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    Star Wars Celebration 2015: Props, Costumes, Collectibles

    I was at Star Wars Celebration over the weekend in Anaheim, where Lucasfilm debuted footage and information about the next two Star Wars films. It was unlike any fan convention I've attended, in its focused scope and fan fervor--this concentrated a dose of Star Wars is intense, even for Comic-Con veterans. We shot a bunch of videos at the show, which we'll start publishing later this week. In the meantime, here are some photos I took, previewing those videos. My highlights: the Force Awakens props and costumes on display, and Sideshow Collectibles' R2-ME2 art project.

    Inside the Workshop of a Modern Swordmaker

    Gizmodo visited the shop of John Lundemo, a self-taught blacksmith who makes swords under the moniker Odinblades: "Down a stretch of country road in upstate New York there is a shed. The shed itself is nothing spectacular, a whitewash number with years of weather wear and tear. But inside sparks fly, fires breathe, and slabs of steel are fashioned into capable killing machines." Read Giz's story about how swords are made in the accompanying feature.

    Show and Tell: Navy SPH-3 Flight Helmet

    For this week's Show and Tell, Adam shares the latest addition to his helmet collection: an SPH-3 flight helmet. It belonged to Tested viewer David Wratchford, who wore it as a rescue swimmer for the Navy in the 1980s while serving with the "Eightballers" helo squadron. Thanks, David!

    Sphero Tech Likely Used In Practical Star Wars BB-8 Droid

    After we learned that the BB-8 robot from the Force Awakens trailers wasn't a CG construct, but (at least sometimes) a practical effect, we've spent a lot of time speculating on the methods behind its design. Based on hints from Celebration yesterday, it's likely that Sphero developed the technology used in the practical version of the droid. Disney invested in Sphero, makers of remote controlled balls in 2013. I don't know about you, but I'd be shocked if a toy version of BB-8 isn't out in time for the release of the Episode VII this winter.

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    Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer!!

    I'm getting really excited about this, despite my better judgment. No real spoilers here, but we do see a bit more of the post-Empire world, get a hint at villains, and finally see an older, wiser Han Solo.

    Crafting Felt Creatures with Woolbuddy

    At WonderCon, we meet up with Jackie Huang, an artist who sculpts with felt to create fantastic creatures. Jackie's "Woolbuddies" take the form of everything from adorable owls to giant dragons and even an R2-D2 droid. We learn about the felting process and get a quick demo!

    Milling Time: Testing the Roland MDX-540 4-Axis CNC

    Previously, I've talked about testing the Othermill--an out-of-the-box work horse--and the Shapeoko 2--a CNC kit ripe for re-invention. Today, I'm going to talk about a big boy, examining a CNC mill that's bigger, pricier, and commands a steeper learning curve. That's because we're adding another axis!

    This is the MDX-540 with a rotary axis made by the Roland DGA Corporation. A 4-axis mill can do everything an X, Y, Z machine can do, but it can also rotate the cutting material around an 'A' axis. Essentially, this mill combines the functionality of a typical CNC and a lathe. With that additional axis, you're able to create complex double-sided objects and components with undercuts.

    Three cork "bottles" milled using different settings.

    I'm fortunate enough to work at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program , where we have a bunch of incredible tools and machines. The MDX-540 is our latest addition to the shop and we're just beginning to experiment with it.

    For all of my testing I mounted material in the rotary axis exclusively.

    Realistic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Costumes

    We weren't fond of the designs for the most recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, but this TMNT imagining we found at this year's Monsterpalooza were awesome. Originally designed and fabricated as costumes, these mechanized sculpts are the work of an artists collective whose members work in special effects and animatronics. These are the Ninja Turtles we'd like to see on screen!

    Vote for Tested in This Year's Webby Awards!

    We're thrilled to be nominated this year for two Webby Awards in the Online Film & Video Category! Webbys are awarded based on the decision of a panel of judges, but a People's Voice award is also given based on online voting. That's where we could really use your help!

    First up, Adam is one of the five finalists for Best Web Personality/Host, for our Inside Adam's Cave series. It's a competitive category with other great nominees, so help Adam win this one by voting on this page.

    One of our favorite videos from last year is also a finalist, in the How-To & DIY video category. It's the collaboration with animator Marty Cooper, who visited the Cave to geek out with Adam about cel animation and make one of his awesome Aug[de]mented Reality shorts at the shop. You can vote for that video on this page.

    Additionally, one of our sister sites, Cinefix, has a video nominated in the Animation category. We'd appreciate your help giving that video--an exploration of how Samurai Films influenced Star Wars--some love too.

    Voting for the People's Voice awards has already commenced, and will be finished at midnight on April 23rd, The awards ceremony will be in New York on May 18th--wouldn't it be cool if we got to go? Watch the videos that were used for these nominations below!

    Tested Mailbag: Tabletop Game!

    We open another package at the office that was sent in by a reader. This time, the contents are tabletop game related, but not something you can get in stores. It's a nifty custom game made by a design firm. Thanks, Steve!

    Putting the Original Tron's Special Effects Together

    Seeing Tron when it first came out in the theaters was an insane experience. You knew by word of mouth it was going to be a major step forward in special effects technology -something state of the art, like when Star Wars first exploded - and many young filmgoers, like myself, were completely blown away. I had no idea the movie was a flop until many years after the fact, and I was completely flabbergasted to learn this.

    Even with the film initially tanking at the box office, it's remarkable how Tron still has a stronghold of fans after all this time, and how ahead of its time it really was. It took Hollywood many years to catch up with the marvels of computer technology, and Tron first opened the door for it, eventually paving the way for Jurassic Park and the Pixar films.

    From a production standpoint, Tron was a hell of an undertaking, and the origins of the film go all the way back to the late seventies. The film's director, Steven Lisberger, had his own animation studio, Lisberger Films. A graduate of the city's School of the Museum of Fine Arts, he was creating animation regularly for networks such as ABC and PBS, but he had his eyes on a much bigger prize.

    "When you have an animation studio you try to create your Mickey Mouse," Lisberger says. "It's no secret that animation studios survive by creating characters who are their actors they own, and we were a team of people in Boston who wanted to create a character."

    On Lisberger's team were Roger Allers, who went on to direct The Lion King, and John Norton. Norton came up with an idea of a warrior who was made of neon. They called him Tron, but they didn't have a setting for him. Then one night Lisberger went to visit his in-laws, and everyone was crouched around the TV, playing Pong.

    Screen-Used Star Wars Stormtrooper Armor Replica

    We've seen plenty of Stormtrooper armor made by Star Wars fans, but replica props and armor are only as good as their source reference. For Star Wars, there's a lot of interpretation of what's authentic, because props from the film are lost or scattered in private collections. We chat with eFX Collectibles' Bryan Ono about their new replica Stormtrooper armor, which is made from a newly discovered hero suit--only one of six from Episode IV--that even Lucasfilm doesn't have!

    Making a Real Life-Size EVE Robot (from Wall-E!)

    We catch up with Mike Senna, one of the few R2-D2 builders who has also made a life-size Wall-E robot. Over the past year, he's been working on a companion for Wall-E: the high-tech EVE. Mike shares his build process for EVE, where the build currently stands, and what he plans to add to complete this adorable robot duo.

    Watch a Track Renewal Train at Work

    Austrian-based Plasser & Theurer manufacturers rail track maintenance and track laying machines, including this massive R U 800 S. Its movements are mesmerizing! If you can't get enough of automated ballast cleaning, you can find many more of these track renewal machine videos at Plasser & Theurer's Vimeo page. (h/t Digg)

    The Best Mechanical Pencils

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com .

    After talking to a half-dozen experts, surveying more than a thousand readers, researching 127 different models, and going hands-on with seven of them, we've discovered that the best general-use mechanical pencil for most people is the $5 uni-ball Kuru Toga. Thanks to an innovative internal mechanism, it'll never get blunt as you write, meaning your words and diagrams will always be at their sharpest and most defined.

    But we know that there are various ways in which people use mechanical pencils. If you have other needs, we have a couple other picks below, and even more in our full guide at the Wirecutter.

    How we decided

    We consulted with aficionados from the thriving network of stationery bloggers, interviewing a half-dozen pencil experts who between them have 36 years of experience covering all manner of writing utensils. We combined this with a survey of more than 1,000 readers to get an idea of what really mattered to people, and between the two methods were able to narrow down from hundreds of pencils on the market to just a handful, each of which were useful for different situation.

    Buckminster Fuller on The Geodesic Life

    PBS Studios' Blank on Blank video series takes archival interview audio of inventors, artists, and scientists and pairs them with audio to illustrate their concepts. This latest episode is one of a three-part series showcasing the work of "Experimenters," and features inventor Buckminster Fuller talking about his design philosophy.