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Taschen's The Making of Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey'

In reading and collecting literature about celebrated works in cinema, there is rarely a single book or other kind of publication that serves as a sufficient canonical archive of that film's production and legacy. Just look at how many "Making of Star Wars" books that have been released over the years. Taschen Publishing's The Making of Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' isn't the end-all complete chronicle of Kubrick's masterpiece on its own, but the 562-page tome proves more than a sufficient anchor for any completist's collection. I've been reading an early copy of this book this week, wide-eyed and mouth agape at just how much insight into the film's production history is revealed on each page.

This book is a re-release of an ultra-limited collector's edition that Taschen published last year--which also instantly sold out. While this book doesn't have the film stills and original screenplay/production notes printing that the $1000 edition included, it's a treasure trove of production material pulled from the Kubrick archives. The cadence of the book is perfect as coffee-table fodder: dozens of pages of narrative tracing the origin, production, plot, reception, and legacy of 2001: A Space Odyssey in academic detail, followed by full-spread and fold-out pages of photographs, production designs, and promotional artwork.

A specially commissioned artwork demonstrates how the various interior sets for the Discovery would fit in to the habitation sphere if the ship were constructed at full scale. (Credit: Oliver Rennert/TASCHEN)

Concept art and storyboards from the likes of Robert McCall, Richard McKenna and Roy Carnon show how Kubrick united astronomy illustrators with recruited aerospace engineers to design the visual language of futuristic manned spaceflight--at the same time NASA was reaching for the Moon. You get a sense of where designs like that of the space repair pod originated (inspired by a 1960's Boeing drawing). That artwork is paired with photographs of miniatures, sets, and costumes, in various states of competition and use. For prop replica builders, photographs from the sets give a close-up look at switch panels, knobs, display systems, and label text. A mind-boggling amount of detail.

While it's unquestionably a treat for the eyes, I was pleased that the book isn't just a visual record of the film. Writer Piers Bizony (who has written numerous space history books) devotes numerous sections to the technical details of the special effects and innovative cinematography techniques used by Kubrick and his collaborators. We learn not only how specific shots were accomplished, but where those technical achievements stand in the context of cinema and effects history. Motion-control, front projection, matte masking, and the slit-scan machine get their appropriate dues. This book gets delightfully nerdy.

Nvidia Launches GTX 950 Video Card, In-Game Screen Sharing

Nvidia today announced the GeForce GTX 950, a $160 video card aimed at MOBA players. It's a 90W part with 2GB of RAM, 768 CUDA cores, and a base clock of 1024MHz. In Nvidia's lineup, it sits between the 750Ti and GTX 960. Along with the card, Nvidia's GeForce Experience software now offers a low-latency feature for MOBA games, achieved by limiting the maximum prerendered frames in the GPU buffer so it's no longer the bottleneck in the graphics pipeline. According to Nvidia, tightening up the rendering cycle reduces click to action latency by up to 35ms, with minimal frame loss. This isn't something that'll affect the majority of gamers, but competitive MOBA players may find it useful.

Additionally, an upcoming beta of the GFE software will come with a Share feature, utilizing Maxwell's built-in H.264 encoder to record 4K 60fps gameplay videos and send versions of them directly to YouTube or a Twitch streaming account. Share also has a unique "Stream" function, which gives you a private URL to send with one person who can then watch a direct stream of your gameplay via a Chrome extension. The advantage of this direct connection over streaming via Twitch is the real-time playback, as well as the ability of the viewer to play along with you with guest controls. This is pretty neat: the extension can send back gamepad or keyboard/mouse commands and effectively let you play a shared-screen multiplayer game (like Trine 3) remotely--though not on a Chromebook, yet. Direct game sharing is limited to 720p 30fps, and you can only share full-screen experiences (to prevent the guest from accessing your desktop). But Nvidia confirmed that it's not just limited to games--anything that uses the Maxwell GPU and runs full screen can be shared. This evolution of Nvidia's Shadowplay feature is a novel use of Maxwell's video encoder. You'll be able to try it out in the GeForce Experience beta coming early September.

How To Get Into Hobby RC: Mounting Action Cameras

I've been attaching small digital video cameras to my RC vehicles for several years. I started with one of the original Flip cameras--remember those? Since then, cameras have shrunken in size and grown in ability. My knack for successfully utilizing on-board cameras has similarly improved. In this guide, I will share some of the lessons I've learned over the years.

Although I can utilize the same mounts for both cameras, the weight and frontal area of the GoPro Hero 3 and Mobius are very different, making them suited for different applications.

The Camera Equipment

My current cameras for onboard filming are a GoPro Hero 3 Black, a wide-angle Mobius action camera, and a Mobius with the standard lens. The wide-angle Mobius gets much more use than the other two. Its small size (2.4"x1.4"x.7"), bantam weight (1.4 oz), and good video performance make it applicable to a wide range of RC applications. The camera's $80 price tag also makes me more willing to strap it to a fast-moving object, as opposed to the much more costly GoPro.

There are times, however, when I want the image quality that only a GoPro can provide. When the Hero 3 is locked in its housing, it is more than three times the weight of the Mobius and has about four times the frontal area (aerodynamic drag). I just have to be more selective with the vehicles that I choose for the GoPro. Not all of them can handle the extra burden gracefully. The new Hero 4 Session looks promising, with a weight (2.6 oz) and frontal area falling in the gap the between the Mobius and Hero 3. As soon as I can justify the expense, I'm sure I'll have a Session in my camera bag as well.

Using a collection of GoPro mounts, nylon fasteners, and various homemade bits, I can attach a small video camera to nearly any RC vehicle.

There are tons of mounting gadgets made for the GoPro. Between the parts made by GoPro, aftermarket mounting kits, and the simple foam/wood adapters that I've made myself, there are limitless options for mounting a GoPro to an RC vehicle.

Mobius cameras include a plastic cradle with a 1/4-inch female insert on the bottom (the standard thread found on tripods). In my review of the Mobius, I explained how a simple modification of a GoPro pivot arm allows me to mount the smaller camera to any of the GoPro mounts--a handy, and much-used capability.

The Talking Room: Adam Savage Interviews Author Mary Roach

While researching topics for her books, author Mary Roach puts the obscure and fascinating stories of science under a spotlight. Her books cover a diverse range of topics, including sex, colonizing Mars, death, and the human alimentary canal. Please welcome Mary Roach to The Talking Room!

An Exploration of Vertical Cinema

This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 4/7/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

Widescreen! Cinemascope! Panavision! Since the early days of cinema, movie screens have been getting steadily wider. From the squat 4:3 aspect ratio of early 20th century silent movies, through the explosion of sprawling widescreen film formats that began in the 1950s, to today's ever-expanding domestic TV screens, the trend is clear: bigger is better … but only if you stretch things in the horizontal dimension.

But what happens if you turn this thinking on its head? Or rather, on its side?

That's the question posed by Vertical Cinema, a Sonic Acts art project comprising ten specially commissioned films made by experimental filmmakers and audiovisual artists. Vertical Cinema presentations have been held since 2013 at locations across Europe and in the USA, with the films frequently being projected in churches. The movies are projected using a custom-built 35mm film projector in vertical Cinemascope. No landscape images here. In Vertical Cinema, everything is portrait.

Here's what Vertical Cinema has to say about this unusual twist on traditional cinematic conventions:

For the Vertical Cinema project, we "abandoned" traditional cinema formats, opting instead for cinematic experiments that are designed for projection in a tall, narrow space. It is not an invitation to leave cinemas – which have been radically transformed over the past decade according to the diktat of the commercial film market – but a provocation to expand the image onto a new axis. This project re-thinks the actual projection space and returns it to the filmmakers. It proposes a future for filmmaking rather than a pessimistic debate over the alleged death of film.

With its mission to challenge established conventions, Vertical Cinema wears its experimental heart firmly on its sleeve. But what's to stop someone making a full-blown narrative feature film in this unusual vertical format? On the face of it, the challenges seem considerable. The entire movie industry is built around the landscape image. Even if you could get such a film made at a technical level, would the vertical format clip your storytelling wings? And would audiences actually want to see it?

To answer these questions and more, Cinefex spoke with six filmmakers and visual effects experts: Douglas Trumbull (filmmaker and VFX innovator), Tim Webber (creative director and VFX supervisor, Framestore), Rajat Roy (global technical supervisor, Prime Focus World), Paul Mowbray (head of NSC Creative), Marc Weigert (president and VFX supervisor, Method Studios) and Charles Rose (CG supervisor, Tippett Studio).

In Brief: Intel Gives More Skylake Details, Launch Impending

While reviews of two desktop Skylake processors have been out in the wild for weeks, the launch of Intel's 6th generation Core processor lineup is far from final. And to the disappointment of PC builders, Skylake didn't get its big debut at this week's IDF, either. Intel reserved much of yesterday's IDF keynote to talk of IOT and smart home devices. But in a separate briefing, some new Skylake architecture details were released. As PC World's Gordon Ung reports, Intel is touting three features in the upcoming chips: power savings via a new "Speed Shift Technology", performance improvements from the use of "eDRAM+" cache in the CPU, and integrated graphics that can drive multiple 4K panels and encode/decode 4K video in hardware. How these features translate to real-world performance--especially on the mobile side--wasn't explicitly stated, so we'll have to wait a few weeks when Intel will likely give Skylake a proper launch at IFA.

Norman
Boston Dynamics Tests Its Atlas Robot Outdoors

Marc Raibert, founder of Boston Dynamics (now owned by Google), shares some updates about the current state of its Atlas robot at the recent Fab Lab conference in Boston. The company has been testing Atlas outdoors--though still tethered--to demonstrate its mobility in uncontrolled environments. You can watch the full hourlong presentation, including talks from MIT and Harvard roboticists, here.

The Budget Android Revolution: Pros and Cons of Going Cheap

Not that many years ago, buying an Android phone off-contract for $250 would assure you of a terrible experience. Buyer's remorse was almost inevitable, and the only way to avoid it was to spend two or three times more on a "proper" android phone. My, how times have changed. A new era of Android has dawned, and the price of solid mid-range devices has come down dramatically. It's not all roses, though.

Let's take a look at what you gain and what you lose with these budget-friendly Android phones.

The How and Why

One of the primary reasons you can get a device like the Asus Zenfone 2, Alcatel Idol 3, or Moto G for well under $300 is that chipset makers have finally caught up to Android's software requirements. Mid-range SoCs like the Snapdragon 410, 615, and MediaTek Helio X10 have enough power to keep Android running smoothly in most instances. Most of these chipsets even support LTE. NAND flash and memory has come down in price dramatically as well.

There has also been a shift at the top of the market that has sent some OEMs looking for a new angle. It's actually very difficult to make a $600 smartphone and turn a profit while competing with Samsung, LG, and the other big players. Even some notable names in Android have had trouble competing in the premium bracket as of late (see: HTC). So what's an OEM to do? Well, go cheap, sometimes with the help of hardware partners.

There's an interesting dynamic playing out in the supply chain right now that has pushed hardware costs even lower than they might otherwise have been. Intel is looking to make a name in phones, and its latest generation Atom SoCs are actually quite good. Qualcomm is stumbling right now with the toasty Snapdragon 810, so Intel has partnered with OEMs like Asus to get its chips into budget phones quickly and cheaply. The price of a device like the Zenfone 2 might not have been as reasonable were it not for Intel's aggressive moves as of late.

Tested In-Depth: Nest Cam Security Camera

We review Google's Nest Cam, their 1080p connected camera built for home or office monitoring. We compare its features to the previous Dropcam models, discuss the merits of home security subscription services, and try to figure out who this product is made for. Is this any more than just a pricey webcam?