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Unread 02-27-2013, 11:00 PM   #1
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Electronics in judging

It was generally brought to my attention at Con-G 2013 last weekend, that workmanship judges in masquerades really don't seem to pay any attention to use of electronics, especially intricate ones. I was cosplaying Quorra, and a HUGE part of my costume was the electronics in it. I explained how I'd lit the costume up, what materials, etc. but when I offered my reference image and offered to take my disk dock off and show them the circuitboards and switches that made it all run and the additions beyond "Light, battery, wires" that were worked in (things like a brightness-adjusting knob for different light levels, an arduino to get the RGB lights to the right shade, etc.), I got a "That's okay" shrug, and the judges mainly just focused on the sewn aspects of the costume (I'll admit my sewing on it wasn't what I'd call fantastic work) and some interest in the actual lit portions, which I couldn't fully show due to having diffusing strips sewn overtop.
I felt a bit unfairly judged in that aspect, that they didn't really pay any attention to the most important parts of my costume. I'm guessing it was for any number of reasons (No idea about electronics, no time, etc.), but I cant help but feel I'm not alone in that respect for any cosplayers who've worked intricate electronics into their costume and would like that skill judged in workmanship beyond "Oh cool, it lights up and you made it yourself", especially with them becoming ever more prevalent. Any opinions/advice/experiences yourself on this?
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Originally Posted by Moofingham View Post
There's a vibe here that says "We're in this together!Through thick and thin fabric! Through cold water washes and burning hot irons! Though we might super glue ourselves to our projects, cut holes/gashes/oh-god-mom's-gonna-kill-me into the dining room table, we will stand strong together. Unless there is a 75% off sale at the Fabric store. Then you're on your own. And get the hell out of my way."<3

Last edited by ShinobiXikyu : 02-28-2013 at 01:06 AM.
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Unread 02-28-2013, 10:01 AM   #2
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First of, I don't think that anyone entering a competition should go in with the expectation of winning something for "This cool / intricate piece", you should be entering for fun and because you enjoy it. Otherwise it can becomes a total let down. (Been there and done that myself, but I've changed my attitude and have had a lot more fun for it!)

I've constructed LEDs into garments before but never for competition sake, but I do know that there are times when I feel that something I was really proud of got looked over. What you have to do is really show the Judges the work in a way that is enthusiastic but on a level they can understand. The judges were likely sewing people and not electronics people so their expertise was in your construction, how the seams were, how well the wires were integrated, are they hidden or can you see the cords? If you are seeking an award at a masquerade remember that at it's core you are entering a costume contest. Clean up the construction that supports your electronics, if they are both at the same level you may find more success.

EDIT: Forgot to list things I felt were overlooked in the past! I finish the insides and outsides of my costumes but sometimes I forget to point it out or it goes unnoticed. This is especially true if I make something on the more simple side, it will have clean, crisp construction but it's of simple design so it never compares to the larger more decorative costumes. Also! Another note I have is that if you are in Novice it's really difficult competition! If you are confident in your skills I suggest you go to Journeyman right away, I felt a lot of my unnoticed details occurred when I was in novice.
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Last edited by Merino : 02-28-2013 at 10:41 AM.
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Unread 02-28-2013, 11:35 AM   #3
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*please note I'm replying from ME as a fellow costumer as I had nothing to do with the masq aside from fixing the green room feed that went down at one point*

I've always felt that you can only use "gimmicks" to really make an amazing costume stand out and POP. Gimmicks being LED wire, lights, move-able parts in large mascots, fully functioning props etc. You need the whole package to get workmanship (and seeing as we tend to get AN judges to judge our masq they have very high expectations). My quadsuit had led horns that flashed to make pretend lightning - and while I was being judged in workmanship (which I did receive best in show for workmanship), that was very secondary to the other construction aspects of my costume - it was just the cherry on top because they were well done and no wires could be seen and the all the mechanisms to turn the lights on and off were internal so they couldn't see me do it. (obviously not going to work as well if you're just a person shape but you know what I mean hopefully )

Gimmicks like that - at least from my personal stand point have worked better to score points in presentations. When I had the mouth lip synching to the music and using the lights it helped my performance on stage - which was a very glorified walk on but I still got a best in journeyman for performance. But I made sure I didn't look nervous or move to quickly on stage.

And then there is the whole other aspect to going into the masquerade - the crowd. Are you entering to win awards or to have fun and get a cheer out of the crowd. There are definitely fan favourites in every masquerade and A LOT of them are not "good enough to get awards costumes or skits".

And there is the other side too - which we've been seeing at AN in the novice divisions. A costume that wins award one year may not have won anything another year as there may have been something better, and visa versa - a costume didn't win an award even when it was AWESOME, but that was because there were soo many other "better" costumes it was against.

My husband was like OMG when he saw someone doing a Tron cosplay and chatted about it quite a bit in the evening and when we re-watched the masquerade. I thought your walk on was pretty good - you did look like you were quite nervous because you had a lot of jerky movements (which you probably were because your lighting wasn't quite working - )

But good job and yes please enter again at AN Hopefully someone else who has actually judged can pipe in (sewing is not my strong point either but I haven't actually won anything at Master level yet)
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Unread 02-28-2013, 11:48 AM   #4
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Thanks! Yeah, my walkon was kind of a disaster (a combination of panic from a broken-at-last-minute circuit and not having practiced as much as I'd have liked means I basically forgot to end it as planned), I sure as heck wasn't expecting any stage awards of any kind :P. My point wasn't so much along the lines of stage presentation, though, more like "I don't feel like enough judges give workmanship points/fair attention to electronics/major props." Since it was the majority of what made my cosplay my cosplay, not just an extra, I felt like I only got half my costume looked at when the focus was almost solely on my sewing. (Also, yes, numerous improvements are being done for AN! Especially those infernal armpieces.)
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Originally Posted by Moofingham View Post
There's a vibe here that says "We're in this together!Through thick and thin fabric! Through cold water washes and burning hot irons! Though we might super glue ourselves to our projects, cut holes/gashes/oh-god-mom's-gonna-kill-me into the dining room table, we will stand strong together. Unless there is a 75% off sale at the Fabric store. Then you're on your own. And get the hell out of my way."<3
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Unread 02-28-2013, 01:35 PM   #5
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I can understand your feeling of being overlooked. It really depends on the convention. Sometimes you'll have judges that know a little about everything or at least one on the judge's panel that knows something besides sewing. And there are cons that have purely sewing experts.

Just last year a group of mine were being judged for our Mass Effect armor. Which is purely fabrication and no sewing involved. However, our judges' experience was limited to sewing (historical sewing only). When explaining the process we all went through and how long it took to make our armor they didn't seem to care and the only question they asked was if we sewed anything. O_o It is a sucky feeling when you know you've worked so hard on such things (for months!) and they get overlooked so easy because of the lack of experience judges may have with materials you have used.

I wouldn't feel upset about it. It must have just been that set of judges. Most cons I've been to will have judges with different fields of expertise. You just have to brush it off and go to the next competition. ^_^
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Unread 02-28-2013, 04:16 PM   #6
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To be frank, as someone that works more on electronics then sewing, I wouldn't have placed you either. Bad choice of lighting, as led strips cause dotted lighting rather then the the continuous line on the suits. Also exposed wires. The judges likely saw this and choose not to investigate further and went to the sewing aspect, which you already admitted is not your strong point. Also, you mentioned that things were breaking by the time of your walk on, which leads me to believe that the the judges might have saw some other defects that I cant see in the pictures that caused the malfunctions

From what I sew here and your story, it seems like the judges were actually trying to find a way to give you extra points by checking your sewing. If I saw the electronics, I would have stopped there to be honest
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Unread 02-28-2013, 10:50 PM   #7
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It really does depend on the convention, because quite frankly, I'm tired of having my hours of intricate sewing techniques and ombre dyeing passed over for "ooh look it lights up!"

Lights are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, as a judge, I know what actually goes into making something light up. So if it's done WELL, and done like Dart said as part of a complete package, maybe with a few extra things that might have been difficult - or, if you were a novice and nailed it, difficult but successful - that's one thing. But simply lighting up can't and shouldn't make up for the rest of the costume being terrible. I'm not saying yours is/was, it's a bit of generic hyperbole. There's a difference between adding a little needed spice to a costume and trying to use some lights or mechanical moving parts to distract the judges from seeing the rest of the costume.

And then there's the fact that you might have just been in a crowded field with a lot of people who brought their A game! As a judge, I always have the hardest times when I have a large group of entrants who all did one thing on their costumes well - really well, amazingly - but just one thing isn't enough to elevate them above the others in their class. When you're faced with someone who did a great job on lights, someone with a glorious wig, someone with a unique and successful new wing technique, and someone with lots of great embroidery, but you only have one more judge's merit award to give out, how do you choose? It might not have been you alone, it might have been everyone else in the same skill class with you.

Definitely keep at it, and if you ever feel like the judges at a convention just didn't give you an unbiased shake in ANY regard - even if you came in next year with a beautifully sewn costume and felt shafted just because some guy had a quad suit - then have a chat with the director about your concerns or don't patronize that competition any longer. I have felt unfairly judged at competitions where I came out with awards - winning something isn't always a mark of excellence, when you feel like the judges weren't listening to you.
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Unread 03-01-2013, 02:46 PM   #8
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I agree with evaunit. You said sewing wasn't your strong point, and I think the judges saw that. Not saying it's not a good costume, but in the context of a competition, I think it needs some work. Yeah, lights are cool, but those alone shouldn't get you an award.
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Unread 03-02-2013, 02:45 PM   #9
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My frustration is with judges who seem obsessed with armor and hard kit- You can have a beautifully sewn costume that looks incredible up close, but they pass it over for armor, because of a perception that sewing is easier, and armor or hard kit must be somehow harder.

I'm working on some Skyscraper crowns at the moment, figuring out how to light them up and make them look good, with the wiring hidden. I'm also building us some psionic weaponry, using the same tech as that used in the lightsaber building hobby, with advanced soundboards, LED modules and the like. I'm worried that those props will be passed over in judging because they're relatively small- the wiring is intricate as hell, and requires a lot of research to design properly. And the hilts themselves can require a lot of work beyond simply screwing a few parts together. But because they're not giant 6 foot tall things, all that work might be liable to get ignored.

In regards to LED strips, I will offer one dissenting opinion- as a lightsaber builder, I've seen builds that used LED strips- both the mass produced licensed replicas, and more advanced versions, such as the blades made by hyperdyne labs, which also use strip technology. Those do produce even light instead of spots, but they need serious light diffusing material.
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Unread 03-02-2013, 03:24 PM   #10
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I can understand the frustration on both ends. I was a judge in a competition in which the Best in Show winners had armor and lights. We were wrongfully accused of such favoritism, and they shouldn't have won because they didn't sew anything. The reality was that they had put a tremendous amount of work into making sure all of the details were accurate. The electronics highlighted the costume. As a judge, it was very upsetting to us that people really believed the winners had not put the same amount of work into their costume as the other contestants.

I've also been in competitions where I'm pretty sure that people won because they had lights. It is a really crappy situation to be in, and it makes you feel terrible that someone didn't appreciate your hard work.

As CapsuleCorp said, good judges should be unbiased enough to not let electronics (or lack thereof) sway the final decision, and if you ever feel like this was a problem, it should be mentioned to the director of the competition. Even if a judge doesn't know much about sewing construction or armor/electronic construction, he or she should be competent enough to determine the amount of work that went into making a costume. If a competition is choosing judges who can't get past their own personal bias, the masquerade director needs to be thinking about choosing a different panel.

And to those of you who have had the unfortunate experience of having judges that seemed to not care about your costume because of their own personal experiences, I really hope that you don't let that sway your decision to compete in the future. Try a different con, or even a different year, with different judges.

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Unread 03-05-2013, 06:17 PM   #11
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First off let me say that I have had experiences of judges just dismissing a costume outright, and when you have spent alot of time and effort in a costume it really makes you feel like crap. The puckering of the seams is rather unfortunate as it takes away from your electrical work.

My advice for the next time you enter a masq is to keep talking. Dont ask the judges if they want to see something show and talk. Make a list of thing that you think are important about your costume and keep the description short. If you have a bunch of electronics that can do cool stuff skip over minor details and get to it first. You should practice for going on stage, posing, and selling yourself to the judges.
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