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    Rick Baker's Make-Up and Special Effects Legacy

    Make-up and special effects legend Rick Baker just announced his retirement from film production, coinciding with the auction of his vast collection of original props, puppets, and animatronics. In this final piece from our visit to that collection, we have an extended conversation with Rick about his work and celebrated career--a lifetime of having fun and improving his craft. Thanks so much to Rick and Prop Store for this incredible opportunity!

    Crafting the Practical Creatures of Gremlins

    Gremlins was a big breakthrough for director Joe Dante, who previously gave us the genre greats Piranha and The Howling. Gremlins would also be a big step forward to animatronic effects, thanks to Chris Walas, who did similar slimy magic for David Cronenberg's The Fly.

    Before the success of Gremlins, Dante worked for Roger Corman's New World Pictures, making his debut comedy, Hollywood Boulevard, in 1976. Next he followed up with Piranha in 1978, then The Howling, which was a big horror hit in 1981, and also broke a lot of ground in make-up effects with Rob Bottin's werewolf creations. While The Howling was a success, Dante didn't make a lot of money from it, and his career was stuck in limbo afterwards, which is why he was surprised when the screenplay for Gremlins arrived at his dump of an office on Hollywood Boulevard. Dante didn't know Spielberg then, but Steven was a fan, Piranha was his favorite Jaws rip-off, and he was apparently inspired by The Howling to cast its star, Dee Wallace Stone, as Elliot's mother in E.T.

    Gremlins was written by Christopher Columbus as a writing sample, and as Dante recalls, "He hadn't written it with the idea that it was something that was going to be produced, so there was a lot of stuff in the script that was pretty hard to do." Initially Spielberg wanted to make Gremlins as a low budget, non-union horror film in Oregon. Yet Dante tells us, "As we developed it, it became apparent that were weren't going to be able to make it very cheap, and it was going to have to have the studio behind it in order for us to pull off what was in the story."

    Previously, make-up artist Chris Walas was working on a remake of Creature From the Black Lagoon with Dante, but Universal decided to scrap the project and made Jaws 3D instead. "I was devastated," Walas says. "I'm a huge Creature fan, and was thrilled to be working on that one."

    Then Dante sent over the script for Gremlins, and Walas says, "I was overwhelmed at the amount of work in it, and that was when the script was (just) a simple horror movie without any characters, just little monsters. I normally make notes on a script as I read it, but I was too astonished at the Gremlins script to make many." Once Walas finished reading the script, he wrote one note on the cover page: "HA!"

    Walas started making some simple sketches with Dante, his producing partner Mike Finnell, and Chris Columbus all providing feedback. "Joe used Chuck Jones cartoons as a reference for the Mogwai," Walas says. "He wanted them to have the same emotional range of some of the Warner Bros cartoon characters."

    ILM Reel Celebrates 40 Years of CG Effects

    For its 40th anniversary, effects house Industrial Light & Magic released this minute-long supercut of the over 300 films its worked on since George Lucas founded it for Star Wars. Their YouTube channel always has great behind-the-scene explorations of specific film shots. Wired's latest cover story is a pretty comprehensive retrospective of the company's work as well. Great photos by Dan Winters, too!

    First Images From The Martian

    It's no secret that I love a good spacesuit, and the first stills from Ridley Scott's adaptation of Andy Weir's fabulous novel, The Martian, have me excited. I'm not sure that Mark Watney's Martian spacesuit is a project I'm going to take on, it's going to be a tough costume to replicate, but I'm thinking about it.

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    The Talking Room: Adam Savage Interviews Traci Des Jardins

    The Talking Room returns! This season's first guest is Traci Des Jardin, an award-winning chef and restaurateur. Traci was a finalist on Top Chef Masters and a semi-finalist for this year’s James Beard award for Outstanding Chef. Adam invited Traci to The Talking Room to talk about her cooking ethos, the challenge of managing restaurants, and her approach to crafting new recipes.

    Maker Faire 2015: Justin Gray's Armored Robots

    In experimenting with converting farm equipment to electric vehicles, fabricator Justin Gray has created a fleet of remote controlled robots that are as beautiful as they are tough. Heavily armored and uniquely sculpted, these robots looked like they rolled off the of the Mad Max set. We chat with Justin about his robots and how they each have a personality of their own.

    The Anatomy of an R2-D2 Astromech Droid

    What makes up an R2-D2 Astromech? We chat with members of the R2 Builders club to learn about the process of building your own droid--the materials, power systems, and electronics needed to get started. Chris James of the Bay Area club chapter opens up his own R2 and shares the custom controls and components he's designed to make his droid come alive!

    LEGO with Friends: Phil Broughton, Part 1

    Time for another week of LEGO with Friends! This week's guest is one of the most interesting people we know: a radiation expert who also makes a brew of coffee known as the Black Blood of the Earth. Phil Broughton joins us for a week of conversation, storytelling, and of course, building LEGO! Follow along with us by signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here! (The first episode is free for everyone, but the rest of the series will be for Premium Members.)

    Google Research's Projects at Maker Faire 2015

    Google had a big presence at this year's Maker Faire, bring several of their research projects to share with makers--including a giant knife-wielding robot! We chat with Chris DiBona, Google's director of Making Science, about experiments in imagery, 3D printing, robotics, and aerial Wi-Fi.

    Maker Faire 2015: MegaBots' Giant Fighting Robot

    We ran into a giant mech at Maker Faire! MegaBots' creators constructed this massive concept robot in hopes of building a league of combat bots for spectators. Their fighting robots would be piloted by teams of drivers, and use massive hand-made paintballs to knock armor and other pieces off of their opponents. We enter the cockpit of this robot and check out its controls!

    Maker Faire 2015: Looking Glass 8x8x8 LED Cube

    Building an 8x8x8 LED cube may sound daunting, but this kit we found at Maker Faire simplifies the process with a clever design. We chat with Looking Glass' CTO about the idea of volumetric imagery, and how they've experimented in creating floating images with both 3D prints and RGB LED light matrices. What kind of images and animations can you create with just 512 points? Apparently, a lot--think of it as Hologram 1.0.

    Rick Baker's Men in Black Puppets and Animatronics

    Some of effects legend Rick Baker's most memorable work was in the Men in Black series, where his studio designed and created the fantastic alien creatures featured in the films. We chat with Rick about the practical fabrication of the memorable worm aliens, and a giant bug animatronic that never made it to screen--all going on auction. So many wonderful stories! (For a chance to win a prop from this collection, just post in the comments what from the auction you'd love to have!)

    How To Get into Hobby RC: Short Course Trucks

    'Short Course Trucks' are currently some of the most popular vehicles for RC racing. There are several reasons for the popularity of these designs. First of all, they replicate the full-scale short course racers that compete at outdoor tracks and stadiums all over the US. Perhaps a more significant aspect is that short course trucks are exciting to drive. Many short course designs are close adaptations of the top-tier 2-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive buggies that are at the cutting edge of RC off-road design.

    RC short course trucks are not only for racing; they are also well suited to bashing. Their wide tires let them run on a variety of surfaces. It also helps that they have meaty bumpers and full-fendered bodies covering the tires. These help to keep the truck right side up when knocking into things like curbs and other vehicles.

    The Cutback

    My first short course truck is the Tower Hobbies Cutback. Although it has some race-ready features (brushless motor, full ball bearings), the Cutback is primarily meant for bashing. That works out great for me since I haven't raced in years. That being said, the Cutback might be competitive at some local-level tracks.

    This truck arrives fully assembled, with a painted body and a 2-channel 2.4GHz pistol-grip radio. I had to provide four AA batteries for the transmitter and onboard batteries to run the truck. I'll talk more about those batteries in a bit.

    Short Course Trucks are a popular aspect of RC for both racing and bashing. The vehicles emulate full-scale off-road racers.

    This is a four-wheel-drive truck with three gear-type differentials, one on the front end, one on the rear end, and one on the drive shaft. The core of the chassis is a 3mm-thick aluminum plate. Attached to this plate is a nylon tub that houses the electronics and drive components. Other parts such as the suspension arms, bumpers and spur gear are made of molded nylon as well. Interestingly, all of these plastic parts are covered by a 1-year warranty with free replacement.

    Photo Gallery: Rick Baker's 'Monster Maker' Auction Collection

    Check out some photos from our recent visit to Prop Store's Rick Baker 'Monster Maker' auction collection. The warehouse was like the storage facility at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark--a treasure trove of effects artifacts and iconic creatures from Baker's filmography. The detail in some of these props and animatronics was stunning--I personally gravitated toward the Men in Black aisle to get up close to the worm guys. We'll have more videos from our visit this week and next on the site. Until then, find out more about this historic May 29th auction at www.propstore.com/rickbaker

    Rick Baker's Gremlins 2 Puppets and Animatronics

    We're extremely privileged to visit the collection of special effects legend Rick Baker, whose make up and creature designs have appeared in films like an American Werewolf in London, Planet of the Apes, and the Men in Black series. While previewing an upcoming auction of his works, we chat with Baker about his work on Gremlins 2 and get up close to the spectacular puppets and animatronics his studio made for the production. More videos from our visit coming soon!

    Roman Mars' TED Talk: City Flag Design

    How about a little bit of vexillology to end your day? Flag design is the topic of Roman Mars' TED Talk, a version of the presentation he also gave at our live show last October. If you're unfamiliar with Mars' work, he's the creator and host of 99 Percent Invisible, a podcast about the history and origins of the unnoticed designed world. I spoke to Roman last year about his love for design and his approach to podcasting.