Latest StoriesMakers
    Adam's Tour Diaries #21: A Gorgeous Little Town

    Dec. 12, 2014: I’m here to testify to the fact that Fayetteville, Ark., is a gorgeous little town. Really sweet. I woke up and had a couple of interviews. After some computing work, I headed out for a 90-minute walk around town. Like I said: Gorgeous!

    Fayetteville is full of buildings like this...
    … and windows like this ...
    … and manhole covers like this!

    I did an NPR interview in the morning with a woman named Antoinette Grajeda (you can listen to it here) and she told me about an awesome bookstore around the corner from the Walton Arts Center, where we were performing. I decided to go and I was NOT disappointed.

    How to Get Into Hobby RC: Building Foam Airplanes

    Electric airplanes made of molded foam are very popular in the RC world right now. While this class of airplanes used to be limited to small models with modest power, there is seemingly no limit to the size and power handling of modern “foamies”. Perhaps the largest contributor to their popularity is the marginal effort that’s required to assemble an attractive and nice-flying foam model. There are, however, some things to be aware of, and habits you should develop to court success with these aircraft. I recently assembled and flew a newly-released foamy to illustrate what I’m talking about.


    The Flitework Stearman

    The model that I used for this article is the Flitework PT-17 Stearman. It is a 1:8 scale model of the 1942 Boeing PT-17 that is owned and flown by The Flying Bulls in Austria. Most of the model is constructed of molded Expanded PolyOlefin (EPO) foam, a popular material for RC planes. This is a Receiver-Ready (RR) model, meaning that all of the control servos and power system components are included and installed. The user must provide a radio receiver and transmitter, as well as an appropriate battery to power the airplane.

    This was my first experience with a Flitework model. Overall, I would consider it a little above average among the current crop of RR foamies that I’ve seen. The mold quality of the foam components was excellent and the finish applied to the airplane was well executed. There is nothing worse than factory-applied trim schemes with sloppy paint overspray or crooked decals. I was happy that neither sin was displayed here.


    Despite my positive first impressions with this model, my unboxing inspection also revealed a few common shortcomings that I would need to address. The positive side of this is that the corrections were easily implemented and didn’t incur any extra cost. As I outline the basic assembly steps, I will cover those changes, as well as some tips and tricks that may not be intuitive.

    How I Edit Tested's One Day Builds

    This will be a weekly three-part behind the scenes series: Lighting, Shooting, and Editing.

    The production behind Adam's One Day Builds, are a good representation of the common challenges I'm faced with being a one-man production team at Tested. They're often long shooting days with tons of coverage, shot in a documentary format, meaning that we often shoot for spontaneity which in turn means that the at end of the day I'm coming back with hours of footage and steep shooting ratios: somewhere in between 20:1-30:1.

    A typical One Day Build Shoot, where I come back with hours of footage.

    One important key advantage I have in this series, despite shooting such high ratios, is that I'm shooting for myself. Meaning, this footage is coming back with me to the editing bay, where I'll then chop it up. As the camera operator, knowing how to shoot for the editor, me, allows me to edit the piece in my head, as I'm shooting. Which is huge.

    Most camera/editors will tell you how much easier it is to edit their own footage. You know your own quirks, you know what you were shooting at the time and where you were planning on placing that in the video. You know your own movements, and what kind of shots you were trying to get, and in my case, I know Adam. I know how he moves around the shop, about how long it takes him to bandsaw through some ply, screw in six wood screws, or sand a piece of material. I can shoot multiple angles of him working on one piece of his puzzle, only to edit and string them together to fake a multi-cam shoot--essentially to increase production value.

    Technical skills aside, one of the key requirements that come with the title job is to learn about the people you work with, and their mannerisms and style, so you can prepare properly, and compliment their style, with your own. Ultimately serving the final product.

    After watching the speed at which Adam works, and the precision of him working in his own workshop, I came to the conclusion that the One Day Builds should have a certain style to them: a chance to give the user the perspective of a fly in his workshop. Close intimate angles, camera movement to match Adam's movement, all cut to a slightly exaggerated pace; making sure that information is presented simultaneously, without jarring the audience or pulling them out of the perception of a live filming. It's about marrying the communication with the action, and doing so in an effective way.

    This brings me to my main two editing techniques for this kind of feature:

    Adam's Tour Diaries #20: On to Kansas City

    Dec. 11, 2014: In Kansas City, we had some press to do. Jamie felt a bit under the weather, so I had an early start and headed over to KSHB- 41 to appear on their morning show, Kansas City Live. They couldn’t have been nicer. I love seeing morning-show sets. I love how substantial they are aesthetically and insubstantial materially.

    The Kansas City Live set.

    Then the camera crew set up for my interview. Do I look tired here?

    I feel like I look tired.

    After the interview (which you can see here), it was time to do a little shopping. I do some juggling in our live show, and one of my beanbags sprung a leak, so I needed some new ones. Will, our tour manager, found me a place that supposedly had one of the “largest magic retail spaces in the country.” It was right over the border in Kansas.

    In Brief: Dayton Allen's Custom Alien Figures

    One of my favorite magazines growing up was Wizard's ToyFare, which in addition to reporting on new action figure releases, showcased the custom toy modifications and builds and sculptors who made their own figures. These makers could take a Punisher figure, for example, and swap out its head and paint job to make it a kick-ass Bullseye figures. Custom figure sculpts have come a long way since then, and the quality of figures like the ones made by artist Dayton Allen are just as good (if not better) than the sculpts done by toy companies. The Verge has a fun report on a project that Allen started in 2011, custom sculpting the entire cast of Ridley Scott's Alien--in addition to building out the Nostromo bridge and corridor sets for those 4-inch figures. Allen's Flickr gallery of his work in progress is awesome. Bookmark it! And if want to get your hands on your own Alien figure without making a custom sculpt, the NECA series of Nostromo spacesuit figures just went on sale last week!

    Adam's Tour Diaries #19: A Day of Writing and Research

    Dec 10. 2014: Sigh. Another day I didn’t leave the bus. After the feverish activity of Omaha (well, it certainly FELT feverish) I felt due for a day of simply writing and research. It was quite productive in its own way. Seriously: I got a lot done.

    When I finally DID make my way over to the Orpheum Theatre, I was graced with another lovely dressing room! I was reluctant to leave.

    I felt very comfortable here.

    But once onstage I had a phenomenal assistant.

    My on-stage assistant.

    You never quite know how someone will respond to being brought up onstage. For many, it seems like an AWESOME idea until they get up there, and then you can see it sink in: “Holy crap, look at all those people!” Not this girl, though. She was game and had a great sense of humor.

    12 Days of Tested Christmas: Essential Workshop Instruments

    For the eighth day of Tested Christmas, Will shares his recommendations for essential tools that go a long way in the workshop. These instruments: a good pair of digital calipers and a high quality multimeter make great gifts, and you don't need to buy the most expensive ones!

    Adam's Tour Diaries #18: Omaha!

    Dec. 9, 2014: I remember Omaha! I remember it from watching Wild Kingdom as a kid. “Mutual of Omaha is people … you can count on when the going’s … wrong ...” or something like that. I’m too lazy to look it up on the Google.

    We landed in Omaha for a much desired day of R&R and then a performance.

    The hotel was across the street from the theater and was very, very nice. Super comfortable. TERRIBLE wifi. But not worse than most. In my experience, wifi in hotels is a spotty and largely unsatisfying business. I end up using my phone as a hotspot for BLAZINGLY faster speeds. (I keep an eye on my data, though, don’t worry.)

    Super comfortable. Terrible wifi.

    Downtown Omaha has a lovely and amazing shopping district, enclosed and clad in brick. Our first day was unseasonably warm, so I walked around here for awhile.

    Here’s our marquee.

    Lots and lots of skybridge in the places it gets cold, I notice...

    Adam's Tour Diaries #17: The Hyneman Comes Home

    Dec. 7, 2014: Finally we got to Jamie’s home state: Indiana! You should have heard the crowd roar when I reminded them he’s a Hoosier.

    Later, after the show, I was on the phone with Mrs. Dontrrythis, and she said, “Take a picture of what you’re looking at right now.” So I did.

    My dressing room.

    About the least interesting shot I’ve ever taken. To be perfectly honest, most dressing rooms are like this.

    Another pattern I’m seeing on tour: I seem to be building a collection of dubious looks from the girls I bring onstage to help us out.

    She didn’t believe me.
    Adam's Tour Diaries #16: Myyyyyyy Kinda Town

    Dec. 6, 2014: Man, oh, man. Chicago is the best. Pulled in around 7 a.m. Woke up and headed over to my good friend and never-not-fun-to-talk-to Peter Sagal’s house, where he made me breakfast while we discussed Kubrick, film, radio, and a few dozen other topics over the course of a couple hours.

    Our bus was parked right under the El.

    This is awesome. Spotted on the street in Chicago. I think it’s for when the power goes out? I guess a stop sign CAN be stopped.

    Myth Busted.

    Then Peter gave me a walking tour of the incredible Oak Park, outside of Chicago, where an insane number of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings reside, including FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S HOUSE.

    Adam Savage's One Day Builds: Barbarella's Space Rifle

    It's time for another One Day Build! You know the drill: Adam tackles a project at his shop from start to finish, explaining his build process along the way. Today's build is a replica of Jane Fonda's iconic Barbarella rifle. The challenge: this iconic sci-fi prop only appeared once, on the cover of a 1968 issue of LIFE Magazine. That's not a lot of reference material to work with!

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: A Snapshot of the Multi-Rotor Market

    Buying a multi-rotor can be a daunting experience. There are so many different models already on the market, with more emerging every day. Those choices represent a wide range of sizes, capabilities and quality, not to mention price points. In an effort to make the candidate pool a little less overwhelming, I have compiled an overview of currently-available multi-rotors. Consider it a snapshot of this ever evolving scene. Obsolescence will come quickly.

    To make the list more manageable it has been abridged to include only those aircraft that meet the following criteria:

    • Hobby Grade – Parts can be replaced or upgraded as needed.

    • Ready-to-Fly (RTF) – The multi-rotor is ready to fly, or very nearly so when purchased. A transmitter is included. Smart phone controllers don’t count (sorry Parrot).

    • Available from US retailers – No offense to our foreign readers. This criteria is meant to weed out the clones, and knock-offs of dubious origin.

    The multi-rotors shown here have been divided into two categories: small and medium. The primary difference being that medium multi-rotors are capable of carrying an action camera such as a GoPro. Of course there are multi-rotors that would fit into large, X-Large, Jumbo, etc. categories. These ships are intended for hauling high-quality video equipment. Due to their complexity and cost, they should really only be considered by experienced pilots. So they have been omitted from this list.

    I have chosen to include only RTF models simply because that is what most people prefer. With small quads, RTF is really the only option. There is nothing wrong with using an unassembled kit for your medium multi-rotor. In fact, there is a strong case to be made that building your own aircraft will provide you with a much better understanding of its inner workings and abilities. You just have to be willing to dedicate the time and effort required to get it assembled, outfitted and tuned.

    Please note that this is not a ranking. I have personal experience with only a handful of the listed models. So any type of hierarchy would be disingenuous. Comparing listed features is one thing. Actually flying and exercising those features is quite another.

    Adam's Tour Diaries #15: Cleveland Rocks!

    Dec. 5, 2014: Hello, Cleveland! My day here started early. The awesome Len Peralta showed up at 8:30 and took me out to breakfast! [Norm's note: Len's also the co-host of the Creature Geek podcast!]

    We talked a lot about kids, which is good because Len has about 37 of them.

    I’m amazed Len doesn’t walk with a cane.

    Oh, a word about that skillet we're eating off of. I was gobsmacked to find that it’s not real. I mean, it’s real, but it’s not iron -- it’s plastic. Weighs nothing. I find that sort of dissonance hilarious and tried to buy one from the waitress. She went to ask the chef who GAVE ME TWO of them. Now I have two very convincing looking plastic skillets. I must find a proper prank to perform with one … (A nice prank.)

    As Len gave me a ride back from breakfast he pointed out that Captain America: Winter Soldier was filmed in and around Cleveland. Like here for instance.

    Dammit, Bucky! It’s me! STEVE!

    Then Len told me to go to a place called Big Fun. So I did. Wow! How rewarding that trip was!

    A word about stores like Big Fun: I’ve been going to them for DECADES. I used to shop at Little Rickie in NYC. In fact I rented a storefront from owner Phillip Retzky in the late ‘80s (the original 1st and 1st location of Little Rickie, before they moved to 1st and 3rd).

    Some friends and I ran a cooperative gallery out of that space for a year called Points of Departure. The East Village was only JUST becoming hip around that time. I mean, it was deep hip (Ann Magnuson hip) long before that, but it was getting popular hip (like Williamsburg in the early aughts) around that time.

    I even visited the American Science and Surplus MOTHERSHIP in Chicago in the early ‘90s! And their second Chicago store. I didn’t know about their other store in Milwaukee until I was there on tour but I’ve been there too! I’ve also shopped at Archie MacPhee’s in Seattle. Made a special pilgrimage there with Mrs. Donttrythis on our honeymoon in the early aughts.

    Anyway, so, kitsch toy stores and I go WAAAY back. And Big Fun is one I didn’t know about. What a great place. I got to talking to the owner and we didn’t stop for about an hour. I took some pix in his photo booth, bought a bunch of Xmas presents for everyone, and gave comps to his staff for the show that night.

    Adam Interviews John Cleese

    I had the incredible opportunity to interview one of my heroes a few weeks past. John Cleese and his five cohorts of Monty Python gave me the first laugh I shared with my parents. Cleese himself is not only in good shape for his 75 years, he’s surpassingly present, curious, generous and yes, funny. We even got to read one of his sketches together! I left for the tour the very next morning and I have to admit I’m still glowing. He brings the number of Pythons I’ve met to three (Gilliam and Jones being the others). I have rarely had such FUN doing an interview. I think I looked at the questions I wrote maybe three or four times total. That’s how far we ranged.

    Adam's Tour Diaries #14: Indiana Intrigue

    Dec. 4, 2014: There’s an Indiana in Pennsylvania, you say? Wait, what? They even have an Indiana University of Pennsylvania just to confuse us all. Lest we get uppity, though, remember that Pennsylvania became a state on Dec. 12, 1787. Indiana didn’t become a state until Dec. 11, 1816. So … yeah. Looks like Indiana the state (Jamie’s home state, by the by) is the pretender to the throne here. The town in Pennsylvania predates the state.

    Wait a minute. I’m getting some news here (that means I’m checking Wikipedia), and it looks like the town was incorporated the SAME YEAR AS THE STATE OF INDIANA. Ohhhh. Intrigue.

    We’re going to have to settle this with some good old-fashioned arm-wrestling.

    Anyway. Where was I? Right, Indiana the town. Christmas tree capital of the world. Birthplace of Jimmy Stewart at the location of the Jimmy Stewart museum. Our show was in a stadium, and again, it was sorta hard to hear the audience, but they made up for it by being SUPER LOUD. And awesome.

    It looks like a microphone, right?

    But before I get to the show, I did get out and do another round of thrift shopping: I headed over to Denise’s Antique Mall to do a little shopping. Wouldn’t you know it I forgot to take a pic of the place? It was quiet but packed with stuff, and I picked up this cool burner that looks like a microphone.

    3D Printer Programed to Play Imperial March

    Anyone who's worked around 3D printers should know that they have a certain "tune" when they run. There's the chime that starts on MakerBots when a print starts up and finishes, but even the movements of the three printer axes make a sort of machine music as the printer operates. YouTube user Zero Innovations is working on a way to convert MIDI music files to G-code that printers can read to replicate any song. This demo shows his Printrbot Simple Metal playing John Williams' Imperial March with just its stepper motors!

    In Brief: National Geographic's Roboticist and Photography Engineers

    National Geographic may be known for its photographs, but you don't see much about the people behind the cameras. And I don't mean just the photographers. The organization has a small team of engineers who invent and build camera and robotics equipment for photographers to use in the wild, either to document wildlife up close or to reach parts of the world that humans and cameras just can't normally operate. Last year, National Geographic's Proof blog profiled one of its roboticists, Walter Boggs (video below), and more recently, produced another video documentary showing the work of another one of its engineers, Kenji Yamaguchi. As National Geographic describes them, they're the Q to the James Bonds of nature photography.

    Adam's Tour Diaries #13: Hereeeee’s Hartford!

    Dec. 3, 2014: Hartford is a great town. I did a bunch of research and writing on this day (Read: I didn’t get off the bus much), and only got out for a little bit. The catering did provide a terrific soup for lunch, though.

    My dressing room at the Bushnell was one of the best so far on the tour! So homey.

    This is so exactly what young me expected dressing rooms to be like.

    I pulled this adorable little urchin up onstage. This was her reaction when I asked her to lift a very large man up in the air:

    She was wearing a sparkly skirt and cowboy boots.
    Adam's Tour Diaries #12: Where Art and Science Meet

    Dec. 2, 2014: The next day my wife headed back to the homestead to see the dogs (DOGS! I MISS YOU!) and I did a little shopping before heading out to Worcester.

    Look at this lovely line of shops! I found two pairs of my favorite Levis!

    Also, in front of the world-famous Boston Library I found such a cool thing!

    Two statues I didn’t know about on either side of the main door.

    The one on the left devoted to SCIENCE.

    The one on the right devoted to ART

    That’s right, Art and Science flanking the door to the building full of knowledge. It’s enough to warm this old Mythbuster’s heart.

    Then it was off to Worcester, where I was able to visit a thrift shop and obtain a few little knick-knacks. (It was a busy couple of days!)