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Adam Savage's Ghostbusters Costume

To celebrate both Halloween this week and the 30th anniversary of the release of Ghostbusters, Adam shares his own Ghostbusters uniform and prop replicas that he has made and assembled over the years. We geek out over fond memories of the film and its contributions to cosplay culture. This is a costume that anybody can make!

The Challenges of Hybrid Vehicle Design

My recent article on the OverDrive flying car design, triggered some debate about the practicality of hybrid designs. The comments were primarily focused on flying cars and floating cars, but all aspects of modern civilization teem with examples of hybrids. It seems an inescapable human desire to combine two good things in an effort to make one great thing. Some amalgams have achieved stellar results, perhaps even becoming a defining cultural element (think cameraphones). Others fade into a purgatory of ridicule and obscurity.

The OverDrive concept hybrid car.

The conversation made me question why some hybrid ideas flourish when others fail, even if the base components are individually successful. It is not something that I had ever given much thought to, but I began to wonder if there is a common link between the failed hybrid attempts. Today, I want to compare a handful of successful and failed hybrid concepts and attempt to determine why their relative outcomes were so varied.

What is a Hybrid?

The first question to be answered is how to define a hybrid, and there are many meanings. In its simplest form, a hybrid can be two or more widgets combined into a single unit. Perhaps each part is still intended to perform tasks independent of the other parts (ex. Swiss Army knife), or maybe the parts work in unison (ex. eraser-tipped pencil). Either way, it is the combining of these otherwise discrete tools that creates the selling point of the item.

In examining these types of hybrids, I think it is important to differentiate whether an aspect of a design is a fundamental element or just a feature. For example, most cars have clocks. We don’t call them clock-cars simply because the clock is a feature rather than a core facet of the design. It’s just a car, not a hybrid…unless it also has wings, or a hull, or two types of engines.

Another form of hybrid is the combination of two different tools that are used for similar jobs. The point is to utilize the best attributes from each tool to improve some aspect of the end item’s overall performance, such as efficiency, power output, reliability, or dependability. In this column we find things such as the diesel-electric locomotive and turboprop engine. We could even include mules (yes, the animals) and genetically-engineered seeds.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that hybrids of all types saturate our world. For the purposes of this examination (and at the risk of excluding pertinent data), I will focus on nuts and bolts machines. More specifically, I will stick to legacy military hardware, since such items tend to have well-documented requirements as well as performance data.

In Brief: NASA Releases Library of Space Sounds for Public Use

Earlier this month, NASA posted to SoundCloud a large library of audio clips from its history of space endeavors. These aren't just vocal bytes from ground control or astronauts--they include the sounds of rocket launches, landings, and spacecraft exploring our solar system. The beeping of Sputnik and the chorus of radio waves in the Earth's atmosphere can now be downloaded and mixed into your own productions. Archive.org has 222 NASA public domain audio clips as well!

Norman
Color Grading Breakdown for a Beauty Commercial

Joey shared this awesome video with us yesterday, a time-lapse screen capture of post-production colorist < ahref="http://www.colormeup.de/">Andreas Bruekcl's work on a L'Oreal beauty commercial. The three-minute clip shows about 30 minutes of realtime grading of video shot with on an Arri Alexa, and gives just a taste of the incredibly complex task of tweaking colors and lighting of video for production. It's far more complex than the developing of RAW photos in Lightroom, for example, because the colorist has to mask and track moving elements for video. Something to keep in mind: this is a process that almost every shot of every produced live-action commercial, television show, and film goes through today, to some extent.

In Brief: The Making of Danny DeVito's Penguin Makeup for Batman Returns

The Stan Winston school has posted an excerpt from the book "The Winston Effect", chronicling the design and application of Danny DeVito's iconic Penguin makeup for Batman Returns. For the Tim Burton film--which won Winston and collaborators Ve Neill and Ronnie Specter Oscar nominations--DeVito's makeup needed to capture the the director's creepy aesthetic and the essence of the villain. Behind-the-scenes art shows the various concept sketches for Penguin's look (and especially his nose), as well as the application of the prosthetics and paint for filming. DeVito apparently also asked that the makeup be put during voice-over ADR session for Batman Returns, to get back into character. Awesome stuff!

Norman
The Creature and Portrait Sculptures of Mike Hill

We visit the workshop of Mike Hill, a renowned portrait sculptor who specializes in recreating the classic horror monsters of Hollywood (and the actors who embodied them). Mike's full-body sculptures of characters like Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolf Man, and even Christopher Reeve's Superman are startlingly lifelike. We chat with Mike about his process, look at a work-in-progress, discuss what he tries to achieve with his portraits.

Everything You Should Know About Android 5.0 Lollipop

Google took the unprecedented step of offering an early developer preview of Android L (now Android 5.0 Lollipop) last spring. We knew this version of Android was going to be a big shift, something for which developers would need to plan. However, it wasn't until the recent official announcement that it became clear how massive this change would be. Android 5.0 is a break from the past, and in many ways a complete reinvention of the platform.

Here's what you need to know about Android 5.0, the most significant update the platform has ever seen. It's enough to change what most people think of Google's mobile operating system, and I'm really excited about it.

Bye-bye battery woes

If you can recall one of the long-time complaints about Android, it's very possible Android 5.0 addresses it. For example, don't you hate how Android phones always seem to have questionable battery life unless they're equipped with a huge battery? Well, no more. Lollipop is supposed to improve battery life noticeably.

I've been testing the latest developer preview of Android Lollipop, which is API-complete according to Google. Both the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 are managing at least a third more battery life than before. This is thanks to Google's so-called Project Volta, an initiative in Android 5.0 to address those nagging battery life concerns. Granted, this is not the final version of Lollipop, but the difference is astounding.

A major component of the battery life improvements have to do with a better system of managing background processes. Android does multitasking by permitting any app to wake the phone and keep it awake so it can perform an action. In the event of an error or incompatibility, these "wakelocks" can last too long and drain the battery. I tend to follow the sleep stats of my devices closely because I have to install so many apps on a daily basis. Android 5.0 appears to keep things running incredibly smoothly. When devices are in sleep mode, the processor is in deep sleep (i.e. not wakelocked) about 90% of the time. Absolutely amazing.

Android 5.0 also includes an approximation of remaining battery life in the settings and on the lock screen when charging. After letting the Nexus 7 calibrate for a few cycles, it reports a full week of standby time, and I believe it. In the event you do run low on battery life, there's a new system-level battery saver mode that disables animations, background data, vibration, and lowers the screen brightness.

Chris Hadfield Explains His Space Photography Techniques

Adam tweeted this link to a great Q&A with Chris Hadfield from the Dark Sky star gazing festival happening right now at Canada's Jasper National Park. The former astronaut spoke a bit about Earth-gazing, and explains in this video how astronaut take advantage of the micro-gravity environment on the ISS to steady and position their cameras to photograph long-exposures of the Earth. No tripods needed in low Earth orbit!

In Brief: Amazon Announces Fire TV Streaming HDMI Stick

Amazon today announced the Fire TV Stick, an HDMI streaming stick with the capability of Amazon's $100 Fire TV set-top box. The $40 stick is positioned against Google's Chromecast and Roku's Streaming Stick, and Amazon is boasting its technical specs. It runs off of a dual-core Broadcom A9-based SoC, has 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal flash storage--higher than Google and Roku's options. Dual-antenna MIMO Wi-Fi may also give it a leg up in homes with spotty wireless connections. Of course, it's software and the video player platform that matters the most, and we didn't find Amazon's Fire TV to be more compelling than the Chromecast or Roku. You don't get access to Fire TV's voice search feature, either, unless you spring for the $30 Fire TV remote. Amazon is also promising HBO Go support by the end of the year. We'll be testing the Fire TV Stick and comparing it with the the Chomecast and Roku Streaming Stick early next month, but Amazon has discounted the launch price to $20 if you're a Prime subscriber, through Wednesday. I also believe that if you sign up for a 30-day trial of Prime, you would also be eligible for this discount.

Norman