On the final day of Tested Christmas, Will shares his own favorite board games of this year, including games that can be played even only between two people. Thanks for supporting Tested and happy holidays! We'll see you in the new year as we head to CES!
Dec. 12, 2014: I’m here to testify to the fact that Fayetteville, Ark., is a gorgeous little town. Really sweet. I woke up and had a couple of interviews. After some computing work, I headed out for a 90-minute walk around town. Like I said: Gorgeous!
I did an NPR interview in the morning with a woman named Antoinette Grajeda (you can listen to it here) and she told me about an awesome bookstore around the corner from the Walton Arts Center, where we were performing. I decided to go and I was NOT disappointed.
For the eleventh day of Tested Christmas, Norm shares a recent find: highly detailed articulated figures of Portal 2's Atlas and P-Body characters. These sixth scale figures were made by a collaboration between Valve and 3A, a maker of incredible collectibles. Time to set these figures and their Portal guns up for display in the office!
Electric airplanes made of molded foam are very popular in the RC world right now. While this class of airplanes used to be limited to small models with modest power, there is seemingly no limit to the size and power handling of modern “foamies”. Perhaps the largest contributor to their popularity is the marginal effort that’s required to assemble an attractive and nice-flying foam model. There are, however, some things to be aware of, and habits you should develop to court success with these aircraft. I recently assembled and flew a newly-released foamy to illustrate what I’m talking about.
The model that I used for this article is the Flitework PT-17 Stearman. It is a 1:8 scale model of the 1942 Boeing PT-17 that is owned and flown by The Flying Bulls in Austria. Most of the model is constructed of molded Expanded PolyOlefin (EPO) foam, a popular material for RC planes. This is a Receiver-Ready (RR) model, meaning that all of the control servos and power system components are included and installed. The user must provide a radio receiver and transmitter, as well as an appropriate battery to power the airplane.
This was my first experience with a Flitework model. Overall, I would consider it a little above average among the current crop of RR foamies that I’ve seen. The mold quality of the foam components was excellent and the finish applied to the airplane was well executed. There is nothing worse than factory-applied trim schemes with sloppy paint overspray or crooked decals. I was happy that neither sin was displayed here.
Despite my positive first impressions with this model, my unboxing inspection also revealed a few common shortcomings that I would need to address. The positive side of this is that the corrections were easily implemented and didn’t incur any extra cost. As I outline the basic assembly steps, I will cover those changes, as well as some tips and tricks that may not be intuitive.
This will be a weekly three-part behind the scenes series: Lighting, Shooting, and Editing.
The production behind Adam's One Day Builds, are a good representation of the common challenges I'm faced with being a one-man production team at Tested. They're often long shooting days with tons of coverage, shot in a documentary format, meaning that we often shoot for spontaneity which in turn means that the at end of the day I'm coming back with hours of footage and steep shooting ratios: somewhere in between 20:1-30:1.
One important key advantage I have in this series, despite shooting such high ratios, is that I'm shooting for myself. Meaning, this footage is coming back with me to the editing bay, where I'll then chop it up. As the camera operator, knowing how to shoot for the editor, me, allows me to edit the piece in my head, as I'm shooting. Which is huge.
Most camera/editors will tell you how much easier it is to edit their own footage. You know your own quirks, you know what you were shooting at the time and where you were planning on placing that in the video. You know your own movements, and what kind of shots you were trying to get, and in my case, I know Adam. I know how he moves around the shop, about how long it takes him to bandsaw through some ply, screw in six wood screws, or sand a piece of material. I can shoot multiple angles of him working on one piece of his puzzle, only to edit and string them together to fake a multi-cam shoot--essentially to increase production value.
Technical skills aside, one of the key requirements that come with the title job is to learn about the people you work with, and their mannerisms and style, so you can prepare properly, and compliment their style, with your own. Ultimately serving the final product.
After watching the speed at which Adam works, and the precision of him working in his own workshop, I came to the conclusion that the One Day Builds should have a certain style to them: a chance to give the user the perspective of a fly in his workshop. Close intimate angles, camera movement to match Adam's movement, all cut to a slightly exaggerated pace; making sure that information is presented simultaneously, without jarring the audience or pulling them out of the perception of a live filming. It's about marrying the communication with the action, and doing so in an effective way.
This brings me to my main two editing techniques for this kind of feature:
Dec. 11, 2014: In Kansas City, we had some press to do. Jamie felt a bit under the weather, so I had an early start and headed over to KSHB- 41 to appear on their morning show, Kansas City Live. They couldn’t have been nicer. I love seeing morning-show sets. I love how substantial they are aesthetically and insubstantial materially.
Then the camera crew set up for my interview. Do I look tired here?
After the interview (which you can see here), it was time to do a little shopping. I do some juggling in our live show, and one of my beanbags sprung a leak, so I needed some new ones. Will, our tour manager, found me a place that supposedly had one of the “largest magic retail spaces in the country.” It was right over the border in Kansas.
In this behind the scenes clip from 1980, Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt explains how his team recorded the foley audio to make up the 'comical' sounds of theMillennium Falcon's hyperdrive malfunction. I'm going to add this to the list of great production clips showing the making of audio for science fiction films--like the phaser pew pews in Star Trek. (h/t io9)
One of my favorite magazines growing up was Wizard's ToyFare, which in addition to reporting on new action figure releases, showcased the custom toy modifications and builds and sculptors who made their own figures. These makers could take a Punisher figure, for example, and swap out its head and paint job to make it a kick-ass Bullseye figures. Custom figure sculpts have come a long way since then, and the quality of figures like the ones made by artist Dayton Allen are just as good (if not better) than the sculpts done by toy companies. The Verge has a fun report on a project that Allen started in 2011, custom sculpting the entire cast of Ridley Scott's Alien--in addition to building out the Nostromo bridge and corridor sets for those 4-inch figures. Allen's Flickr gallery of his work in progress is awesome. Bookmark it! And if want to get your hands on your own Alien figure without making a custom sculpt, the NECA series of Nostromo spacesuit figures just went on sale last week!
Dec 10. 2014: Sigh. Another day I didn’t leave the bus. After the feverish activity of Omaha (well, it certainly FELT feverish) I felt due for a day of simply writing and research. It was quite productive in its own way. Seriously: I got a lot done.
When I finally DID make my way over to the Orpheum Theatre, I was graced with another lovely dressing room! I was reluctant to leave.
But once onstage I had a phenomenal assistant.
You never quite know how someone will respond to being brought up onstage. For many, it seems like an AWESOME idea until they get up there, and then you can see it sink in: “Holy crap, look at all those people!” Not this girl, though. She was game and had a great sense of humor.
For the eighth day of Tested Christmas, Will shares his recommendations for essential tools that go a long way in the workshop. These instruments: a good pair of digital calipers and a high quality multimeter make great gifts, and you don't need to buy the most expensive ones!
Dec. 9, 2014: I remember Omaha! I remember it from watching Wild Kingdom as a kid. “Mutual of Omaha is people … you can count on when the going’s … wrong ...” or something like that. I’m too lazy to look it up on the Google.
We landed in Omaha for a much desired day of R&R and then a performance.
The hotel was across the street from the theater and was very, very nice. Super comfortable. TERRIBLE wifi. But not worse than most. In my experience, wifi in hotels is a spotty and largely unsatisfying business. I end up using my phone as a hotspot for BLAZINGLY faster speeds. (I keep an eye on my data, though, don’t worry.)
Downtown Omaha has a lovely and amazing shopping district, enclosed and clad in brick. Our first day was unseasonably warm, so I walked around here for awhile.
Lots and lots of skybridge in the places it gets cold, I notice...
For the seventh day of Tested Christmas, Norm shares his favorite board game discovery, a cooperative deck building game set in the Marvel comics universe. This is a game like Dominion, but up to five players work together as a team in various scenarios. Let us know what your favorite cooperative tabletop games are in the comments!
Dec. 7, 2014: Finally we got to Jamie’s home state: Indiana! You should have heard the crowd roar when I reminded them he’s a Hoosier.
Later, after the show, I was on the phone with Mrs. Dontrrythis, and she said, “Take a picture of what you’re looking at right now.” So I did.
About the least interesting shot I’ve ever taken. To be perfectly honest, most dressing rooms are like this.
Another pattern I’m seeing on tour: I seem to be building a collection of dubious looks from the girls I bring onstage to help us out.
For the sixth day of Tested Christmas, Norm shares a new building set from McFarlane Toys, based off of the AMC show The Walking Dead. These dioramas are actually kits that you have to snap together, using a block system that's kind of familiar...
Dec. 6, 2014: Man, oh, man. Chicago is the best. Pulled in around 7 a.m. Woke up and headed over to my good friend and never-not-fun-to-talk-to Peter Sagal’s house, where he made me breakfast while we discussed Kubrick, film, radio, and a few dozen other topics over the course of a couple hours.
This is awesome. Spotted on the street in Chicago. I think it’s for when the power goes out? I guess a stop sign CAN be stopped.
Then Peter gave me a walking tour of the incredible Oak Park, outside of Chicago, where an insane number of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings reside, including FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S HOUSE.
Submarine Sandwich, the Kickstarted stop-motion short by the incredibly imaginative and talented animators at PES, was just released yesterday! Their stop-motion shorts and commercials are surrealists' delights--you may recall that their last short, Fresh Guacamole, was nominated for an Academy Award.
Even though I was too young to buy the original Kenner Star Wars action figures, I can appreciate the fervor and fandom around collecting these iconic toys. So many Star Wars fans who grew up in the 70s have stories memories about their first or favorite Kenner figures, or the coveted ones they were never allowed to buy. My visit to Steve Sansweet's Rancho Obi-Wan almost two years ago now was the first time I was exposed to the world of Kenner rarities--the variants of figures most sought after by collectors. StarWars.com just published an in-depth examination of these vintage toys--a really fun read for toy collectors. I also want to recommend this Steve Sansweet book that catalogs every Star Wars action figure ever produced (so far), and call out this hourlong documentary about the history of these Kenner figures. Vimeo just picked it up to distribute online.
It's time for another One Day Build! You know the drill: Adam tackles a project at his shop from start to finish, explaining his build process along the way. Today's build is a replica of Jane Fonda's iconic Barbarella rifle. The challenge: this iconic sci-fi prop only appeared once, on the cover of a 1968 issue of LIFE Magazine. That's not a lot of reference material to work with!