something I never want to do again, but people in every surrounding hotel were crowding their balconies and cheering as I walked by. That was a great feeling.

The Saturday following, after being in the suit for the better part of 4 hours, we were making our way back to the hotel room, and stopped for pictures with a group of really enthusiastic fans. One guy was holding a 24oz can of Red Stripe beer (my favorite) and I saw it through one of the portholes when we were posing together for a shot. I shouted to my wife (thats how you have to talk to people in that thing, by shouting) that I would kill for that guy's beer. He asked her what I said, and after explaining that I could really use a drink of my own, the guy shouted "Well, he can HAVE this one!"

Cue shot with me holding a 24oz beer in my Big Daddy hand. I think that was the best drink I've ever had. 

  We're still overwhelmed by the costume here. Do you have any advice for cosplayers out there? While I'm sure a lot of people here probably don't know how to weld metal together, is there any basic skill (asides from sewing) that could help them achieve something of the same caliber? 

Props seem to be some sort of "mystery land" to people in the cosplay community, and I suppose I work oppositely since I don't know how to sew at all. Really, its just the same as any skill - practice and dedication will ultimately show better and better results. 

Here's a few of my own personal favorites: Don't be afraid to try a new technique or a different material. Always paint with primer before topcoat. Sand more than you think you need to. Ask someone else what they think of your process often - sometimes you can't find the flaws in your own work. Nothing is ever a complete loss. 

Read, read, read, read. When in doubt, use google. There is limitless information out there, and thats where I got the knowledge I have now.

Do it for the fun of creating something cool.

  Those interested in learning how Harrison Krix accomplished his jaw-dropping masterpiece canlearn more here. As always, all rights and privileges belong to the creator, the photographer and everyone who made an appearance in the photos.


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