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Thriller-inspired, LED-lit jacket comes just in time for Halloween

Arduino TeamOctober 14th, 2022

Michael Jackon’s Thriller music video was arguably the best known of his entire career. It contains many horror themes, a delightful and memorable choreographed dance, and an iconic red jacket designed by Deborah Nadoolman. The video’s horror references make it a Halloween favorite, which is why Louise Katzovitz’s LED-lit reimagining of the Thriller jacket is appropriate for the season.

Katzovitz created this jacket for a Michael Jackson impersonator to use during his performances. It isn’t a replica of Nadoolman’s original design, but rather a homage to a special light-up version that Jackson wore on tour. Even if they aren’t familiar with that special version, it is similar enough to the one in the video that audiences instantly recognize it for what it is.

It would have been easiest to start with a commercial replica of the jacket, but Katzovitz instead sewed the entire jacket from scratch from a bomber jacket template. That alone is impressive, but the LED setup pushes this project into the stratosphere. An Arduino Nano board controls several strips of WS2812B individually addressable RGB LEDs. 3D-printed “gems” hide the LEDs and diffuse their light. The strips mount to vinyl cut on a Cricut craft machine, yielding long panels that Katzovitz could attach to the jacket with sewn-on velcro strips. Power comes from a 5V battery bank that is small enough to tuck into an interior pocket.

The result looks fantastic and puts Jackon’s real jacket to shame. Katzovitz even made a tiny version for her dog, making it the baddest boi on the block.