Inspiration

Tron: Legacy is one of my favorite movies. The sights and sounds are unparalleled.

I made a light-up Halloween costume of Clu, played by Jeff Bridges. Below is what he looks like.

I find the amber glow on Clu's costume more interesting than the blue-white light on other major characters, and the asymmetric chest made Clu's costume my favorite.

Result

Here are photos of my costume in action:

I began working on the costume for Halloween of 2013, but soldering and cutting LED strips and wires took much longer than I anticipated. The costume was finished for Halloween of 2014 after working on it a lot during summer.

Construction

My Tron costume is built on a cheap long-sleeve button-down white shirt from Forever 21 and oddly-fitting white pants from a thrift store.

My friend Oksana Hernandez loaned her artistic talents to help design the pattern. Oksana and I drew the pattern on black synthetic leather and carefully cut it out.

I began using spray adhesive to attach the black fabric to the clothing. The nozzle clogged before long, probably due to poor nozzle clearing discipline. I switched to hot glue which ended up being easier to apply.

Lighting

I used the Instructable LED-lit Tron v2.0 suit by sheetmetalalchemist as my was my primary guide. It argued that LED strips are better than electroluminescent wire or panels, and discussed getting a good diffuse glow by having the LEDs face towards you body.

My costume is lit by two 16-foot rolls of flexible amber LED strips from Amazon. Each roll came with a female coaxial power connector attached which made them easy to power. The wiring inside the costume is chaotic, and I had a lot of connectivity trouble. Read more about that in the last section.

Gallery

Top, exterior

I'm really happy with the pattern here.

Top, interior

Wiring on the inside is a mess. But check out the lighting at the end of the sleeve.

Bottom, exterior

The pattern on the front and back is the same.

Bottom, interior

The wiring is a bit less crazy here.

With the lights on, you can see the LED strips had a hard time at the knees.

Issues & future work

At no moment was the entire costume working. There was always something broken.

There were two problems:

  • The wires and LED strips are very flexible, but I didn't leave enough slack for the wires to extend with my body's joints.
  • The contacts on the LED strips are about a millimeter square and come off easily. Even with liberal hot glue application to seal everything in place, there were constant breaks.

Here's the graveyard of LED strip segments. The pieces with wires still soldered were beginning to come undone and needed to be pressed down to make contact.

I have thought about trying to make another Tron costume...if I do, I'll address these issues:

  • Light source. EL panels make more sense. An blog called Tron Costume and Tifetup's Instructable Sam Flynn Suit from TRON Legacy do it this way.
  • Wiring. Leave slack, and don't glue the wires to the clothing. 
  • Breathability & heat. The synthetic leather I used offers no ventilation and gets hot fast. Different fabric would be called for.
  • Weight. It's slightly heavier than a normal piece of clothing, I think from all the hot glue. Not a real problem, but it feels weird when you wear it. Hot glue didn't really make sense from the beginning, so a different adhesive is the clear solution.

I would also consider adding these features:

  • Lighted collar to match the lighted sleeves. Inspired by one of Kevin Flynn's costumes, interestingly the second character played by Jeff Bridges.
  • A better identity disc, the circle on the upper back. The blog Tron Costume also does a great job with this.

Exclusive behind-the-scenes

Left: first test with amber LED strip under white clothing. Right: testing LEDs with top of costume, with experimental ring of lights around collar.