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    Everything is a Remix, Remastered

    I saw director Kirby Ferguson present this HD remaster of his seminal 2010 web series Everything is a Remix at this past weekend's XOXO conference. If you haven't seen it yet, it's an important exploration and analysis of the creativity in media, invention, and modern copyright law. Ferguson, who's currently working on his next documentary series--This is Not a Conspiracy--also has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his research, as well as sell some pretty cool merch. I love the "Basic Elements of Creativity" t-shirt!

    The Future of Practical Creature Effects

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 9/9/2014 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    What does the future hold for practical creature effects? Ah, was there ever a question more likely to raises the hackles of fans of old-school special effects? Or to cause a look of blank bemusement to cross the face of the average moviegoer? Ever since Jurassic Park, argument has raged over which is better: a CG dinosaur or its mechanical equivalent? Whenever the issue is raised, emotions run high; discussing it at all is only marginally safer than poking a nest of snakes.

    But is it an issue? Is it valid even to ask the question at all? Isn't it time we rejected all that "either/or" nonsense and concentrated on simply getting the job done in the best possible way? There's only one way to get a decent answer: ask the experts. So that's what I've done. I put my question to a group of top professionals from the field of practical effects, left them to ponder… and then stood well back. You want to know what the future holds for practical creature effects? You're about to find out.

    Richard Taylor
    Co-Founder & Creative Director, Weta Workshop

    "At Weta Workshop, we very much believe there is still a dynamic place for physical creature effects in the entertainment industry. While there has been a huge shift towards CG creatures over the last ten years, there are still directors who are interested in utilizing more traditional, real-world effect solutions for characters in their films.

    "There is no doubt that films such as the latest Planet of the Apes, with work by Weta Digital, give a clear indication how extraordinary characters can be fully realized through CG, but there remains a very compelling reason to have real actors in prosthetics and creature costumes on set to create particular characters for the right project. A great example is the recent blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, which uses a huge ensemble cast of aliens of which, I believe, only three are digital. Here is a wonderful use of traditional makeup and creature effects (created by a truly superb and world class team) to do something absolutely extraordinary.

    Paying Tribute to The Original Duck Army

    It's possible by now you've seen my rubber-duck screaming video, but I want to give credit where credit is due. Like many, I had my doubts as to the Duck Army video's veracity: I couldn't imagine that all the duck noisemakers could be set to such varying tones, making it sound like a visit to Dante's Hell. Or something out of a Bruegel painting.

    So I ordered 12 duck dog toys and did a little freelance mythbusting. Sure enough, it's even more amazing in person than you can imagine.

    But it all started here.

    Tested's Walking Tour of Dragon*Con 2015

    We spent last weekend immersed in fandom and cosplay culture at Dragon*Con. For those of you who haven't been able to make it to Atlanta for this annual show, Norm and Frank walk and talk through Dragon*Con's hotels and public spaces to give you a sense of what it's like to be at the convention!

    Gallery 1988's Guillermo Del Toro Tribute Show

    Artist and friend of the site Chogrin sends word about an art show paying tribute to director Guillermo del Toro at LA's Gallery 1988 West location. Chogrin has been curating art for this show for several months, working with over 100 artists from around the world. Paintings, sculptures, and mixed media pieces are on display at the pop art gallery, which has been outfitted with Crimson Peak-inspired archways build by the fabricators at Figment Foundry (who we met at this year's Monsterpalooza). I unfortunately won't be able to make it to the show, but will keep an eye for prints and pieces that should show up on Gallery 1988's website. Chogrin passed along a few samples of the artwork, which you can check out below.

    Guillermo del Toro: In Service of Monsters opens tonight at Gallery 1988 West with a 7pm reception (with Guillermo in attendance!) and will be on display through October 3rd. If you're in the area, hope you have a chance to stop by and check it out.

    Making Sci-Fi Armor for a Video Game Trailer

    We stop by Frank Ippolito's shop to check out an interesting project he recently worked on: building foam armor to be used in a video game trailer. Frank and his team fabricated three futuristic suits and hand props that were used in the recent LawBreakers debut trailer! We chat about how these suits were made using development assets, and the difference between fabricating a costume for cosplay versus a video shoot.

    What's New and Exciting in Visual Effects?

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 9/8/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Writing on this blog a little over a year ago, I asked a panel of visual effects experts the following question: What cutting-edge technique or technology is getting you excited about the future of visual effects?

    The question prompted some fascinating responses, which you can read in my article I is for Innovation. Collectively, they provide a snapshot of the world of VFX as seen by a range of industry professionals in July 2014. It's a snapshot that's now a year out of date. That's the thing with cutting edges – the darn things just keep on cutting.

    That's why I've decided to revisit the topic, one year on. Because innovation doesn't go away. In fact, the desire to create something new appears to be hard-wired into the mind of the visual effects artist. And the industry itself, like so many others, is constantly evolving.

    This time around, I wanted to hear not only about the latest techniques and technologies, but also the latest business trends. So I stripped my original question back to its simplest possible form: What's new in VFX? How did our panel of experts respond? Let's find out!

    Virtual Reality

    Michele Sciolette, Head of VFX Technology, Cinesite

    There is a lot of expectation that 2016 will be the year when immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality will become mainstream. Current-generation devices have many limitations, but clearly show the potential for truly immersive experiences. This will inevitably drive demand for new types of entertainment. I expect that the ability to support and create content for immersive experiences will become a common task for visual effects houses in the relatively near future.

    Aruna Inversin, CG/VR Supervisor, Digital Domain

    With true virtual reality around the corner, content creators and studios are already building their teams and their pipelines to take advantage of this next wave of new immersive experiences, the likes of which people have never seen. Using positional tracking, high fidelity screens and haptic (touch-sensitive) inputs, we'll see a surge in consumer consumption that hasn't be matched since the invention of the television.

    Announcing Tested: The Show 2015 (Tickets Now Available!)

    Update: Tickets are now on sale to the public. You can buy them here!

    We're doing it again! This October 23rd, we'll be putting on the second annual Tested: The Show, an evening of talks, demos, and conversations with our favorite makers at the beautiful Castro Theater in San Francisco. As with last year, the all-ages show will encapsulate all the stuff we love doing at Tested--a typical week of content distilled into two hours on stage. We've invited friends of the site to share their stories and projects, and would love for you to join us. You can expect to see some amazing new maker projects, stories of adventure, innovations in technology and exploration, and a live episode of The Talking Room, featuring Adam. Stay tuned for more details about the speaker lineup, which will include some familiar faces!

    Tested: The Show will take place on Friday, October 23rd, at 7PM, as part of the Bay Area Science Festival. Tickets are currently available for purchase for members of the Tested Premium community, and will go on public sale in a week. Premium members, check your emails for instructions on how to get your tickets today (or message us directly if you didn't receive the email). We have a limited number of VIP tickets for the best seats in the house, which also includes access to a meet and greet with us after the show. (If you're a Premium Member that opted out of our emails, please reach out to support@tested.com to get added back to the list. Thanks!)

    To remind you of the fun from last year, embedded below are some of the segments from last year's inaugural show (we'll be recording this year's show as well for posting). Hope to see you there this October!

    The Dragon*Con 2015 Cosplay Gallery (850+ Photos)

    Dragon*Con is known as the cosplay capital of the country--the very best and creative costumes debut at this four-day celebration of fandom before their makers take them on the convention circuit. Among classic costumes and familiar faces, some new groups and themes I saw this year included characters from Jurassic World, Mad Max, and even the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Creative mash-ups and spoofs are maybe my favorite part of this convention, and those groups delivered. Let me know which are your favorite photos, and if you recognize a cosplayer (or the costumer)--just post in the comments below or send me an email! And thanks to everyone who said hi at the show!

    Making Finding Nemo

    This 40-minute look at the making of Finding Nemo is fabulous. You often hear about the commitment to craft and accuracy from filmmakers, but Pixar takes that to a new level. Figuring out everything from rendering the ocean environments correctly to fine tuning the flow of story beats shows in the final product. (via @drwave)

    Tested Mailbag: Essential to the Utility Belt

    Tested Mailbag time! This week, Will and Norm open the package to find strange steel pieces. But when we realize what these are, we couldn't be more excited. They're grappling hooks! Thanks to Garth for sending this awesome mailbag! Find out more about his project and Kickstarter campaign here.

    The Talking Room: Adam Savage Interviews Jason Reitman

    Jason Reitman has directed some of our favorite films of the last decade--Juno, Thank You For Smoking, Young Adult, and Up In the Air. Avoiding the allure of big-budget blockbusters, Jason instead tells emotionally-intense stories in smaller films. He visits The Talking Room to discuss the appeal of crafting complex, resonant characters, his approach to selecting projects, and growing up on film sets.

    A History of Flying by Wire in Film

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 9/1/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Ever since the dawn of cinema, people have been flying by wire.

    In Fritz Lang's 1927 classic Metropolis, for example, shots of flying machines soaring over the film's iconic cityscapes were achieved by mounting miniature planes on taut wires. A similar technique was used in the original King Kong in 1933, for which a tiny squadron of biplanes was inched along its guide wires one painstaking frame at a time.

    Then as now, there were plenty of amateur filmmakers keen to re-create the kinds of sequences they'd ogled in the blockbusters of the day. Luckily for fans of miniature aircraft shots, cinematographer Jerome H. Ash was on hand to offer advice.

    Creating the miniature effects of "Metropolis". Illustration taken from "Science and Invention" magazine, June 1927, via Smithsonian.com

    Here's an extract from Ash's article Substandard Miniature Shots, published in the May 1936 edition of American Cinematographer:

    "I think that by far the most satisfactory way to handle miniature plane shots is to hang the plane from wires, as the professionals do. To begin with, stretch three parallel wires well above the path you want the plane to take: these are strictly for support. From these, hang a little T-shaped wooden framework, on pulleys or eyelets; this supports and guides the plane. From the framework, three wires descend to the plane – one to each wing, and one to the tail."

    Ash is at pains to point out to his enthusiastic amateur readers that the wires mustn't show up on camera. If only a little camouflage is required, he recommends a light application of blue vitriol. A more extreme solution involves painting the wires with alternating black and white stripes, each around half an inch in length – Ash likens this bold approach to the dazzle camouflage used on WWII battleships.

    Show and Tell: More Japanese Papercrafts

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm share some more papercraft kits found at Kinokuniya--a favorite bookstore located in San Francisco's Japantown. These diorama kits are simple to build, and some don't even require any scissors or glue for assembly. Let's take a look at them!

    Building the Star Wars Rancor Costume, Part 4

    In the fourth part of our Rancor costume build, Frank Ippolito walks us through the mold and casting process of the large Rancor head sculpt. We discuss ways to add texture and "skin" to the foam suit, and start painting the creature just one week before Comic-Con! Thanks for following along with the build--we'll be back next time with a debriefing of how the Rancor suit turned out. (Thanks to Model-Space.com for sponsoring this project!)

    Tested Mailbag: Full Blockhead Set

    It's Friday! This week's reader mailbag comes from friend of Tested Bill Doran, who we've worked with before on projects like the District 9 Alien Rifle replica. Bill, who's a professional prop and costume maker, sends a care package to complete our set of blockhead figures. Thanks Bill!

    How Lidar is Used in Visual Effects

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 3/10/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Making movies has always been about data capture. When the Lumière brothers first pointed their primitive camera equipment at a steam locomotive in 1895 to record Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, what were they doing if not capturing data? In the 1927 movie The Jazz Singer – the first full-length feature to use synchronised sound – when Al Jolson informed an eager crowd, "You ain't heard nothing' yet!", what was the Warner Bros. microphone doing? You guessed it: capturing data.

    Nowadays, you can't cross a movie set without tripping over any one of a dozen pieces of data capture equipment. Chances are you'll even bump into someone with the job title of "data wrangler", whose job it is to manage the gigabytes of information pouring out of the various pieces of digital recording equipment.

    And in the dead of night, if you're very lucky, you may even spy that most elusive of data capture specialists: the lidar operator.

    Lidar has been around long enough to become commonplace. If you read behind-the-scenes articles about film production, you'll probably know that lidar scanners are regularly used to make 3D digital models of sets or locations. The word has even become a verb, as in, "We lidared the castle exterior." Like all the other forms of data capture, lidar is everywhere.

    But what exactly is lidar? What does the word stand for, and how do those scanners work? And just how tough is it to scan a movie set when there's a film crew swarming all over it?

    To answer these questions and more, I spoke to Ron Bedard from Industrial Pixel, a Canadian-based company, with incorporated offices in the USA, which offers lidar, cyberscanning, HDR and survey services to the motion picture and television industries.