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Kickstarter: Reissue of the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual

Hot on the heals of NASA's old 1975 Graphics Standard Manual getting some love in blogs and on Flickr, a new Kickstarter campaign is raising funds to republish that manual for fans of the NASA worm logo. Jesse Reed & Hamish Smyth have had success with crowdfunded reissues of famous graphics manuals before, and are sourcing this reprint with scans from designer Richard Danne's personal copy of the 1975 document.

In Brief: Amazon Prime Video Enables Offline Viewing

As rumors of Apple developing its own original video streaming service get traction, Netflix competitors Amazon Prime Streaming and Hulu both make announcements to bolster the value of their own services. First, Amazon announced today that select Prime movies and TV shows can now be downloaded for offline viewing on mobile devices (Fire phones/tabletse, Android devices, and iOS devices). A "Download" option will appear in compatible videos, and subscribers will have less than 30 days to watch them. The content selection includes Amazon produced series, content from CBS and Paramount, as well as HBO shows. On the Hulu front, that service has signed a deal with digital video middleman Epix, whose catalog of films will leave Netflix in September. Netflix apparently isn't worried about that loss, and will spend that money on producing more original (and exclusive) shows.

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Google Play App Roundup: TUFFS Notification Shortcuts, Framed, and Lara Croft GO

Time once again to check in on what's new in the Play Store. This is the Google Play App Roundup where you can come every week to find out what's new and cool on Android. Just hit the links below to head right to the Play Store on your device.

TUFFS Notification Shortcuts

There are various ways to quickly access your apps on Android, but the notification shade is always just a swipe away. TUFFS Notification Shortcuts is a new app that lets you add custom shortcuts to the notification area, but unlike similar apps, it doesn't need a background service and won't take up space in the status bar or on the lock screen.

The TUFFS shortcuts will appear in a notification item directly below the system UI in your notification shade. There are five icons in a single row to start, but you can increase the number of icons, and even add a second row. Apps are probably the most likely use for this, but you can also drop in any shortcut supported by your apps or system. For example, contacts, Maps directions, Drive files, and so on.

By default, TUFFS shortcuts are hidden from the lock screen and status bar, which I think makes the most sense. This way it doesn't take up any space when it's not of use to you. Still, you can change that option if you want, but it means a status bar icon. There are actually plenty of settings to mess with. To make it blend in better with the system UI, you can change the icon framing (or shut it off), remove the labels, or even change the background color of the notification.

Launching apps and shortcuts from TUFFS seems to work exactly as you'd expect. It's just like having an icon on your home screen, but it's in the notification shade. If you're having trouble matching the exact color and style of your phone, check the themes out. The developer has helpfully included several pre-packaged themes that match stock Android, Samsung, HTC, and a few more.

The app is free to try, and most of the options are unlocked in this version. In the premium tier are a few themeing options, but most importantly, auto-start on reboot. There's an in-app purchase of $0.99 to permanently unlock all the features. If you like the idea of having shortcuts in your notifications, this is a pretty good way to do it.

Show and Tell: More Japanese Papercrafts

For this week's Show and Tell, Norm share some more papercraft kits found at Kinokuniya--a favorite bookstore located in San Francisco's Japantown. These diorama kits are simple to build, and some don't even require any scissors or glue for assembly. Let's take a look at them!

Building the Star Wars Rancor Costume, Part 4

In the fourth part of our Rancor costume build, Frank Ippolito walks us through the mold and casting process of the large Rancor head sculpt. We discuss ways to add texture and "skin" to the foam suit, and start painting the creature just one week before Comic-Con! Thanks for following along with the build--we'll be back next time with a debriefing of how the Rancor suit turned out. (Thanks to Model-Space.com for sponsoring this project!)

Tested Mailbag: Full Blockhead Set

It's Friday! This week's reader mailbag comes from friend of Tested Bill Doran, who we've worked with before on projects like the District 9 Alien Rifle replica. Bill, who's a professional prop and costume maker, sends a care package to complete our set of blockhead figures. Thanks Bill!

How Lidar is Used in Visual Effects

This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 3/10/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

Making movies has always been about data capture. When the Lumière brothers first pointed their primitive camera equipment at a steam locomotive in 1895 to record Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, what were they doing if not capturing data? In the 1927 movie The Jazz Singer – the first full-length feature to use synchronised sound – when Al Jolson informed an eager crowd, "You ain't heard nothing' yet!", what was the Warner Bros. microphone doing? You guessed it: capturing data.

Nowadays, you can't cross a movie set without tripping over any one of a dozen pieces of data capture equipment. Chances are you'll even bump into someone with the job title of "data wrangler", whose job it is to manage the gigabytes of information pouring out of the various pieces of digital recording equipment.

And in the dead of night, if you're very lucky, you may even spy that most elusive of data capture specialists: the lidar operator.

Lidar has been around long enough to become commonplace. If you read behind-the-scenes articles about film production, you'll probably know that lidar scanners are regularly used to make 3D digital models of sets or locations. The word has even become a verb, as in, "We lidared the castle exterior." Like all the other forms of data capture, lidar is everywhere.

But what exactly is lidar? What does the word stand for, and how do those scanners work? And just how tough is it to scan a movie set when there's a film crew swarming all over it?

To answer these questions and more, I spoke to Ron Bedard from Industrial Pixel, a Canadian-based company, with incorporated offices in the USA, which offers lidar, cyberscanning, HDR and survey services to the motion picture and television industries.

Dissecting the Technology of 'The Martian': Air

This is the second in a series of articles that examine the real-life systems aboard the International Space Station (ISS) which inspired the fictional equipment found in Andy Weir's novel (and soon-to-be-released movie) The Martian. In the first installment, we looked at the many ways in which water is conserved and recycled. This time around, we will investigate the components that process air to make the ISS both habitable and comfortable for the humans inside.

The Basics

Before getting into too much detail about the air systems on the ISS, a brief overview of the general layout is probably warranted. As with the water systems, many of the US-made air management components on the ISS have foreign counterparts. For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus only on the US equipment.

The habitable areas of the ISS are pressurized modules that are typically cylindrical in shape. Three node sections (named Unity, Harmony, and Tranquility) serve as the crossroads for all of the modules No matter which direction you choose to exit a node, your path will soon reach a dead end in some module.

On Earth we have the luxury of myriad natural processes that create air currents on a local and global scale. This helps to ensure that the same patch of air never lingers over any location for very long. In the manmade ecosystem of the ISS, however, such air flow does not occur naturally. The Intermodule Ventilation system (IMV) compensates by using fans to force airflow between the modules. Without it, the air would stagnate in those dead ends. Well, everywhere, actually.

The inter-module airflow is extremely important because the life support systems that manage the composition of the air are not present in every module. In fact, most of the US-managed life support systems are located in Tranquility. IMV mixes and moves the atmosphere to ensure that the air quality in every module is homogeneous--or nearly so.