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Tested: DJI Phantom 4 Review

After flying DJI's Phantom 4 quadcopter for a month, we share our evaluations of this new drone's ambitious features: the new obstacle avoidance system, active subject tracking, sport mode, and increased battery life. Here's why we think you're better off buying last year's Phantom 3 model.

The Full-Tower PC Case is a Dinosaur

I'd like to touch on something I ranted about a bit in the April 19 Improbable Insights podcast. The full-tower case is a dinosaur.

Look, I know some of you out there love your triple-GPU, overclocked, liquid-cooled monster PCs. I love that you love building and using these lumbering beasts, and more power to you. However, most people don't game on triple-4K displays, and the headaches of managing SLI and CrossFire to get a good gaming experience gives me heartburn thinking about it. I know, because I've run SLI rigs, only to be disappointed with lackluster game support, awful image artifacts, and all that heat. I suppose it's a good thing that DX12 offers improved support for multiple GPUs, but game publishers still see multi-GPU setups as fringe cases. (Haha, see what I did there?)

Unless you're dead set on running three GPUs, you don't need a full-size ATX motherboard. Most higher-end micro-ATX boards implement SLI and CrossFireX support, so you can run your twin graphics cards if you so desire. Micro-ATX mobos typically have four expansion slots; with the right slot setup, you could have your dual GPUs plus another card, be it a PCIe SSD or sound card. You can find a rich selection of micro-ATX motherboards offering serious overclocking support, amenities for liquid cooling, and other high-end features. Only a few years ago, only a few paltry micro ATX boards existed, mainly serving price-conscious buyers. Not so today.

Mini-ITX motherboards allow you to build even smaller systems, as I did with my itty-bitty gaming rig. As with micro-ATX boards, the selection of mini-ITX boards expanded substantially over the past few years, and even include boards aimed at high end gaming — though you're still limited to one graphics card.

Google's Virtual Art Sessions Illustrate Tilt Brush VR

Here's an innovative demonstration of mixed reality: Google recently launched a Virtual Art Sessions Chrome browser experiment, which plays back art being drawn and created in the Tilt Brush virtual reality tool. You can watch the pieces being created in real-time or sped up, but what's even cooler is the use of depth-sensors (Microsoft Kinect cameras) to capture the artists' form as they draw. That gives these demos a 3D point cloud representing the artist, and lets you pan and rotate the virtual camera around both the artists and their art pieces throughout playback.

In Brief: Guillermo del Toro's Bleak House Going on Tour

As you're probably aware, Guillermo del Toro has been amassing a collection of film props, replicas, sculptures, and other art pieces in his famous cave, known as the Bleak House (some of Adam's props live there!). This summer, part of that collection is going on tour in a travelling museum exhibit, starting at Los Angeles' LACMA. The director calls it "an exhibit of my movie stuff", and the show will be organized by themes that inspire his films and creative process. After showing at the LACMA until the end of this year, the exhibit will travel to Minneapolis and Toronto, and possibly other cities. While we wait for the the exhibit's July opening, you can find some glimpses of the Bleak House in del Toro's wonderful Cabinet of Curiosities book.

A Brief History of Dinosaurs in Film

The word "dinosaur" was coined by Victorian naturalist Sir Richard Owen in 1841. Derived from the Greek, it means "terrible lizard". The modern meaning is, of course, "humongous slavering monster that tramples the getaway car, eats the supporting actor and fills the IMAX screen from top to bottom."

As well as giving dinosaurs their name, Owen was one of the first to recognize their entertainment potential. In 1852, following London's Great Exhibition, he oversaw the creation of 33 life-size concrete dinosaur sculptures. After the giant models had been artistically placed in parkland surrounding Crystal Palace, Owen hosted a flamboyant dinner party inside the hollow mold that had been used to make the Iguanodon.

Willis O'Brien and a dinosaur from "The Lost World"

After that, dinosaurs swiftly rampaged through popular culture, including early cinema. In 1925, Willis O'Brien – one of the earliest visual effects practitioners – chose them as a subject for his revolutionary stop motion animation techniques in The Lost World, a film which took Owen's Victorian concept of the dinosaur tableau and made it live and breathe.

For nearly seventy years, stop motion remained the technique of choice for bringing extinct creatures to life. In 1953, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms saw Ray Harryhausen using O'Brien's methods to resurrect a long-dormant Rhedosaurus – a fictional dinosaur awoken from its slumber by an A-bomb test.

The Rhedosaurus from "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms"

More Harryhausen dinosaurs followed in 1966, when One Million Years B.C. showcased his Dynamation process in glorious Technicolor. Three years later, he repeated the trick yet again with The Valley of Gwangi. Impressive though Gwangi's dinosaurs were, the film ultimately lacked the box office bite of its prehistoric predecessor (perhaps because it swapped Raquel Welch in a leather bikini for a bunch of cowboys).

Making Dinosaur Models for 60's Stop-Motion Film

From British Pathe, a YouTube channel repository of 20th century archival footage, a 1967 short educational film about the making of dinosaur puppets for stop-motion animation. It covers the sculpting, molding, and casting of the models--some things just haven't changed! (Though the use of a skeleton for the puppet armature is suspect.)

Lewis Nowosad Hits an Impasse on his Guardians Helmet

As I have written before, I'll be posting and commenting on the things you guys are making as a result of what you see on Tested. This photo was posted by Lewis Nowosad, who asked me for some advice during his build of a Guardian of the Galaxy helmet, which he's finishing so he can join the efforts of the nonprofit Avenger's Initiative.

Unfortunately, I don't have enough information to really tackle this problem; the one pic doesn't quite tell the story. Lewis, for keeping it on your head I might suggest elastic around the back, at the top of your neck, with a center strap heading up and over your head.

As for the hinging back, I might suggest velcro instead of a mechanical solution, because it's more forgiving. Fitting a mechanical solution around a head in a close-fitting helmet is a bear of a problem to solve.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Keep sharing your builds! If you're using Twitter, be sure to tag @donttrythis and @testedcom. If Facebook, post on the wall of Adam's solo group or Tested's.

Building Fallout 4 T-60 Power Armor, Part 2

Last time, I shared how we tackled the digital design planning for the Fallout 4 Power Armor build. We extracted the game models using NifSkope, prepared them for our build by increasing their detail in Blender, then finally cut them into sections that would fit on our 3D printers in NetFabb. With our first batch of models are ready to produce, it's time to send them to the machines to create and get them looking nice.

I'll be using the helmet and the large shoulders to demonstrate the techniques I use to go from raw 3D print to finished master ready for molding. But same process is used whether I'm making something small like a detail piece or a weapon, or the big printed sections of armor. For this build, we'll be using the 3D printer for the interior "frame" pieces, the large shoulders, and the back armor as well as some of the smaller detail bits throughout the armor like the oversized bolts on the knees and the oil filters under the chest.

I print exclusively in ABS plastic because of some interesting post processing methods available, specifically being able to use acetone to smooth your prints to reduce or eliminate the print "grain" visible at each layer in the printing process. This is not acetone vapor smoothing, which looks really pretty but softens up all of the hard edges we worked to preserve, but rather a solution mixed up and painted directly on to the part. I'll create a batch of "ABS juice" to paint the surface with a brush that both fills in the valleys of the print lines like a body filler, and also acts to soften up and smooth down the high points.

Photo Gallery: Monsterpalooza 2016

We spent this past weekend at Monsterpalooza, the annual creature and makeup effects convention in Pasadena. It was an awesome place to meet sculptors, painters, and other artists showing off their personal projects, and in many cases, selling resin kits (I picked up a few). The event was one big mutual appreciation society--the place to put faces to Instagram art accounts and discover many new ones to follow. Frank and Len recorded two episodes of Creature Geek there, too! Here are some photos from the show, and we'll have videos and interviews we shot there on the site in the coming days!