Halloween 2018: Crab claws!

Do you need something to cheer you up? You got it:

Matt Cutts wears a crab-like Halloween costume

I should explain this costume a little bit. At the US Digital Service, we do a thing called “crab claws.” Crab claws is like visual applause–you pinch your fingers up and down to say “great job” or “congratulations” or “way to go.” We do it because actual applause would be annoying when there’s someone on the phone. The love for crabs goes deep at USDS.

So when I thought about what I wanted to be for Halloween, the answer was pretty simple. Lobster, crab–I wanted to share the crustacean love. One thing I love about the costume is that the shell has a hidden compartment. You could use the shell as a backpack for candy or goodies.

So no homemade costume this year, but I figured people would enjoy this:

Matt Cutts wears a crab-like Halloween costume more

Hope you had a good Halloween!

Halloween 2015: USB Drive

I went a little overboard for Halloween last year. And as you can tell from my the Halloween category on my blog, sometimes I get a little too excited about Halloween.

So this year I decided to go quick, easy, and lo-fi as a USB drive:

Matt Cutts USB drive

To make a thumb drive/USB key, I just took a cardboard box, spray painted it black, and glued on some gold-colored paper. Super simple and easy to do. Then I cut out a curve for my head.

I made the mask using digital plans I bought from wintercroft.com. Once I had the materials, it took me a couple hours and was lots of fun. It was like a super-simple version of this big head costume.

If you wanted easy freedom of movement, you could also just wear the USB part on your head:

Matt Cutts USB drive

Halloween Costume: The Scream

Okay, so you can project light onto a canvas to easily try out an idea. I decided to try one more Halloween costume: Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

I started by finding a high-resolution version of The Scream. Next I projected the painting onto a canvas:

The Scream

Then I took a pencil and traced the strokes of color in the painting. Afterwards, the canvas looked like a giant paint-by-numbers kit. Here’s one part of the traced results:

The Scream

The tracing was a little too detailed, as it turns out. If I were doing it again I wouldn’t be as meticulous. I bought an acrylic painting set at the local craft store and spent a couple hours over a couple days painting my version of the The Scream. Here it is side-by-side with the real thing:

The Scream

The idea behind this costume is to make the painting three-dimensional. So I cut up my painting so I could stick my head through it. Here’s what the quick-and-dirty test looked like:

The Scream

It looked about right! So now it was time for… drumroll… the face paint! My first instinct was to make my entire face green like The Hulk. But my wife was nice enough to apply the face paint so that it actually mirrored the paint strokes for the person in the painting. And that’s how you get a Halloween version of The Scream:

The Scream

We took a bunch of photos, so I’ll include an animated version too:

The Scream

Overall, I’m happy with how my 2014 Halloween costume ideas turned out. Other than The Scream, all the prototypes were quick and easy (under 15 minutes and under $15). A couple of the ideas were silly, but I had fun getting creative, painting a little bit, and tinkering with my projector.

Halloween Costume: The Shining

I already talked about using a projector to prototype a Halloween costume. One Halloween idea that worked out better than I expected was Jack Nicholson from The Shining. Remember the scene when Jack axes his way through a door, announcing “Here’s Johnny!”? It looked like this in the movie:

Jack Nicholson!

I started by letting some stubble grow out, and on the day I took the picture, I left my hair messy. I also ordered a plastic axe.

It turns out that this picture was perfect for a long canvas I had. I used Pixlr to edit Jack out. In a quick test, it looked like this:

Jack Nicholson!

That’s when I realized for a light projector, you want to edit out with white, not black. A little more work and I was quite happy with the results:

Jack Nicholson!

Let me tell you, it only got more creepy from there:

Jack Nicholson!

Oh, did I forget my axe? Let’s bring that into the scene:

Jack Nicholson!

I didn’t bother to paint or print out anything for the canvas, but overall, it was fun to play with a potential Shining costume for a little while:

Jack Nicholson!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Halloween Costume #2: “Hang in there” kitten poster

For Halloween this year I was thinking about famous works of art like Rene Magritte’s Son of Man or more popular works like the “Hang in There, Baby!” kitten.

I was also thinking about canvases. You can buy a cheap canvas at local craft stores for $10 or so. I was thinking: wouldn’t it be neat to paint a reproduction of a famous artwork, and then stick your head through a hole in the canvas? You could paint your face to match the painting, and voilĂ –there’s your costume!

You can find all kinds of great work where photographs look like paintings, and sticking my head through some great art sounded fun. For example, I just found this post with some people that had a similar idea.

And *then* I started to think about projectors. You can do some amazing things by projecting light–check out this crazy video for example. A projector can be a quick way to prototype an idea.

So I played around with different artwork. I’ll post a teaser today, with more to come in the next couple days. We already know that I can put on cat makeup, so I bought a stock photo of a kitten hanging from a rope. It looked like this:

Kitten Poster: Hang in There, Baby!

Ultimately, you’d either paint the kitten on the canvas or just print the picture out on a color printer and attach it to the canvas. For an added effect, you could have bits of rope sticking out from the canvas to match the photo.

When I projected it on a canvas, it looked like this:

Hang in There kitten projected onto Matt Cutts

Kind of disturbing, I know. Yes, I’m wearing some cat ears. But it was just prototyping an idea. In the end, I decided not to go with the “Hang in There” kitten. But as we’ll see, the projector came in very handy later.