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Let's Build: 1/144 Millennium Falcon, Part 2

The gang talks about The Force Awakens' lasting legacy and their first Star Wars games as we snip plastic and snap together this beautiful kit. There's so much detail here to appreciate, and Sean brings along a technical manual to help deciper the parts.

Adam Savage's 2017 San Diego Comic-Con Schedule

We're just a few days away from Adam Savage's version of Christmas, and as usual he's beside himself with joy.

Here's what he's doing this year publicly, and for those of you who cannot be there, we will be sharing as much as possible from the event, plus of course TONS of video on Tested afterward.

Adam Incognito 1 (Thursday)

Stay tuned to Twitter (@donttrythis), because we'll Tweet when Adam is hitting the floor in his first Incognito costume. He may or may not have a surprise guest with him. (OK. Yes. He'll have a surprise guest with him.) The first person to identify Adam will get two passes to his panel on Friday.

Syfy Hosts the Great Debate (Thursday at 1:15 pm)

What superfan doesn't love a good debate? Star Destroyer or Enterprise? Who was the best Batman? Have video games eclipsed movies and TV? And what about Jodie Whittaker as the new Dr. Who? John Hodgman leads the ultimate debate, featuring panelists Adam Savage, Orlando Jones, Aisha Tyler, John Barrowman and Charlie Jane Anders.

W00tstock (Thursday at 7 pm)

Other guests in addition to Adam and Paul and Storm: John Hodgman, John Roderick, Michael Giacchino, Marian Call, Gail Simone, Amy Berg and Travis McElroy. In other words, LOTS of amazing people, and for under $50. Tix:

Let's Build: 1/144 Millennium Falcon, Part 1

This week, Norm, Jeremy, and Sean take on the Bandai Millennium Falcon snap-fit kit, which we gushed over at Silicon Valley Comic Con. Jeremy found a custom light kit for this model, and we're experimenting with a new sky-cam camera angle!

Google Play App Roundup: Camera Roll, A Planet of Mine, and Virtua Tennis Challenge

We're really getting spoiled these days. There are great Android apps coming out all the time, but it can still be hard to find them amid all the clutter. The Google Play App Roundup is all about clearing the junk out of the way so you can find the best apps. Just click on the app name to go straight to the Google Play Store and pick up the app yourself.

Camera Roll

Every phone comes with a gallery app of some sort, but they're usually quite barebones and some are downright ugly. There are several good alternatives in the Play Store, including the new Camera Roll app. The name will probably appeal to recent iOS converts, but it's more than just a name. This is a capable and configurable gallery app.

The app opens with each folder on your device containing photos displayed as a large rectangle with a thumbnail image. This is only the default, though. There are several different layouts including small cards, large cards, and scrollable horizontal blocks. The dark theme can also be flipped over to light or completely black, if you so desire.

When you open a folder, Camera Roll starts showing off with some slick animations. The photo grid slides up from the bottom, and the images start as black and white. They re-saturate in about one second as you scroll. It's a neat effect. Tapping on individual photos also offers up a cool zooming animation. When you go back, the photo zooms back out into its place in the grid. Again, so slick.

Unfortunately, there's no built-in editing for Camera Roll. I'd like to have at least seen some support for cropping. However, tapping the edit button does bring up compatible apps like Snapseed. The info button hides a few interesting surprised, though. Tap this when viewing a photo to get all the EXIF information, along with the ability to edit. At the top, you also have a bar of the most common color swatches from the image. Tapping on any of them copies the hex code. I don't know how useful this is, but I really like it.

Should you have files that aren't showing up in the app, there's a toggle to show hidden files. Additionally, there's a file browser in the overflow menu. Launch that and you can navigate to any folder on the device to view images.

Camera Roll is free and has no ads. Give it a shot if your current gallery app is getting old.

The Visual Effects of War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes hits theaters this weekend, and by most accounts, the film is a triumph (93% fresh on RottenTomatoes). I'm really excited to see it on the big screen, since it was shot in 65mm to explicitly showcase the film's landscapes and larger-than-life sets. We were on one of those sets over a year and a half ago, while the film was in mid-production. Fox invited us out to visit the shoot, on a massive outdoor prison built a few miles away from Vancouver. The Canadian winter was an ideal backdrop for this sprawling snowy set, which had its own set of railroad tracks, grungy barracks, and a towering battle-worn wall that separates soldier and simian.

The enormity and tangibility of this built-out world stands in contrast to the film's computer-generated heroes--this Planet of the Apes trilogy has anchored itself in its ability to meld the real and the digital. Actors like Andy Serkis and Steve Zahn do their best to give performances in tight-fitting performance-capture suits, but their performance is really a collaboration with the animators and special effects artists who turn mo-cap data into the characters you see on screen. On set, we sat in a roundtable interview with visual effects producer Ryan Stafford, who worked with director Matt Reeves and the effects team at Weta Digital to realize the digital characters and environments in the film. Here are some highlights from that conversation.

On compositing live and CG characters

Every time we do a shot, we do it in a variety of ways. On a traditional movie, you set up the camera, you set up your characters, you roll, get the performances you want, and you move on. Well, when we get the performances we want, we say "great, let's do that again without the actors." So we pull the actors out of the shot and we replicate the camera move as closely as possible using motion control and a lot of other tricks to get it as accurate as possible. And then we run the whole take "clean"--and if there's a human character in it, then they have to act to nothing. Sometimes we put a piece of tape up with fishing wire, and that's their eye line. And they have to re-enact the entire performance to nothing, to thin air, to a piece of tape.

The apes proportions--their anatomy--are different from humans. It's very close. We've made Caesar just a few inches shorter than Andy Serkis. And the build is similar. But where his joints are are different than Andy's. His arms are much longer. His legs are shorter, his chest is more barreled. So when we put Caesar on top of Andy in the shot, there's a lot of Andy left. And we have to paint that out. Painting out things is very expensive, it's very labor intensive, it's very complex, especially when you have very dynamic camera movements. So we do it all on a clean plate in hopes that it's as dynamic as with the actors in it so we don't have to paint anything out.

We use both. It's kind of a mixed bag. Our ideal scenario is a clean plate but we have maybe a 60% success rate with that. We still have to do a lot of cleanup with actors still in the shot. That's mostly performance driven. The reality is that you're going to get a better performance from a human character when they're acting against someone else in frame. Particularly Andy, who has such a great presence, you get a much different experience than if someone's acting against thin air. In those instances, we take the clean plate, and use that information to do an overlay, try to get as much information, and steal as information as we can.

Photo Gallery: "Into the Unknown" Science Fiction Exhibition

I've raved about the Barbican center's current science fiction exhibit, "Into the Unknown", which chronicles the storied history of science fiction through literature, art, film, and popular culture. The exhibit features a breathtaking number of artifacts, from movie props and costumes to original concept art and vintage ephemera. Here are some of my favorite pieces from the show, which feels more like a World's Fair exhibit than a museum gallery. I can't recommend it enough, if you find yourself in London between now and Sept 1st!