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    Tested Mailbag: Full Blockhead Set

    It's Friday! This week's reader mailbag comes from friend of Tested Bill Doran, who we've worked with before on projects like the District 9 Alien Rifle replica. Bill, who's a professional prop and costume maker, sends a care package to complete our set of blockhead figures. Thanks Bill!

    How Lidar is Used in Visual Effects

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 3/10/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Making movies has always been about data capture. When the Lumière brothers first pointed their primitive camera equipment at a steam locomotive in 1895 to record Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, what were they doing if not capturing data? In the 1927 movie The Jazz Singer – the first full-length feature to use synchronised sound – when Al Jolson informed an eager crowd, "You ain't heard nothing' yet!", what was the Warner Bros. microphone doing? You guessed it: capturing data.

    Nowadays, you can't cross a movie set without tripping over any one of a dozen pieces of data capture equipment. Chances are you'll even bump into someone with the job title of "data wrangler", whose job it is to manage the gigabytes of information pouring out of the various pieces of digital recording equipment.

    And in the dead of night, if you're very lucky, you may even spy that most elusive of data capture specialists: the lidar operator.

    Lidar has been around long enough to become commonplace. If you read behind-the-scenes articles about film production, you'll probably know that lidar scanners are regularly used to make 3D digital models of sets or locations. The word has even become a verb, as in, "We lidared the castle exterior." Like all the other forms of data capture, lidar is everywhere.

    But what exactly is lidar? What does the word stand for, and how do those scanners work? And just how tough is it to scan a movie set when there's a film crew swarming all over it?

    To answer these questions and more, I spoke to Ron Bedard from Industrial Pixel, a Canadian-based company, with incorporated offices in the USA, which offers lidar, cyberscanning, HDR and survey services to the motion picture and television industries.

    Tested Visits Prop Store's Original Movie Prop Collection

    We've seen beautiful pieces of original movie props, costumes, and production materials at conventions like Comic-Con and Star Wars Celebration, but we finally get to visit Prop Store's LA warehouse where it stores much of its collection. Brandon Alinger gives us a tour and tells us the story of several of his favorite pieces, including the Nostromo model, a Batmobile, and Back to the Future II shoes. Place a comment below with your favorite item from the upcoming live auction for a chance to win one of five auction catalogs!

    Enter Dremel's Maker-in-Residence Contest

    Do you have any projects you want to share? Dremel is launching a "Maker-in-Residence" program to celebrate the work of makers around America. As part of a contest, Dremel is picking five people to win a suite of tools and collaborate with the company to promote makers' projects and provide feedback about its line of products. Applying for the program looks easy: just a few short essays about what kind of things you make and two project photos as an example of your work. The prize package looks pretty good, too: Dremel hand tools, its new 3D printer, and an HP Sprout computer.

    The deadline for entries for this contest is tomorrow, so head on over to Dremel's Maker-in-Residence page and submit your project. The first round of "Chief Makers" from this contest will be announced at World Maker Faire in the fall. Good luck!

    Inside Adam Savage's Cave: Hellboy II Prop

    Adam shares his latest acquisition from Prop Store's collection of original movie props: a costume piece from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. These horns and wig were part of King Balor's makeup--the one-armed king of Elfland from the beginning of the film. It's a beautiful piece that now finds its home in the cave!

    Building the Star Wars Rancor Costume, Part 3

    For the third part of our Rancor suit walkthrough, Frank shows us how he sculpted the incredibly detailed Rancor head. This clay sculpture weighed 300 pounds, and was based on Phil Tippett's original puppet sculpture for Return of the Jedi. Plus, we talk about the electronics solution that allows Frank to look around while wearing the suit! (Thanks to Model-Space.com for sponsoring this project!)

    Building a Carbon Fiber Kitesurfing Hydrofoil

    Tested reader mahtieu sent in this video, where he builds his first carbon fiber hydrofoil kitesurfing board from scratch. I love watching the process, and seeing him get more confident as he progresses. It's a bit long, but it's worth watching til the end to see his first rides with the new board.

    Taschen's The Making of Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey'

    In reading and collecting literature about celebrated works in cinema, there is rarely a single book or other kind of publication that serves as a sufficient canonical archive of that film's production and legacy. Just look at how many "Making of Star Wars" books that have been released over the years. Taschen Publishing's The Making of Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' isn't the end-all complete chronicle of Kubrick's masterpiece on its own, but the 562-page tome proves more than a sufficient anchor for any completist's collection. I've been reading an early copy of this book this week, wide-eyed and mouth agape at just how much insight into the film's production history is revealed on each page.

    This book is a re-release of an ultra-limited collector's edition that Taschen published last year--which also instantly sold out. While this book doesn't have the film stills and original screenplay/production notes printing that the $1000 edition included, it's a treasure trove of production material pulled from the Kubrick archives. The cadence of the book is perfect as coffee-table fodder: dozens of pages of narrative tracing the origin, production, plot, reception, and legacy of 2001: A Space Odyssey in academic detail, followed by full-spread and fold-out pages of photographs, production designs, and promotional artwork.

    A specially commissioned artwork demonstrates how the various interior sets for the Discovery would fit in to the habitation sphere if the ship were constructed at full scale. (Credit: Oliver Rennert/TASCHEN)

    Concept art and storyboards from the likes of Robert McCall, Richard McKenna and Roy Carnon show how Kubrick united astronomy illustrators with recruited aerospace engineers to design the visual language of futuristic manned spaceflight--at the same time NASA was reaching for the Moon. You get a sense of where designs like that of the space repair pod originated (inspired by a 1960's Boeing drawing). That artwork is paired with photographs of miniatures, sets, and costumes, in various states of competition and use. For prop replica builders, photographs from the sets give a close-up look at switch panels, knobs, display systems, and label text. A mind-boggling amount of detail.

    While it's unquestionably a treat for the eyes, I was pleased that the book isn't just a visual record of the film. Writer Piers Bizony (who has written numerous space history books) devotes numerous sections to the technical details of the special effects and innovative cinematography techniques used by Kubrick and his collaborators. We learn not only how specific shots were accomplished, but where those technical achievements stand in the context of cinema and effects history. Motion-control, front projection, matte masking, and the slit-scan machine get their appropriate dues. This book gets delightfully nerdy.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Mounting Action Cameras

    I've been attaching small digital video cameras to my RC vehicles for several years. I started with one of the original Flip cameras--remember those? Since then, cameras have shrunken in size and grown in ability. My knack for successfully utilizing on-board cameras has similarly improved. In this guide, I will share some of the lessons I've learned over the years.

    Although I can utilize the same mounts for both cameras, the weight and frontal area of the GoPro Hero 3 and Mobius are very different, making them suited for different applications.

    The Camera Equipment

    My current cameras for onboard filming are a GoPro Hero 3 Black, a wide-angle Mobius action camera, and a Mobius with the standard lens. The wide-angle Mobius gets much more use than the other two. Its small size (2.4"x1.4"x.7"), bantam weight (1.4 oz), and good video performance make it applicable to a wide range of RC applications. The camera's $80 price tag also makes me more willing to strap it to a fast-moving object, as opposed to the much more costly GoPro.

    There are times, however, when I want the image quality that only a GoPro can provide. When the Hero 3 is locked in its housing, it is more than three times the weight of the Mobius and has about four times the frontal area (aerodynamic drag). I just have to be more selective with the vehicles that I choose for the GoPro. Not all of them can handle the extra burden gracefully. The new Hero 4 Session looks promising, with a weight (2.6 oz) and frontal area falling in the gap the between the Mobius and Hero 3. As soon as I can justify the expense, I'm sure I'll have a Session in my camera bag as well.

    Using a collection of GoPro mounts, nylon fasteners, and various homemade bits, I can attach a small video camera to nearly any RC vehicle.

    There are tons of mounting gadgets made for the GoPro. Between the parts made by GoPro, aftermarket mounting kits, and the simple foam/wood adapters that I've made myself, there are limitless options for mounting a GoPro to an RC vehicle.

    Mobius cameras include a plastic cradle with a 1/4-inch female insert on the bottom (the standard thread found on tripods). In my review of the Mobius, I explained how a simple modification of a GoPro pivot arm allows me to mount the smaller camera to any of the GoPro mounts--a handy, and much-used capability.

    An Exploration of Vertical Cinema

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 4/7/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Widescreen! Cinemascope! Panavision! Since the early days of cinema, movie screens have been getting steadily wider. From the squat 4:3 aspect ratio of early 20th century silent movies, through the explosion of sprawling widescreen film formats that began in the 1950s, to today's ever-expanding domestic TV screens, the trend is clear: bigger is better … but only if you stretch things in the horizontal dimension.

    But what happens if you turn this thinking on its head? Or rather, on its side?

    That's the question posed by Vertical Cinema, a Sonic Acts art project comprising ten specially commissioned films made by experimental filmmakers and audiovisual artists. Vertical Cinema presentations have been held since 2013 at locations across Europe and in the USA, with the films frequently being projected in churches. The movies are projected using a custom-built 35mm film projector in vertical Cinemascope. No landscape images here. In Vertical Cinema, everything is portrait.

    Here's what Vertical Cinema has to say about this unusual twist on traditional cinematic conventions:

    For the Vertical Cinema project, we "abandoned" traditional cinema formats, opting instead for cinematic experiments that are designed for projection in a tall, narrow space. It is not an invitation to leave cinemas – which have been radically transformed over the past decade according to the diktat of the commercial film market – but a provocation to expand the image onto a new axis. This project re-thinks the actual projection space and returns it to the filmmakers. It proposes a future for filmmaking rather than a pessimistic debate over the alleged death of film.

    With its mission to challenge established conventions, Vertical Cinema wears its experimental heart firmly on its sleeve. But what's to stop someone making a full-blown narrative feature film in this unusual vertical format? On the face of it, the challenges seem considerable. The entire movie industry is built around the landscape image. Even if you could get such a film made at a technical level, would the vertical format clip your storytelling wings? And would audiences actually want to see it?

    To answer these questions and more, Cinefex spoke with six filmmakers and visual effects experts: Douglas Trumbull (filmmaker and VFX innovator), Tim Webber (creative director and VFX supervisor, Framestore), Rajat Roy (global technical supervisor, Prime Focus World), Paul Mowbray (head of NSC Creative), Marc Weigert (president and VFX supervisor, Method Studios) and Charles Rose (CG supervisor, Tippett Studio).

    How Fans Restored the Original Back to the Future DeLorean

    It's remarkable how much love fans still have for Back to the Future after 28 years. We're still waiting for October 21st, 2015, when we can ask where our 3D Jaws movie and hoverboards are. And even though we may have have flying cars or auto-lacing shoes, Back to the Future is not a dated relic from another era; it still holds up very well. And thanks to the efforts of producer Bob Gale and a talented group of car replica builders, Doc Brown's legendary DeLorean will continue to live on well past 2015.

    As Gale explains, it was director Bob Zemeckis's idea to make the car a DeLorean. "It was a solution to a production problem, which had to do with the time chamber. Doc Brown had to carry it around on the back of a pickup truck. In pre-production, Bob thought, How are we going to do this? There's a lot of logistics in moving this thing around, then he came in and said, 'Let's put it in the car, let's make it mobile, and that saves a lot of nuts and bolts stuff production wise.' John DeLorean was either on trial, or was about to go on trial for a cocaine sting. That put the DeLorean back in the public consciousness, because the company went out of business. Now it had this added notoriety of the cocaine bust, and that made it even hipper as an outlaw car."

    The car was also picked because its gullwing doors gave it a unique look, and DeLoreans are made out of stainless steel, which prevents them from rusting. "That clearly made it look futuristic to someone in the '50's."

    Gale says once they decided it would be a DeLorean, there was no second choice. One day, someone from Universal's product placement department came in and told Gale if they changed the car to a Mustang, Ford would pay them $75,000. Gale's response? "Doc Brown doesn't drive a fucking Mustang!" (This classic response has been printed up on t-shirts that you can buy at DeLorean car shows.)

    Photo Gallery: Highlights from D23 Expo 2015

    Disney, Pixar, and Marvel Studios didn't have a massive presence at this year's Comic-Con, partly due to the fact that Disney has its own fan convention in the bi-annual D23 Expo. I drove down to Anaheim this weekend to spend a day at the show (my first D23), and found it an interesting mix of Disney fan culture, consumer product previews, and vintage collectible bazaar. While I didn't get to attend the massive panel presentations, here are some of my favorite sights from the show floor. A Disney Archives exhibit, animation maquettes, and John Lasseter's hawaiian shirt collection were standouts. Also, an up-close look at the upcoming LEGO Wall-E set!

    Pistol Shot Recorded at 73,000 Frames Per Second

    From the most recent Supernatural Shooters episode of Mythbusters, in which Jamie and Adam test two bullet-related myths: "Adam Savage is nearly rendered speechless by incredible slomo footage that captures a bullet being fired at 73,000 frames per second. Shot at these speeds, the video reveals a dance of pressure and fire that would otherwise be missed by the unaided eye."

    In Brief: Recapping a Deluge of Star Wars News

    This past weekend was D23 Expo, Disney's bi-annual fan convention that's on track to become the company's own Comic-Con. Along with tons of news related to Disney's animated and live-action films, the company unleashed announcements for the next few years of Star Wars. Let's see if I can sum up all the good stuff here. First, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow has signed on to direct Episode IX. Gareth Edwards' Rogue One had its main cast revealed in its first publicity photo (Donnie Yen!). Disney CEO Bob Iger also announced that 14-acre Star Wars-themed lands would be coming to Disneyland and Disney World--you can spot some Ralph McQuarrie influence in the concept art. Painter Drew Struzan showed off his Force Awakens poster art, given away at D23. And attendees got to get up close to costumes from the film, including the incredible Captain Phasma chrome armor. And on a D23-unrelated note, here's a fun story about the hunt for the original theatrical release of Star Wars. Phiew!

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    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #13

    Happy Monday! For this week's Show and Tell, we have another LEGO Mystery Build! Follow along as Norm assembles this custom creation, and place your best guess as to what's being built in the comments below.

    Tested Mailbag: Blaster from the Past!

    Yay! A package from one of you guys has arrived at the office. Inside, we find a vintage toy space gun that may look familiar to long-time Tested viewers. It's something that will make it's way to Adam to add to his collection! Thanks so much to Zack for sending it our way!

    Inside ILM's Virtual Reality Testing Lab

    The Verge recently visited the ILMxLab in San Francisco, where artists and developers experiment with cutting-edge VR and AR technologies for experimental film production and consumer entertainment research. From The Verge's report: "ILMxLab is the VR and augmented reality think-tank from Industrial Light & Magic. Their mission? Create the future of entertainment. And you'd better believe they're starting with Star Wars."

    Ryan Nagata's Space Suit Replicas

    Adam isn't the only replica prop builder obsessed with spacesuits. At the recent Replica Prop Forum showcase, we met Ryan Nagata, a propmaker and independent director who collaborated with Adam on his Mercury suit, and made his own Apollo-era spacesuit as well. Every part of Ryan's suits is an original fabrication, and the suits are wearable!