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Michael Jackson Tribute Concert LED Clothing

By Unassigned Robot - Posted on 20 January 2010


This is the project page for the MJ tribute concert where we'll be making LED clothing for the dancers. Hopefully, we can document things as they go and keep them here for future reference.


Testing out LED string that we may use for clothing:

Testing out EL tape:

Testing LED matrix that we'll be attaching to clothing. We can control up to four of these with one controller:

Testing out the wireless communication to the matrix:

Official project kickoff on Sunday 1/10 and meeting with the choreographer at Tokyo Hackerspace

2010-01-10 Concert Project Kickoff

We had a meeting with the choreographer. Jacinta took meeting notes. This is how things are gonna go down:

Courtesy of JC:
Hey Guys, Just a brief recap
Submitted by nytrist on Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:12.

Hey Guys,
Just a brief recap from my notes of yesterday's meeting. Please let me know if you heard differently, add anything else.

* Lighting with be for Thriller encore.
* Not whole song, maybe 2 - 3 times during song.
* 15 dancers total
* 4 dancers from the States. Rest of dancers will be local dancers.
* Looking to light up 4- 6 dancers only.
* Each dancer has a different costume
* Production company will make final costumes
* Choreography will be similar to existing Thriller video
* No 'on the floor' dance movements. (no breakdancing or rolling around...we hope)
* Materials re-imbursed
* Costumes finalised by March 1

* important to talk with venue technicians (or production crew technicians to discuss RF bands they'll be using & possible fixed radio mounting on lighting trusses) early.
* stage lighting - need to ensure LEDs and lights aren't drowned out by stronger stage lights
* need to consider wireless dead spots on stage,
* need to consider best band - 2.4 GHz (are they using all 16 channels? Is connection solid?)
* what it looks like from a distance
* Someone will have to be trained up or go on tour to troubleshoot.
* Set clear expectations, and deliverables. Clarify benefit to THS. Materials, development open source etc.

Costume Discussion
* Simple but effective - wow factor.
* LEDs upper body, arms. Not legs.
* shredded clothing - LED on ends
* suits
* maybe masks - light up eyes
* gloves
* best to light up extremities - exaggerated movement
* battery pack lower back

Next steps:
1. Prototype design
* Akiba and others, are you available from 12.30pm Tues 12th to work on some protoype ideas?
[Akiba] Yes, I'll be going to the hackerspace with materials. Prob stop by Akihabara to pick up some stuff first. 12:30 is cool. Wife is taking care of the dog so I can stay all the way through until the hackerspace meeting.

2. Meeting with Frank
* Akiba, is Frank able to meet on Wed 13th - does evening suit people?
[Akiba] Need to check with him. I'll send him an email to see what his schedule is like for this week.[/Akiba]

3. Need list of venues. Need to get appropriate contact within production company.

If we can have the protoypes confirmed by Jan 31st (2 weeks away), that gives us a month to back and fro with the production company. How does that sound?



Project meeting tomorrow to start working on first prototype. Here's some relevant links and pics:

EL costume I found on internet

Another one I found on internet

EL Instructable:

Costumes for a ballet performance using EL

Nice headless effect using EL costume:

We decided to go all EL for the costumes and ordered EL wire and tape. We're going to be meeting up some time this weekend to put together prototypes using this.

First shipment of EL wire came in from local Japanese supplier. Its 1000 yen per 1.5m (~5 ft). Link to the supplier is here:

Here's a shot of it:

Lem just posted a link to an Instructable about making an EL costume. It looks like its going to be helpful:

Saw this on the Instructable and decided to put it up here. Its a tutorial on how to cut EL wire and maintain the electrodes:

Email to the participants:
Hi guys.

Just and update.

First of all, thanks to everyone that helped out on Tuesday. We actually got a lot done. We fixed the design materials and concept, ruled out LEDs for now, figured out limitations of EL tape, and figured out that EL wire would be more effective. Since the scope is now smaller, we can concentrate on more of the design details. Also wanted to let everyone know that the 2nd shipment of EL wire came in. We have a fairly decent amount right now that should be able to get us a prototype. For those coming on Sunday for this project, the rough agenda will be:

- Discuss design ideas we currently have w/Frank

Ø Bruce has some good ideas for emulating EL bones
Ø JC/Bruce w/skulls
Ø Frank has some ideas on masks/face illumination
Ø Akiba has no ideas

- Prototype patterns with yarn and tape on jackets.

Ø We need to get a sense of lengths that we’ll be needing and what types of patterns will be effective
Ø For those that haven’t seen the instructable Lem posted yesterday, should really check it out. We should emulate her approach to the design:

- Once we have yarn model working, start replacing w/EL wire

Ø No cutting wire yet, since this will prob not be a final prototype.
Ø If we get far enough, we can do initial stitching of the EL wire.

- Regarding electronics, I’m planning to start on the designs next week:

Ø 2nd prototype will just use 12V power from DC adapter. I’m going to make a breakout with lots of pins so that we can connect all the inverters on one board.
Ø I’ve located a source of 12V batteries from Akihabara in AA form factor. We’ll probably be using those. They’re non-rechargeable alkalines so we might have temp battery packs using massive amounts of NiMHs for testing.
Ø I’m designing a special board for the wireless comms. I’m going to fit it into a generic enclosure from Akihabara. The board will also prob have sink drivers to switch power on and off on each of the EL inverters.

Current electronics inventory of things that need to be designed (will go on the batman utility belt):

² Wireless comms board w/microcontroller, radio, transistor switches
² Inverter board – just board to hold inverters and enclose them.
² Battery packs
² Need to decide on cabling connector
² Need to figure out how many cabling busses we’ll be running through the costume

There’s probably more, but that’s what I can think of right now.

Meeting notes from the project's heroine, JC (aka nytrist):

Meeting notes from Jan 17th
Hi guys.
Notes from meeting on 17th Jan

Decided to present 3 basic concepts

1. Classic Zombie
- jacket

2. Bones / Skeleton
- pants

3. Scarface / Extremities
- skull, neck, wrist, hands, feet

Further ideas
veins and brains

Deliverables by 27th Jan
- Classic Zombie jacket
- Bone pants

Both with on / off. Electronics

- skulls / extremities


Tuesday 19th
1. Design and cabling day for jacket
Lang, Jacinta, Frank, Bruce, Akiba

2. Circuit boards x 2 - Tuesday 19th
on / off switches

Sunday 24th
Bone pants

Tuesday 26th
Prototype testing

Wednesday 27th
Record prototype video
Studio in Harajuku

Basic testing of EL switching electronics circuit. Seems like it works:

The mess behind the magic:

2010-01-19 Tokyo hackerspace meeting

JC, Lang put up first prototype of zombie costume. Everyone in hackerspace was impressed, and it didn't even blink. The idea is to use this for zombie costume and switch the different colors on and off to the music.

Terri posted a video of the prototype jacket designers (JC, Lang) discussing the design:

Here's a video of Michael Jackson's actual costume designer discussing the "This is It" costumes. The illuminated costumes were planned in the same manner as we're doing, but I assume his budget was much higher...


Had a meeting at the hackerspace today and the design team showed the latest update on the MJ costume. Bruce was using simple flashers on the pants he designed, but even that looks pretty impressive. For the final costumes, we'll be working with costume designers and we'll just be mounting EL.
Bruce, JC, and Lang have been working really hard on getting everything going. Tomorrow, we're going to be going to the dance studio and filming a short video for the concert production company.

I told the group that there won't be time to cable up the clothing. Cabling looks to be a major issue. I'll be researching different mated, locking connectors to handle things. We might need to design custom inverters, but worried about safety.

In particular, take a look at Daft Punk. They have been the only group doing this before-hand. Their look is future/sci-fi, but you can get an idea for how LED/EL reads on stage.

in fact, I think that final image you posted *IS* Daft-Punk, or at least, Daft Punk inspired.

thanks to JC and Akiba for all the blood, sweat and toil (and blood) put into this yesterday. As I said, I will search Nippori for some sheer black fabric to cover the wires with.
I understand that Akiba will work on the wireless interface so we can have four momentary touch key triggers, with two circuits each (left and right side same color)
We should try to get together sometime early next week to solder and sow things more securely, including making a cats eye ski mask

Thinking about how it looks, I think this version is good fro proof of concept, but the final design should have a color scheme that reads "blood vessels" a bit better. I was thinking that twining the orange and purple strands together and them doing a three step chase from inner to outer might make each strand brighter and keep the color palette more "blood-like"

I think there needs to be a BIGGER THANKS to you Lang for getting to the 'Heart' of the idea (ok, bad pun!) and getting the first red wires in place! Awesome stuff!

Completely agree about the color scheme reading more 'blood'. Early next week is fine for me. If anyone's interested in dropping in to check it out, or help, we'll post here when we'll be in next.


This page is getting rather large.
Would you all mind if I converted it to a book?
Then you can post individual pages an each aspect of the design, and they would appear in a book index on the first page.

When you post new work, you just need to remember to select the MJ book in the "Book outline" section when posting content.

be my guest. I have no idea how a book works so if it can help organize things better, then go for it.

Tuesday (7:30 PM)
Open House Meeting
水曜日 (7:30 PM)
日本語 Meeting

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