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Unread 05-08-2012, 02:34 AM   #1
Amanita
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Should groups compete against single entries?

So we've been discussing the costume contest on our local con's facebook page. And it came up that there generally isn't a group category, they only added one last year because they had a lot of groups.
Normally, groups would compete against single cosplayers.

I have to admit, I am not sure how I feel about this- I worry that such a thing might result in singles getting hosed. What's one cool costume compared to a group of several?
I noticed at the costume contest a couple of years back, things really seemed to favor couples.

I feel a little frustrated at the whole "groups vs singles" thing- I'm a single all the way. One, none of my friends is able to cosplay with me. One is often away due to his job. Two others don't have the budget to do costumes comparable to mine, another lives too far away, and another is severely restricted- in addition to being unable to wear makeup, she has a long list of things she just won't wear. Also, I do original characters- the friend who lives too far away is the only one who might join me for that. So I feel that I'm at an inherent disadvantage against group entries, like no matter how good my costume is, it's going to get beat by the "oh cool!" factor of a large group or cute matched couple.
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Unread 05-08-2012, 12:38 PM   #2
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I'm surprised nobody's chimed in yet- Do you think groups should compete directly against solo entries, or be in a category of their own?
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Unread 05-08-2012, 01:46 PM   #3
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I think groups should be in a category of their own. Having one person's skills go up against an entire group is really unfair imo (though I do believe one costume out of the entire group's is usually picked out for craftsmanship judging?).
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Unread 05-08-2012, 07:02 PM   #4
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One thing I've learned from judging is that when there is a group, there will always be one cosplayer that pulls everyone up, and one that pulls them down. It can be equally as difficult to be in a group cosplay versus going solo.

Just because you're in a group doesn't mean you have the advantage. Everyone is judged for the work they put into their costumes. Single contestants have won over groups, and vice-versa. While I do think in fairness that there should be a "group category" they shouldn't be excluded from the rest of the event. There are no "cool" points for being in a group. Judges take it seriously and grade everyone on the work; not if they have another buddy to cosplay with.

Take it as an opportunity to challenge yourself. If you know that there are going to be more groups, come up with a costume that will be a knockout. Try new techniques, use different materials, make stuff light up, etc. Harness that energy into something great.
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Unread 05-08-2012, 07:05 PM   #5
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I am not a fan of separating groups out. For several reasons, mostly having to do with fairness. It is actually less fair to separate groups, because you don't know and can't tell that everyone in the group contributed a completely equal quantity and quality of work to the overall entry. I've judged plenty of groups where one person did most or all of the work. And, in fact, what happens when multiple people are working on costumes for a group is that the work is NOT done equally, and the most talented person in the group can be dragged down by the least talented.

You take a huge chance by putting together a group, anything larger than a pair. The more people in your group, the more variables there are for completing the costumes to the same standard. Either the laziest, worst person in the group drags the entire group down with them, or the best person in the group mentors the rest and pulls them up - but the chance factor is much greater. People in groups either have to trust and rely on each other to all finish their costumes in time, and with the same quality, so that when you go in for craftsmanship you don't end up with the judges thinking "well, that one was really awesome, but the other two with her weren't as good."

This isn't an argument for separating groups, though. If people think singles have a disadvantage because they can't come up with a dynamic group skit, well, that is balanced out by the group disadvantage of uneven craftsmanship. There are just so many variables that I don't think it's fair at all to either singles OR groups to separate them - they should be allowed to compete against each other and take their chances, let the chips fall where they may.

The ONLY division I ever advocate is skill divisions, so the complete newbs aren't going directly up against professionals. But even then, the Master category is actually an open category. ANYONE can compete at Master, even if they've never been in a masquerade before. It's their choice. I don't want to limit people's possibilities for awards. The only award everyone has an equal chance at winning is Best in Show. And I really don't think it's fair to groups to give them "best group" as an also-ran, a sort of "well you weren't good enough to get any other awards, but we have this best group category, so here you go." I hate getting pity awards to fill a category, and I hate giving them.

Never mind the logistical nightmare of trying to score groups and solos separately and yet still have a Best in Class. It's just asking for mistakes and butthurt. I would much rather streamline the process: best in all classes, and best in show, and everything after that is at the whim of the judges for honorable mentions. It's fairest to all competitors no matter how many people are on stage or how good they are at making their costumes or performing.
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Unread 05-08-2012, 07:41 PM   #6
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I can't help but wonder if there COULD be an equalizer in all of that. I've never had the opportunity to judge but I would imagine the judge's sheets are divided in to sections where the costume is given a score isn't it? For example:

Craftmanship: (How well it's put together)
Materials Choice: (fabrics and other materials chosen)
Execution: (functionality, movement, practicality)
Accuracy: (How close to the images)
Reference images: (How well they give a clear idea of the costume)

So it seems to me the best way to deal with that would be to judge each of them separately but consecutively, and then paperclip their sheets together. After the pre-judging, the judges take the scores in each category and average them to come up with the over all group score in each field.
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Unread 05-08-2012, 09:24 PM   #7
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I think this year's con will be a little more fair- they're doing actual pre-judging this year, and I plan to do some pretty nice things, that will be best appreciated by up-close scrutiny. Leatherwork with intricate hand tooling, beautiful fabrics (one piece having been brought back from NYC!), and if I can pull it off, I plan to build my own psionic blade, using the same technology as advanced prop lightsaber builds. Mind you, I'll have to bring pics taken during the hilt-building process, as most of the truly difficult work will end up hidden inside the handle. (Most prop builds, if you screw something up, you're out a few dollars in materials- if I screw up, I risk killing a $100+ sound/driver board) And let's not forget the headdress. I dunno if it will light up, but I really need to start working on my sculpting skills!

In contests with pre-judging, workmanship like that counts for a lot. But in contests without it, it's easy for the judges to be swayed by "Oh cool, a group" or "Oh, what a cute couple"
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Unread 05-11-2012, 12:26 AM   #8
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Though it definitely depends on where you enter, I'm not sure you're giving judges enough credit. I've competed solo, in pairs, in small groups, and in large groups. Each one comes with particular advantages and particular challenges. For example, when competing solo, it's much easier to present a costume to the judges, and I feel they get a better idea of the work that went into it. Large groups look impressive onstage. Small groups and pairs are a nice middle ground between the two, and probably my favorite place to work.

But with groups, there is a lot of wrangling involved with keeping everyone on the same page, and the smaller the group, the bigger an effect it has when one of them struggles or wavers. Choreographing large groups is an insane challenge, both when it comes to getting the costumes done and making everyone look good onstage.

I think there are times where being part of a big group gives you an advantage, but rather than feel bitter about it or go looking for injustice, try to appreciate the extra work involved to make something like that happen. I know that despite some of the advantages, I'd like to avoid doing a group larger than three people anytime soon, because it's just so much extra work to coordinate costumes and rehearsing.
Just like it's a little difficult to directly compare armor to embroidery, comparing groups to single entries directly isn't exactly possible. But judges are capable of weighing the overall results and coming up with fair verdicts.
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Unread 05-11-2012, 11:08 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ali View Post
I think there are times where being part of a big group gives you an advantage, but rather than feel bitter about it or go looking for injustice, try to appreciate the extra work involved to make something like that happen.
Unfortunately it's hard to just "be happy for others and appreciate" when I am pretty much barred from ever partaking, myself. I would love to get a group together, I'm not some misanthrope who hates working with others. Unfortunately group cosplay isn't an option for me. Most of my closest friends have very little money, and let's face it- really good costumes are seldom cheap to put together. Another friend is active military- he's not often available. And on top of that, he can be a bit mercurial- one minute he's thinking it would be cool to do something at a convention, the next he doesn't want to, saying it's silly. Another friend has skin issues and can't wear cosmetics of ANY kind, so that rules non-human characters right out, as well as a lot of human ones. She's also extremely picky, and has a very long list of things she won't wear, for all manner of reasons. "I won't wear a long skirt- I'll trip..I don't want to wear that belt with pouches, I hate anything around my stomach.."

Also, I don't cosplay from flavor-of-the-month popular series or whatever, which means I can't recruit others- I don't have a large group of people in the same fandom as me, who also want to group up. I have some group ideas that would look awesome on a stage, unfortunately finding people to help me is a challenge, to say the least.

When it comes to losing a contest, I don't mind losing to somebody for an honest reason- their outfit was better constructed, more technically challenging, whatever. Because that's something I can improve on. I can come up with a more detailed costume, I can improve my techniques, it's something to work towards.

I DO mind losing when the reason is something silly- somebody else got more applause for virtually stripping on stage (why I don't do halloween contests), or the judges are wowed by multiple entries because a group looks cool, even if their workmanship isn't as good, and the quality of their costumes isn't quite up to snuff compared to some of the single entries.

I am really glad that the contest at the con I plan to attend this year is going to have an honest to goodness pre-judging, where workmanship will (hopefully) count for more than "Oh look, a group!"

(I should add that I don't hate groups, I just think that singles shouldn't be overlooked or dismissed, because of some perceived notion that groups are better/cooler/whatever)

Last edited by Amanita : 05-11-2012 at 11:10 AM.
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Unread 05-11-2012, 11:13 AM   #10
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I think it's fair. Groups can HINDER winning just as much as they can help. For most conventions, if you're entering as a group you need to enter in the class of the highest classified person in the group. If you're a novice entering a group with a bunch of masters YOU have to be judged at the master level. This could screw over your group entirely if your craftsmanship isn't as good as everyone else's. Groups could also be way more stressful because you could have one person who does all the work.

At Shuto Con our best in show was a group, but the girl who made the costumes made ALL of them. She not only made herself a quad suit, but she tailored military style uniforms with satin stitching on all the appliqued details. She certainly earned it.
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Unread 05-11-2012, 12:08 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by CapsuleCorp View Post
You take a huge chance by putting together a group, anything larger than a pair. The more people in your group, the more variables there are for completing the costumes to the same standard. Either the laziest, worst person in the group drags the entire group down with them, or the best person in the group mentors the rest and pulls them up - but the chance factor is much greater. People in groups either have to trust and rely on each other to all finish their costumes in time, and with the same quality, so that when you go in for craftsmanship you don't end up with the judges thinking "well, that one was really awesome, but the other two with her weren't as good."
This right here. In a group, there is a BIG struggle to make sure everything is done at the same level. When I used to compete in groups, our solution to this was to break down and designate tasks based on the strengths of the individuals (example: One person did most of the pattern alteration, one person did all the detail stitches and fasteners, one person made all the jewelry, one person did all the bias taping, etc). General tasks were shared by all (pinning, cutting, ironing, etc). However, this method DID have some major flaws. While everything was done at the same level, the work burden was often unevenly distributed. (Thankfully, we lucked out and didn't have anyone who was lazy, but in ANY group, it sucks dealing with someone who isn't willing to pull their weight, and there's always a chance it will happen.)

There were DEFINITELY times I found myself thinking it would be easier to make one really crazy-awesome costume than 6 really good costumes. Although I have not done any competition in quite a long time, I have still made costumes, and I can say it is a lot easier to make one than it is to make six, even with my skill deficit in some areas; it is MUCH easier to coordinate and organize materials, time, and space for just ONE costume. If I was still competing, I would also have the time I would have spent doing work on six separate projects to really concentrate on one and make it something awesome. I definitely think a BIG disadvantage groups have over solos is the need to coordinate. Sometimes more time and energy (and stress!) can be spent on the coordination over the costumes themselves!

I also think solo entries might possibly have an advantage when speaking with the judges. I'd imagine they have more time to talk about their costume, whereas in a big group you have a lot of material to cover in those 5 to 10 minutes. Our groups (especially the group of 10 I was in once) had to be REALLY choosy about what we would discuss in judging due to time constraints. We had to hope the judges had enough time to thoroughly look and ask all their questions. I have no doubt they always do what they can, but we're all only human and having to thoroughly look at a big group in a small amount of time critically can be a bit of an undertaking.

Does a big group LOOK more impressive on a stage or in a photo? Potentially, just because sheer numbers can be impressive, but I don't think judges would be easily swayed by that. Fifteen poorly made costumes are still fifteen poorly made costumes, and fifteen awesome costumes are still fifteen awesome costumes. If the judges look at a group and say "Wow, fifteen people all dressed up from Sailor Moon - instawin!" then I really don't think they should be judging anyway.

I don't think groups and solo entries need to be separated. They each have their own pros and cons where I think they're pretty balanced.
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Unread 05-11-2012, 07:34 PM   #12
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Just like it's a little difficult to directly compare armor to embroidery, comparing groups to single entries directly isn't exactly possible. But judges are capable of weighing the overall results and coming up with fair verdicts.
This is so much more concise than I could have said.

Unless you want to start separating EVERYTHING, which is a logistical nightmare for judges and directors, there comes a time when you have to realize that a lot of what happens at a masquerade is the luck of the day. It could be one of those cons where everybody who shows up, from Novice to Master, has brought their A game, and after the awards are handed out you're just looking for a scapegoat to explain why you didn't win. Shoving people into a million categories only adds to the potential for butthurt. As a judge I am capable of weighing the talent and execution of all craft and sewing methods equally, so why should either groups or singles be separate out as though they did something unique and unheard-of? They haven't. They all use the same techniques, even build the same costumes sometimes. Separating them all by genre, by size of entry, or by type of performance just creates more categories of less awesome awards, almost to the point of giving everyone an award as Participant just for showing up.

I've won "best anime" at a sci-fi con twice now. You know what? I hate it. I hate it because it feels like the judges shunted me and the other Japanese-media costumes over to the side and didn't want to consider us on the same even playing field as the other people in our skill divisions. I wanted to be judged as a Master, not as an anime costume. I can imagine groups versus singles would feel the same way. More often than not, what happens is, the groups get shafted on awards because they really only qualify for "best group." I'd never want to do that to somebody. I want them to have the same chance as everyone else and let it come down to their actual craftsmanship and performance skills, and not the size of their group or the type of costume they're wearing.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 02:51 PM   #13
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First of all, perhaps my post yesterday came across as harsh- I was kind of in a frustrated mood in general when I wrote it, and Ali's post perhaps came across the wrong way when viewed through that lens.

And it's funny how things can change in 24 hours- I was hanging out with a friend, when another person I know came up to us- he's seen my artwork before and thinks my skyscraper personifications are very cool. The conversation ended with us agreeing to do a group piece for next year's con- we're most likely going to be New York's XYZ buildings. It totally works- since we're all different heights, we can reproduce the stairstep effect of the actual three buildings. (They step down in height- from tallest to shortest)

We discussed design ideas, and decided that whatever form the costumes take, we're adapting the Jedi/Klingon warrior style philosophy- while most Jedi or Klingon's outfits follow a distinct silhouette or pattern, there's also a decent bit of variation and room for individual touches. Therefore, we're going to come up with a sort of "uniform" for the three of us, which while maintaining a cohesive look, also allows for variation- perhaps us females wear divided skirt/hakama type garments while our male member wears regular pants. Or there's some variation in sleeve designs- somebody wears flowing bell sleeves, while another wears theirs cut off short, the better to show off gauntlets or bracers.

I know I'll probably end up doing a lot of the work, and instructing the other two in basic leatherwork- I may do the work of drafting or altering belt pouch patterns, cutting the pieces out and doing the decorative tooling, as I'm the only one with the proper tools. But I can certainly teach the other two how to do dyework and assembly, which require only basic implements. I'm not sure if my partners are going to borrow props from my collection, or if they will want to keep their own afterward, in which case we'll buy and/or build what we need. And if we end up building basic glow-swords (psionic blades), I might aim to have us all get together, and have my partners try some of the soldering work- if they've never done it before, they can tell the judges they learned a new skill working on their props.
I think the key to pulling this off will be three-fold- maintaining interest, communication, and co-operation. But if it turns out, it's going to be pretty freaking cool.
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