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    Offworld, Episode 3: Sunshine (2007)

    On this episode of Offworld, we revisit the Danny Boyle science fiction film Sunshine, in which a crew is sent to reignite the Sun. We're joined by astrophysicist and Professor of Astronomy Gibor Basri to discuss the science of the film and which parts hold up (and the parts that don't). What would the bomb the size of Manhattan do to the Sun?

    On the Shooting Set of Aardman Animations' Early Man!

    Adam Savage steps onto one of the film stages at Aardman Animations, where a complex and detailed miniatures set is ready for stop-motion filming. Chatting with one of the Animation Directors of the film, Adam learns how the puppets are mounted on these sets to make them come alive, one frame at a time.

    Visiting the Niagara Aerospace Museum

    I've now lived in Buffalo for about eight months and I'm only just beginning to realize the rich aviation-related history of this area. I've learned that Western New York was an important hub of aerospace technology for many years. In fact, some of America's most important and iconic aircraft and spacecraft have roots in Buffalo. My education on such matters recently got significant boost when I visited the Niagara Aerospace Museum (NAM).

    The primary focus of NAM is to showcase the aviation and space-related legacy of the Buffalo area. There are numerous complete airplanes and helicopters on display, several partial ones, as well as tons of engines and other smaller artifacts. Most of the hardware was designed and built in Western New York.

    NAM is located at the entrance to the Niagara Falls International Airport. It is about a 15 minute drive from the US side of the actual falls. I think it's totally feasible to fit both attractions into one day.

    Preserved World War II Veteran

    A centerpiece in the NAM collection is the fuselage from a WWII-era Bell P-39 Airacobra. Like many aircraft that were no longer in production when the war ended, P-39s are somewhat of a rare finds these days. A quick head count indicates three P-39s in flying condition and ten on static display in the US. Even among such exclusive company, NAM's P-39 has an exceptional and somewhat tragic history.

    Like all P-39s, the example at NAM was built just a stone's throw away at the former Bell Aircraft plant. This was one of the thousands of Airacobras provided to the Soviet Air Force under the Lend-Lease program. It was flown from Buffalo to Alaska via a network of US and Canadian staging bases. Russian pilots then ferried the little fighter from Fairbanks to the western border of Russia near Finland, overflying vast stretches of the Siberian tundra.

    This P-39 Airacobra crash-landed on a frozen lake during WWII. It was pulled from the water after 60 years.

    The P-39 was not popular among US pilots who were assigned to fly the unique mid-engined fighter in combat. Russian pilots, however, generally liked their Airacobras…especially the reliable radios. A recovered log book indicates that NAM's P-39 served with the Soviet Air Force in action against the Finnish Air Force. In November of 1944, engine trouble forced Lieutenant Ivan Baranovsky to bring the Airacobra in for an emergency landing on the frozen surface of an arctic lake.

    Mechanical Keyboard Musings - Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project - 2/14/18
    This week, we chat about good customer service encounters, Adam's hunt for a bluetooth mechanical keyboard, drones at the Olympics, and William Gibson books. Plus, we convince Will to take a chance on The Good Place, trying to stay away from spoilers as best we can (albiet unsuccessfully in the end).
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    Designing the Stop-Motion Sets of Aardman Animation's Early Man!

    Even though a stop-motion animated film is shot at a smaller-than-life scale, the sets and environments that need to be built for its clay characters can still be massive. Adam Savage enters the production design room at Aardman Animations to learn how Early Man's sets are blueprinted, prototyped, and then finally built to be filmed, one frame at a time.

    Organizing a Stop-Motion Film Production at Aardman Animations

    Adam Savage visits Aardman Animations, where the studio is in production for its new film Early Man. A stop-motion film production requires many departments to work together to film dozens of scenes concurrently--so how is all of this organized? In chatting with Early Man's first Assistant Director Ben Barrowman, Adam learns how a sprawling film production is kept on track for its filming deadlines!

    Combining 3D Printed Models with Laser-Cut Parts

    Sean shares one of his personal projects: a LEGO-inspired computer console that's based off of the classic blue LEGO computer brick. He originally designed it to be purely 3D-printed, but has been experimenting with using laser cutting to replace some of its parts. Here are some of his lessons learned from combining 3D printing with laser cutting on our Universal Systems laser cutter.

    Animating Stop-Motion Characters at Aardman Animations

    Adam Savage visits the animation offices at Aardman, where Will Becher, Animation Director of Early Man walks us through the development of the film's characters. We learn how the personalities of the characters were developed, brought to life, and kept consistent through the filming process. Watch the trailer for Aardman Animations' Early Man here.

    Adam Savage Meets Early Man Director Nick Park!

    While visiting Aardman Animations, Adam Savage meets up with Nick Park, director of the Wallace and Gromit films, Chicken Run, and Early Man! Adam chats with Nick about the stop-motion filmmaking process and how the various teams at Aardman work together to make feature-length stop-motion stories.

    The Stop-Motion Puppets of Aardman Animations!

    Adam Savage visits Aardman Animations' workshop to get up close with some of the beautiful stop-motion animation puppets used in the studio's upcoming film Early Man. Aardman senior model maker Jimmy Young walks us through some of the modelmaking processes that go into these puppets' sculpts, clothes, and armatures!

    Offworld, Episode 2: Space Camp (1986)

    On this episode of Offworld, Ariel is joined by Tested's own Simone Giertz and guest Trace Dominguez to discuss and dissect the 1986 film Space Camp! Trace relates the film to his own experience attending the real space camp, and we ponder NASA's influence on the making of the movie.

    Using Cheat Sheets to Remember RC Model Settings

    We've talked before about using checklists for RC activities. They're handy for ensuring that everything is good-to-go with these often-complex machines. Yet, I found that I needed a different, more-specific kind of reminder to help with a common problem that I encounter: RC amnesia.

    Like most RC hobbyists that I know, I have a sizeable fleet of airplanes, multi-rotors, helicopters, cars, and boats. So it's not uncommon for many of these models to sit idle while other projects are my focus. When I come back to a model that has been hibernating, I find that I've usually forgotten many of the nuances specific to that machine. I'm left with important questions to answer:

    "Hmm…what radio was this linked to?" "Now, do I change the flight modes with switch C, or was it switch E?" "Is this the truck that made a funny noise the last time I drove it?"

    These small cheat sheets help me remember important details about RC models that do not get used frequently.

    It can sometimes take me quite a while to refamiliarize myself before I'm ready to go. That's especially true with my multi-rotors, which are so dependent on flight controller programming, firmware updates, switch positions, etc. To combat this trend, I began creating cheat sheets to be stored with all of my RC vehicles. Every model will eventually have a dedicated cheat sheet that contains all of the relevant info I need to pull it off the shelf and boogie!

    Hobby RC: Upgrading an RC Snow Toy

    I estimate that I'm about halfway through my first winter in Buffalo. And in this weather, I'm always on the lookout for RC gadgets that can thrive in the snow. My latest project began life as a toy-grade RC vehicle with a dubious reputation, but a few simple modifications turned it into a super snow machine. More-extensive tweaking made it even better!

    Terrain Twister

    The Terrain Twister is an RC toy that was previously sold by Mattel under both the Hot Wheels and Tyco RC labels. It's discontinued now, but new and used examples are readily available on the internet. What caught my attention is the Twister's really unique screw propulsion system. Rather than wheels or tank treads, this vehicle is motivated by a pair of counter-rotating cylindrical pontoons that have external threads like a screw.

    There have been a few examples of screw-propelled vehicles throughout history. The buoyancy of the rotating pontoons allows them to move across swampy or muddy terrain that would cause wheeled or tracked vehicles to get hopelessly stuck. Screw-propelled vehicles also excel in the snow.

    Online reviews of the Terrain Twister are all over the map. Some people love them, and lots of people despise them. A cursory analysis hinted that many of the haters had tried using the Terrain Twister on surfaces that it wasn't meant for. Spoiler: a screw-propelled toy is NOT going to work well on your concrete driveway or the tile floor of your kitchen. I eagerly pulled the trigger on a used unit I found on eBay…a whopping $5 investment (+$9 for shipping)!