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Ruben Cabrera's Eyestranaut Toy Concept

With rapid prototyping, it's possible for independent artists to turn their concepts into real collectible products. At DesignerCon, we meet artist Ruben Cabrera, who is releasing his first designer toy.

Jackoarma's Elaborate Custom Dioramas for Action Figures

Meet Jack Venturo, a toy enthusiast who builds elaborate and highly-detailed dioramas for action figures. We meet up with Jack at DesignerCon to chat about his many custom displays, his work process, and why he loves making dioramas for other people's collections.

The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (December 2016)

As we coast through the final weeks of the year, you may be eyeing deals on smartphones and wondering which one you should get. It's a big decision, and one that's harder than ever to make. New phones are constantly coming out, but this is the perfect time to pick one up. We're still months out from the 2017 flagships, and we've seen all the big 2016 releases. Google is making it easier than ever to pick up its latest and greatest, but Samsung is really trying to make up for that Note7 fiasco with some good deals. What's a smartphone buyer to do?

Carrier phones

Despite the issues with Samsung's Note 7 release this fall, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have held up well and don't (as far as I'm aware) blow up any more often than other phones. That's a good thing. The GS7 continues to be the best overall phone that you can get from your carrier, or at least from all carriers. Verizon customers can get the Pixel from Big Red, but we'll get into that later. First, let's talk about why the Galaxy S7 is still worthy of your attention.

The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have Super AMOLED panels at 2560x1440 resolution. The GS7 is 5.1-inches, while the Edge variant has a larger 5.5-inch display. These are still the best panels you can get on a smartphone, though the gap is closing. They're bright, have perfect viewing angles, and the colors are very accurate. Then there's the Edge, which is so named because the screen curves down on both the left and right sides. It looks cool, but it's actually less comfortable to hold. The Pixel XL's display is almost as good, but samsung still wins on this front.

Samsung used to build phones that felt cheap, but I'm still impressed when I pick up the GS7. The front and back are both Gorilla Glass, but it feels so well put together. It's IP68 water resistant, and feels very dense in the hand. It's a little heavier than you probably expect when you pick it up, but it has a slight curve, making it much more comfortable to hold.

This phone is slightly thicker than Samsung's 2015 flagship, allowing for a larger battery. The GS7 has a 3000mAh battery and the GS7 Edge has 3600mA. In both cases, these cells perform very well. I've been using a GS7 Edge on and off for months and it easily lasts a day with heavy use. The smaller GS7 is almost as good. Both phones support Quick Charge 2.0 and wireless charging, but they have microUSB ports. That's increasingly odd as time goes on.

The GS7 has held up well in terms of performance. It was never a blazing-fast phone, but it's fast enough. The Snapdragon 820 has shown up in a lot of phones, but Samsung lowered the clock speed a bit to make the device more power efficient. There are no issues with multitasking thanks to the 4GB of RAM, though.

Sculpting Gas Masks and Helmets from Sneakers!

We meet artist Gary Lockwood, aka Freehand Profit, who transforms sneakers into stunning gas masks and helmets. We take a look at his sculptures and learn how he breaks down a pair of shoes into the patterns and materials needed to craft helms for sneakerheads.

This Old FX Shop: Audrey II

Frank shows us how to paint this garage kit we found at this year’s Monsterpalooza creature effects show. We discuss cleanup processes for castings and different paint methods using visual references from the film.

Hands-On with the Glowforge Laser Cutter!

It's finally here! We have a pre-release model of the Glowforge laser cutter in our office to test, and have been running it through its paces. Adam and Norm show off its features and run through a few test cuts, including tracing one of Adam's drawings. Let us know what questions you have about the Glowforge in the comments!

High Exposure: The Art of Photographing Rocket Launches

We've all seen close-up photos of fire-belching rockets as they break free from the launch pad. But have you ever given any thought to how such dramatic images are captured? After all, the only people who are allowed within miles of the launch pad are required to have a reserved seat inside the rocket!

As it turns out, shooting rocket launches requires a photographer with a wide array of skills and a few bits of custom equipment in their kit. These artists set up their gear near the launch pad well in advance of the final countdown. They will be miles away during the moment of truth, where all they can do is cross their fingers and hope that everything works as planned.

Camera equipment is often left next to the launch pad for days at a time. The setup seen here illustrates one of the countless techniques that photographers improvise to protect their gear from the elements.

Between unpredictable weather conditions, the harsh environment near flaming rockets, and random gremlins, there are far too many variables involved to ever be totally confident of success. Meticulous preparation is key, and a little luck doesn't hurt either. Even so, these photographers have more at stake than just missing the shot with no chance for a mulligan. They could actually lose their camera gear in the process. Because…well, sometimes the rocket photography gods demand a sacrifice.

An Expert's Insight

Ben Cooper has been shooting launches for 17 years. During that time, his photos have earned many awards and appeared on countless magazine covers. You've probably seen his work. I recently had a chat with Ben to find out how he approaches the challenge of shooting rocket close-ups.

Peter Jackson's Original King Kong Stop-Motion Armature

When Adam Savage visited Peter Jackson's collection of film props, costumes, and artifacts, they examined the original stop-motion armature from the original 1933 film. Adam and Peter talk about this prized prop and its role in Hollywood special effects history.