Latest StoriesArt
    Inside Adam Savage's Cave: Glue and Paint Carts

    With a little more time on his hands, Adam is continually working on projects in his workshop. Some of those projects are building out the Cave's infrastructure. We stop by to check out his newest glue shelves, which are made from old airplane food service trolleys! Here's how the refurbished rolling carts radically increases Adam's efficiency in the shop!

    What Makes an Award-Winning Visual Effect?

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 2/2/2016 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    The Oscars are just around the corner. The 14th Annual VES Awards will be presented later today. Among the memorable movies nominated for extraordinary achievements in visual effects this year are Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

    But just how do you choose between a sexy robot, monumental vehicular carnage, extra-terrestrial super-science, trials and trauma in the North American wilderness, and an entire galaxy filled with beeping droids and exploding spaceships? In an age where seamlessly-integrated, photoreal effects are taken completely for granted, what constitutes a "good" visual effect?

    Actor John Krasinski (left) and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the nominees for the 88th Annual Academy Awards in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

    In search of some answers, we asked an international panel of visual effects professionals this simple question:

    "How do you go about judging award-winning visual effects?"

    It's a question that could take us into some rocky territory. Luckily for us, Randall Smith, visual effects supervisor at Pixomondo, has sketched out a road map to help us on our way:

    "I judge visual effects based on three criteria. First I'm looking for accuracy and photorealism — visuals so realistic that the viewer accepts what they are seeing, and their disbelief is momentarily suspended. Secondly, I'm looking for pure, artistic expression. The best effects stand out when the artists aren't held back by the limitations of a cost-effective solution, and instead aim towards new discoveries within their art. Last — and most importantly — the measure of a great effect will always be its success in storytelling. It's amazing that a Muppet, with a team of artist's hands shoved up its backside, can create a compelling story with a huge range of emotion. In comparison, some of most expensive effects shots often fall flat, losing the narrative and thereby losing the viewer."

    Parallel to Smith's three basic criteria, Marque Pierre Sondergaard, texture artist at Atomic Fiction, suggests studying visual effects through two different lenses, which he describes as the "yin and yang of visual effects":

    In Brief: Bryan Fuller To Helm New Star Trek Series!

    This is great news for Star Trek fans. CBS had previously announced that it's in pre-production for a new Star Trek television series for its All Access digital subscription service, and that Star Trek (2009) writer Alex Kurtzman was producing it. Today, Bryan Fuller announced that he would also be producing and showrunning the series, which is to be set in the rebooted Star Trek universe from the J.J. Abrams films. Fuller, who is also currently producing the television adaption of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, is best known for his shows Hannibal, Pushing Daisies, and Wonderfalls--all of which share great writing and vibrant visual style. But Star Trek fans should know that he began his TV writing career on Deep Space Nine and Voyager. The new show is scheduled to have its pilot premiere on CBS next January.

    Norman 2
    "Frank on Frankenstein" - Episode 28 - 2/5/16
    On this episode of CreatureGeek, it's a solecist with just Frank and Len. Frank wants to go on a rant. And rant he does! We chat about the classic monster Frankenstein in all his iterations including the book by Mary Shelley, the James Whale movie and the newer versions including Kenneth Branagh's 1993 version and the new I, Frankenstein and Victor Frankenstein. Support us on Patreon! Head on over to http://www.patreon.com/creaturegeek and throw us a few bucks!
    00:00:00 / 47:53
    Adam Savage Meets the Original Blade Runner Blaster Prop!

    One of the holy grail props in movie history is Deckard's PKD Blaster from Blade Runner. This iconic pistol has been intensely studied by replica prop builders, including Adam Savage. Adam finally meets the real hero prop--in the collection of Dan Lanigan--and bring his own storied replica to compare with the original!

    Take 20 Minutes to Watch This Build

    This is a pretty special build. Angelo Casimiro, or TechBuilder on YouTube, lives in the Philippines. He wanted to make a full sized, fully operable BB-8 for his dad for Christmas. His build used only household materials, and things from the local hardware store. My favorite hack: using roll-on deodorant for bearings and old speakers for their magnets.

    But the ingenuity and prodigious problem-solving don't end there. He made his sphere using only newspaper, a beach ball, some canvas, white glue and wood putty! I would hire this kid in a New York second. With the ubiquity of 3D printers, laser cutters and the like (which is wonderful, don't get me wrong!), it's easy to lose sight of just what tremendous possibilities reside in humble materials like scrap wood, cardboard, hot glue and newspaper.

    This would be an incredible classroom build for literally ANYONE.

    But there's another reason I love this video.

    Richard Meier's Architectural Model Museum

    Filmmaker Barbara Anastacio recently toured a new architectural model museum at the Mana Contemporary gallery in Jersey City. Architect Richard Meier discusses the importance of these models as artifacts of the architectural design process, and why they should be preserved and appreciated. The 15,000 square-feet museum houses about 400 models, hundreds of architectural drawings, and a thousand books on architecture. Definitely marked as a place to visit the next time I'm on the east coast! (h/t Sondre)

    In Brief: Smithsonian Begins USS Enterprise Model Restoration

    Last week, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum announced the team that has been tasked with restoring the original television filming model of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 (no bloody A, B, C, or D). Restoration is lead by John Goodson, who is joined by ILMers Bill George and Kim Smith (now of Creature Art & Mechanics Digital). The team is analyzing not only the aesthetic details of the model as it appeared on the show (circa August 1967, during the filming of The Trouble with Tribbles), but also the original materials and construction methods to understand its aged state. The Enterprise isn't just getting a new paint job, it's getting a paint job that represents the same pigments and plastics layered on the model over its production lifespan. The Smithsonian blog post has many more details about how the team is achieving this, along with the restoration roadmap for the model to be ready for display in by this summer--Star Trek's 50th anniversary. (h/t Gavin Rothery)

    Norman 3
    Adam Savage's One Day Builds: Making a Puppet!

    Adam Savage is a HUGE fan of puppets. And so a very special One Day Build was conceived when Rick Lyon, creator of the puppets for the Tony award-winning musical Avenue Q, invited Adam to stop by his Newark workshop to design and build his very own puppet. Everyone, please meet Finn!

    Behind the Scenes of Stop-Motion Animation

    Two great videos I saw recently diving into the intricacies of the stop-motion animation process. The first is an Academy Originals production, following Laika animator Daniel Alderson as he explains how he collaborates with the director, fabricators, armaturists, schedulers, and production team to animate one shot in a film. The giant scheduling wall they have set up to coordinate production is impressively daunting! Next up is this behind-the-scenes featurette from Cartoon Network, showing the making of a stop-motion episode of Adventure Time, directed by the amazing and talented animator Kirsten Lepore.

    Testing the Folger Tech 2020 i3 3D Printer

    This post was originally published on Overworld Designs and is republished here with permission. Follow Michelle on Facebook and find her work on Instagram.

    I had been in the market for another 3D printer for my fabrication fleet, and I had my eye on a few machines during Black Friday. I narrowly missed a great sale on a Wanhao Duplicator i3 for a cool $299, and instead I settled on a Folger Tech 2020 i3 kit on sale with an LCD panel (currently priced at $280). Here's how it's been performing for me, and what you can expect for a 3D printer of this price.

    I had done some reading on this particular kit so I knew to expect some hurdles during it's construction. The biggest complaint that the community has - and indeed I have too - is that the build manual has several mistakes and blatant inaccuracies that Folger Tech has yet to fix. There's some simple stuff like typos of bolt dimensions - using one bolt length in one sentence and another length in the next sentence, leaving you to figure out which one they really mean. These are easy to figure out. But then there's the problem where it tells you to mount the X-axis end stop on the wrong side, and if you don't understand why 3D printers are put together the way they are, you'll have a difficult time understanding why it's moving in the "wrong" direction and why it won't home properly. I highly recommend reading the manual fully before starting to make sure you know what to expect.

    There is an absolutely massive thread on the RepRap forums which contain a huge amount of information and fixes. As of this writing, the thread is at 88 pages long and I've only managed to work backwards through about half of it. If you're considering one of these kits I recommend at least skimming through the forum thread on your own, but I've tried to compile the biggest issues and fixes from my experience here.

    On MythBusters' FIRST-EVER Implosion

    Tanker Crush. In 14 years of MythBusters, we've done a LOT of explosions, but this was our first implosion. It had been on my list for years, but it was so logistically difficult, we saved it for the final season.

    The myth: Engineers are steam-cleaning a freight-train tank car when a rainstorm lets loose. Thwarted by the weather, they seal the container -- which is full of hot steam -- and head home. The rain cools the outside of the tank car, while the steam inside condenses and contracts, and the resulting pressure differential causes the massive steel car to crumple like a soda can. But would this be possible?

    Courtesy of MythBusters/DCL

    EVERYTHING about this episode was on a big scale. It took a year for the producers to source a tanker car for us to destroy, and months more to find a rail yard willing to host the shoot. (We finally found one in Boardman, Ore. Thanks again, guys!) The team really killed it for this one.

    The tanker car itself is the biggest prop in MythBusters history, measuring 67 feet long and 10 feet in diameter and weighing 67,000 pounds. Its steel is 3/16" thick. This puppy was HEAVY.

    Did I mention also that it was hot? Very hot. We were shooting in the high desert in the middle of July, and it was brutal being outdoors all those days. The steel was too hot to touch. To go INSIDE a tanker was an hour-long air-quality-monitoring escapade. That piece to camera I did from inside was so insanely uncomfortable. I think it was 130 degrees in there. Holy cow, I'm sweating just remembering it. Being out in that heat and repeatedly having tank cars not fail made it a very long shoot. Long, hot, tiring, implosionless days. (Is that even a word?)

    Meet Gordon Tarpley, C-3PO Suit Builder

    Meet Gordon Tarpley, a prop builder and cosplayer who specializes in C-3PO. He's one of the few C-3PO cosplayer and performers, and has been working on his suit and performance for years. We chat with Gordon about his build process, how he's improving his suit, and what it takes to perform as this iconic Star Wars character.

    "The Amazing Joel Harlow" - Episode 27 - 1/22/16
    It's a brand new CreatureGeek! Today, we welcome award winning makeup and visual effects artist, Joel Harlow to the show. In 2009, Joel took home an Oscar for best Makeup and Hairstyling for JJ Abram's reboot of Star Trek and was nominated again in 2013 for his work on The Lone Ranger. It's a great conversation, you don't want to miss! Do you love CreatureGeek? Support us on Patreon! Head on over to http://www.patreon.com/creaturegeek and throw us a few bucks!
    00:00:00 / 50:03
    Adam Savage Inspects the Spacesuit from The Martian!

    Adam Savage gets special access to one of the spacesuits from The Martian to study and document it for his personal replica project! Here's Adam's gleeful first impressions after opening the suit's shipping crate and appreciate for some of the fine fabricated details seen in person. (Bring home The Martian, nominated for 7 Academy Awards®, on Blu-ray™, DVD & Digital HD today.)