Batman and Black Panther costume designer creates COVID mask

After three a long time designing and constructing masks and costumes for superhero films, Jose I. Fernandez was uncommonly ready for the sartorial calls for of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the our on-line world helmets of 2010’s Tron: Legacy to the cat-eared mask of 2018’s Black Panther, Fernandez has specialised in creating the wearable components that deliver film heroes to the massive display screen whereas letting the actors inside them keep comfy.

[Photo: Courtesy of Xupermask]

Final 12 months, musician of the Black Eyed Peas known as on Fernandez, a frequent collaborator, to consider a extra wearable, multifunctional mask for the COVID period. The design transient was simple: It could have to have filters, it might have to play music, and it might have to look cool.

It’s not the primary time has ventured into high-tech wearables. In a earlier venture, the rapper devised a product known as PULS, a questionably helpful donut-shaped sensible telephone meant to be worn across the wrist. The COVID pandemic impressed a barely extra related idea. If sporting masks was a brand new public well being crucial, the pondering went, these masks could as effectively mix with a few of the different tech individuals generally put on, like Bluetooth headphones for music and telephone calls.


Fernandez set to work. Utilizing what he has realized over time designing masks and costumes for superhero movies starting from 1992’s Batman Returns and 2012’s The Avengers to forthcoming movies like Black Panther 2 and Shazam! 2, Fernandez got down to make a mask as stylized because it was protecting.

“The unique one I did with Will, it was only a type factor, with some security for certain. It had filters, but it surely was only a one layer N95 filter. After which we thought, effectively, it’s nonetheless type of scorching so we added followers,” he says. The followers transfer scorching air out of the mask after it’s been breathed via the filters, like a unfavorable stress room strapped to your face. “That was the a-ha second that simply modified all the things.”

[Photo: Courtesy of Xupermask]

They realized that, with the proper parts and manufacturing processes, the prototype they’d created might develop into a product individuals would possibly wish to purchase. They teamed up with know-how and manufacturing firm Honeywell, and at the moment are binging to market the Xupermask, a twin HEPA filtered mask with three-speed followers for air circulate, silicone face seal, built-in Bluetooth-enabled ear buds, microphone functionality, LED indicator and accent lights, and a chargeable battery with seven hours of energy, accessible now for $299. Designed to put on for hours at a time, and able to filtering air even after the battery runs out, it’s half CDC, half Marvel.

Jamming all these options into the mask was a problem, however for Fernandez, a very powerful hurdle was making the mask one thing individuals would comfortably put on for lengthy intervals of time – precisely the design problem he has confronted once more and once more designing for the grueling 12- to 16-hour days some actors spend on set sporting his film costumes.

“It’s artwork mashed along with downside fixing,” says Fernandez, who opened his personal costume design firm, Ironhead Studios, in 2007. “People put on this stuff. They do need to breathe, they need to go to the lavatory. With superheroes, you don’t give it some thought, however they need to do all this stuff.”

[Photo: Courtesy of Xupermask]

Fernandez says know-how has caught as much as the purpose that these film costumes are a lot much less of a burden than they had been previously. One instance are compact air followers that he’s been integrating into film masks and helmets to ventilate air and hold actors cool since engaged on Tron: Legacy. A present venture is The Mandalorian, a sequence set within the Star Wars universe. The unique Star Wars movies had been infamous for his or her stuffy helmets, Fernandez says. “All these guys are sporting Stormtrooper helmets and it’s like a rainforest inside,” he says. For The Mandalorian, he’s designed helmets with air followers, lights, even communication know-how to assist the actors obtain course.

The appearance of 3D modeling has helped make it potential to suit all these add-ons into the cramped quarters of an area helmet with out weighing an excessive amount of.


“Again once I began within the business, all we did was the surface. It was a veneer,” he says. “However now I’m capable of do the interiors, and that permits me to do air pathways, mounts for batteries and magnets, electronics. The whole lot matches collectively like a puzzle.”

[Photo: Courtesy of Xupermask]

In Xupermask, these movie business design tips are spreading out into the buyer realm. It was designed within the context of COVID-19, however with the expectation that in a smoky, soiled, pandemic-aware world, filtered masks could also be equipment which might be a extra common a part of the frequent wardrobe. The common shopper could not have the ability to afford and even need a $299 high-tech mask, after all. Throughout a public well being occasion, having the ability to take heed to music could on the decrease finish of the survival guidelines. However Fernandez is assured that face masks are right here to remain.

“When this does go away, which it should, there might be different issues that we’ve got to take care of,” he says. “It may very well be individuals with bronchial asthma who’re fearful about smog, or it may very well be any person who has a chilly and wish to shield different individuals. Or it might simply be individuals who wish to be extra protected on an airplane.”