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Invisibility suit - how does it work?

This task is closed
Created atFebruary 05, 2009
Created byEric Vogel
ClosedMay 12, 2009
Shots given6

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jake van't Klaphek black suit
Ludvig Friberg Nature Octopus
Philip Hallre Sivertsen Studetnts at the Tokyo university hav...
John S. Jamtli white suit
Mike Rickard Light refraction suit

Closing Note

Closing the task now.
Thank you all for links, ideas and inspiration!

After exploring a lot of the concepts, including the ones you wreckers proposed, we've landed on a solution. We think!
Getting down to hard priorities, we wanted a concept that would:

a) allow us to shoot fighting/stunt stuff with as few technical limitations as possible (like special/tricky lighting for keys)
b) free us from being bogged down in too many tracking/keying shots in post production
c) have its roots in some older technology
d) be funny and cool

So, the invisibility suit is now actually... an interactive camouflage suit!

Based on Polaroid-type technology, the suit will "photograph" its surroundings and "develop" an interpretation of what's around it, in a sort of jumbled photo montage all over it. This idea will allow us to do most of the shots with the suit in camera! We will compose some shots to make the wearer totally invisible when standing still, and then make him move... In most situations where the suit is in use, it's night-time. This will also help.

When a location changes, we'll switch the physical suit. Sometimes we'll change it a couple times within one sequence.
So we'll make a series of suits, based on photographs from the various locations.

VFX will be used in one scene to show us how it switches on and "develops", and another where we see it get switched off. There's also that funny Whrrrrr sound some off you might remember from the old cameras...

We'll see how it turns out!


Anyone hoping to be a skilled ninja must master the art of invisibility. And so do the ninjas of our film.

But what if the bad guys have developed a counter-measure? Our script calls for a touch of sci-fi when the main antagonist (dis)appears in an invisibility suit. The Lockheed McGuffin Stealth Suit SS-80, to be exact.

The invisibility effect isn't always perfect (think "Predator"), but it does offer good enough camouflage for the user to give him an advantage in close combat.

We want input on the following:

- a realistic-sounding technological explanation of how the suit works
- design ideas for what it looks like (note! it has to be practical when worn by an actor on set, and suitable for martial arts fighting/stunt work)
- how do we solve this in terms of special/visual effects? We have many different ideas for this, but would like fresh input on a workable way of handling an invisibility effect in both broad daylight and in darkness.

Tune in your imagination and give it a shot!

This task is closed.


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Philip Hallre Sivertsen May 11, 2009 12:52 2 Thumb-ups
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Studetnts at the Tokyo university have made optical camo?

The coat (1:36 minutes in) is the most interesting. You would have to look into wether this is a spoof or not. The first two clips from the original "Ghost in the Shell" anime are also pretty cool, but offer no technical solution off-course.

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Ludvig Friberg February 06, 2009 20:12 3 Thumb-ups
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Nature Octopus

Check this one out.

Natures own super advanced camo.

The whole clip is really interesting but there is an amazing camo effect about 4:20 in.

Could one make a genetically grown organic leather cape? Or maybe just wear a giant trained octopus?

Seriously though... I think you can find much inspiration in how animals do it.


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Philip Hallre Sivertsen May 11, 2009 12:30 Flag

Here is a short clip from Metal Gear Solid, where they use OcotoCamo. Somewhat poor quality, but you get the idea:

Eric Vogel February 06, 2009 21:26 Flag

Thanks for the links! I've seen the TED one before, but forgotten all about it. Beautiful... I wonder what it would look like when shadowy military scientists try to emulate it with electronics and synthetics? :)

Eric Vogel February 17, 2009 08:49 Production Leader 0 Thumb-ups
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Infrared technique

First off, thanks for all the suggestions guys! They have made us look into many ways of solving this.

An idea we've gotten lately is using some kind of infrared (IR) light in combination with a suit that reacts to or reflects this kind of (to they eye invisible) light.

Our shooting format is the RED camera, and from what we hear IR light is registered as bright white by the camera's chip. So our thinking goes: can we make a suit that reflects this kind of light, illuminate the actor with an IR lamp, and then use the resulting white outline as a color key? The effect of invisibility (or camouflage) can then be applied onto the suit in post.

Anyone think this will fly?
What material could we use to reflect IR light?

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Eric Vogel February 19, 2009 20:15 Flag

Thanks for the input, guys.
Petter: yeah, we'll have to try it!

Thierry Gschwind February 17, 2009 15:55 Flag

There IR annd IR. The remote control works in Near Infrared (NIR), that's just bellow red. Temperature radiation is Far Infrared (FIR), to record that you need a Bolometer, and usually they have very low resolution like 320x240 pixels. It's very easy to reflect FIR radiation, without the object being heated itself.

Also all color cameras have some kind of IR-filter on the sensor to avoid NIR radiation to blend into the image. I know that because I used to work in camera developement.

I think you should do that effect in post, it's easier.

Petter L√łken February 17, 2009 13:52 Flag

As far as I know you do need a filter on RED to get rid of IR. As a kid I tried a normal remote control for a TV on a digital camera and it did register the IR light as bright light. However I think that a IR reflecting suit would reflect the light in all directions so you probably wouldn't get a sharp outline on the suit but a white blur. Or I could be wrong. If you come across a IR reflecting material try it on a non flat surface and you'll see right away.

Mike Rickard February 12, 2009 17:30 1 Thumb-up
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Light refraction suit

I also like the idea of a light refracting suit. Take a look at the premise of SciFi networks The Invisible Man. It dealt with light refraction as a means of invisibility.

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Eric Vogel February 17, 2009 08:41 Flag

Thanks for that!

John S. Jamtli February 06, 2009 09:59 1 Thumb-up
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white suit

Hi that poncho style video projector suit seems like the principal for every stealth suit we have (or that have been announced to the public) to this day, and its really a old way of doing it. It has been around since the eighties.
But the idea for "therm optic camouflage" that you see in ghost in the shell and the "stealth suit" from metal gear, is made from little nano sized wires of cables wrapping around the wearer, bringing the light from the front to the back and so forth. It works as one of those ufo lamps that you see where there are allot of fiber cables going out from a light source, and the light only appears at the end of the cable.
So my suggestion is that he has a suit that is fairly apparent when its turned off because of the fiber cables that it is made from. This would would act as a down side to the suit making it more realistic.
The wearer should have clothes over the suit and a ninja hood he would put on as he would turn on the suit. Also he would have to remove all his clothes and gears. if he would have any gear it would have to have have the same type of technology as the suit.
Hope you guys understand :)

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John S. Jamtli February 06, 2009 22:18 Flag

Holy crap those are ugly indeed.
You have checked out ghost in he shell and mgs? They have alot of realistic camos:

Notice how the light turns in rainbow colours when turned on, great detail since it hints that it is bending the light. << please ignore the bit at the end, it obviously just blue screen.
Also it could be an idea that he doesnt wear a suit, but rather a coat (or best, a poncho), this would also be perhaps more realistic since its in the eighties. notice that you can see the shadow even-tough he has the suit on.

Eric Vogel February 06, 2009 21:23 Flag

Hm, interesting. Thanks for that idea. Fiber cables like you mention from those butt ugly lamps really are an eighties thing too, which is good.

Quite a few homes I can think of from when I was a kid, had one.

jake van't Klaphek February 05, 2009 21:34 3 Thumb-ups
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black suit

I think the way these suits are supposed to work is by bending light
so an object could be projected onto the suit and the person would "seem" invisible.

This is an interesting article about this technology

I think a simple black army suit (when camo is turned off) would work best since then you can go a lot of ways with it.

And to get a person to seem invisible onscreen, I'd suggest watching making of's, from the movie hollow man. They did it fairly simple with great results and I can't explain how to do it better then they did.

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Eric Vogel February 06, 2009 21:27 Flag

Will definitely check out Hollow Man making of, thanks for the tip and the article too!