I got many requests to write about my experience from cosplay contests. I’ve been a part of a lot of very different cosplay contests with different winning criteria and I’ve been part of them as a contestant and also as a judge. This time, the goal of my article is to help others to get better in competing and share my knowledge of what works and what I find useful, that can eventually help you win a cosplay contest.
Keep in mind, that the article is just sharing of MY thoughts, MY opinions and what works for ME. You can learn from my experience, you can agree or disagree on few points, but I don’t guarantee anyone to win a cosplay contest – the effort is up to you!
Competing in a cosplay contest is a big step for a lot of cosplayers, because it brings new demands on them. If you decide to compete, you have to (most of the time):
- choose a costume with a competetive potential (not mainstream, elaborate, fitting, involving different techniques)
- have a high quality and very elaborate costume
- have a very accurate cosplay
- make your entire costume by yourself
- fit the character you’re portraying
- be able to perform well in your costume.
Suddenly the „cosplay has no rules“ motto changes into a lot of rules, that fit the contest you want to appear in. Cosplayers competing in contests have to be prepared for more than that. They will be:
- judged by a jury AND by all the people watching them perform or knowing they’re competing
- more visible in their cosplay community (positively and/or negatively)
And everybody taking part in the contest have to be prepared for those new experiences. And one of the harder things: They have to be prepared they can lose and sometimes also that life is not always fair.
Also, please, take a look at the rules of the contest before you even enter it, so you are not surprised!
Types of cosplay contests:
1) With performance
– Performance based – 50 % or more weight of the points is just for the performance, for example European Cosplay Gathering (50:50), World Cosplay Summit (200:100), International Cosplay League (60:40), Clara Cow’s Cosplay Cup (60:40)
– Costume based – 49 % or more weight of the points is just for the performance, for example Eurocosplay (80:20)
(There is currently a trend of more performance based contests and the contests are trying to present a better show to the audience and attract more visitors like that)
2) Without performance
– mostly just short stage appearance or catwalk, for example Blizzard cosplay contest at Gamescom
Amount of competitors:
Solo contests are one of the most usual types of contests, it is the easiest format for an eventto manage and easiest to prepare a costume for, because her/she doesn’t have to cooperate with others. Making a stunning performance alone without interaction is harder than in a group.
Duo and group contests are harder to organize for events and for cosplayers, but the performances are usually better, because the cosplayers can interact with themselves.
1) Cosplay dancing contest
3) and more
Few steps to win:
1) Watch, learn, take inspiration
If it is about costume making or performances, you can always learn something new. Performancewise – it is good to watch past year’s contestant’s efforts, learn from their mistakes and see how the contest looks like and what it prefers. Also watching performances of other people can help you for some ideas for your perfomance.
Watch some of my favourite performances:
PERFORMANCE 1 – timing, acting, props, gradation
PERFORMANCE 2 – timing, choreography, use of blood
PERFORMANCE 3 – fast change without hiding
PERFORMANCE 4 – fast changes of costumes
PERFORMANCE 5 – use of props, timing, (athleticism)
I took inspiration myself when I was competing at ECG 2018 – look at our performance HERE
2) Build a costume, duh
- I don’t think I have to speak much about making costumes, because the most cosplay tutorials are meant for it.
- Just keep in mind, that the contest costume has to have a „contest potential“ – that means the difficulty level of the costume is rather high, there are a lot of techniques in making it involved and it looks impressive.
- Also, the accuracy of the costume has to be on point.
- Find out the judging criteria of the cosplay contest yu want to attend. Some contests put much more weight into the amount of used techniques (that means you can easily lose points, when you are missing makeup work or wigwork with helmeted costumes, etc.), some put much more effort into details and accuracy, some into performance, …
3) Make props
Your props have to have meaning and function.
– The props you make for your performance are very important for storytelling, so be sure to make them impressive and good looking. Also, each prop has to have a meaning and be important somehow to your performance – you can insure the importance by interacting with the prop (or make it interactive).
•Where to learn: Winners of ECG, WCS, C4 – usually a good use of props
Watch a performance with interactive doll prop HERE
Prejudging is a part of contests, where contestants come face to face with judges to show them their costumes and props up-close. It happens usually before the performance on the stage and it’s very important to be well prepared for it:
- Bring a picture of the artwork/character you’re portraying (+ pics of your progress)– it makes it easier for the judges to judge accuracy
– you don’t have to depend on organizers, which sometimes don’t find the right picture of your costume (and that can easily cost you a win) or don’t prepare the picture at all.
- Ask about how much of roleplaying is requested (by organization or jury members)– Sometimes it is hard to judge someone in full roleplay, or on the other side (especially in catwalk contest) is roleplay on prejudging requested and by not doing it you can lose points, so always ask and prepare!
- Prepare what you want to show and say at prejudging, because the time is limited– Prejudging can take from 1 to 5 minutes, so the judges are able to judge everybody in a given time. And even it sounds okay to have 3 minutes to present your costume, it’s hella short time to show everything, so it’s good to have a plan. On the other side, judges are also tired to ask always the same questions and it is refreshing to meet someone speaking by him/herself.
- What NOT to do:– Don’t tell and point out flaws on your costume to judges. Always try to show things you’re proud of, not things you don’t like. You have to present yourself in a good way. You can’t believe how many times cosplayers critique themselves in front of judges more than judges would actually critique them. Also: DO NOT LIE! Most judges can usually tell you are lying! – I’ve been able to catch contestants lying already a few times by giving them follow-up questions only the maker could answer.
There is so much to say about the performance, so let’s get into it:
- Respect the rules of the competition
– Each contest has different set of rules about the length of the performance, making mess (using glitter, fake blood or confetti), the size and amount of the props, the lights, the rehersal, …
- Find out as much info about the area the performance will take place– Can you step up the stairs? Go through door? Perform on 5x2m big stage? Where are the judges based? You have to know all those things and reherse with the shape and size of the stage in mind.
– Reherse your performance with all the props, timing, music, with the size of stage in mind, so everything is automatic for you
- Think about what can screw up and try to prevent it
– Are your prop lights charged by batteries? Exchange them for new ones before the start of the show. Are you afraid your prop will fall on the ground? Make the base of it again or from better material.
- The more difficult things you have to do, the more you can screw up.
– This is the motto I use by preparing my performances – if you can do something simpler, why make it difficult? For example: Why you want to open your prop door with remote controlled servo motors, when you can open it with string or with the help of somebody else (if allowed)?
- Prepare a music fitting to your performance
– Always ask yourself, what you want to achieve with your performance. For the characters I’m making I usually decide from two options – epic or funny (but there are several more styles you can go for – action, dance, …)
– If you don’t know how to mix music, learn from youtube tutorials or ask your more experienced friends to teach you, because of two reasons – noone knows better than you, what fits to your performance, what you want to do and what you like. The second reason is, that when your music is not cut and mixed properly, it can screw the whole effort you put into the performance and destroy the feeling of the whole thing.I’ve seen SO MANY very good performances with very low quality of sound (recorded on phone?), or some, that had the music ending abrupty or some, that included voice from a movie, that didn’t have any meaning in the performance – all of that has destroyed the atmoshpere of the whole performance.
– Use music, that is popular at the time or sentimental music. These types of music can have so much bigger impact than an unknown song (that’s why there are some songs trending on apps like tiktok and helping with reach). Tak a look at the cosplay performance of mine from the year 2016, where I’ve used music from Battlefield 1 trailer, that has just dropped and aaaaaaaaaall the people were vibing to the trailer music and it’s pure epicness back then. WATCH IT HERE.
– Think about all the actions you want to do and time them well to the music (or video). Look HERE for my fav cosplay performance, where the timing of the actions+music+sounds is really important.
- Psychology is very important for every contest you’ll take part in
– Always try to be positively tuned and supportive of others. There is no worse thing than when are contestants rude to each other. Contest are the best place to find new friends and it’s good to wish the others luck instead of making enemies from them
– Don’t be afraid. Appearing in the contest can be very hard on the nerves, but it’s about overcoming your fear.
– If the performance doesn’t go according to plan, keep performing, keep going, don’t stop. It requires a lot of courage, but if you continue, you’ll still have chance to succeed.
(I had exprienced the same, when I have prepared a set of Dragons to imitate Hanzo’s ultimate ability for my Eurocosplay performance (time in the video: 1:00), but my helper did not hear the cue and forgot to bring them on stage. I kept the performance going anyways, which paid off and I’ve won the contest.
See the performance HERE.
– If you don’t win, try to go to judges and ask their opinioins and learn from mistakes you’ve made. Don’t blame others, because every failure is experience, that makes you stronger for the success, that awaits you 🙂 More about this topic HERE.
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Published: 31.01.19 7:31, Pacific Standard Time