Bonus weekend video! Norm shares a new sixth scale collectible figure set he just received: the highly-anticipated Batman Armory set from Hot Toys! This set not only has the armory display, but Batman, Bruce Wayne, and Alfred figures as well. Norm analyzes the quality of these sculpts and paint jobs, and compares this newest Batman model to past versions. No detail goes unnoticed!
Typeface designer Tobias Frere-Jones (formerly of Hoefler & Frere Jones, who recently settled his lawsuit against former partner) writes an wonderfully insightful personal blog about typography and design. In his latest entry, he addresses what he considers the most challenging part of designing a new typeface: finding an appropriate name. Think about what a name evokes, and the lexicon of typographical nomenclature. Historically, typeface names would be derived from broad genres like Roman or Italic, but the Industrial Revolution forced type foundries to expand their conventions to suit descriptive needs. The naming of modern typefaces is complex--foundries balance the need to appropriately (and simply) describe the typeface with a word, while choosing something that will capture the attention of designers. Like the names of companies, products, and anything else sold, typefaces are brands.
We've met and worked with independent replica prop makers who specialize in video game props, but here's a company working directly with game developers to bring digital characters, armor, and weapons to reality. At New York Comic Con, we stopped by Triforce's booth to check out their newest scale statues and full-size replicas, as well as learn about their production process.
Tomorrow's a big day for prop collectors and replica prop makers. As we mentioned in our video of Adam's new Samurai armor from 47 Ronin, London and LA-based Prop Store is gearing up for one of the largest film prop auctions in recent memory, and easily one of the most important. The auction is mere hours away, and will be held live in London at the Westfield Mall's Vue Cinema. We were fortunate to see some of those props in person at Comic-Con as well, where Prop Store had iconic items like Marty's hoverboard on display (I touched it!). For those of us who can't make it to the auction or are curious about how much these props end up going for, we'll be able to follow along online at the auction website.
Since receiving it earlier this month, I've been spending lunch hours poring over the auction catalog and admiring the lovely photos and cool production info associated with each prop. Here are the props from the auction that I'm the most excited for, either because of their significance to film and effects history, their personal resonance, or because they're just so cool.
"A 1⁄4-scale puppet of the Alien Queen from James Cameron’s action sci-fi sequel Aliens. This puppet was used for the model miniature shots during the scene in which Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) drops the beast into the Sulaco’s airlock, only to be dragged down with it.
Conceived by director James Cameron and brought to life by Stan Winston Studios, the puppet is made of multiple components built around a metal armature for strength and was designed to be dropped to accommodate the shot. The head, crown and body of the puppet are made in dense urethane. The Queen’s teeth are cast in translucent resin to match the detail of the full-size creation. The arms are made of foam latex with urethane used for the tail, while the legs are made from latex and polyfoam. Due to their age, the outer limbs have deteriorated. Wire runs down the length of the tail and down the arms in order for the limbs to hang freely for the fall. The Queen’s carapace is finished in black with blue highlights to match the lighting of shots within the Sulaco hangar."
Remember a few months ago when I spent time obsessing over Quicksilver’s audio gear from X-men: Days of Future Past? I thought that exploration was enough to get it out of my system--until my friend Hadley told me that she would be cosplaying as Quicksilver for New York Comic Con. Without missing a beat, I proclaimed that I had to build her an accurate Stereobelt prop. And so my obsession began anew.
To recap: the Stereobelt, a little-known predecessor to the Walkman, predating Sony's portable cassette player by seven years and cobbled together from existing tech. Only one picture and a patent document of it can be found in all of the interwebs, yet the savvy production designers on Days of Future Past based Quicksilver’s unit on the Stereobelt, therefore giving him probable audio gear for 1973.
Setting out to create my own Stereobelt, I ran into an immediate problem: a lack of good reference material. Other than the magazine cover of Quicksilver, which showed only one side of the belt, I was unable to find any good reference of the other side or back. At this point, the Blu-ray hadn’t been released and unlike every other Marvel movie, there was no “Making-of” book. So, I started work on what I had reference for, figuring that I may have to improvise the opposite side and revise it when I could get ahold of the movie. I didn’t have a lot of time to build the Stereobelt, so my original intention was to keep it simple and print it as one solid piece. The front and back caps would cause some print issues since they were both tapered and would have to use supports to print as one piece. The caps would also print better if the slopes were oriented upwards, so I decided to compromise and print the body and caps separately and assemble using simple square pins and glue.
Unlike the Hellboy Millenbaugh Motivator, for which I took meticulous measurements using Photoshop, I totally eyeballed the size and proportions of the Stereobelt on paper. Once it looked right, I started building in 3D and quickly realized another issue - if I built this as one piece, painting and finishing would be difficult since it had a lot of trim pieces. I also liked the idea of being able to print this out in two colors, assemble with no painting and still have it look good, so I decided to break it up into more pieces.
Joey Shanks of PBS Digital Studios' Shanks FX show shoots a short video using 1/24th and 1/15th scale models of the Back to the Future Delorean to recreate effects scenes from the film. Shanks gives some tips for using forced perspective to make his models appear as if they're driving on a real road, and explains why using a smaller model might be better than a larger one.
During our visit to Immortal Masks, we not only got a chance to learn about their entire sculpting and production process, but also check out their entire line of creature masks. Sculptor Andrew Freeman is always working on new mask designs, and their team of artists can create variations on a sculpt with unique paint applications. Lifelike Bebop and Rocksteady masks caught my eye, but my favorite has to be the Ogre mask. Which one do you think is the creepiest?
Halloween's coming up, and we're looking for the best ways to transform into a terrifying creature of the night. Monster masks have been a longstanding horror effects tradition, and today's masks are more lifelike than ever. We visit the workshop of Immortal Masks to learn how the artists there sculpt, mold, cast, and paint amazing silicone masks that look and move realistically.
Military aircraft have always been popular subjects for RC modelers. Many builders prefer to craft their “warbirds” from the ground up, perhaps even using their own plans. The more popular option is to purchase a factory-built model that requires only a few hours (or less) to complete. Some of these Almost-Ready-to-Fly (ARF) models use traditional balsa construction, while others are made of molded foam.
The main drawback to buying a warbird ARF model is that it is going to look, well, just like every other one that flew off the assembly line. It is not uncommon to see multiple examples of a popular model at the same flying field on a Saturday afternoon--all identical except for the inevitable dings and repairs. On the flip side, there is often ample room to personalize these airplanes with the addition of a few simple scale-enhancing details. Applying some of these techniques will help your model to look more accurate, while also separating it from the mass-produced herd.
I chose a popular foam warbird ARF model to illustrate some of these detailing techniques, the Flyzone Focke-Wulf FW-190. You may recall that this is the same model that I used in my review of the Mr. RC Sound system. I picked this model for several reasons. Primarily, it is a good flying model. What’s the point of personalizing an airplane that is no fun to fly? Furthermore, the Flyzone model has an accurate scale profile and several details that are difficult to replicate (scale retractable landing gear, wing flaps, scale propeller, etc) are box-stock features. This allowed me to focus on easily-implemented details.
With few exceptions, military airplanes are not shiny and they are flown by a pilot. The somewhat shiny and pilotless FW-190 is thus ripe for quick and easy upgrades. To get started, I carefully removed the glued-on cockpit canopy. After breaking one corner free, I pried the entire border loose with a gently-wielded Popsicle stick. I also removed the propeller and nose spinner, which left the brushless motor exposed. I covered the motor and foam-rubber tires with masking tape to protect them from overspray. “Overspray of what?” you ask. Let’s call it an abundance of drab.
A flat-finish clear coat is an effective way to take the shine off of a factory paint job. Specifically, I used Rust-Oleum American Accents Matte Clear in a spray can. I’m sure that similar products will work equally well. I’ve used the Rust-Oleum on numerous foam airplanes as well the iron-on polyester coverings of balsa models. It will attack some foams, so always test it before possibly eroding your airplane into a Dali-esque melted blob.
Ten years ago, Richard Crudo, the current president of the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers), went through a deep depression, and he’s certain most cinematographers went through the same. The reason? Film was coming to an end, and trying to stop celluloid’s demise would be like trying to hold back a tidal wave.
Before becoming the president of the ASC, Crudo worked as a cinematographer for many years (American Pie). “I was born, raised and worked in the film era, and I still think it represents the gold standard of visual imaging,” Crudo says. “However, one must be realistic. Film is essentially dead. And to try and keep it going on some rarefied level is certainly admirable, but it really has no application to the rest of us. Clearly we live in a digital world and it’s going to be a digital future. You shoot film, where do you get it processed these days? So many labs have closed. And a laboratory can’t be a boutique operation and be expected to operate with any level of efficiency or perfection.”
For a long time now, the writing’s been on the wall for cameramen and film fans alike. Once esteemed cinematographers like Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption), and Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters, The Deer Hunter), as well as directors like Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas), made the switch to digital, you knew it was all over. Then again, you also knew that as long as directors like Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, and JJ Abrams kept working, film would still be around, at least for a little while.
In fact, this summer Nolan and Abrams helped keep Kodak in business. The CEO of Kodak, Jeff Clarke, said in a statement, “After extensive discussions with filmmakers, leading studios and others who recognize the unique artistic and archival qualities of film, we intend to continue production. Kodak thanks these industry leaders for their support and ingenuity in finding a way to extend the life of film.”
Still, cinematographers today are long past the denial and anger phases of celluloid’s death, and they’re now in the acceptance phase. “The digital image that we see today is as bad as we’ll ever see, and it’s only getting better all the time,” Crudo says. “There’s a couple of developments around the corner that I think are going to cause it to exceed film. This coming from a person who would never dreamed he would be talking like this ten years ago. If I heard myself talking this way back then, I’d have chopped my own head off!"
“The scale has tipped 180 degrees from what it used to be,” Crudo continues. “Early on, you’d be very suspect about shooting digitally, and you wanted to shoot film because it was the established standard. Today I’d be very dodgy about shooting film vs shooting digital.” But it's not just about the manufacture and use of film stock that needs to be maintained. There's another side to the equation.
This was my first time going to New York Comic Con, and what a year to attend. Attendance approached (and possibly even surpassed) that of San Diego, and I had a ton of fun exploring a new convention venue and figuring it out from a photography point-of-view. The massive muli-floor lobby of the Javits Center--lined from floor to ceiling with glass--made for great daytime photos with cool architecture and signage in the background. The show floor's bright red carpeting was a little less accommodating. But in the two days I was there, I managed to get a few good photos to share with you. Thanks to everyone who stopped for a photo--and if you find yourself in this gallery, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with "NYCC Cosplay" in the subject line and I'll get you a full-res copy of your pic!
One of the coolest things I saw at New York Comic Con was NECA Toys' new Nostromo Spacesuit figures from their Alien toy line. (It's the costume Adam wore this summer at Comic-Con!) We take the fragile sculpt and paint master for this figure out of the display case and scrutinize its details to examine what NECA's artists got right. This is a gorgeous piece!
A package from a reader arrives at our office, so it's our duty to show off its contents on camera! This week's mailbag contains some woodworking tools made by Philip White, which will hopefully help in our own future woodworking endeavors! They're nice and weighty! Huge thanks to Philip for making and sending this package--see how he made these tools in this gallery!
Just a brief note to let you guys know that we're stoked to announce that we're hosting a brand new podcast on Tested. The show is called CreatureGeek, and it features Frank Ippolito (who you know from many Tested features) and Len Peralta (from the Geek a Week podcast and tons of other things) discussing creature effects, monster makeup, and everything in between. Expect the perspective of a pro makeup artist (that's Frank) and a well-informed fan (that's Len). They've got a roster of incredible guests in the SFX world scheduled to stop by Frank's shop to chat, and I'm really excited to have them on Tested. I hope you guys will give them a warm welcome. If you'd like to know more, you can post in the comment thread, or reach out to them on Twitter.4
After posting the SPOILERCAST for The Martian earlier this week, we got a lot of requests for similar book recommendations, so I've put together a short list. Without exception, these books were all major page turners, the kind of read that I just couldn't put down no matter how late it got.
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson - This is part one of a trilogy and it's a well-researched take on Mars colonization based on the information we had about the planet at the time it was written. The second book in the trilogy, Green Mars, is still pretty heavy on the science, but the third entry went a bit heavy on the character drama for me.
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson - Every nerd should read Cryptonomicon. While it's probably closer to a techno-thriller than hard science fiction, serious math, data havens, Defcon presentations, and cryptocurrencies all play a key part in the plot. Beware, Crytonomicon is a slow starter, but it picks up by the third chapter.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson - Snow Crash, along with William Gibson's early VR novels are probably more responsible for the rise of 90s VR than anything else out there. Read this to get a glimpse of the VR future that didn't materialize, before VR actually takes over.
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman - The Forever Wars is the best kind of thought experiment. It describes the experience of a new recruit in an interstellar war, and the true meaning of relativity. Despite occasional flashbacks to technology that went out of fashion 40 years ago (it was written in the 70s), The Forever War is one of those timeless science fiction classics.
(Several more recommendations below!)
Jamie, Adam, Will, and Norm get transformed into adorable plush puppets! Stage prop fabricator and fan of the site Sean Harrington made these awesome blockhead puppets for us, utilizing some cool modern technology to streamline the design and build process. Sean walks us through how the puppets were 3D modeled and then prototyped with a laser cutter, allowing him to iterate on the design to change the look and puppeteering comfort of these flapping blockheads. We're smitten!
For many hobbyists, the allure of RC flying comes from making their models look like “real” airplanes. Some are happy just approximating the profile of a certain airplane, while others spare no effort or expense to replicate every last detail. Regardless of the level of accuracy a builder pursues, one particular aspect has always been elusive: sound. Most models use screaming glow-fuel engines, growling gasoline engines, or whizzing electric motors. None of those power systems is likely to emulate the sound of the full-scale airplane’s engine. The one notable exception is turbine-powered models, which actually use miniaturized jet engines that sound (and smell) like their big brothers. The necessary flying skills and price point, however, keep turbines out of reach for most modelers.
Recent developments have revamped the sound equation. Several companies now offer sound systems for electric-powered RC models that play audio recordings of full-scale aircraft engines. These system are linked to the throttle control, so the sound revs as you increase power to the model’s motor. I know what you’re thinking: “How can you possibly get convincing engine sounds out of a system that is small and light enough to fit inside a model airplane?” I thought the same thing and ignored the growing popularity of these systems for a while.
My curiosity recently got the better of me and I watched a few YouTube videos of models with sound systems. The videos piqued my interest and I was soon investigating the various available products. One particular system stood apart from the others, the Mr. RC Sound V4.1 Sound System. What is most unique about this sound system is that it does not use speakers--at least not in the traditional sense. This is something I had to test.
The heart of the Mr. RC Sound unit is a control board that measures about 1.75” x 2.5”. The board includes a “sound pack chip” with sound files recorded from six popular aircraft engines throughout history. The chip can be swapped for others with different engine options. In addition to the sound of the running engine, each selection on the chip also includes three auxiliary sounds such as chattering machine guns or the whistling of a falling bomb.
The sound board must be connected to the model’s RC receiver via standard 3-wire servo connectors. It is worth noting that male/male wires are needed rather than the male/female wires that are commonly used to extend servo leads. One wire is included, but you must provide others if you wish to use any of the auxiliary sounds. The wire lead for controlling engine sounds is connected in parallel to the model’s Electronic Speed Control (ESC: aka “throttle”) via a splitter, or “y-connector” (not included). Leads for each of the auxiliary sounds require an open port on the receiver.
The sound board can accept input voltage from about 11 to 34 volts. This means that models using a 3S LiPo battery (3 cells in series, 11.1v nominal) to 8S (29.6v) can siphon power from their flight battery to feed the sound system. This allows the vast majority of electric airplanes to avoid the additional weight of a separate battery for sound.
Rather than a speaker, the V4.1 system uses an electroacoustic transducer called the TT-25. It is basically a speaker without the frame or the cone. The TT-25 attaches directly to the airframe of the model, which then behaves similarly to a speaker cone. In essence, the entire airplane becomes a speaker.
Edit: Boooo. Sealed Air, the company that produced this video, has removed it from their channel. So enjoy this video (and audio!) of a roll of Bubble Wrap going through an etching press. Original post: Bet you didn't know 1. that Bubble Wrap is a trademarked brand, 2. what the first hand-cranked Bubble Wrap machine in 1957 was designed for, and 3. Bubble Wrap is actually made of three different types of resin plastics, heated up and extruded like a 3D print for the sheet material. (h/t Boingboing)