Posts Tagged ‘costumes’

Ghostbusters 2016 Proton Pack

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Proton Packs are special for me.  A proton pack was the first costume prop I ever made and was very much a junk build.  Working light and sound circuits and only the alice frame is screen accurate.  I worked on mine in parallel with my brother, so we could both be Ghostbusters for Halloween 2008.  I have been making props and commission circuits ever since.

My original proton pack took me 3 months to research and construct, start to finish.  So when my wife told me she wanted to be Ghostbusters for Halloween 2016, my reaction was to skip the proton pack for her costume.  Stick to the jumpsuit and arm patches, then she can borrow my PKE meter for the night.  But as the wedding date came and went, I found a youtube video by indy mogul of a junk build.  That was all the inspiration I needed.  Some quick research on gbfans in the Reboot Pack parts identification thread and I was able to complete my wife’s proton pack in 8 days.

If you would like to make one of these. All my plans, references, part lists, source code, etc… are on Google Drive.

Light Animation Demo Video


Reboot Ghostbusters Proton Pack


Links to my original proton pack builds:

My Ghostbuster's Proto Pack

Supernatural EMF Reader

Monday, November 10th, 2014

This is a summary post of my finished “revision 1” EMF Reader from Supernatural.  For revisions 2 and 3, please email me for the latest instructions.

Below you will find the following sections:

  • Description and Pictures
  • Part List
  • Rough Step by Step Build Instructions



Description and Background:

The EMF Reader in Supernatural is an excellent project for people like me that have some electrical knowledge. What I did was design a prop EMF reader around the Arduino platform so that it is actually functional while still looking like the prop from Supernatural.

I went to my local hardware store and bought an analog multimeter. After taking it apart, I played with it on an Arduino board and figured that it was possible to make a functional EMF reader using some off the shelf parts. I could even have the circuit play the telltale “erREEEEErr” sound on a speaker.

I finished the prototype circuit and proceeded to sourcing all the parts and designing a printed circuit board (PCB) that would do everything I wanted.

I measured the analog meter part with my caliper to ensure a good fit with the custom PCB.

In addition, this thread was very useful for finding reference pictures:


  • Meter with a pin that bounces to high when triggered
  • Five top LEDs that match meter display
  • Speaker that makes tone sweep sounds
  • Hidden trigger button to override EMF “readings”
  • Mode selector switch
  • When not activated, the lights will blink every few seconds to indicate the meter is on.

Pictures of my Completed Supernatural EMF Reader:

Link to full album on flickr.


Step by step build instructions

Review the part list is on google docs:

Once you have gathered all the parts, it is time to assemble. This does require minor solder skills.

If you have never soldered before, it’s easy! Get a $5 solder iron from the hardware store and the thinnest solder spool you can find. Then watch some YouTube videos to see how it’s done. Through hole soldering of big solder points (like in this project) is great for learning.

Salvage Parts and Test the Fit

Analog Meter

Take apart the multimeter to get at the analog mechanism inside. You will need the clear plastic from the front, the needle rotor, and the thumbwheel.

Cut a hole in the prototype board and do a “test fit” of the rotor. Make sure that it can spin freely. Eventually, it will be bolted down with washers to ensure the needle has enough clearance to move above the surface.

Switches and Knobs

Put all the various parts where you think they should go. Make sure that you have enough room for everything where you want them before you start soldering parts into place.

Assemble the functioning portion of the circuit


You have two choices to get the circuit functioning. Use an Arduino Pro Mini or use an Atmega328p chip. The Arduino is easier and recommended. I chose the Atmega328p chip because I was using a custom made prototype board that had wires pre-routed to the various switches.

  • Advantages of the Arduino Pro Mini: Easy to use and program over USB using the Arduino software. Use this for your source code:
    Note: there are 4 files to download.
  • If you choose the Atmega328p Chip, things get a little more complicated (you are on your own). More info here:
  • If you purchased a circuit board from Dustin (me), then there is nothing you need to do.  Your circuit is preprogrammed.

Mode Select Switch

Solder in place the toggle switch. Depending on your Arduino, pull up resistors may be required. More info here:

Wire one of the toggle switch’s two side pins to pin 2 on the Arduino. The center is the common pin, wire to ground on the Arduino.


Install the 5 LEDs at the top of the prototype board. The short lead from the LED goes to ground. The long lead from the LED goes to the Arduino.

Wire the LEDs to the Arduino pins in the following order: 2,4,6,7,8 (pin 5 is reserved for the meter output)

You can also install the white and yellow dummy square capacitors now if you like. These are cosmetic only and are not wired to the circuit. Solder them to the prototype board normally.

Cover the LED leads with electrical tape. This too is cosmetic, but also helps hold the LEDs down when you are handling the EMF reader.

Meter Potentiometer

Solder in place a blue square potentiometer. This will be used to adjust the meter sensitivity.

Pictured is my custom PCB. If you are using a different prototype PCB board, yours will look different.

Analog Meter

Install the meter onto the PCB, use two washers between the meter and the PCB to give the needle more clearance over the surface. Attach the meter using 2 screws, 8 washers, and 2 hex standoffs.

The washers on the backside of the PCB will help spread out the squeeze from the screw and hex standoff.

Wire the red wire from the meter to the analog output pin 5 of the Arduino through a potentiometer. The black wire goes to ground.

The potentiometer is used to “tune” the max point of the meter. The analog meter has a screw in the center; this is used to set the min point of the meter.

Later, when you are ready to power up, you can adjust the potentiometer with a screw driver until it performs right.

Printed Graphic

Download the .psd file here:

Print onto peel and stick adhesive photo paper, then trim the print then stick on the protoboard behind the meter’s needle.

Use hot glue or epoxy to affix the clear plastic cover over the meter.

Assemble the cosmetic portion of the circuit


There are two round capacitors in the upper left corner of the board. Solder them in place. It is ok if they are not straight up and down.


Solder on the thumbwheel below the meter.

Antenna P-Clips

Place the antenna clips on the antenna and drill the prototype board so you can eventually bolt the antenna in place. Do not bolt down yet. Right now we just need to get the spacing between the P-clips in the correct position.

Coil 1

The first coil goes on the right hand side of the meter. Use your magnet wire to create this coil by winding the 22 gauge bare copper wire around a pen or screwdriver. Once the coil is long enough, cut off the excess and solder down.

With the coil soldered down, re-insert your pen or screwdriver and straighten the coil out.

Coil 2 (antenna)

The second coil is wrapped around the antenna between the two Pclips. Use the red magnet wire. This wire is a lot thinner and will take many layers. Just keep wrapping around until your coil looks right.

Antenna Bolts

It is now time to bolt the antenna in place. Use the screws, washers, and nuts.

Rainbow Wire

Take approximately 10 inches of rainbow ribbon wire and split them apart into separate strands. Half of the strands will run from the top right to the lower left. The second half of the strands will run from the lower right to the lower left.

Use more of the 22 gauge bare copper wire to create U shaped cable ties. Thread the ribbon wire under the U, then press down with a plyers and solder the U wire down.

If you look closely in the pictures, you can see these cable ties are used in the corners to hold down the ribbon cable.

Final Hex Standoffs and Battery Holder

Place the last two hex standoffs between the LEDs. With all four hex standoffs now attached, use them as a guide to cut holes into the battery holder and affix the battery holder to the EMF reader with more screws and washers.

Sound and Speaker

Pin 11 from the Arduino outputs the sound. However, if you connect a speaker directly to pin 11 and ground, you will have little volume. You need a speaker amplifier.

The PAM8403 is a cheap (under $2) small amplifier board. Wire the amplifier board to the battery power input, 4.5 volts. Then wire pin 11 from the Arduino into the input of the amplifier board. Lastly, wire the two wires from the speaker into the amplifier board’s output.

Installing a Light Kit

Friday, April 16th, 2010

This is a guide for installing the light kit sold in my store. Click more info for the full guide


Connecting the battery

Wire the board to the existing battery in your project. The red wire from the battery holder is the positive wire, connect it to the + battery terminal on the AR_Light board. The black wire from the battery holder is the negative wire, connect it to the – terminal on the AR_Light board.

Wiring the LEDs

There are two ways to connect each LED, but only one is correct. You cannot break anything by connecting an LED backwards. If it doesn’t light up, simply flip it the other way around.

Orientation Note

To connect an LED the proper way the first time, note on the Light Board that each LED connector is marked + and -. Also note the LED leads, one is long the other is short. The long lead connects to +, the short lead connects to -.

Color Sorting

If you received clear LEDs in your kit, you must first identify which LED is which color before permanent soldering them to the Light Board. With the Light Board connected to the battery and powered place an LED into one of the LED connectors. Sort the LEDs with the green LEDs in one pile and the red LED in another pile.

Wiring Steps

  1. Using a soldering iron, solder all of the LEDs to wire pairs. Use the above picture for reference.
  2. Next, connect one of the wire pairs to its corresponding LED connector (see orientation note). After you have determined the correct orientation (it lights), solder it permanently into place.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the remaining LEDs.
  4. Use heat shrink tubing or electrical tape over any bare wires to keep leads separated and protected.

Presenting the Halo Energy Sword~!

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Full Sword Lit

I knew what I wanted to do was design a circuit that would be similar in function to the star wars sabers that fans build. That meant animated lights running the length of the twin blades, an accelerometer to gather motion data, and sound playback for startup and swing sounds.

What I ended up doing was designing a circuit around an ATMEGA32 controller chip.

Hit more info for details.

This is a summary page, additional notes are on the forum.

Original Project Page

Full Sword Lit


I knew what I wanted to do was design a circuit that would be similar in function to the star wars sabers that fans build. That meant animated lights running the length of the twin blades, an accelerometer to gather motion data, and sound playback for startup and swing sounds.

Full Sword NonLit

What I ended up doing was designing a circuit around an ATMEGA32 controller chip. The ATMEGA32 offered me everything I needed at the time, which was serial communication and analog in/out. There was also the benefit that I am familiar with this chip and know it’s documentation well.

Tech – Lights

The lights consist of 66 color changing blue/red LEDs. The lights are connected to the ATMEGA32 via 5 digital outputs and 2 analog outputs. Blade Corner Close up LitThe 5 digital outputs control the ignite and extinguish animations of the blue LEDs, while an analog output controls the red via PWM.
A unique wiring is used for the color changing LEDs. Bicolor LEDs have 3 leads, a common lead, then one for each color. The normal wiring method is to connect resisters to each color’s lead. I used a single resister on the common lead which makes it impossible to light both colors at the same time (forward voltages are different for each color). But by using the microcontroller’s PWM function, it is possible to make it perceived that both are lit at the same time. Playing with the frequency of the PWM on the red, I found the sweet spot where the red fades up and the blue fades down. This gave the appearance that both were lit at the same time for a purple glow.
LED blade constructionThe effect is set to fade in and out with a timing that matches the barely audible hum that the in game energy sword produces. On top of the fade effect, there is also a flicker effect that is controlled by the raw output of the analog accelerometer.
For a while I left the PWM on during sound playback, the blade had a neat “lock-on” effect that would turn the blade solid red during a swing. However, the PWM created an annoying feedback on the nearby audio amplifier. So now the sword is solid blue during a swing.

Magifier on Accelerometer

Tech – Motion

The motion chip is an ADXL203 dual axis accelerometer. At first I threw out the idea of an accelerometer because of the surface mount soldering that is required, but later found surface mount soldering by hand is attainable. There are some good tutorials on Sparkfun.
This accelerometer has an analog output (force = voltage level) and is connected to A2D inputs on the ATMEGA32. A programming loop monitors the input then if it detects sufficient motion, the program will fire up the sound subroutines. Motions that do not have sufficient motion for a swing are passed to the lighting functions. The raw data from the accelerometer is given directly to the PWM routines and added to the fade value. Since low motion analog data is susceptible to noise, this gives the appearance of the lights flickering in a truly random effect. This also gives the user the impression that they are in control of the flicker. Slowly waving the sword around gives a unique flicker effect.

VMUSIC2 connected to Controller circuit

Tech – Sound

The sounds were recorded from in game and saved as MP3s. Some work was done in an audio studio to clean up the sounds for playback. At the heart of my circuit is the Vinculum VMUSIC2 MP3 player. This sound module has come to be known to be the best sound effect solution for prop makers. It has a USB port to read a USB memory drive and a serial wire so it can be controlled by your own microcontroller. It can play both MP3 and WAV file types with full bit rate of the MP3.
The only down side of the VMUSIC module is the size. It measures 2.5″x1.5″ which could be considered small, but is difficult to fit into the handle of my prop.
I also considered writing my own playback program or using sound recording chips. Neither of them could compare with the playback audio quality that the VMUSIC module provides.

Tech – Amp

The audio amplifier was added as an afterthought and it shows in the design. This is one area that screams improvement needed.
The current solution is a AN7513 1W audio amp chip. This is a small IC that can directly power a small speaker.
The problem is an issue of both volume and sound distortion. The amp is capable of driving the speaker kinda loud, but at volumes louder than 50%, distortion becomes apparent. This limits the speaker volume to household venues.

As an alternative, I added a headphone jack to the design. An wearable small amplifier is connected for usage in noisier locations. Because the headphone output is directly from the MP3 player, it can reliably be amplified to very loud volumes.


To ensure the highest quality prop I teamed up with an individual named Sean Bradely. Sean is best known for featuring his previous halo energy sword that he built. His previous sword consisted of a molded handle, flat plexi blades, and glowing EL wire. It was regarded as the most accurate fan made prop energy sword in existence.
I had a mostly functioning circuit when Sean approached me. We decided that we were working toward the same goal and a partnership would allow us to use the best of both our talents to achieve an even more accurate prop.
He had been in the process of designing a new energy sword for quite some time. For the new sword he would have dimensional blades instead of being flat. In this cavity he planned to insert LED rails to maximize the light given off by the blade. My circuit would be perfect for him and his blade and handle molds would be perfect for me.

Sean's Vacuuformer in action

Vacuformer & Blades

One of the tools to create the dimensional blades was a vacuuformer machine. It was assembled by Sean for this and other projects. I won’t go into it much, but it is an amazing tool to form plastic. More info.

The blades were created on this machine around a wooden buck that Sean cut and sanded into the shape of the blade.

Handle close up assembled

The Handle

The handle is made from an impact resistance resin and was sculpted by Sean. It houses the circuits and has the structural support for attaching the blades.


Handle lighting. This was simply a matter of size and time constraints. We wanted to add lighting to the handle and I had designed pins on the circuit to control this lighting. The idea was that the lighting would be bicolor blue white LEDs wired similar to the way that the blue red LEDs were wired. A mix of LEDs directly on the surface and fiber optics for pinpoints of light. The circuit could even blink or fade the handle lights in a pattern to reflect the MP3 player status. Problem came down to fitting it inside the handle along with everything else tightly packed in there.

Buy a Pager MotorVibration Feedback. Add a pager vibrator motor inside the handle. The motor would be connected to the same PWM signal sent to the blade lights. This vibration would give the sword the missing “hum” effect. The PWM signal is sent in parallel from two controller pins to two driver pins, allowing the circuit to control two devices with the same signal.

Halo Energy Sword

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

If you read about that sort of thing, you may remember last fall Master Replicas announced a Halo Energy Sword that would feature similar functions as their ForceFX Lightsabers (powerup/down sounds, motion activated sound, animated lights). The promised release date was the holiday season 2008.
There is another company that makes realistic Halo toys, this is the same company that made a plasma pistol and plasma rifle that are superb. They also announced an energy sword in 2007 with a 2008 release.
Here we are in 2009 with no product from either company. I had to do some major digging to learn both these products were canceled and will never be released. Killed for either licensing or safety concerns.

Based on the demo videos released by Master Replicas, it seems possible for me to create my own prop with similar capabilities. Hit more info for details.

Update: August 2009 – See completed project details.

This project is fairly large for me and needs to be broken down.

Modeling and Plastic Molding

Most of the Halo models are freely available and have even been converted into a format that can be printed out. Ready to be cut, folded, and glued into a 3d shape. I plan to adapt this process to recreate the sword’s handle. So far, I have the blade handle shape created and I filled it with expanding insulated foam for strength (paper is not strong).

The next step is to cut this model in half and place on a vacuuform machine (which I don’t have). The resulting plastic shape will be glued or screwed together to create a hollow plastic handle (to house the electronics) that is durable and ready to be painted. There are plans available online for home vacuuform machines that can be built for less than $50 and use a shopvac.

Lights and Acrylic

I need to experiment with some scale arcylic pieces to determine the best method of lighting an acrylic blade, but the goal is to animate some LEDs that illuminate the blade so that the blade will appear to extend and retract.

Diffuser Options
The acrylic has a fiber optic like property when light shines near the edge, the light will bounce around inside of the arcylic until it finds an imperfection to illuminate. A diffuser is used to catch the light.

  1. Sanding the acrylic, will give the acrylic a frosted look.
  2. White adhesive laminate, this is best suited for a multi layered acrylic that is lighted internally

LED Placement Options

  1. A row of LEDs on the interior or exterior edge or both. The LEDs can be covered by a strip of black or white tape. May create “hot” spots along the edges.
  2. An array of LEDs sandwiched between acrylic on either side. Will use hundreds of LEDs and give the most even light.

Whatever I end up doing, the LEDs will be animated. I have a circuit in mind that will do the extend effect very nice, but I am also looking into a microcontroller (depends how the sound effects tests go). As far as I can tell, I will be the first hobbiest to attempt something like this for a Halo prop.

Sound Effects

Besides the lights, this is the most interesting part of the project and is fast becomming the most difficult. I have seen on various forums people harvasting the sound board from electronic sword toys and reusing them for this purpose. I was unable to find any local stores that sold appropriate electronic toy swords. I can find several online but refuse to buy anything before I use it in hand, so I know the light patterns and sounds it will make (don’t want my halo prop making pirate shouts, haR!).

My next option is compiling my own sound effects and playing them back in sequence. This is a lot easier said then done. The actual sounds can not be dumped from the game only recorded while it is running. The best quality sounds I have found are actually from that MR demo video. I plan to record this to some .wav files for the sounds they demonstrated.

As far as playing them back, that is an interesting request. I have a few options including MP3 players, voice chips, and microcontrollers. An MP3 player would be too slow and would have limited playback options, similar story with the voice chip. That is why I am leaning toward a microcontroller. A microcontroller could be loaded with converted wav files and play them back at a sample rate, it could also be used as a substitute for the light circuit and give access to more animation patterns.

The problem with using a microcontroller is more an issue of experience with sound playback. I’ve only done it once before on an 8085, which I don’t have. What I do have is a dev board left over from my college days for an ATMEGA32 chip. There is a great website available for enthusiests of the atmel microcontroller manufacturer and the free software suite, AVRstudio. The website is AVR Freaks and after doing some searching I found some free source for playback of converted wav files. The assembly source is for a different processor, but checking the spec sheets, they are not only compatible, but my chip offers more features and four times more flash memory (32kB vs 8kB for more sound clip storage).

To bad for me, before I left college I accidently erased my serial bootloader. So now I need an ISP programmer ($40). While I’m at it, I might as well also purchase some extra crystals and power transitors so I can build up a stripped down dev board for a prototype circuit. Here is an ordered list of the planned evolution of my program.

  1. Get the sample code working playing back the sample wav file
  2. Get the sample code to playback my own wav file
  3. Call the assembly sample code from a c coded main loop
  4. Playback two wav files back to back
  5. Playback a wav file in a loop
  6. Playback starts on button press, playback stops on button release
  7. Put it all together: Wait for button press, playback powerup sound, playback on sound in loop, wait for button release, playback powerdown sound, wait for button press.
  8. Add timer interrupt to control LED animations

Motion Sensors

I am not really sure, what I will do here. This is more of a future development. I have seen motion sensors before, they consist of a week spring surrounded by metal, movement causes the spring to contact the metal sides. I could use something like this and set an interrupt to triggure additional sound effects (swoosh, swish).

Some other options, tilt switches and accelerometers. I don’t think a tilt switch is what I am looking for, in the tilted position, the switch is always one.
The accelerometer has some technical hiccups. It will detect motion very nicely on all 3 axis and the cheaper models are sensitive to small motions (less than 3G). The problems come in that this is an analog device and to be cost effective, only is available in surface mount packages. The analog side can be handled by the sound microcontroller and the ADC inputs, but the surface mount… that will need some more thought.

Battery Format

Probably a 9V for now, may expand to a recharchable NiMH or an impossibly small lithium poly.

Current Progress

Current progress and project notes can be found on my forum.

Halloween Construction

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

With halloween 2 months away I figure it is time to start working on a costume. My brother asked me to help with his Ghostbuster costume and also gave me permission to copy him so we can go together. Check out our current progress in the Costumes & Props section of the forum.
Project Forum

Update: November 3, 2008: Project complete, costume contest won, details and pictures available.