Harrison Krix is a craftsman. He brings artifacts from video game worlds into reality, and he does it well.
One of Harrison’s most ambitious projects to date is a full-scale “Bouncer”-model Big Daddy suit. Constructed over the course of nearly two months–alongside a full-time graphic design job–the suit made its public debut at Dragon*Con. Harrison, fiancee Emily Keith, and friend Mandie Reese took home the convention’s Best Journeyman and Best Professional Design awards. With the help of Dim Horizon Studio, they also produced some remarkable images during a photo shoot appropriately conducted inside an aquarium.
Propmaking has become a vocation for Harrison, even though it isn’t his career. The level of dedication and care he brings to his projects is astonishing, and he documents it all on his website. We’ve been impressed by his work for years, so we decided to try and figure out what drives him to take on this demanding hobby. He was kind enough to indulge us.
How do you choose your projects–especially something as ambitious as your Big Daddy suit?
Harrison Krix: Is “Lunacy” an acceptable answer? With Big Daddy I probably bit off a bit more than I was expecting, but that was actually a good thing. I tend to pick builds that can offer me a learning experience–that’s why I only build something once.
I chose the Bouncer for two reasons. First, I had never tried to make anything of that size before, but I thought I had a pretty decent idea how to do it. Second, it was a piece I had never seen anyone else bring out of the game at quite the right scale and presence. I figured with enough time I could figure out how to make it, and make it look good as well. Or at least I’d learn something trying!
You said this took you about seven solid weeks of work. What was it like?
HK: I would love to say I have a fancy studio where all of this takes place, but my shop is basically the half of the garage my car doesn’t occupy. I wore a respirator to stave off the fiberglass fumes in an un-air-conditioned sweatbox. Sitting next to the Big Daddy was my 1975 BMW I’m restoring, so it was a bit nerve-wracking to make sure I didn’t knock into the poor car.
My sculpting base for the body was a plastic bucket filled with bricks, a broomhandle taped into it to support the body shell. I think “rudimentary” and “uncomfortable” sum it up pretty well.
I didn’t sleep a whole lot in those two months. I was simultaneously building four smaller projects with the same deadline while also working my 9-to-5 as a graphic designer. While resin was drying I’d sand something else, and after painting that piece I’d move onto sculpting a third project. Its a good thing I enjoy being busy.
Air conditioning would have been nice, though.
What was the most difficult part of the Big Daddy costume?
HK: The drill arm threw me for a loop. It had to be light, but solid enough to be carried around a three-day convention. A prototype snapped in half because of the torque of the drill motor I used.
It ended up more robust than I expected–during an on-stage performance, I clocked my friend dressed as a Baby Jane splicer pretty hard, while spinning at full tilt. The drill came away with only a couple minor scuffs. My friend took a few cuts but didn’t hold it against me–it made the scene look much more real!
And what’s your favorite part of it?
HK: In order to walk around, I had to leave the lighting out of the dome. After the convention, when we touched up parts of the suit for the photoshoot, I added the color gels and LEDs to the portholes, and the glowing red lights made the whole costume so much more menacing. It was the final touch and really the best thing I could have done to improve it for the aquarium shoot.
Do you remember what it felt like the moment when it all came together?
HK: The day before the convention debut, we worked all night. My wife was stitching the interior pants together while I weathered the suit in the kitchen. We glued the pants into the suit while loading it in the Jeep to drive downtown.
After that it was a comedy of errors. The hotel sold our room out from under us, transferring us to another hotel and swapping out our two-queen room for a single twin at the new hotel–for five people. I forgot the screws that held the dome in place on the body. The batteries that powered the internal fans were dead. It was just one thing after another. Eventually, we got the suit on. It takes three people to suit up and another to guide around. The hotel elevators barely wide enough to allow the costume in.
What was it like moving the thing around?
HK: I had to borrow my sister’s Jeep; only a handful of the parts fit into my car. We had to transport him in two cars–it still took two trips. The main body is the size of a small motorcycle even without the dome. Then there’s the drill arm, which was actually very fragile, since it was built to be as light as possible.
Pulling up to the hotel for the convention was a real treat. When a bellhop pushes a trolley up to your car, only to find a four-foot-long drill covered in dried blood, you get a specific expression you don’t ever encounter on a normal person.
What about moving it when you’re in it?
HK: A solid nightmare. With the arm extension and drill you can’t actually use your hands for anything. There are seven-inch lifts and 55 pounds of suit hanging off your back. And the positioning of the leg holes meant I could only take short, shuffling strides.
It’s hot and heavy, you’re pretty much blind and deaf inside, my hair got caught in one of the fans a bunch of times, you can’t pee or scratch your nose when the whole thing is together–and it’s fantastic. I ended up having to walk three blocks in Atlanta heat with that 60-pound monster on my back, but hearing people cheering from the balconies above made it all worthwhile.
Do you have any training? Have you just learned as you went along?
HK: For some things, I’ve had formal training. I paid my way through college as a mechanic and stereo installer and I took a few furniture design courses. My dad taught me a lot growing up as well, like the basics of electronics and woodworking, and how to use certain shop tools. And I was one of those kids who got a screwdriver and took apart his parent’s toaster while they were out of the room.
When you get into stuff like moldmaking and microcontroller programming, I just have to be thankful I’m alive in the age of Google. A day or two of research online will provide me with enough information to at least jumpstart a new process.
I’ve gotten better at certain things, like sculpting, but for a while there I was trying out everything as a first attempt. If I can advise anyone else on the best way to do these things, it’s to research through as many methods as possible–Google, library books, forums. There are nearly unlimited resources these days.
How much time and money do you actually spend on this stuff?
HK: I don’t typically track my hours because this is, ultimately, just a hobby of mine for the time being. When I get home from work at 6 or 7, I usually park myself in my shop until midnight. On the weekends, it’s not uncommon for me to be working on a project from 10am until 10pm if I’m left uninterrupted. I’ve been trying to stem that somewhat so I actually have some semblance of a social life, but the hours are something I enjoy a great deal.
Money is another thing. I’m lucky in that some of my projects are commissions funded by clients, so other people are paying for my self-education. Some projects reach five-figure budgets if they’re complex enough.
Do you have a place to store all this stuff? Are you running out of room?
HK: In my game room at home, I have a growing wall of sci-fi and video game guns. Our living room wall is adorned with swords and shields. Its supremely nerdy, but I love it. The car living in my garage is running now, so I can get more working space when I need it. I’ve become very good at organizing all my materials and building tools as a result of this constantly-expanding hobby.
Big Daddy, unfortunately, did not have any space to live at my house. He lived in my garage for about two months before eventually being sold to a private collector in Taiwan.
What actually drives you to do this? Learning? Recognition? Internet cred?
HK: Learning, really. I like to think I’d still make cool stuff even if there was nobody around to see it, but I’m not about to say that the reaction from fans of the series wasn’t amazing. To date, the Big Daddy project generated the highest traffic spike my website has ever seen, and I don’t see anything else topping it for a while.
In the end, I just want to make cool things come to life. The gaming world is filled with beautiful and imaginative artifacts that exist only in the digital realm. I want to be able to hold some of these things. I love the fact that people follow my work and find it interesting, and that support has become a great motivator. I still build because I want to make these imaginary digital pieces a reality, but I’m constantly trying to better my process and my results.
Check out Harrison’s Volpin Props website for more, including a gallery from the aquarium photoshoot, and the details of his earlier BioShock ADAM syringe project.
laforzadimente | May 2, 2011 1:32 pm
Damn, when Sarah does a blog post SARAH DOES A BLOG POST. I saw the originals of those first 2 photos a while back, those photo filters really help a lot and move the mood away from cosplay closer to the real thing.
speaker4thedead | May 2, 2011 2:55 pm
That is supremely awesome!
silverheist | May 2, 2011 3:53 pm
Damn, when i saw the title i thought that this was the final confirmation for the Bioshock movie
rybow73 | May 2, 2011 8:18 pm
I would have exploded with excited anticipation if that was the case.
felonious | May 2, 2011 8:23 pm
If they ever do decide to do Bioshock the movie, they should use Mr. Krix for some of the costume work.
felonious | May 2, 2011 4:02 pm
Very cool, I’ve seen the original pictures before, not the process it took to make, interesting to see what was done!
bobogoldman | May 2, 2011 4:41 pm
I use a similar drill to break into…..I mean…nice cargo shorts
rybow73 | May 2, 2011 8:18 pm
Great article! This man is very inspiring and I’m glad he does a lot of these things as hobbies, out of pure self-entertainment and entertainment for others. Very awesome!
insectswarm | May 2, 2011 9:10 pm
That is freaking badass! I wish i knew how to build stuff like this. Why didnt i read more when i was younger?!
If the guy makes a HIM costume that would be the greatest thing of all time.
felonious | May 3, 2011 2:06 am
You could read as many books as you want. Some people just have “IT” this guy has that!
rybow73 | May 3, 2011 2:34 pm
Yeah, but he got a lot of “it” from Google, like he said, haha.
felonious | May 3, 2011 7:41 pm
Well, he pretty shows you how he did it, by all means if it seems that easy go give it a shot and come back with the results.
rybow73 | May 5, 2011 6:06 pm
Haha, apparently my sarcasm didn’t translate well on the “Interwebz”…oh well. Obviously it takes a lot of work to do what he did, and Google alone would not make someone that great. Now for the whole web to understand (hopefully)…yes, this man did an awesome job, and I aspire to be as creative as him someday. 🙂
ahurst | May 2, 2011 11:02 pm
There is a gap between a cos-player and people who want to try to make the real thing. This Big Daddy is a great example of that and is absolutely stunning. I would love to see more things like this but it’s rare to find someone this talented that can pull the real thing off.
rybow73 | May 3, 2011 1:02 am
I’ll go throw away my Big Daddy costume I made out of cardboard and tissue paper then…;)
ismell | May 3, 2011 12:10 pm
This guy’s amazing, I love the stuff on his site.
nberic13 | May 3, 2011 11:02 pm
quancro | May 4, 2011 12:47 am
wow … impresive.. i cant find my jaw…
gladiator49 | June 5, 2011 9:56 am
^ If I had made it, there would be no chance in hell of me selling it.
arcaos | May 4, 2011 3:22 pm
Easily one of the coolest things I’ve seen. The time and care put into it is remarkable. Great job man 🙂
patcheschance | May 4, 2011 6:07 pm
This is totally reeking of awesomeness. Must…show…everyone!
magicmaker | May 5, 2011 4:15 am
As someone who builds props for a living, I can tell you before I started building “replica” props I read his blog, it’s very informative. It actually helped me decide to make a hack dart as my first replica, since I didn’t want to do anything that had previously done.
Also his work is so good he was hired by Bethesda Studios to make them a replica of one of their guns from Fallout 3 and he also made a Portal gun for charity auction that sold for I believe $12,000!
rybow73 | May 5, 2011 6:08 pm
I WANT A PORTAL GUN! Not for that much though, haha. 😉
magicmaker | May 5, 2011 11:41 pm
Not unless it really worked, then maybe I’d pay that much.
felonious | May 6, 2011 12:42 am
It awesome, he shares the work he has done and gives those who has similar interests and might want to attempt a project a how to guide of what it takes all in one place.
rybow73 | May 6, 2011 10:36 am
Well, yeah if it worked, I’d pay top-dollar, haha. 😉
felonious | May 7, 2011 1:43 am
I’d pay 12k for a working portal gun. Wouldn’t mind dropping some unsuspecting people through some portals for some entertainment.
rybow73 | May 7, 2011 6:29 pm
It’d be great for a quick getaway as well, haha.
hugin | May 5, 2011 5:11 pm
I’ve seen it before on DeviantArt… but that’s awesome!!!
fearscythe | May 6, 2011 2:21 pm
Is that the Aquarium of the Bay in San Fran? I like that aquarium, great setting.
rybow73 | May 7, 2011 6:31 pm
I’ve been there. 🙂
alycat | May 7, 2011 11:29 am
Man he did an amazing job! Completely inspiring! :3
icegrove | May 7, 2011 9:35 pm
Damn goos work! Truly a masterpiece like Sander Cohen would love!
rybow73 | May 8, 2011 1:51 pm
Maybe he’ll be rewarded a crossbow, haha. 😉
felonious | May 8, 2011 3:31 pm
An ambush from some Splicers is more probable!
jgibson | May 8, 2011 9:20 pm
What a wonderful job! Great article as well.
borrego | May 8, 2011 11:09 pm
I can definitely appreciate a guy who does that much work with his hands. To do all that in his garage-AMAZING.
derwin75 | May 9, 2011 12:26 pm
That is so cool and awesome.
michaelm624 | May 9, 2011 10:39 pm
They were selling this… I wonder who bought it ! i would have 😀
nyokou | May 10, 2011 7:00 am
I remember seeing this before. Pretty fricken’ impressive. I’ve wanted to tackle art projects like this before but I don’t have the funds to do so. Poor artist is poor. xD
rybow73 | May 14, 2011 1:15 pm
I don’t have the funds…or the artistic talent to do projects like these, haha.
felonious | May 16, 2011 1:00 pm
Even with funds and talent would need the motivation and time as well. It’s really something else all the different types of projects he has done.
rybow73 | May 14, 2011 1:14 pm
I just remembered that i’ve met this man.
felonious | May 16, 2011 1:11 pm
And what happened, why did you end up meeting him?
deltadrill | May 15, 2011 10:51 am
I tryed to follow his step by step it did not come out so well
felonious | May 16, 2011 1:10 pm
Should post pics on the art section of the forums, would be interested to see how it came out.
magicmaker | May 16, 2011 1:59 pm
Yeah he makes it look easy, but it’s more advanced than it looks. And even though he uses a lot of cost saving techniques it still adds up fast so you need to be prepared.
felonious | May 16, 2011 2:09 pm
What you don’t see, is how many times he may have had to do a piece over just to get it just right!
gladiator49 | June 3, 2011 6:29 am
I might try to build one of these someday but at the moment I don’t have the time, I would like to see some pics of your attempt though.
dbzjimbo | May 17, 2011 7:29 am
Wowza, thats some work right there. Looks awesome!
murlocpwnz | May 17, 2011 8:51 am
yes, way more intricate than a cosplay costume. amaing
jamesrose | May 17, 2011 9:52 pm
Wow! Excellent work! The Little Sister costume is well done too. The photo shoot at the Atlanta Georgia Aquarium is just genius! That place is the perfect setting for Rapture. Andrew Ryan would be proud!
felonious | May 18, 2011 2:35 am
It is indeed a great setting and the filters used in taking the photos make it look even better!
henry123 | May 23, 2011 2:12 am
Don’t you think that this one is copy like Iron Man movie, Which I have watched on http://www.watchlivechannels.com/ nice to see this one.
purdon | May 26, 2011 11:06 pm
That suit is amazing!
gladiator49 | June 1, 2011 6:38 am
That suit is amazing a true work of art, congrats to the creator.
hi9887 | June 2, 2011 5:51 am
That’s amazing, wonder what he’s going to do next.
deckard | June 5, 2011 6:22 am
Phenomenal!! Such dedication!
huntertl1 | June 10, 2011 10:54 am
id like to swing my wrench at that lol
durandan | June 14, 2011 1:14 am
That is exceptional work. Wow.
malfestus | June 22, 2011 9:02 am
Wow, that is amazing,
aguayocastro | July 8, 2011 4:11 am
I love it. Wish I could make a Rosie one 🙂