Latest StoriesArt
    In Brief: How Glass Lenses are Made

    Adam shared this awesome photo gallery documenting every step an Optician takes to make corrective lenses to fit custom glasses. Every step is described in captions, showing the transformation from a hockey puck-sized lens to something that fits in the customer's glasses. My favorite tool used is the "edger" a machine that takes a scan of the glasses bezel shape and cuts the glass to fit into that specific frame. I love that the whole process takes less than an hour, and even as quickly as 35 minutes, according to the technician who posted the photos. (And here's an old How It's Made video showing the manufacturing process for lenses, from raw slabs of glass.)

    How To Mold and Cast Resin Copies of 3D-Printed Figures

    We do a lot of 3D printing at Tested, but it's a time-consuming process best used for prototyping, not mass production. To replicate our 3D prints, we invited Frank Ippolito up to Adam's shop to teach us how to make simple rubber molds and cast awesome resin copies. It's really not difficult to get started! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about memberships here!)

    Real-Time Face Tracking and Projection Mapping

    This is one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. PICS, a Japanese video production company, experimented with face tracking and projection mapping to animate and transform the face of a model in real-time. The model's face was marked with tracking dots and painted in reflective make-up, which allowed a computer system to match an 3D animation with her head movements. From afar, the positional matching and low latency of the projection create a mesmerizing and surreal illusion. It's the kind of effect that I would love to see used in movies, shot in-camera instead of done in post with CGI.

    Adam Tour Diaries #7: A Whirlwind Weekend
    I got this shot heading into our first TV station. (Or was it radio? It’s all a blur.)

    We had a busy weekend prepping and performing our first three shows in Oz.

    We are in the lovely and awesomely foodie town of Melbourne, where the crowds are incredible. I’ve been furiously adding and modifying and refining bits of the show (an endless process, I’m afraid), and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that when I’m putting a ton of creative energy in one place, I don’t have much left for other places.

    But it’s been awesome. Like I said, the Aussie crowds are excellent.

    So what has gone on? Well, we arrived in Melbourne on Thursday night, and woke up bright and early Friday for a bunch of press. I love cities at dawn. When I first moved to Manhattan a lifetime ago, I became addicted to the city as the sun came up.

    Adam Tour Diaries #6: Whoops and Whew

    Thursday and Friday are all press days. Jamie and I did some TV, we did a crap-ton of radio, and then we did more of both. Taken around by the awesome Lucy and G, we found that everyone we dealt with was amazingly nice. I know I'm supposed to say that, but it's frigging true!

    People we run into continue to be very enthusiastic about MythBusters, and they have run from ages 7 to 70 (well, he looked 70). It's also great to be hearing so many versions of the Aussie accent. I'm getting a crash-course in speaking like a true native of "Straya.”

    This is a short post because I have a splitting headache, having just gotten back from the dentist. Get this: I bit into a mint yesterday (one of those awesome oversized Life-Saver mints) and it KNOCKED MY DAMN MOLAR FILLING OUT.

    So I’m off to the dentist today to get a new temporary filling.

    SDCC 2014: Sideshow Collectibles Booth Tour

    We stop by Sideshow Collectibles' booth at Comic-Con to check out their new Premium Format Figures, sixth-scale posable figures, and chat with their Creative Director about the company's approach to new product designs and their new original characters.

    Adam Tour Diaries #5: Graffiti and Graves

    Can it be diary #5 already? Going strong!

    Today we rode Sydney’s awesome public-transit trains. They’re clean, silent and comfortable, and they show you a city that, like my home city of San Francisco, offers a new experience around every corner. It’s not one city, but hundreds of different environments that just happen to be near each other.

    I love taking the train; it’s my FAVORITE way to travel. Seriously. I’ve even taken the train with Mrs. Donttrythis from Oakland to Chicago (with a stop in Aspen for some food and friends)! Sydney’s trains make me wish I could commute like this every day.

    These MythBusters fans missed their train to take this photo.

    Ran into these MythBusters fans. They actually missed their train to take this photo. Those backpacks? Apparently full of Red Bull. No kidding. They’re participating in a contest to make it completely across Oz using only the salty Kool-Aid-flavored drink as their currency. They were so sweet and gracious. I hope they win!

    Our destination today was the hipster center of Newtown. Having lived in NYC’s East Village during the ‘80s and now living in SF’s Mission District, I felt right at home among the antique shops, clothing and art stores, and the good food and piercings and neck tattoos.

    Thing2 chilling because we overshot our stop and had to go back. The maps were slightly confusing on first blush

    After lunch Thing1 went off to find a cool jacket with the budget I’d given him, and the rest of us wandered the back streets of Newtown. We came across many lovely sights.

    Also in Newton there’s an old cemetery in Newtown called Camperdown. Founded in 1848, it gave us some stunning opportunities for the photographs. A few are below.

    Filming The Light and Dark Side of The Godfather

    Gordon Willis, who passed away on May 18, 2014, will always be best known as the cinematographer of The Godfather films. At least one recent poll ranked The Godfather as Hollywood's top movie of all time, and it’s not surprising Coppola's epic crime drama is still revered after all this time. The incredible scope and power of the story still holds up, and it gave a generation of new actors like Al Pacino, Robert Duvall and James Caan their career breakthroughs. Not to mention it was one of Marlon Brando’s best roles, and the movie that revived his career.

    The Godfather also made cinema history by introducing a new style of cinematography.

    Before Willis shot The Godfather, movies were vastly overlit so they could be seen in the drive-ins and not disappear into the dark of the night. But Willis’ cinematography was a bold step forward, changing the look of movies forever. Because of The Godfather, studios actually had to make two sets of prints, a lighter one for drive-ins, and a darker one for theaters.

    It’s easy to take this for granted today because dark cinematography is an accepted norm, and with the latest digital cinema cameras you can shoot with almost no available light. But for the time, Willis’ approach was very groundbreaking, and many cinematographers followed his lead into the dark.

    Willis had shot several films before The Godfather, including Loving, which was directed by Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back), and The Landlord, which was directed by Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude). The Godfather was going to be filmed in New York, which meant that Coppola had to hire a cinematographer from the New York unions. Willis was recommended to Coppola by Matthew Robbins, a friend from the Bay Area who went on to write The Sugarland Express for Spielberg, as well as direct the fantasy Dragonslayer. (Robbins knew Kershner from USC, where the latter taught film.) Willis was also picked for the job because Coppola wanted a cinematographer that could capture a period look.

    In interviews, Willis made it clear there was no master plan to change cinema with his approach to the film.

    How To Make A Replica Hybrid Mercury IV Pressure Suit

    (Editor's note: One of Adam's favorite costumes is his Mercury program spacesuit, which we've previously featured here on Tested. It's one of the costumes he wore at this year's Comic-Con. Elizabeth Galeria of The Magic Wardrobe, who made the costume in collaboration with Adam, reached out to us to share the process of designing and patterning this suit to meet Adam's specific needs and requests. This is the first in a series of articles in which Elizabeth and her partner explain their fabrication process fort his project. Feel free to ask Elizabeth--Tested user "antylyz"--questions directly in the comments section below.)

    An accurate replica of any costume or prop is only as good as the source images and what budget a “detail enthusiast” is willing to spend to get what’s envisioned. When Adam approached me to make him a Mercury suit, his celebrity factored into my quote. I really wanted to do this project having been a fan of MythBusters for many years.

    Adam had no shortage of images to show me so quoting him was pretty easy. It’s not often you get 100+ high-res images of the actual suits from the Smithsonian so I was able to count stitches-per-inch as is often the case needed for detail enthusiasts.

    Adam was very specific that all he wanted was someone to do the “soft parts” and he would provide all the “hard parts,” which made the project easy. Adam was also very specific about what details he liked about the various iterations of suits used by NASA in the Mercury space program, and he focused on the following image in particular.

    The biggest challenge in almost any replica costume or prop is finding the same or similar fabrics and materials used to make the original. Adam was very specific in describing the fabric he thought the original suit was made of. It's something he has described in his videos about the suit.

    Adam Savage Incognito at Comic-Con 2014: Mercury Spacesuit

    For Adam's second Incognito walk through Comic-Con (which was actually done before the Alien spacesuit), Adam donned his Mercury program spacesuit replica and explored the convention hall. His use of a polarized helmet visor shielded his identity, but fans still managed to pick him out in the cosplay crowd!

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Testing and Upgrading an Airboat

    A few months ago, we took a look at the RC boating hobby by dissecting two small, electric setups from AquaCraft: the beginner-friendly Reef Racer II and the speedy Minimono. Both boats are still going strong and my family continues to enjoy them. In fact, I decided that I wanted to bring along at least one RC boat on our summer trip to Florida.

    As I was mentally justifying the cargo space for toy boats and thinking of the different lakes we could visit, I remembered fishing at many of those same lakes as a kid. I recalled that most of them had grass, lily pads, reeds, and even cypress knees all along the shoreline. While all of that aquatic flora is what I miss most about living in Florida, it would cause nothing but headaches with the submerged propellers of my RC boats. I decided that I needed a boat that was designed to traverse this kind of environment…an airboat, to be exact.

    If you’re not familiar with the basic design of an airboat, I’ll elaborate. They utilize a wide, flat-bottomed hull. Rather than a submerged water propeller, airboats have a large airscrew like you would find on a Cessna. One or more large rudders are stuck right in the propwash to provide turning authority. This configuration allows an airboat to ignore most vegetation on the water. It just skims right over it all. Many can even claw their way across dry land. In short, airboats are loud, obnoxious, and extremely useful machines.

    In my last-minute search for an airboat, I found that there are several wood kits that are available, as well as varied plans to DIY. But I was in a hurry and needed something off the shelf. I realized that there aren’t many hobby-quality RC airboats available as turnkey packages. In fact, I could find only two: the Alligator Tours and Mini Alligator Tours. Both are also AquaCraft products. The larger version of the Alligator Tours is powered by a fuel-burning motor, while the mini version is electric. I chose the electric version.

    Adam Tour Diaries #4: Sew, Pram, Nose

    Our second day in Australia had a slow start. Both Mrs. Donttrythis and I woke up around 3 a.m., fell back asleep at 5ish, and then slept till 8 or so, but were still unwilling to get out of bed. Left to their own devices, Thing1 and Thing2 watched movies way too loud until we finally mobilized and headed out to see our friend who lives in Kurraba.

    Thing2 awaiting the ferry.

    Kurraba is just across the Sydney harbor from our hotel, so we took the ferry.

    The ferry!

    There are, like, thousands of them. And they’re so easy to take! I’m very excited about this idea of a ferry as a viable commute vehicle. I know they’re everywhere, but here in Sydney they seem to be as convenient as subways in NYC. We piled onto a lovely tugboat-style ferry and traipsed across the harbor in about 10 minutes, right past the Sydney Opera House. Got some lovely shots of it from the bay.

    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.