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    Pixar Explains the Math Behind Smooth Character Rendering

    Ready to give your brain a little workout? See if you can follow along in this Numberphile video as Tony DeRose of Pixar Research explains some of the mathematics behind the rendering and animation of characters in modern CG films. It went over my head at around the five-minute mark, but the gist is that the use of certain math principles and algorithms let rendering programs subdivide vertices in geometry for smooth curves and surfaces. Computer scientists know this as the Catmull-Clark algorithm.

    In Brief: Photo Gallery of Ray Harryhausen at Work

    io9 has a lovely gallery of photos showing stop-motion effects pioneer and legend Ray Harryhausen at work on some of the films he's best known for: Mighty Joe Young, 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, and Clash of the Titans. Harryhausen, who passed away last year, inspired a generation of effects artist and animators, including still-active legends like Phil Tippet. The gallery is accompanied by a few video clips of the finished animation sequences, some behind-the-scenes interviews, and a great time-lapse GIF of a veteran Harryhausen revisiting an iconic skeleton puppet from Jason and the Argonauts for a stop-motion demo.

    Norman
    Show and Tell: 3D Printed Steampunk Octopod

    One final video from Norm's recent trip to New York! Sean Charlesworth, our 3D printing expert, shares his famous steampunk octopod project, which we've talked about before had never seen in person. It's a wonderfully designed and intricate model entirely conceived of and built by Sean--a project much more complex than your typical 3D printed piece.

    NYU's Interactive Wooden Mirror Project

    One of the coolest places Norm visited on his recent trip to New York was the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. ITP is a graduate program that explores creative ways to combine technology and art--essentially a maker space that can get you a Masters degree in making awesome things. One of those things is this Interactive Wooden Mirror, created by ITP professor Daniel Rozin.

    The Terminator and the Legacy of Stan Winston's Designs

    With photos and story details of the upcoming Terminator reboot coming to light, we wanted to take a look back at the original film and examine how and why it still holds up after all these years. Like a lot of movies that became cultural touchstones and phenomenons, The Terminator was under-estimated, dismissed by Orion Pictures as a low budget drive-in film that would come and go in a week. Yet The Terminator became a major sleeper that connected with audiences in a big way. It was the top movie at the box office for six weeks, but beyond its commercial success it also made Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, and Stan Winston superstars in their respective professions.

    At a screening celebrating The Terminator’s third decade, Cameron said the movie is still remembered because “I think it’s just a lean, mean thriller that works.” But there’s clearly more to it that than. In celebrating The Terminator, we spoke to John Rosengrant and Shane Mahan of Legacy Effects, who both broke into the big leagues by working with Stan Winston, and who helped build the indestructible killer, and the seemingly indestructible franchise, from the ground up.

    It was thanks to the kindness of make-up master Dick Smith that Stan Winston got The Terminator gig. Smith, who many considered the greatest living make-up artist, was well-known for the magic he did for The Godfather, The Exorcist, and Amadeus, just to name a few, but his career was winding down, and The Terminator was clearly going to be a big job.

    Cameron wanted Smith, but Smith kept telling the young director that Stan Winston was the man for the job. Winston had been steadily working for years, he did a lot of TV and low budget B-movies, and had already won two Emmys, but The Terminator would prove to be the big breakthrough that made him one of the most in demand creature builders in the business. (Cameron and Winston would also form a strong personal and professional bond that would continue until Winston passed away in 2008.)

    Watch Adam Interviewed for the Inquiring Minds Podcast

    During last week's Bay Area Science Festival, which our live show was a part of, the Inquiring Minds podcast visited Adam in the Cave to interview him about a variety of topics, including Mythbusters, education, science communication, teaching, modelmaking, and maker culture. Adam also talks about being a generalist and developing content for TV and web that's interesting for him--Tested gets a few nice shoutouts! You can also read a recap of the conversation on Mother Jones.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Tools for Your Workshop

    No matter what facet of radio control modeling that you’re into, you are going to have to work on your vehicles from time to time. Even if you buy pre-built models, you will eventually find occasion to perform maintenance, make repairs, add hop-ups, or maybe just crack something open to see how it works. Although there is a range of specialized tools needed for some RC-related jobs, a modest selection of common tools will suffice most of the time. If you own a set of tools for household chores, you may already have much of what you’ll need. Let’s take a look at the core tools that are necessary as you enter the RC hobby.

    YOU WILL WANT TO ROUND OUT YOUR TOOLBOX WITH A SELECTION OF GLUES, TAPES, SANDPAPER, AND OTHER COMMON ITEMS.

    Screwdrivers

    Most RC applications use Phillips head screws, so you will want to have a set of screwdrivers that includes #0, #1, and #2 size bits at a minimum. All tools are not created equal and you generally get what you pay for. So, don’t skimp on crummy dollar-store stuff that is better suited for use as prison shivs. I’m not saying that you need high-dollar tools. A basic 8-piece set of Phillips and slotted screwdrivers from Craftsman costs about $15 and will cover most of your needs.

    All of the top-dollar tools in the world are worthless if you don’t use the proper driver for a given screw.

    You may find that you need smaller screwdrivers from time to time. The smaller a fastener is, the more important it is to use a quality driver with a precision tip. I generally prefer the small drivers made by Wiha.

    This is probably a good time to point out the primary reason for mangled screw heads: laziness. All of the top-dollar tools in the world are worthless if you don’t use the proper driver for a given screw. I know it’s easy to talk yourself into using whatever tool is already in your hand. Just keep in mind that a short walk to the toolbox may save you a lot of frustration dealing with a stripped a screw head.

    In Brief: Adam's Talk at the Wired by Design Conference

    Last month, Adam spoke at Wired's inaugural live magazine event, Wired by Design, sharing the story of how he fell in love with prop-making. The video of that talk is now online at Wired. In the 20 minute presentation, Adam chronicles his early replica propmaking, from Mission Impossible gadgets to cardboard armor inspired by Excalibur. He covers some of the projects we've shown here on Tested, like his Blade Runner Blaster and ZF-1, but also reveals an in-progress piece that you may see more of here in the future!

    Norman 1
    Adam Savage's WWII Uniforms from HBO's The Pacific

    Another surprise package arrives from our friends at Prop Store! This time, it's a pair of screen-used World War II soldier uniforms from the HBO show The Pacific. Adam and Norm examine the costumes and discuss the ways they're weathered and distressed to simulate combat wear and tear for filming. And of course, we can't resist trying the costumes on--that's half the fun!

    The Graphics Technology of Disney's Big Hero 6

    While visiting Disney Animation Studios to preview Big Hero 6, Norm gets briefed on the graphics and rendering technologies developed for the film. The studio's Chief Technology Officer, Andy Hendrickson, explains how the rendering of complex scenes and characters were tackled with new software, and how Disney artists were able to build out an entire fictional city based on San Francisco. We love the technical stuff!

    Show and Tell: 3D Printing a Lightsaber

    This week's Show and Tell is another awesome project shared by our 3D printing columnist Sean Charlesworth. Norm visits Sean while in New York to check out a beautiful 3D printed lightsaber hilt that was assembled from 14 individually printed pieces. The designer of this model also created a four-piece kit for ease of assembly--all the files are available online. With some proper finishing work, it looks as good as the original prop!

    Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse with Teller

    When Teller (of Penn & Teller fame) isn't performing his show in Las Vegas, he's working on a ton of other projects, one of which is this delightful web series--& Teller--that was co-written and co-directed by our friends Frank Ippolito and and Zeke Zabrowski. The series is about the aftermath of a zombie epidemic in Las Vegas, and Teller's attempts to survive it with his friends in the magic community. The fifth episode was just released, and I've compiled them in a playlist here. Totally worth watching, and appropriate for today's festivities. Happy Halloween, everyone! Stay safe and see you next week!

    Worldbuilding and Storytelling in Disney's Big Hero 6

    Norm visits Disney Animation Studios to get a preview of Big Hero 6, the upcoming film that is Disney's first animated feature based on a Marvel comics property. We interview the directors of Big Hero 6 to learn about the worldbuilding that went into creating this film, and what storytelling lessons have been learned under the guidance of John Lasseter.

    Adam Savage's Ghostbusters Costume

    To celebrate both Halloween this week and the 30th anniversary of the release of Ghostbusters, Adam shares his own Ghostbusters uniform and prop replicas that he has made and assembled over the years. We geek out over fond memories of the film and its contributions to cosplay culture. This is a costume that anybody can make!

    Color Grading Breakdown for a Beauty Commercial

    Joey shared this awesome video with us yesterday, a time-lapse screen capture of post-production colorist < ahref="http://www.colormeup.de/">Andreas Bruekcl's work on a L'Oreal beauty commercial. The three-minute clip shows about 30 minutes of realtime grading of video shot with on an Arri Alexa, and gives just a taste of the incredibly complex task of tweaking colors and lighting of video for production. It's far more complex than the developing of RAW photos in Lightroom, for example, because the colorist has to mask and track moving elements for video. Something to keep in mind: this is a process that almost every shot of every produced live-action commercial, television show, and film goes through today, to some extent.

    In Brief: The Making of Danny DeVito's Penguin Makeup for Batman Returns

    The Stan Winston school has posted an excerpt from the book "The Winston Effect", chronicling the design and application of Danny DeVito's iconic Penguin makeup for Batman Returns. For the Tim Burton film--which won Winston and collaborators Ve Neill and Ronnie Specter Oscar nominations--DeVito's makeup needed to capture the the director's creepy aesthetic and the essence of the villain. Behind-the-scenes art shows the various concept sketches for Penguin's look (and especially his nose), as well as the application of the prosthetics and paint for filming. DeVito apparently also asked that the makeup be put during voice-over ADR session for Batman Returns, to get back into character. Awesome stuff!

    Norman