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    Bits to Atoms: Building the Millenbaugh Motivator, Part 2

    Sean Charlesworth recaps his project working with Adam building the Millenbaugh Motivator for the Hellboy Mech-Glove project. This week, he discusses how he built the plans for his design, based on reference photos provided by Adam.

    I have been tasked with building a 5” x 4” mechanical block with a crankshaft assembly and a variety of small ‘valves’ that clop open and close. It’s the Millenbaugh Motivator for Adam’s Hellboy Mecha-Hand replica, so named for Scott Millenbaugh, the original fabricator at Spectral Motion. Scott machined the original out of metal (aluminum, I think) and there are many tiny precision pieces all driven by a small crankshaft. A lot of work went into this--all the parts are tiny and I can’t imagine having to machine all of them from metal.

    Original Motivator Photo credit: Adam Savage

    Having made replicas like this for many years, Adam knew exactly what was needed: lots and lots of good reference. As Harrison Krix discussed in his Halo Needler build articles, blueprints are the Holy Grail for building a replica, but these usually aren’t available or may have never even existed. For us mere mortals, reference typically comes from ‘Art of the Movie’ books, DVD extras, movie screengrabs and, if you’re really lucky, at Comic-Con or similar events where the original may be on display. Often, this original will be in a case or roped off so it becomes a game of fighting the crowd to snap as many pictures as possible through the display case which reflects everything and is smeared with nerd-grease.

    Incognito: Tested's Comic-Con 2014 Party

    At this year's Comic-Con, we threw our very first Tested party. It was called Incognito, and was a celebration of cosplay and popular culture. We brought down and set up all the costumes that Adam had worn at past Comic-Cons, and then unveiled the completed Hellboy Mecha-hand project for the first time in public. Hope you can join us the next time!

    Adam Tour Diaries #3: Sightseeing in Sydney

    We got into Sydney after 10 p.m. and checked into our hotel. My son was asking about seeing the Sydney Opera House while we’re here and the hotel surprised us by giving us an insane view of the harbor, the Sydney Harbour Bridge AND the Opera House itself. We just stood for a while taking it in. So beautiful. We all slept pretty well that night. (That first night lures you into complacency before the dreaded lag wakes you up on the SECOND night and doesn’t let you go back to sleep.)

    At any rate, we woke around 10 a.m. and began thinking about what to do.

    One of my producers on MythBusters, Jacques, recommended something called the Coogee Walk. Well! High holy heck, what an awesome walk that is. Just amazing. We took a cab from the hotel down to the famous Bondi Beach. Once there, bitten by hunger, we went for some grub at a place called Gusto’s. Good bread.

    Adam Tour Diaries #2: Holy Crap, This is a Long Trip

    Holy crap, this is a long trip.

    First of all, our original flight, which was to leave Los Angeles at 11 p.m. and arrive in Syndey at 6 a.m. (two days later because of the International Date Line) was cancelled. So we had to leave earlier.

    Earlier meant we were leaving out of LA in the morning instead of the evening. Everything got pushed up by a day. We started in San Francisco on Friday eve, saying goodbye to the dogs and leaving for the airport around 7 p.m. We arrived in LA at 10 p.m., staying at the Westin by the airport (a mighty fine hotel, I might add).

    Then we were up at 8 a.m. to head back to LAX, check in for our flight and wait. We boarded at 11 a.m. for the 16-hour flight to Brisbane. I know. That’s not Sydney. We’ll then have a one-hour layover in Brisbane, arriving in Sydney around 9:30 p.m. All told, it’s just about 31 hours of travel.

    Good pictures are hard to take inside a plane, but I took an infinity picture from the bathroom!

    A word about Australia: I’ve never been to Oz, but MythBusters is in fact an Australian show. It was conceived in Australia, and it’s produced out of Sydney. I’ve been working with Aussies extensively for the past 12 years. The show’s sense of humor is deeply informed by the Aussie sense of humor, and so is mine. And it’s a good, solid, deep and bawdy sense of humor.

    The plane is packed with Aussies (of course, duh) and I feel instantly at home with every one of them, from the captain and his crew on down.

    Did I mention that the crew is amazing? Yay to Virgin. Mr. Branson, my hat’s off to you. (And if you’re actually reading this, you should hire Jamie and me to do your safety video. I can’t stand that Virgin America song anymore -- and neither can your flight crews.)

    As I’m writing this, the video display on the wall says we have three hours left of the Pacific leg. That’s still about six hours before we’re in. I’ve watched King Kong, finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and also read another book from start to finish.

    That book? THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir. Seriously, stop everything right now and go out and read that damned book. It’s about a man stranded on Mars. That’s all I’m going to tell you, save for the fact that it’s incredibly accurate from an engineering point of view, and that that veracity makes the narrative INCREDIBLY compelling. I was moved to tears repeatedly. (But then again I cry at everything.)

    Go read that book.

    Hands-On with Birdly, a Virtual Reality Flight Simulator

    "Since the days of Copernicus, man has dreamed of flight. On this historic day, we remember the Wright brothers, Orville and Redenbacher. Whose dreams and visions inspired generations. And now, again, one man's vision ushers in a new era of aerial travel. Proving the power of Imagination, and Intellect. The magic... of Flight." - Eric Cartman

    One of the hurdles that this current wave of virtual reality has to overcome is finding control mechanisms for virtual spaces. Whether that means gamepads, prop weapons for shooting games, accessories like steering wheels and flight sticks, or full-on hand and arm tracking, these systems will have be appropriate and intuitive enough to match the software you're seeing through a head-mounted display. If you're playing a racing game from the perspective of a driver behind the steering wheel, you want the control system to match what your brain knows about steering and driving from real-world experiences. But interestingly enough, one of the most immersive virtual reality demos I've used uses a novel control scheme to simulate something that most people have never actually experienced before: the act of flying. And the sensation is incredible.

    Birdly is a research project being conducted at the Zurich University of the Arts. Lecturer Max Rheiner and a small team of students began experimenting with a virtual reality rig last November, culminating in the the Birdly system that Max and his team are now taking on tour. We visited Max at the swissnex offices in downtown San Francisco last week to try out Birdly before it went to the Exploratorium and then onto this week's SIGGRAPH conference.

    Rheiner told me that the goal of Birdly was simple: to embody the experience of flying like a bird though a full-motion simulator. But getting to that goal with a motion-control rig built from scratch, and then tuning the experience to match what users intuitively understand as a bird's flight was a bit of a challenge. Over six months, Max's team fabricated and tested several prototype rigs (documented in videos here) before coming up with the Birdly system we used. And surprisingly, the current setup looks very polished--more like a beautifully crafted modern furniture than homemade exercise machine. The rig looks like a futuristic massage table, with users lying flat on their belly atop the padded frame. Users put on an Oculus HMD (the first development kit) along with headphones, before stretching their arms out on what are essentially wings. A fan is mounted on the front of the rig simulates wind being blown in the user's face.

    After mounting on the table and strapping all the VR gear, the software booted up and dropped me in a virtual model of San Francisco, placing me a mile above where my body actually was in downtown SF. Birdly uses ariel imagery and building models provided by mapping companies--Pictometry International and PLW Modelworks--and the city looked as like a high-resolution version of Google Earth. Then I started flapping for dear life.

    Behind the Scenes at Tippett Studio

    Part demo reel, part promotional tool for The Foundry's suite of CG software, this behind-the-scenes video explores how the artists at Tippett Studio created the "Ship of the Imagination" scenes for the new COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey mini-series. We may be most familiar with Tippett Studio's work on classic films like Robocop and Starship Troopers, but the company has worked on over 50 films in its 30 year history, collaborating with other effects houses. For example, I didn't know that they worked on the awesome creature scenes for both Hellboy and Cloverfield.

    SDCC 2014: QmX's Starship Scale Models

    In most modern science fiction films, the spaceships are computer generated. But back in the days of Star Wars, Star Trek, and even Starship Troopers, effects houses made filming miniatures of starships, shuttles, and fighters for the big and small screen. Quantum Mechanix's Artisan Replicas carries on that tradition with its scale models iconic spaceships, with a new USS Reliant and Serenity unveiled at this year's Comic-Con.

    Photo Gallery: Bricks by the Bay 2014

    We're veterans of CES, E3, Maker Faire, and even Comic-Con, but one type of event we're still very new to is the LEGO convention. And there are many of them. There's BrickFair on the east coast, BrickCon in Seattle, KidsFest, Brickworld, and Northern California's own Bricks by the Bay. For the past three, years, I've attended this gathering of LEGO aficionados to appreciate the amazing custom creations designed by locals and visiting builders. Held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, this year's event expanded to two ballrooms, with tables set up to display builds in various themes: space, fantasy, historical, high seas, pop culture etc. My personal favorite category are the intricate diorama scenes showcasing intricate architecture and clever use of mini-figs. This year's large-scale standout was a massive Rivendell set made by Seattle-based builder Alice Finch. Finch spent five months assembling over 200,000 bricks for her set, which was carefully driven down to the convention by friends. I also loved the beautiful HMS CrazyBricks Man-O-War ship build, which carried a crew of 300 wacky mini-figs. There are many LEGO conventions held around the world, big and small, and I encourage you to make it to one if you ever have the chance!

    Adam's Tour Diaries #1: Away We Go

    I admit I did some cropping, but I love this shot of Mrs. Donttrythis getting onto our plane at SFO. We had to leave a day early, as our original flight to Oz was cancelled and we were so excited to get going, we decided to leave on the earlier flight.

    This decision required an unsurprising mad scramble to pack up and say goodbye to the dogs. So sad! We will miss the SPIT out of them! I wish they responded more to our voices when we Skype home. Well, there you have it -- best evidence that we are indeed among the dog-besotted. Seeing Mags and Hux again when we return will be SO AWESOME.

    Huxley being Huxley.

    Back to the trip. One of our best friends awaits us in Australia, and we have a few days to adjust to the time difference. MythBusters is produced out of Oz, so I am in no need of adjusting to the Aussie sense of humor. It's been ingrained in me for the past 12 years. I can't wait to set foot in the actual country -- I’ve never been until now. It'll be my fourth continent.

    While on tour in Australia and New Zealand for the Behind the Myths stage show, Adam is blogging about his adventures and exploration of each city he visits.

    The Great Tested Sticker Trade of 2014

    We went to Comic-Con with a few hundred Tested stickers to give away--a tryout of new stickers for our logo and the "pixel guys" design. They were a big hit, but I have a bunch left over still to give away. So I'm conducting another sticker trade to get them in your hands. Here's what you need to do to get them. Send me a package with two things: a self-addressed stamped envelope for me to mail you your stickers, and some of your own stickers, buttons, or pins (I like the small quarter-sized ones) to trade. There's no minimum to send me, and anyone who sends more than one thing will get both stickers seen below. I also have some stickers left of the old pre-2012 logo that I'll throw in. The offer is good until I run out of stickers, and I'll mail them out on camera in a future podcast recording. We'll also make Tested stickers available to purchase at some time in the future, though they may not be exactly like the ones seen here.

    I can't wait to see what stickers, buttons, or pins you send my way! The address to mail your stamped envelope and sticker/button/pin is below:

    A Tribute to Make-Up Master Dick Smith

    Like many, I was shocked and saddened when Dick Smith passed away last week, at the age of 92. Smith was the groundbreaking make-up artist who transformed Marlon Brando into an aging don in The Godfather, and who turned sweet little Linda Blair into a monster in The Exorcist. His credits also include Dark Shadows, Midnight Cowboy, Little Big Man, Taxi Driver, Altered States, Amadeus, and many more. You may not have known his name, but you have definitely seen his work.

    The news was broken by Rick Baker, via Twitter: “The master is no longer with us, but his work will live on. There will never be another like Dick. He and his work changed the industry.” William Friedkin also tweeted that “Without Dick Smith neither The Exorcist nor modern makeup would be the same.”

    Although he was in his nineties, it was still hard to imagine the man being gone because he had a tremendous life force. Even late in life, he was a generous and happy spirit, and when he won an honorary Academy Award in 2011, he was genuinely grateful and visibly moved.

    Rick Baker, who Smith mentored when he was young, was there to present the award, and J.J. Abrams also recalled writing a fan letter to Smith when he was young. He didn’t think he’d hear back, but then one day he saw a package in the mail with Dick Smith’s return address on it, and his heart pounded. Inside was a prosthetic tongue from The Exorcist as a gift, and Abrams’s mother was concerned: “Who is this man named Dick sending you tongues?”

    Smith laughed at the memory, and when it came time for Baker to give Smith the Oscar, he was moved to tears that he was the one handing the award to the man who helped launch his career. Baker said he was “proud and honored” to present the award to “my idol, my mentor, my friend for over forty-three years, the greatest make-up artist alive.” Baker added that Smith “took make-up to a whole new level. His work inspired a whole generation of up and coming make-up artists, myself included.”

    Smith was clearly humbled by Baker’s words, and in a brief speech he said, “This has been an incredible joy, one of the greatest I’ve ever had in my whole life. I have loved being a make-up artist so much, but this kind of puts the crown, the cap, on all of that. To have so much kindness given to me all at once, is just too much. I am so grateful, thank you so much.” When Rick Baker got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012, Smith was proudly by his side, and both events were indeed fitting caps to an incredible career of make-up innovation.

    Bits to Atoms: Building the Millenbaugh Motivator, Part 1

    I remember watching the first Hellboy Mecha-Hand video that Will shot with Adam, and was pumped for what was to come. I'm a Hellboy fan and this particular prop had all the elements I love: mystical, mechanical, intricate WWII-era tech with a killer look. If you told me that two years later I would play a part in finishing said project, I wouldn’t have believed it.

    It almost never happened since I wasn’t going to enter Adam’s Inventern competition. At the time, I was spending every extra moment 3D printing and assembling iris boxes and TARDIS kits for my booth at Maker Faire New York. And more importantly, I didn’t think I had much of a chance of winning. Thankfully, my wife suggested that I should really make an entry video. Strongly suggested. Repeatedly. I finally listened and the day before the deadline I stayed after work to make a video for my 3D printed Octopod.

    A few days later, I received a call from the guys at Tested, informing me, that I was one of the top ten entries selected to continue on--I absolutely could not believe it. Later that week we received the next challenge: make a 1:1 scale replica of a household item using only the materials sent to us. I eagerly awaited my box of stuff but it showed up later than expected, leaving me only a few days to complete the challenge. For those who didn’t catch it the first time around, the box consisted of: sheets of cardboard, Elmer’s glue, an X-ACTO knife, a black Sharpie, masking tape, a cutting matte, some classic Tested stickers and the top-of-the-line Droid phone. While waiting for my box, I decided to literally use everything in the box, meaning I needed a use for the phone. I figured my best bet was to duplicate my video camera, using the phone as the flip-out screen, the problem was that I had never built anything out of cardboard. Ever.

    A Brief History of the Theremin

    In this NPR radio commentary from 2000, Bill Hammack, "The Engineering Guy", discusses the theremin, and how it lead to one the music industry's most fundamental assets, the electronic synthesizer. Here's a short list of where Theremins have been used prominently in film.

    Jamie Hyneman Walks Through Comic-Con 2014

    While Adam walks through Comic-Con every year in costume, Jamie has other strategies for getting across the convention floor efficiently. This year, he tests a new technique to avoid getting mobbed: saying 'yes' to everyone.

    SDCC 2014: The Giant Creature Project

    At last year's Comic-Con, the Stan Winston School teamed up with Legacy Effects to build a giant robot to walk the streets of San Diego. This year, they collaborated again to build an even larger creature. Will chats with the team behind this behemoth to learn how it was built and to see how it's brought to life by puppeteers.