Latest Stories
The Thatcher Method - Episode 39 - 5/20/16
On this episode (our longest show ever), we chat with director/producer/writer/puppeteer Kirk Thatcher. Kirk shares some wine with us and talks about his wacky route from making molds and creatures to directing next to legends like Leonard Nimoy, hanging out in the editing room with George Lucas and working closely with Jim Henson. It's an episode full of great stories. If you like this show and want to hear more, please support us at www.patreon.com/creaturegeek
00:00:00 / 01:26:06
The Great Tested Garage Sale 2016

Surprise: we're moving offices! We've been in our current San Francisco office for almost four years now, having moved in when Will, Joey, and I first teamed up with Adam and Jamie. Back then, we shared the office with some engineers (who have since left for other projects), so we didn't maximize the space for our varying production needs. Our lease ended this year, and with more opportunities to shoot videos with Adam, we decided to move to a new location closer to his shop. We're really excited about it!

Less exciting is the task of moving all of our stuff to the new office. We've accumulated a LOT of stuff over the years, and aren't going to take it all with us. So our hoarding is your gain. On Sunday, May 29th, we're hosting the first ever Tested garage sale to sell everything we're not taking to the new location. That includes collectibles, quads, LEGO, artwork, old projects, equipment, and even office furniture. The sale will take place at our current place (790 Brannan St, San Francisco), between 1 and 5PM. We'll take credit card or cash, but definitely no trades (we don't need more stuff!). All the money we raise from the sale will go to renovating and building out our new studio. Come by to hang out, buy a piece of Tested history, and say goodbye to a space that's served us well for so many years. BYOB. We may even livestream it!

Once we're settled in the new space, we'll shoot a tour video to share with you. There's a lot of cool new technology that's available now that wasn't possible in 2012, so we can have some fun with virtual tours. What do you all think of a telepresence machine? In the meantime, I've dug up the tour videos from when we first moved into this office four years ago.

Everything is a Remix: Star Wars

The amazingly talented filmmaker Kirby Ferguson (Everything is a Remix) just released his take on the criticism that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just a rip off of Episode IV: A New Hope. This isn't a video comparing the similarities between the films--it's an analysis of why those parallels work in filmmaking, and how it's utilized for viewer satisfaction. Remember Ferguson's three basic elements of creativity: Copy, Transform, Combine!

Loyd's Travel Gear: PC, Camera, Power, Bags

Let's talk road trips! I'm sitting in a hotel room in Austin, Texas as I write this, during after-work time on a business trip. This topic seemed like a timely one. But, I hear you ask, what kind of road trip? Long? Short? Vacation? Business?

Good point. Rather than try to address each of these as a separate trip category, I'll talk about the stuff first, then how I change what I carry depending on length of trip. For me, time spent away tends to change my travel kit more than the type of trip.

Compute

I carry a laptop most trips, but that laptop has been shrinking over the years. I used to feel I wanted a very thin, relatively light 15-inch notebook — something on the order of a Macbook Pro 15-inch or Dell XPS 15. I've come to realize I mostly use laptops for communication, writing, and super-basic photo editing. I bought a Lenovo Yoga when they first shipped, with a 13.3-inch screen. Even that became too bulky over time, so my go-to travel PC is now Microsoft's Surface Pro 4. The 12.3-inch screen is adequate, and the new Type Cover keyboard works amazingly well. Best of all, it's treated as a tablet by TSA in most locations, so getting I can just leave it in the bag when going through airport security.

I find myself traveling without a mouse more frequently, though if I plan on using Photoshop, I'll throw a small Bluetooth mouse into the bag. I sometimes also carry an iPad Air 2, but not for shorter trips. The combination of iPhone 6 and Surface Pro 4 addresses most of my computing and browsing needs, but the iPad comes in handy for tablet games and some movie viewing. However, I always carry my Kindle Voyage, which offers weeks-long battery life, useful backlighting, and handles much easier than the iPad for reading.

Adam Savage's Large Vacuum Forming Machine

Adam wipes the dust off of his old large vacuum forming machine and uses it for an ongoing Apollo spacesuit project! Here's a primer on vacuum forming and how it's been used in special effects and prop-making. Adam's machine has a few quirks, so let's see how it performs!

Ask Adam Anything #9: Working Music

This week, Adam answers a question about what music he listens to in the cave while he's working on projects. Adam digs up his current favorite playlist and runs through some of his favorite songs and artists. If you have a question or something you want to share with Adam, post in the comments below! (Music recommendations as well.) We'll be back next week!

How To Fly Illuminated RC Models at Night

The first time that I flew an RC plane at night, it was illuminated by a few chemical glow sticks that had been hastily taped in place. Unsure of success, I used an old model that wouldn't be missed if things went badly. It was a seat-of-the-pants, half-baked experiment by any measure. Looking back on that experience, it's hard to believe that the soft light of the glow sticks was adequate for me to see the model very well. Yet, the concept was sufficiently proven, and so began my still-active interest in night flying.

The E-flite Brave is a newly-released ARF night flyer using foam construction. (photo courtesy of Horizon Hobby)

These days, modelers can choose from a variety of very bright off-the-shelf lighting systems to illuminate their favorite airplane. There are also several Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) models with factory-installed lighting systems. Today, we'll take a look at some of the choices that are available for a moonlight stroll around the flying field.

Lighting Choices

The easiest method to make a model suitable for night flying is to add LED light strips. Many electric models already have a 12-volt power source for the lights. (photo courtesy of Hobbico)

My use of glow sticks was limited to just a few experimental flights. I soon moved to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to brighten my night flyers. LEDs are ideal because they are adequately bright, very efficient, and they are available in a wide variety of colors. My initial experiences with LEDs required that I pair each diode with a resistor to establish the desired amperage. Setting up a simple model with a couple dozen LEDs required a little Ohm's Law and a lot of soldering.

Before long, prefabricated strings of LEDs became available. These lights have the LEDs and resistors integrated together on a flexible strip with an adhesive backing. You just snip off the length of light strip that you want and attach a 12-volt DC power source. LED strips are not an RC-specific product. They have been embraced by the DIY crowd for custom PC cases, car accents, home theater lighting, and many other applications.

While they are not the only lighting option available, LED light strips make the task of creating a night flyer a real no-brainer. Many electric-powered airplane models use a 3-cell Lithium-Polymer battery, which has 12.6 volts at full charge. It is a simple matter to tap into this battery to also power the lights.

Tested: Carvey Desktop CNC Machine Review

We test the Carvey, a desktop CNC machine from Inventables. Unlike the X-Carve, this three-axis mill is enclosed for office use and designed for simplicity and safety. Using the web-based Easel software, we're able to create a design and cut it on a sheet of plastic in just a few minutes. The simplicity limits its versatility, so it may be better suited for classrooms than large working shops.

Tested: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Video Card

GTX 1080 seems like such an odd product name, since it brings up the specter of gaming on a 1080p display. The GTX 1080 kills 1080p gaming dead, makes 1440p gaming the new normal, and finally puts 4K gaming within reach of a single GPU. While the GTX 1080 offers great performance, other attributes make the new GPU attractive for gamers. Let's be clear: the GTX 1080 represents the fastest single GPU graphics card you can buy, but performance may not be the primary reason to buy this card.

By the Numbers

Let's first touch on base specifications. Based on Nvidia's latest Pascal GPU architecture, Nvidia builds the GTX 1080 on a 16nm FinFET process at Taiwan's TSMC fab. This represents the first process shrink for an Nvidia GPU in two architectural generations, since the original Kepler-based GTX 680 moved to 28nm. FinFET technology incorporates transistors which extend vertically (the "fin"). FinFET reduces current leakage, enabling greater power efficiency. This allows Nvidia to build monster GPU chips without creating space heaters, if you will.

That process technology allows Nvidia to create 7.2 billion transistor GPU using a 314mm2 die, considerably smaller than the GTX 980 die while stuffing an additional two billion transistors. This smaller, denser chip clocks at 1.6GHz base clock and 1.73GHz in boost mode; the GPU looks like it offers substantial overclocking headroom, if that floats your boat.

In addition to all the process technology goodness, the GTX 1080 uses Micron's shiny new GDDR5X memory technology, which transfers data at 10 gigatranfers per second, boosting memory bandwidth by 30% over the GTX 1080 and within striking distance of the memory bandwidth of the massive GTX Titan while using a narrower, 256-bit memory bus. Pascal also improves on Maxwell's memory compression with its fourth generation delta color compression. Depending on game title, the new color compression techniques improve bandwidth 15-30%.

The bottom line: the GTX 1080 has almost as many shader cores as the GTX 980 Ti, runs them 60% faster, and can move data almost as quickly. Based on these numbers alone, we'd expect a serious performance uptick.