How we made the HEV suit
Ok this was my process. I don’t necessarily believe that this was the bast way to do it. It changed as the project progressed.
I read online a lot about how people had made cardboard versions of the HEV suit that they had then applied a material like bondo or fiberglass to it and then painted it. This was my first approach as I had had some small amount of experience using fiberglass and resin.
It’s not what I ended up doing but there are a lot of helpful people there. Here’s a link to a forum post.
Then I met a guy called Steve Wang (lucky me) and he suggested I use this type of foam called L200. So there was a place in the valley called Atlas Foam and they supply it for around $30 for a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet. He said to take the cardboard version and then use that as sort of a template to cut out the foam version. I only planed to make one suit and foam seemed logical for wear and tear.
This was the path I eventually took.
I downloaded these files that a few guys online had pulled from the half life game, (currently here) and opened them with a program called Pepakura which allowed me to print the HEV suit out onto pieces of letter sized card with my inkjet printer.
Once I had those I took a sharp knife like an Exacto or surgical blade and began the laborious task of cutting and scoring the pieces. I used ZAP A Gap to stick it all together.
After that I took a sharpy and drew lines on the paper model, sort of large obvious sections where I was going to cut it with scissors, so that I could place it on the L200 foam and cut around it.
I cut out the foam with (many) box cutter blades, i tried other stuff, even a hot wire but none worked. I stuck the foam suit together with ZAP A Gap super glue a bit at a time. This was sort of a trial and error part of the process. I would make changes as we went along sizing up the pieces as Bernhard tried them on.
I heavily modified the feet and ankles and a bit on the bracers but the chest piece was very close to the original.
I used water based caulk and a wet finger to smooth in the cracks.
I inserted a wire coat hanger into the belt piece so it held its shape.
Once the foam was all cut I moved onto painting the base coat. Spray paint seemed the logical choice and Steve Wang (I know) gave me some suggestions. He also suggested spraying everything with this stuff called Plastidip. That is a must. It makes the foam non porous while maintaining flexibility, which it key if you want it to look like metal.
Here’s a video of the spraying process.
We used several colours in light coats to get the desired effect. It worked ok but in hind sight we might have been able to go so a specialist paint store and have them custom mix a few spray colors. Anyway it worked. For the silver we used a Rustoleum hammered metallic spray paint for plastics. Actually pretty much all of them were for plastics and matte/flat.
Next came the hand painting part. You can use acrylics to paint the detail. My only experience was painting Warhammer citadel miniatures as a kid but most of the same practices applied.
I also used a combination of gloss and matte clear coat varnish as a top coat to get metal sheen. This is the same stuff painters use to varnish their paintings to protect them as sort of a final coat. You can get it from paint or craft stores. Liquitex Gloss Finish or something like that.
I bought a bunch of different sized brushes and a starter kit of acrylic paints for the details and then just sat and painted. Lots of experimentation. It had been a while. I used sponges for the washes and just patted watered down paint to age the suit. Black, blue and green on the silver and browns and blacks on the orange.
I printed many of the pictures on the web of the Valve artwork of Freeman and used that as reference.
For the ring of lights on Freemans back I made a custom ring os lights using a roll of sticky back LED lights, a dimmer and a 9volt battery. All of which can be bought from Amazon for cheap. I cut the top of a CD-R spindle as it was nice an round and clear. I cut little holes in it and plasti dipped it and painted it black. There was not a specific instruction to follow on this one either. It was ad hoc and custom. I wish I had more pictures. I also went a bit off the HEV suit design here to for hell of it.
I built the dimmer into the center of the light ring so it could be easily turned up or down on set.
Here are the basic items for the light ring.
For the gloves I ordered some foam padded tactical gloves and then dry brushed them with silver acrylic paint to make them l0ok worn.
For the red foam inserts I ordered a single cheap memory Foam Mattress Topper from Amazon and cut it with a sharp kitchen knife. I got the red fabric from a costume designer friend of mine who got it somewhere at the fabric district in downtown LA. I wrapped it and hot glued the fabric to the foam. He also created the under suit but in lieu of that type of awesome hookup you can order one of those 1 piece cotton or modal suits online. I used Sticky-Back Velcro on the foam inserts which I also ZAP A Gapped onto the suit. That way he could get in and out of it and we put the inserts in after.
I think if I was to do it again I would cut the chest piece in half and use magnets or clips or something. I had Bernhard slipping it on and off and that was not easy.