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Tested Builds: LED Hypnocube, Part 2

Will and Norm continue working on the 4x4x4 LED Hypnocube! How many times do we say "PCB Board"? How soon before one of us burns the other with a soldering iron? To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here. Post your comments and questions about the build below!

How I Edit Tested's One Day Builds

This will be a weekly three-part behind the scenes series: Lighting, Shooting, and Editing.

The production behind Adam's One Day Builds, are a good representation of the common challenges I'm faced with being a one-man production team at Tested. They're often long shooting days with tons of coverage, shot in a documentary format, meaning that we often shoot for spontaneity which in turn means that the at end of the day I'm coming back with hours of footage and steep shooting ratios: somewhere in between 20:1-30:1.

A typical One Day Build Shoot, where I come back with hours of footage.

One important key advantage I have in this series, despite shooting such high ratios, is that I'm shooting for myself. Meaning, this footage is coming back with me to the editing bay, where I'll then chop it up. As the camera operator, knowing how to shoot for the editor, me, allows me to edit the piece in my head, as I'm shooting. Which is huge.

Most camera/editors will tell you how much easier it is to edit their own footage. You know your own quirks, you know what you were shooting at the time and where you were planning on placing that in the video. You know your own movements, and what kind of shots you were trying to get, and in my case, I know Adam. I know how he moves around the shop, about how long it takes him to bandsaw through some ply, screw in six wood screws, or sand a piece of material. I can shoot multiple angles of him working on one piece of his puzzle, only to edit and string them together to fake a multi-cam shoot--essentially to increase production value.

Technical skills aside, one of the key requirements that come with the title job is to learn about the people you work with, and their mannerisms and style, so you can prepare properly, and compliment their style, with your own. Ultimately serving the final product.

After watching the speed at which Adam works, and the precision of him working in his own workshop, I came to the conclusion that the One Day Builds should have a certain style to them: a chance to give the user the perspective of a fly in his workshop. Close intimate angles, camera movement to match Adam's movement, all cut to a slightly exaggerated pace; making sure that information is presented simultaneously, without jarring the audience or pulling them out of the perception of a live filming. It's about marrying the communication with the action, and doing so in an effective way.

This brings me to my main two editing techniques for this kind of feature:

Adam's Tour Diaries #20: On to Kansas City

Dec. 11, 2014: In Kansas City, we had some press to do. Jamie felt a bit under the weather, so I had an early start and headed over to KSHB- 41 to appear on their morning show, Kansas City Live. They couldn’t have been nicer. I love seeing morning-show sets. I love how substantial they are aesthetically and insubstantial materially.

The Kansas City Live set.

Then the camera crew set up for my interview. Do I look tired here?

I feel like I look tired.

After the interview (which you can see here), it was time to do a little shopping. I do some juggling in our live show, and one of my beanbags sprung a leak, so I needed some new ones. Will, our tour manager, found me a place that supposedly had one of the “largest magic retail spaces in the country.” It was right over the border in Kansas.

12 Days of Tested Christmas: Android Wear

For the ninth day of Tested Christmas, Norm extols the virtues of Android Wear. We've tested both the Pebble and two Android Wear watches, and the latter platform is proving the case for smart watches as useful complements to smart phones.

Tested Builds: LED Hypnocube, Part 1

It's time for another Tested Builds project! This week, Will and Norm tackle the challenge of building a 4x4x4 LED cube, based on a kit by Hypnocube. It's going to require teamwork and lots of precision soldering. Go team go! To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here. Post your comments and questions about the build below!

In Brief: Dayton Allen's Custom Alien Figures

One of my favorite magazines growing up was Wizard's ToyFare, which in addition to reporting on new action figure releases, showcased the custom toy modifications and builds and sculptors who made their own figures. These makers could take a Punisher figure, for example, and swap out its head and paint job to make it a kick-ass Bullseye figures. Custom figure sculpts have come a long way since then, and the quality of figures like the ones made by artist Dayton Allen are just as good (if not better) than the sculpts done by toy companies. The Verge has a fun report on a project that Allen started in 2011, custom sculpting the entire cast of Ridley Scott's Alien--in addition to building out the Nostromo bridge and corridor sets for those 4-inch figures. Allen's Flickr gallery of his work in progress is awesome. Bookmark it! And if want to get your hands on your own Alien figure without making a custom sculpt, the NECA series of Nostromo spacesuit figures just went on sale last week!

Adam's Tour Diaries #19: A Day of Writing and Research

Dec 10. 2014: Sigh. Another day I didn’t leave the bus. After the feverish activity of Omaha (well, it certainly FELT feverish) I felt due for a day of simply writing and research. It was quite productive in its own way. Seriously: I got a lot done.

When I finally DID make my way over to the Orpheum Theatre, I was graced with another lovely dressing room! I was reluctant to leave.

I felt very comfortable here.

But once onstage I had a phenomenal assistant.

My on-stage assistant.

You never quite know how someone will respond to being brought up onstage. For many, it seems like an AWESOME idea until they get up there, and then you can see it sink in: “Holy crap, look at all those people!” Not this girl, though. She was game and had a great sense of humor.

Google Play App Roundup: Action Launcher 3, Inferno 2, and Scrolls

Your Android phone is capable of a lot of cool things, but not because of what Google built in. Developers have access to all sorts of hooks in the system to make your phone do amazing things, you just have to find the right apps. That's what the weekly Google Play App Roundup is all about -- helping you find the right apps. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store and pick it up yourself.

This week it's time for a home screen makeover, shooters get glowing, and Mojang is back.

Action Launcher 3

The original Action Launcher came out a few years back, aiming to do things a little differently than the other AOSP-based home screens. The way Action Launcher handled (and continues to handle) widgets is unique among similar apps, and it adopted a different approach to finding your apps. Now Action Launcher has been redesigned around more modern Android code, and the result is the big v3 update. There are a few new features, and some old features are being left behind.

Action Launcher took its name from the Android action bar, which it implemented on the home screen. This was in the early-ish days of Holo, so people (read: nerds) were all over the idea of the action bar. It was a unifying force in Android UI design. Action Launcher 3 still offers the action bar UI (with a Lollipop flair), but the default layout is more straightforward. There's a search bar with a hamburger icon that, when pressed, reveals the Actino Launcher Quickdrawer with all your apps.

I'm quite fond of the Quickdrawer UI. There's an alphabetical column that you can drag up and down to scroll through the list, or just tap and drag the old-fashioned way. There's something new about the Quickdrawer and search box--they're really colorful. The big new fUI tweak in Action Launcher 3 is called Quicktheme. The launcher can pull colors out of your background image and apply them automatically to folders, the search box, Quickdrawer, and status bar (if you have the full action bar UI turned on). It even works with the excellent Muzei live wallpaper.

Covers and Shutters are also carried over from the old version of Action Launcher. Shutters are pop-up versions of widgets that you can trigger by swiping up on the icon of an app on your home screen. I find these pretty useful as I tend to run a widget-heavy home screen. It only takes one or two pages in Action Launcher to accommodate everything I need. Covers are basically folders that show a single app icon. Tap on it to launch that app, or swipe to open the hidden folder.

Action Launcher also drops a few features from the older version including the Quickpage, which was a slide-out home screen panel on the right side of the screen. Icon scaling and Icon pack support is also missing at launch. The developer says icon packs will probably be supported in early 2015, but there's no easy way to change your icons now without root.

The new Action Launcher is also very snappy in my testing with a variety of phones and tablets. It does lack a few features that were in the previous build, but this is a complete rewrite of the app, and several of those features were labeled as experimental anyway. This is a paid update, though. That doesn't particularly bother me because Action Launcher 3 really overhauls the look and feel.

The old version will continue to exist as the unlocker app is being updated as a full version of the paid AL2. Action Launcher 3 is free to try, but all the cool features are behind a $4.99 paywall.

12 Days of Tested Christmas: Essential Workshop Instruments

For the eighth day of Tested Christmas, Will shares his recommendations for essential tools that go a long way in the workshop. These instruments: a good pair of digital calipers and a high quality multimeter make great gifts, and you don't need to buy the most expensive ones!