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    Appreciating the Art of Film Editing

    Years ago, I interviewed a number of film editors, which was a fascinating experience for me. You can learn a lot about the storytelling process from editors; they're in charge of one of the most important and under-appreciated aspects of filmmaking: choosing not only what shots to leave in, but what to leave out. The collaboration between director and editor on a movie is crucial, because having complete freedom with no outside guidance can ruin a film just as much as having no freedom at all.

    Over the history of cinema, film editing went from physically cutting celluloid on flatbed moviolas to editing digitally on Avid machines, but the most important pieces in an editor’s arsenal have always been the same: timing, instinct, patience, and personal chemistry.

    Photo credit: Flickr user ahhdrjones via Creative Commons

    Steven Kemper’s area of expertise in the editing room is in the action genre. He has cut a number of films for John Woo, including Face / Off and Mission: Impossible 2. Woo’s action sequences are tight and well constructed, yet surprisingly Kemper says Woo gives his editors “tons of leeway” in the cutting room. Woo storyboards his action sequences, “but very often he wings it on the set if he doesn’t get a shot, a shot isn’t working out the way he hoped or he ran out of time. None of the scenes look like the storyboards when you’re done, but you do get an idea of what he’s going for, there are focus points in the sequence that we make sure to hold on to. You end up doing much more than John originally intended. That’s what I really enjoyed about working with him, is he’s totally open to stuff.”

    Working on a John Woo film, the editor has many options open to him considering Woo has multiple cameras rolling during an action scene, sometimes as many as 16 shooting all at once. Woo’s action sequences are famous for deftly blending together numerous camera angles and speeds, which breaks the monotony of typical action editing. “A lot of movies I see today, it seems gratuitous that they go to slow motion in certain spots,” says Kemper. “One of the things I worked particularly hard on, on all of Woo’s pictures is to carefully meld the over-cranked, under-cranked, and normal speed material. If you catch it at the right action, it’s almost seamless. It’s almost like you haven’t realized for a beat that you’ve gone from slow motion right back to a 24-frame shot. I found it not only challenging, but a heck of a lot of fun.”

    Photo credit: Flickr user andrew_saliga via Creative Commons.

    In talking with Kemper, I learned that patience is one of the most important skills for an editor. In cutting the last forty minutes of Mission: Impossible 2, Kemper spent ten weeks--seven days a week, from seven in the morning to eleven at night--editing that portion of the film. For forty minutes, the editor sifted through 12 to 15 hours of film, which he cut down to what you see in the movie. “Woo shoots so much great stuff, to not sift through every frame is a crime!,” Kemper says.

    X-Men: Days Of Future Past VFX Breakdown

    From effects production house Digital Domain comes this awesome VFX breakdown for some scenes in the most recent X-Men movie. The amount of reference footage, modeling, rendering, and compositing required for an effect like Mystique's transformations is staggering, even if it's just for a three-second transformation. The demo reel runs through the production work on three sequences: Mystique's transformation (from Raven and to Raven), Magneto's lifting of a stadium, and White House battle scene. Fox had previously released a behind-the-scenes featurette about the memorable Quicksilver scene too. And if you have an hour to spare, here's a NOVA special about the magic of special effects, circa 1984. Visual effects have come a long way. (via io9)

    Bits to Atoms: Building an 'Evil Dead' Chainsaw

    Evil Dead 2 is one of my favorite movies of all-time; one that I may have bought more times than even Star Wars. (I own it on Betamax!) My wife even took me to the site of the original Evil Dead cabin near her home in Tennessee. For those who have not experienced this gem, at a pivotal moment in the film, Ash, played the amazing Bruce Campbell, replaces his severed hand (which he cut off because it was possessed) with a chainsaw. He then uses said chainsaw to saw off the barrel of his shotgun, holsters it and as the camera zooms in, proclaims, ‘groovy!’. Instant classic.

    My original chainsaw with fabricated top.

    About three years ago, I find myself at the grocery store and look at a jug of Arizona Ice Tea. My brain connects the dots and I decided that it looked like the base of a chainsaw, which lead to me building an Evil Dead 2 chainsaw replica for Halloween. Unfortunately, that was also the same year Hurricane Sandy hit New York, so we were evacuated and Halloween was cancelled. But the year after that, I am even more ready with an exact costume that’s weathered and bloodied…and I get one of the worst colds ever which cancels Halloween again. Mark my words--this is the year that I will finally get to use my Evil Dead 2 chainsaw--and maybe you can too!

    The parts and tools needed to build your own Evil Dead 2 chainsaw are all actually pretty reasonable. A key piece is 3D printed--I’ve provided the files for download--and we’ll discuss alternatives if you don’t have access to a 3D printer. To start off, I captured a bunch of screengrabs from the film for reference, but the best photos I found were from the excellent Evil Dead Chainsaws site, which makes amazing replicas.

    The original prop was based on an actual Homelite chainsaw that was heavily modified and cast in plastic and rubber so Bruce could fit his hand inside and use it safely. I tried to duplicate key aspects of the original for my first version, which required some light metal work for the top piece and 3D printing the distinctive side-grill. For the version I’m presenting here, I’ve simplified the parts and process while still producing a killer chainsaw replica.

    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 6

    With the frame of the arcade cabinet constructed, Norm and Wes head back to the garage to begin the wiring of the buttons and other electronics. In this episode, we discuss the different types of custom arcade controls, the hardware to link them all together, and the tiny computer we're going to build to run the software. (This video series was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    The Arduboy Bracelet Plays Tetris
    s

    The Arduboy is a pocket-sized computer that's as thin as a few credit cards but still has a screen and controls to play basic games like Tetris and Breakout via an AtMega328p running Arduino. While that device is still in development to be made for sale, its makers have also whipped up a digital bracelet running multiple .66-inch OLED screens running on a flexible circuit. The first prototype looks awesome and ripe with potential, so I'd love to see this turn into a customizable kit!

    Behold The Eyes of Hitchcock

    From the Criterion Collection, a supercut of actors gazing directly at the camera in Hitchcock films. Short clips looped in just the right way and extended to the edge of discomfort. Unsettling and beautiful! See more work from the editor of this montage here.

    Announcing Tested: The Show!

    Here's a short promo video we shot announcing our live stage show for YouTube subscribers. The important stuff: it'll be at 1PM on Saturday, October 25th, at San Francisco's historic Castro Theater. We'll all be there! More details here. Tickets are on sale now!

    Show and Tell: The Useless Box Kit

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm assembles a kit of a machine he's always wanted: a useless box. Flip the switch on the box and all it does is turn itself off. Simple, yet mesmerizing. The kit of laser cut plastic and some basic electronics isn't difficult to put together, and makes for a great afternoon project.

    Tested Mailbag: For the Suit

    Time for another ceremonial opening of a reader package! This one is related to a Still Untitled episode we recorded with Adam earlier this year, with a piece of hardware that may come in useful for a project we talked about. It's really cool! Have a great weekend!

    We're Putting on a Live Stage Show!

    Update: Tickets are now open for everyone to purchase! You can buy them here. See you next month!

    Hey everyone! Will and I have something exciting to announce. On Saturday, Oct 25th, as part of the Bay Area Science Festival, we're putting on our very first live event at San Francisco's historic Castro theater. It's called Tested: The Show (remember that?) and it'll be an afternoon of presentations, demos, and conversations with some of our favorite people about the culture of making and technology's role in it.

    This is the first time we've done anything like this, so we thought a bit about how we could best present the type of stuff we do on Tested--showcasing awesome maker project, geeking out about technology, 3D printing, and more--on stage to a live audience. We don't want to give away too much yet, but you're going to see familiar faces like Game Frame creator Jeremy Williams and The Zoidberg Project's Frank Ippolito show off what they're working on today. And just wait until you see what Jamie has to show.

    For those of you who can make it, we'd love for you spend the afternoon with us on October 25th. We're opening ticket sales tonight to Tested Premium Members first (check your email for instructions!) and will be putting tickets on sale to the general public this Wednesday evening.

    We know that not all of you will be able to make it to San Francisco, so we're going to be recording the entire show and putting it up on the site (and on YouTube) as soon as we can after the event. This is first time we're doing a live event of this kind, but we hope it won't be the last--we'd love to travel your way in the future. We're super excited to put this show on for you, and can't wait to hear what you think.

    If you have any questions, please email us directly at tips@tested.com or post in the comments. I've also included a show FAQ below. Hope to see you in October!

    Cirque du Soleil Use Quadcopters for a Fantasia-Like Performance

    Cirque du Soleil released a short film earlier this week using tightly synchronized quadcopters so simulate the effect of flying lampshades around a magician. It immediately reminded me of Disney's Fantasia, and the performance is really effective. I wanted to share this behind-the-scenes video Cirque du Soleil shot about the making of this film, which was a collaboration with roboticists at ETH Zurich. 10 quadcopters--consumer-grade DJI Phantoms--were choreographed to become characters in the performance, resulting in this innovative use of technology for stage. Watch the full short film here. It's really quite stunning.

    The World of Modern Longsword Fighting

    Adam shared this on social media last week: a New York Times report on the modern practice of German Longsword fighting, along with the tournaments Longsword enthusiasts hold to practice the martial art. "Longsword enthusiasts are resurrecting ancient sword technique as a modern, organized sport, with timed bouts and complex rules." It's a twist on fencing, using protective equipment and rules from that sport, but using blunt steel swords that can bruise competitors. This year's "Longpoint" tournament drew over 200 participants.

    In Brief: Steven Soderbergh's Raiders Study

    You may have seen this being shared around today in social media: director Steven Soderbergh's blog post about his appreciation for the staging and editing in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It includes an edited version of Raiders where Soderbergh removed all the sound and color from the film, adding his own soundtrack to encourage viewers to study the editing choices made by Spielberg and his Editor Michael Kahn for the film. The challenge: "watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order?"

    Norman
    Bits to Atoms: World Maker Faire 2014 Recap

    Hey everyone, Sean here with a World Maker Faire New York recap! I’ve been to every NYC Maker Faire and it keeps getting bigger. I’ve had a booth the last two years but was too busy to get one together this time. The upside was I actually got to see the convention and all the new 3D printers and accessories that were either just announced or being shown in person for the first time. Since Will and Norm were unable to make it this year, I wanted to share with you some of the projects and cool stuff I saw.

    Charlesworth Dynamics crew Maker Faire 2013

    Within seconds of setting foot in the 3D Printing Village (one of World Maker Faire’s biggest draws) I ran into Anthony Campusano, a fellow maker who I’ve met numerous times and builder of an amazing Lament Configuration box from Hellraiser.

    Makers: Sean - Anthony - Andreas

    The fellow with him enthusiastically exclaimed, “I follow you on Twitter!” and it turns out to be Andreas Ekberg, who made the Tested Cruiser skateboard! I didn’t realize it until later but Andreas is also responsible for the Classic LEGO Spaceman print that has been on my to-buy list. I had a great time hanging out with my fellow makers. Now let’s take a look at some of the good stuff I saw.

    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 5

    We're getting close! In this fifth episode of our custom arcade cabinet build, Norm and John tackle some mistakes made in the original plywood cutting and then work together to assemble the cabinet frame. The challenge of finding a way to mount the heavy CRT monitor inside the chassis requires some problem solving and precise measurements, but this thing is finally starting to look like a real cocktail cabinet! (This video series was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    In Brief: Star Trek's Original Enterprise Model Gets Proper Restoration

    For the past 13 years, one of science fiction television's more enduring icons has had a less-than-prominent home for public display. The original studio filming model of the Enterprise from Star Trek (not the motion picture refit) was mounted in front of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's gift shop. The large wood prop actually spent several years hanging as part of a "Life in the Universe" exhibit in the Smithsonian's Art & Industries Building, but that method of display fractured the wooden frame of the ship, which was never meant to be hung from the ceiling. But the Enterprise is finally getting some respect--the Air and Space Museum announced that it has taken the model off of public view for an 18-month restoration (just in time for Star Trek's 50th anniversary!) and will have a new home in the Museum's ground floor, in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall. I've never actually seen this model in person, so time to start planning for a trip a year and a half from now!

    Norman 5
    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)

    Will