Movie Magic: Costume Design

The Challenge: create the look for a character that embodies the essence of a mysterious and abstract main character.
Practical Effects in Costume Design: A Case Study

One of the things we love about video production is the countless opportunities to create new things. From props to sets to costumes, it’s always an adventure starting from scratch and making something we’re proud of.

The Challenge | Create the look for a character that embodies the essence of a mysterious and abstract main character. We were immediately drawn towards the sci-fi and fantasy stereotypical looks best exemplified by classics like Star Wars, Tron, or Iron Man. These looks easily convey mysterious and powerful characters through similar costume and setting details.

Practical Needs | We knew our filming set would have a dark, ominous, and industrial feel. The main character would be backlit in an open space and need to command attention immediately. Since our setting would purposefully lack lighting, we knew we couldn’t simply backlight a dark, unmarked cape for fear that our character would end up looking like the Grim Reaper. Additional illumination as part of the costume became an essential part of the look for practical filming needs as well as to bring a futuristic twist to the character.  

At that point, we have a rough idea of our costume: Dark Jedi Robe + Tron & Iron Man Lighting.

Starting with the cloak as the core of the look, we carefully compared fabrics to select the best material to translate to film. The final material was heavy and slightly velvety to help it lay correctly, and keep backlit lighting from filtering through.

To add the futuristic element, we used Electroluminescent lighting (EL) to add a practical glowing effect underneath of the heaviness of the cloak. EL glows a bit less bright as typical LED’s which helped keep the main character lit but not overpoweringly bright.

Including practical effects in costumes really helps add to the value of the project. While graphics and digital effects are awesome, you can’t fake what’s not really there. We’ve found the best results are when the physical aspects of costumes, sets, and props are combined with graphics and digital effects. Only using practical effects doesn’t allow for some of the magic and effects digital effect can create, while using graphics exclusively removes the essence of reality that is necessary for a story to be believable. A combination of the two offers the perfect balance to any story.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on costume design or video production, drop us a line at

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