Alive! Elvis: Appearance Mods

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RetroPlayer
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Alive! Elvis: Appearance Mods

This thread will be about tips, tricks, and projects for modifying the appearance of your Alive! Elvis bust. Since this topic description will remain at the top, It will become an index to the topics discussed in the thread which I will try to keep updated, so check it out first.

Feel free to bring some ideas in here or post pics and videos of any mods that you do. But, please, let's keep it about his appearance only.

Topics such as cutting or modifying his hair, makeup, skin, chest, etc... all fit here as well as things like relocating his IR sensors to his shell, or placing the head on a body.

I will be moving some information over here from the cartridge hacking thread about mods that I have done recently to change his appearance.

Contents:

1. Removing the sideburns

2. Modifying the upper lip sneer

3. Relocating the IR Sensors/Losing the jacket

4. Removing the wig and hairline

5. Hair Installation method (GWJax)

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

Removing the Sideburns

One of the very first appearance mods that I did was to get rid of his sideburns. While it really isn't difficult, there are a few tips that I have to keep from ripping his skin.

The skin is glued on at the forehead, temples, and the ridge along the hairline. This skin is very loose under his sideburns, so I recommend holding it down with one hand while using tweezers and needle nose pliers to pull the hair out.

It is important to make sure that you pull straight out. This means separating the hair into rows that you will grab with your pliers all at once and pulling straight up. Grab the hair as close the skin as possible and yank quickly.

You will be making a mess, so clean the area ocassionally so that you can see what you are doing. You will not be able to pull all of the hairs in the row at once. No worries, just move on to the next row. On your second pass, take your tweezers and yank out what is left. If there are still clumps here and there, use your pliers. Just remember, pull straight and quickly.

While you are doing this, it is pretty easy to see the hair line so that you know where to stop.

Each side will take you between 5 to 15 minutes to cleanly remove the sideburns. When you are done, up close, you will see a mold line that must have been used to line up the hair patch and of course all the little pores in the skin where the hairs were. I have not yet figured out how to seal these up, but from a couple of feet away, it is isn't really noticeable.

I intend to try using heat to smooth the skin out and seal the pores, and will update this topic when I get the chance to try it.

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

Modifying his lip sneer to an upper lip curl

I am only partially into this mod, so I will updated it with a video of the effect when it is finished. But here are some notes to get you started:

The upper lip is separated into two halves. The sneer movement only moves the left half up and down very quickly.

The right side could move the entire range along with the left side, except for two things: There is a stop on the plastic bracket that goes along the top of the mouth, and the two halves are not connected together. The lever which is connected to the motor only moves the left lip, while the right lip only moves a little from the skin scretching. There is a spring around the right half axel which helps it return to normal.

So, to convert the mechanism to move both sides of the upper lip together, you need to remove the stop and fix the two halves together. So, when the motor lifts the left lip, the right lip moves the same amount.

You should be able to do this mod without removing the skin from your Elvis. At worst, you will need to unglue the upper lip only.

The bracket with the stop on it is the grey plastic bar that is going across the lip in the picture above. It is held on with two screws. It also holds down the axels for the levers, so you must be careful when removing it.

Thankfully, the skin is very loose around the mouth and you can just stretch the skin and get your screwdriver in there. Remove the two screws and pull the bracket out.

You should be able to see where I cut the stop off this bracket. These pictures are from my first attempt on the skinless bust, but I repeated the steps with my fully-skinned Elvis, as well. During that time, I actually broke the bracket while trying to cut the stop off. I found it didn't really matter because the only important part of the bracket is the area with the screws. This holds the axels in place. The bar across the top is only for the stop.

Now, the second part of this mod involves securing the two halves together. I attempted to do this without removing the glue from the upper lip skin and it didn't work. So, you will probably have to do that. Place hot glue across the two white levers as far back as you can to make them move together. I still need to finish this part and will update with a short video when I get the chance.

I may find that I need to remove the spring on the right axel. This should still be possible from the front without removing the skin, but will be a little more difficult because I will need to take the axel out.

Finally, there is a slight curl in the skin of the upper left lip that is molded in. That may reduce the visual effect of this mod somewhat. It may be possible to heat the skin up and stretch it carefully to remove the curl. Also, the lever mechanism might not be able to lift the lips very high. In the picture above where I have the left lip all the way up, I am doing that with my fingers on the lever and the motor removed. So, the actual effect will be more subtle. My almost-glued-together attempt does make it look a little more natural while he is speaking and doing the li[ sneer.  I think with the proper timing of the animation, it will add much detail to his lip syncing, even if it is subtle. The upper lip on the human face doesn't really move around very much while speaking normally. But, there are some sounds where it can, and of course smiling/frowning will have exaggerated movements in the lips.

A smile/frown mod will hopefully be coming soon. :)

I will be doing lots of experiments with his lips and mouth because this is the area that he seems to need the most improvement. His jaw motion is just too puppet-like.

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

Relocating the IR Sensors/losing the jacket

On each front pocket of the jacket, there are three parts which make up his tracking system and his remote sensors.

The buttons of the pockets are the remote senors, and near the top of the pocket, you should be able to see two little LEDs on each pocket. Well, one of these is an IR LED and the other is an IR receiver. These are used for tracking movement in front of the bust while in Alive! mode.

Inside each pocket, there is a plastic triangle shaped bracket that is glued to the leather (yes, it is real leather) This bracket holds the components in place. Each of the components are actually installed in round "holders" which makes these perfect for removing and relocating.

This is what the pieces will look like after you remove them from the triangle brackets. (Sorry for the dark pictures) The clips are laying beside the remote sensor in the center. There is a cap for the button and two tubes for the LED and photodiode. These snap into place over the components.

When you first remove the jacket, you will find that there is a set of wires coming from each side that plug into the top of the shoulders. You will also find deep cutouts in the chest shell where each of these components would sit.

What we will be doing is removing the components, drilling holes in the chest shell and installing them in there. Also, the wiring will all be inside the bust, so it will not be visible from the front.

The first thing to do is to unscrew the circuit boards with the plugs on each top shoulder. Then just flip it over so the the plug is facing inside the bust. Then screw them back down. You will not be able to screw them all the way down because there are large capacitors on the bottom side. Just screw them in enough so that they don't move around.

Here is a picture of one of the circuit boards flipped over:

In each of the cutouts on each side, you will be drilling holes to push the components into and then glueing them in place.  The remote sensor has an odd shape to it and requires you to cut out more of a slot than a hole. My first attempt didn't come out as clean as I would have liked, but once it is glued in place, the button should cover the rough edges. And if you are putting a shirt on the bust, it won't be seen anyway. For the LED and photodiode, I just drilled a hole the diameter of the tubes and then snapped them in. There is a flange around the top of the tubes that will sit flush with the plastic.

After you have the parts in place and glued, just plug the cable in from the inside, and tada... no wires visible. You might want to hot glue the wires to the plastic inside the case so they are not flopping around.

Most fabrics are invisible to infrared. So you can place a shirt or whatever over the bust and still make use of the remote and IR tracking. And nothing will be visible from the front. I tested this by putting a black cotton t-shirt on the bust with the sensor bracket underneath and all functions worked as normal. You may have some trouble with the tracking if the fabric is loose, since this might reflect the IR light onto the sensor inside the shirt. You should be able to fix that by securing the shirt to the shell over the center remote sensor, or placing some foam in between. I don't think it will be a problem in most cases, since the tracking doesn't work while in the song/karaoke/monologue modes anyway.

I am sure I could have added more pictures of this process, but really it is pretty simple and I already had all the parts removed. The hardest part is getting the components out of the jacket. They are glued in very well. I used a heat gun to soften the glue and pulled them out, but I did have to cut open the pocket from the back to get to them.

In GWJax's articles, you can find the process of removing the bottom of the base and the jacket.

Currahee
Currahee's picture

good job.....u have some great skills

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

Thanks, Currahee. I really appreciate that. It probably helps alot that I have two heads; one of which I am planning to rebuild with servos and drastically change his appearance. So, I am not so afraid to take some risks with that one. Alot of the stuff that I am doing, I would be a little more cautious to try if it were my only bust.

idrum289
idrum289's picture

Well done RetroPlayer. I'm looking forward to your video.

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

A few updates:

1. I added some pictures to the IR relocation topic.
2. I tried gluing the lip levers together and also removed some of the curl of the left side by stretching it while gluing. I can't say it is successful so far. The movement is different, but still looks like more left lip movement than right. I think I will need to remove the spring.
3. I tried smoothing out the pores where his sideburns were removed using heat and it didn't seem to do anything. Looks like makeup might be the only way to cover them up.

Speaking of makeup; here are a couple of mods I would like to see but am not ready to do myself yet:

1. Remove the makeup around his eyes. Even though it isn't very noticeable normally, it really looks terrible in pictures.
2. Cut his hair, color his hair, remove it and replace it with a wig. I have a hair stylist friend that I might get to help me out with this one. It is not as simple as just cutting it, since the netting underneath might become exposed. And being that the hair is plastic, I imagine it will be difficult to color. Perhaps the only real way to mod his hair is to remove it and use a wig. If anyone has some ideas, I would like to hear them.
3. Lighten his skin color. Putting him out in the direct sunlight might do this. Alternatively: darkening his skin. Though this would probably be much easier.
4. Mods like filling in cheeks, thickening the nose, etc... I think it could be as simple as putting paper-clay or air-drying clay under the skin. The nose might not be too difficult to do without removing the skin, but for good work, the skin will probably need to be removed first.

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

What do you guys think of this? No, my Elvis does not look like this.... yet. It is a mask.

I think the mouth and teeth would be very difficult and require alot of mods. But, that's the fun, right? The eyebrows would have to be amplified to move more, and crunch the entire forehead.

I was thinking Iron-Man, too, but he has no face movements (unless you just make a mask that flips up and Robert Downey Jr.'s face is animated.

Neo from The Matrix probably wouldn't be so difficult. And then there is Frankenstein. :)

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

Well, I just ordered two different types of 24MM green eyes, so expect a topic on replacing the eyes coming up :)

Elvis' eyes are actually almost 25MM, which is not a standard size, so there will be some work to get the extra 1MM in there.

Here's looking at you!

The eyes that I ordered are acrylic half-rounds in electric green (looks like a storm in the iris) and a bright green.

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

I also ordered the mask in the picture above. I am not sure that I can use it as-is (most likely not) but I should be able to at least use it to take molds from.

What I would really like to do is figure out a way to be able to attach different skins, so I can try out all of the ideas and more that I posted up above.

I am committed financially, now (about $50 in parts) so even though I am probably getting in over my head with this one, I will plug away at it.

Besides, it's the Hulk!! :) My favorite character. It has to be worth a try.

GWJax
GWJax's picture

Making custom teeth make sure you goto www.monstermakers.com to get the teeth or powder to make your own with a mold after you sculpt them out, plus get the gum with veins power and of course monamer for the bonding agent and also you'll need the sepertor mix. If you never doon this before let me know and I'll help you out.
Jax

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

Removing Elvis' hair

I was going to need to get inside the back of the head to pull out the eyes for the coming eye mod, so I decided to see what was involved in removing the hair. It was much more difficult than I had bargained for, but I think one step was my biggest mistake that lead to it taking me so long.

This is the result after cleanup

 

I didn't grab pictures of the wig removal, but essentially, it is glued down at the base of his neck. The wig consists of netting with hair tied to it. Pull it up from where it is glued down until you get to the hair line. There you will find that it is sewn to the scalp wth heavy threads. I used a pair of small scissors to just cut the threads as I peeled the hair over. Then I pulled the threads out.

This picture didn't really come out well. It is almost uncanny how life-like he looks with the hair removed. Replacing his eyebrows would seal the deal, in my opinion.

The hair consists of two parts. The wig, which is the bulk of his hair, and a separate piece along his hairline that is punched into the skin just like the sideburns.

This is where I messed up, I think. The hair is really long and I was worried that it would be difficult to see what I was doing, so I cut it shorter. I think my mistake was that I cut it too short. This made pulling the rest out very difficult.

That's one funky hair style!

Anyway, after cutting the hair, I just started pulling it out just like I did with the side burns. It took a pretty long time to do it, and the hardest parts were at the temples, because of the contours. Longer hair here probably would have been easier to grip.

As you can see, it makes a mess. So be sure to do it where you can clean up easily.

Just for the heck of it, I tried the wig on him after removing the hairline piece. If it were positioned properly and glued down, it might not look so bad. And you should be able to cut and style it easier without dealing with that partition between the wig and hairline.

Looking back, I would have found it easier just to have just pulled up the skin on the forehead and pulled the hair out from behind. Or at least not cut his hair so short before pulling from the front. I found that low temp hot glue works well for glueing the skin back down.

After this mod, I am fairly satisfied that he doesn't really look like Elvis anymore. Just put a wig of your choice on him and style it how you like. Also, you could try some facial hair to really distance him from his original persona. If done properly, a goatee would hide his slightly curled lip. You may even be able to use the hair you pulled out, if you pulled it out from behind. I think if you threaded the hair into a big sewing needle and punched it through the skin from behind, then glued it and cut it, it would look like it was meant to be there. I am sure that would be a great deal of work, though. You could always just try a fake mustache and goatee.

I also trimmed his eyelashes with a pair of small scissors and plucked out stray hairs in his eyebrows with tweezers to finish it off.

Now if I could just figure out how to remove that dark tint around his eyes...

GWJax
GWJax's picture

Retro I have to correct you on putting hair into the skin.... what you need to do is, take a needle and push it into a dowel, the dowel is your handle. The cut the EYE of the needle at a 45 deg angle, after this is done your hair puncher is finnished. Take some hair and by using the your new hair punch push the hair into the spot you want. If you want to have the hair lay back punch it in at an angle, only do a few hairs at a time. This will take you a long time to do, but if done right it will look like the real thing. Most costume stores carry the hair you need in diffrent colors and it will be braded as well. Here is a photo of the hair you'll find:

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

Very cool, Jax, thanks for giving us that tip!

Alright, now someone give your Elvis a goatee! Or even better, rip off those ugly eyebrows and use his sideburn hair to make them look more realistic.

BTW, I was playing around with the placement of the wig yesterday and I think I might be able to use it for the Hulk. I need to cut it a little shorter and find some way to clump it without making it sticky. Do you think some type of wax would work?

Also, Jax, do you know what material the Elvis skin is made out of? It looks and feels, to me, like a polyurethane maybe.

GWJax
GWJax's picture

yes it is polyurethane and very course. the hair I showed you is almost like real hair, infact I have 2 brades of real hair, hehe

I agree with the eyebrows, I'll change my elvinators eyebrows using the steps above and show you the pictures.

Jax

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

GWJax,

I want to clarify your instructions regarding hair insertion:

First, you are pushing the sharp end of the needle into a dowel, and the eye part will become your tool.

Next, when you thread the hair through the needle, you are going to make it somewhat even with the middle. Then you punch it through from the front, and slide your needle off the hair from one side. This leaves two tufts of hair coming out of the hole and middle of them are behind the skin. Then you just glue or melt the middle section behind the skin to hold it in place.

Does this sound correct? If you get some time in the near future, would you mind showing your tools and just one insertion so we can all see?

Oh, and also, I just realized that with your terminator, since you don't need the eyelid on the one side at all, you could use that motor channel for something else. To be totally realistic, you would probably want to use it to control a mechanical iris in the eyes like the real terminator, but that would be very difficult to do, I think. :) Maybe the channel could control the LED or make the LED move closer or further from the tip of the eye. This would increase or decrease the size of the red pupil. Just some ideas that I thought while removing the eyes from the mechanism.

Thanks.

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

Also, guys, the screws used to hold the different lever arms on the motors actually look perfect for the shaft of a servo. And so far every mechanism I have run into looks like a servo would replace it without much trouble and without modifying the mechanism very much.

All mechanisms either use rotational to linear lever arms, or, in one case (the upper lip), a cam.

MrScott
MrScott's picture

The hair plugging technique that GWJax describes is also used on a smaller scale for rerooting figure heads.  Can't say as I've done it, but here's a reference or three.

http://www.fatcat.com/dollraves/arttips/qdreroot.html

http://www.dollyhair.com/reroottool.htm

 

GWJax
GWJax's picture

Thank you MrScott for posting that picture. Also note that the eyebrows are not inplanted into the skin they are glues to a screen backing so removing them will be easy. So I'll remove the eybrow and show you how to insert the hair. Also you do not have to gule the hair or melt it on the back side of the skin if you don't want to the tension of the silicon will hold the hain in just fine.
Jax

GWJax
GWJax's picture

Ok here's how to make your own hair plunger and how to use it. Follow the pictures and the captions.

 

First get a peice of wood and a needle, I'm using Bass wood for the handle

Next use your pliers to insert the nedle in the center of you handle about half way in.

Using your grinding wheel or a file shave the head of the needle down at a 45 deg. angle

your tool is now ready for use.

Eyebrows removed from the Elvis.

Cut some hair and use your tool to inplant it into the silicone rubber, remember the direction you push the hair in is the way it will flow.

After a few sticks with hair this is the results. One eyebrow will take you about 1 hour to complete. after all hair is installed cut and style it and if you need to remove some hair just pull it back out. Hope this helps you all on this subject, Have fun and Good luck!

Jax

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

Wow, that was really fast, Jax! Thanks for posting this.

GWJax
GWJax's picture

RetroPlayer said: Wow, that was really fast, Jax! Thanks for posting this.

No problem Retro, the hair plnger is really easy to make and adding hair is just that easy too but takes time, I hope this was a better illistration for you on this process, now making the teeth is a diffrent story, hehe  I will order some monomer because mine dried up from not using it for a year but the powder for the teeth and gums are find and I have alot of that. So when this comes in I'll show you how to sculpt your teeth for the hulk and make a mold of it then pour in the real teeth and add gums. till then more SFX to come.

Jax

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

That would be awesome, GWJax. Really this thread would be great for little mods that people can do and they can pick and choose what they need for their own creations. I probably won't detail the construction of The Hulk in this thread, but like I have been doing, any specific technique that will be helpful will get a topic, like the eye replacements and your hair punching post.

Is anyone else out there modding their Elvis? Don't be afraid to post in here with even just questions or ideas. Any posts that offer little how-tos, I will add them to the topic description, so people can navigate around the general discussion.

GWJax
GWJax's picture

Retro where did you get your hulk mask, as to hide the teeth you'll have to resculpt the lips, If I can find the mask I can show you how to do this inwhich wil be a good mode project as well.
Jax

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

"Party City" has it if you have one in your area. I ordered mine online though, from Costume City: http://store.costumecity.com/hulkmask.html

They only had a display model at the Party City here in town and wouldn't sell it to me.

GWJax
GWJax's picture

Thanks I'll check our costume store and see if they have the same one.
Jax

altwolf
altwolf's picture

That top down shot of Elvis with the hair parted on each side reminds me of Wolverine. That might be cool to make...

altwolf
altwolf's picture

Retro, you mentioned using clay to put under the skin - I would try this stuff:

http://shapelock.com/

It is mostly hard, but has a little give depending on how thick you make it. But mainly it can be resculpted as needed if you heat it up, and would be A LOT lighter.

Crabfu uses it in his funky little bots.
http://www.crabfu.com/swashbot/swashbot3.html

RetroPlayer
RetroPlayer's picture

altwolf, have you used this stuff before? It really just sounds like beads of low-temp hot-glue to me. It's probably cheaper than hot glue, though (then, you can usually buy a bunch of sticks at dollar stores.)

altwolf
altwolf's picture

did you watch the video at Crabfu? I dont know if its like a big glob of hotglue... In the video, he handles the stuff and shows it off, bending it and twisting it and it doesnt crack or break. Looks pretty strong.

no i haven't actually used it. Looks like you can get a free sample on the shapelock site tho.

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