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    Tested Mailbag: Gonk Gonk!

    A special edition of the Tested Mailbag this week has us opening boxes from two readers! The first contains a callback to something Will shared in a previous Show and Tell video, while the second is a great use of 3D printing. Thanks to Fallon and Ben for sending these awesome care packages!

    In Brief: Stunning Macro Photos of Animal's Eyes

    Photographer Suren Manvelyan has shot unbelievable macro shots of different animal's eyes and posted them on his Behance portfolio. The shots are absolutely stunning, but as you browse through the three galleries of images, you'll start to see the different evolutionary paths that have shaped the eyes of a variety of creatures. I'm partial to this shot of a basiliscus lizard's eye, which could double as a planet in an upcoming sci-fi movie. (via Laughing Squid)

    In Brief: Star Trek in Cinerama Widescreen

    Concept artist Nick Acosta wanted to imagine what Star Trek: The Original Series would look like if it had been shot with a cinematic widescreen aspect ratio, like the Cinerama 2.56:1 curved screen format of the 1950s (even though Star Trek debuted 48 years ago in September of 1966). To accomplish this look, Acosta took screengrabs from the HD remaster of TOS, during scenes with slow pans across the set, like a panoramic photo. The resulting stills show Star Trek, which was shot in 4:3, in a uniquely cinematic perspective with dramatic deep focus, like this tense scene in the episode Amok Time. A lovely byproduct of this process are images where character interactions seems overly staged and isolated from one another, or surreal situations in which a character appears twice (having followed the camera pan). (via Reddit)

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    In Brief: Bartek Elsner's Cardboard Sculptures

    BoingBoing pointed me to the blog of Berlin-based artist Bartek Elsner, who creates sculptures of real-world and fantastical objects solely from paper and cardboard. His works have a striking polygonal look to them, and the flat shading of the light bouncing off each cardboard panel makes the pieces look like video game art models pulled into the real world, sans texturing. My favorite may be this "internet appliance" he built in 2012. Volvo filmed Elsner at work earlier this year for their Art Session web series. I found another good interview with him here. Who are some of your favorite artists that work primarily with cardboard of paper? I'd love to know!

    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 4

    For this week's episode of our custom arcade cabinet build, Norm experiments with the laser cutter at Adam's shop to design some decorations for the control panels. We also begin prepping the cut, sanded, and stained pieces of wood for the final assembly. That means learning some basics about biscuit joining! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #9

    Let's kick this week off with a LEGO Mystery Build! Norm gets a new custom kit designed by one of his favorite LEGO artists, and assembles it in his home office. Place your best guess as to what the kit is in the comments below!

    Tested Mailbag: Not the Police

    We get an large package in the mail from a reader, and open it for the latest edition of the Tested Mailbag! This mailbag is filled with goodies, including snacks, something for our office set, and the story of a maker project! Thanks to Chris for sending the care package!

    Watch How Crayola Crayons are Made

    Wired was recently granted access to the Crayola's Easton, Pennsylvania factory, where over 12 million crayons are produced a day. The facility turns silos full of melted paraffin wax into millions of bright writing sticks to be sorted, packed, and sent off to illustrate the dreams of children and adults all around the world. Mr. Rogers also took viewers on a tour of the Crayola company back in 1981. The process has undoubtedly changed, but it's interesting to see what's stayed the same in the manufacturing process.

    In Brief: Why Archaeologists Hate Indiana Jones

    National Geographic writer Erik Vance recently blogged about his conversations with scientists and archaeologists about the problem of looting in their field. Academics pointed to Indiana Jones' character as more looter than archaeologist, who would rather attempt to steal a gold statue than study the amazing mechanisms built into the temple at the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Vance studied the problem of looting of Mayan artifacts for this recent NatGeo feature, and a black market trade that is far from the glamour that Hollywood portrays. "The real life Indiana Joneses of the world are not wise-cracking professors with bullwhips. They are poor farmers and hooligans pushed by desperation and warfare to the fringes of society where they eke out an existence, destroying our only opportunities to understand ancient cultures." (via Boingboing)

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    Kong vs. Kong in Hollywood

    We've seen happen in Hollywood again and again: the simultaneous production of two movies about the same subject. Whether it's asteroid movies, werewolf movies, or even two different takes on the Snow White story. Once an idea is in the zeitgeist, studios start a mad dash to see who gets a movie made about it first. And back in the mid-seventies, this happened with the first remake of King Kong.

    In 1976, producer Dino De Laurentiis got his version to the big screen, starring Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, Charles Grodin, and Rick Baker playing the big ape in a gorilla suit he created.But some fanboys who weren’t happy with the remake have often lamented about what could have been with the other planned remake of Kong, which Universal had been planning for ’76 as well.

    Titled The Legend of King Kong, Universal's flick was going to be more faithful to the original, staying in the ‘30’s, while the De Laurentiis version was updated to modern times. While the ’76 remake had plenty of drawbacks, there were certainly no guarantees the Universal movie would have been any better or worse. Yet looking back on it today, we get the impression it certainly had a good shot.

    With incredible stop-motion animation from Willis O’Brien, the original King Kong was the state of the art effects movie of its time. In fact, it was the film that inspired Ray Harryhausen to launch his own career in stop motion effects, and it also inspired Peter Jackson to become a filmmaker as well. (Jackson’s 2005 remake of Kong was not only his way of paying tribute to the film that enchanted him as a kid, but it was his way of trying to make up for the ’76 version as well.)

    While many modern remakes have basically done what’s called “movie karaokie,” redoing a movie practically verbatim from the original, in the ‘70’s remakes tried to bring old stories up to date. The ’76 Kong took place in modern day, with the added twist of Kong’s exploitation mirroring the then energy crisis. Here Kong is captured and exploited by an evil oil company, similar to Exxon, who first go to Skull Island looking for crude, then discovering the giant gorilla instead.

    Making the Automaton from Hugo

    I rewatched Martin Scorsese's Hugo last night, and was reminded of how much I loved the film--itself being a love letter to filmmaking. One of the standouts of the movie is the elaborate automaton that's at the center of the story--a small mechanical boy that winds up and draws a picture. I was pleased to find this behind this scenes video from production house Dick George Creatives that showed the making of this complex and beautiful machine. The propmakers used modern fabrication technologies to build 13 static models, and two that actually drew without the aid of CG (albeit slowly). As I've mentioned before, the Hugo automata was inspired by many automata machines of the 1700s, including watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz's 'The Writer' and the Maillardet automata now at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. And as expected, RPF members have attempted to recreate it, or at least the notebook featured in the movie with the automata drawings.

    In Brief: Six Common Mistakes in Creature Animation

    Friend of Tested Fon Davis shared this really useful article from the AnimationMentor blog. It's a list of common mistakes made by animators creating demo reels showing off their creature work for production houses, and written by Shawn Kelly, an animator at ILM. Kelly, who was the lead animator for the Lockdown villain in the latest Transformers film, calls out animation and editing quirks that ruin the suspension of disbelief, like an inconsistency between the size of the creature and the speed the viewer expects of it. A useful read not only for aspiring animators, for but film nerds to understand the difficulties of animating believable CG characters.

    Choosing Buttons and Joysticks for a Custom Arcade Cabinet

    Arcade parts website FocusAttack.com sells 11 varieties of 30mm Japanese arcade buttons, and without some research, it's hard to spot the minute differences that separate one from another. Some are push-buttons, which install into an arcade panel with a simple snap. Others are screw-buttons, which anchor into a wooden surface. There are also smaller 24mm buttons, and buttons with clear tops or clear rims that can be paired with fancy LED lighting. But most importantly, there is the choice between Sanwa and Seimitsu manufactured buttons, Japan's two juggernauts of arcade hardware.

    When you're building your own arcade cabinet, you want the best buttons for your games. But wading into the minutia of arcade parts unprepared feels like going up against a world-class Street Fighter player--while you're clumsily figuring out how to throw a fireball, they're stringing together moves you didn't even know existed. There are just as many varieties of joysticks as there are buttons, each with their own nuanced feel.

    Knowing the differences between these components enables building an arcade machine for exactly the kinds of games you want to play--or, by mixing and matching hardware, you can create a machine with inputs that are great for a wide swath of arcade genres. For the Tested MAME machine, that's exactly what we wanted--something perfect for fighting games like Street Fighter, primed for SHMUPs like Ikaruga, and still able to handle classic 80s games like Pac-Man.

    Here's what we learned while researching our arcade controls.

    The General Overview: Japan vs. America

    There's an easy high-level way to categorize arcade parts: Japanese and American.

    Before we get into the nuances of different models of buttons and joysticks, there's an easy high-level way to categorize arcade parts: Japanese and American. If you grew up going to arcades in the US or Europe, you're likely familiar with American arcade parts made by the company Happ. They're easy to recognize: Happ buttons are concave and have to be pushed in relatively far before they offer that classic arcade click. Happs joysticks typically have elongated cylindrical bat tops, as opposed to the spherical tops of Japanese sticks.

    Japanese parts primarily come from two companies: Sanwa and Seimitsu. Each company produces multiple joysticks and buttons, but in general their buttons are flat or slightly convex, require far less pressure to activate, and have slightly larger faces. Their joysticks are also generally looser than Happ sticks, meaning they have more play to them. The round ball tops of Sanwa and Seimitsu sticks can be replaced with bat tops to make their grips more like Happ sticks.

    A big factor in choosing the parts for your arcade machine comes from personal preference. If you grew up going to American arcades and using American parts, they're going to feel more natural at first, but you might be missing out on something better. The website Slagcoin, which contains a wealth of knowledge about joystick parts, outlines some of the differences between Japanese and American designs and offers up a heavily, heavily researched opinion: Japanese parts are better.

    "Sanwa and Seimitsu make high-quality parts which will not likely disappoint. Happ/IL is a company that seems centered more on simple, public vending parts with high durability at the sacrifice of precision," he writes. "I am not exactly a fanboy for Japanese parts, just quality parts. In fact, it is my opinion that many more Americans would compete internationally much stronger in many more games if our country’s standard/common joysticks were of better quality. I would very much like to see Happ/IL or some other company do better."

    The evidence to support that claim is in the nuances of various button and joystick models. Let's start with joystick technology, the Sanwa, Seimitsu, and Happ options, and which joysticks are best for which games.

    Show and Tell: Star Wars Imperial Probe Droid Project

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm invites you back into his home office to check out two of his new favorite things--both Star Wars themed! The first is a great Death Star rug from Thinkgeek, and the second is a 1/6th scale Imperial Probe Droid model that Norm has upgraded with some minor hacking.

    In Brief: Custom Fix It Felix, Jr Arcade Cabinet

    We're kind of in an arcade fix today. Just as we were posting part three of our cocktail cabinet build video, reader Sergio Meyer sent over word of his own cabinet build that he's been working on with his dad. But instead of your typical multi-game MAME cabinet, Sergio's cab is a faithful recreation of the Fix It Felix, Jr. cabinet as seen in the Disney movie Wreck-It-Ralph. Sergio has been documenting his build over the course of 17 weeks, and it's now in a playable state. The most interesting thing about this project may what software he's using to run the fictional game. Disney released a Flash version of the game online, but arcade enthusiasts have recreated it to run in Windows. And as it turns out, a version that Disney made for its promotional cabinets actually leaked online.

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    Tested Projects: Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 3

    With the top and side panels of the arcade cabinet cut out, we move onto the control boards and the holes needed for all the buttons, joysticks, and other gaming controls. Different types of buttons and sticks for each of the panels require unique mounts, so John Duncan teaches us how to set up a router to cut the right kind of hole for each control scheme. (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)