Latest Stories
Modeling the Boat from ‘Apocalypse Now’, Part 2

In the first article of this series, I covered the cosmetic changes that I incorporated to make my Alpha Patrol Boat from ProBoat Models look like the Erebus from 'Apocalypse Now'. This time around, I'll talk about mechanical upgrades that I made to the model. These changes were intended to add a little more realism, make the model more dependable, and also make it easier to drive. As before, some of the techniques I tried were new to me and the efficacy of my efforts varied.

Ready, Aim…

The model comes with most of what you need to make the forward gun turret articulate. There is a servo mount inside the hull below the turret. The turret itself has parts to attach it to a standard servo arm. The only thing missing is the actual servo.

I used a Spektrum S605 waterproof servo ($14). It bolted right into the existing mount and the included servo arm mated perfectly with the turret. The boat's manual indicates that you cannot add a servo to the turret if you are using the included 2-channel radio system. That's not entirely true. You can use the stock radio if you connect the turret servo in parallel with the steering servo using a common servo Y-cable. You just will not have independent control of the turret. It will move in response to your steering commends.

I didn't think that I would be coordinated enough to command the turret and drive at the same time. So I was planning to keep the stock radio and connect the turret to my steering channel. As I dug deeper into the project, however, it became clear that my other upgrades would demand a more capable radio. I swapped out the stock radio for a 4-channel Spektrum DX4C pistol-grip controller and SRS4210 receiver. I still slaved the turret to the steering. The DX4C's channel mixing menus allowed me to skip the Y-cable and accomplish the same goal. Less wire is always better.

Sixth-Scale Star Trek at Comic-Con 2017

It's reassuring to know that hardcore fans are somtimes in charge of making high-end collectibles. We meet up with Quantum Mechanix's Schubert Tam to learn how he directed his team to research and sculpt the perfect sixth-scale replicas of our favorite Star Trek characters, down to their episode-specific facial expressions!

Bits to Atoms: Co-op Quadcopter Challenge

This month's Bits to Atoms project explores the idea of teamwork through quadcopter hacking. Jeremy and Sean set up a game for the Tested team to cooperatively pilot a quadcopter through an obstacle course, and Adam comes in to save the day with his decisive leadership.

Comic-Con 2017 Show Floor Walking Tour!

It's time for our annual walking tour of San Diego Comic-Con! Norm is joined this year by Allen Pan and Tamara Robertson, friends of Tested who were both recently contestants on Mythbusters: The Search. It's Allen and Tamara's first SDCC, so we chat about their experience, fandoms, cosplay, and look at some of the awesome things from the massive show floor!

Google Play App Roundup: Motion Stills, Leap On, and Vista Golf

Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

Motion Stills

Google released an app last year for iPhone called Motion Stills, which jived nicely with Apple's Live Photo feature. Still, Android users like GIF photos, too. So, Google has finally gotten around to releasing an Android version of Motion Stills with an improved image processing pipeline. That means it's faster, and fast things are good.

Motion Stills is basically a GIF camera, but it's a really good GIF camera. It's got amazing image stabilization, which results in very smooth animations that look like you had your phone on a tripod. All you need to do is tap the capture button, and the app takes a three second video. You can scroll down to see the video, and it's ready instantly. Google's improved processing renders each frame as it's captured to make this happen.

The clips default to having the super-stabilization on, but you can turn it off just for fun. The app basically crops a bit out of each frame and lines up the action so nothing moves in an undesired way. The videos can be exported as the native MP4 or as GIFs. You'll probably do GIFs because they're more easily shared, and that's what this app is aimed at. Make sure to take a peek at the settings to tweak the GIF quality. You can increase this setting for a smooth GIF and it's only a little bigger.

The gallery itself is rather mesmerizing after you've taken a few videos. All the clips play as you scroll through with stabilization enabled. It just feels very alive. Sort of like live photos for iOS, but with longer clips and higher quality animation.

In addition to the motion stills, this app also supports "fast forward" mode. Think Microsoft Hyperlapse, but from Google. Here, you can take videos up to a minute long, then adjust the speed of playback between 2x and 8x. Just as above, you get Google's powerful image stabilization features.

Motion Stills is a simple app, but it does what it's supposed to do. There's nothing to complain about here, and Motion Stills is free.

Weta Workshop Booth Tour at Comic-Con 2017!

We hit the floor at San Diego Comic-Con to visit a few of our friends, starting with the artists at Weta Workshop. Weta brought costumes they built for films like the new Power Rangers, Lord of the Rings, and Netflix's Spectral. We chat with costume tech Darin Gordine about the making of these pieces and how costume fabrication has changed in the studio's storied history.