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    Tested Mailbag: Gonk Gonk!

    A special edition of the Tested Mailbag this week has us opening boxes from two readers! The first contains a callback to something Will shared in a previous Show and Tell video, while the second is a great use of 3D printing. Thanks to Fallon and Ben for sending these awesome care packages!

    In Brief: Bartek Elsner's Cardboard Sculptures

    BoingBoing pointed me to the blog of Berlin-based artist Bartek Elsner, who creates sculptures of real-world and fantastical objects solely from paper and cardboard. His works have a striking polygonal look to them, and the flat shading of the light bouncing off each cardboard panel makes the pieces look like video game art models pulled into the real world, sans texturing. My favorite may be this "internet appliance" he built in 2012. Volvo filmed Elsner at work earlier this year for their Art Session web series. I found another good interview with him here. Who are some of your favorite artists that work primarily with cardboard of paper? I'd love to know!

    Norman
    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 4

    For this week's episode of our custom arcade cabinet build, Norm experiments with the laser cutter at Adam's shop to design some decorations for the control panels. We also begin prepping the cut, sanded, and stained pieces of wood for the final assembly. That means learning some basics about biscuit joining! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Watch How Crayola Crayons are Made

    Wired was recently granted access to the Crayola's Easton, Pennsylvania factory, where over 12 million crayons are produced a day. The facility turns silos full of melted paraffin wax into millions of bright writing sticks to be sorted, packed, and sent off to illustrate the dreams of children and adults all around the world. Mr. Rogers also took viewers on a tour of the Crayola company back in 1981. The process has undoubtedly changed, but it's interesting to see what's stayed the same in the manufacturing process.

    Making the Automaton from Hugo

    I rewatched Martin Scorsese's Hugo last night, and was reminded of how much I loved the film--itself being a love letter to filmmaking. One of the standouts of the movie is the elaborate automaton that's at the center of the story--a small mechanical boy that winds up and draws a picture. I was pleased to find this behind this scenes video from production house Dick George Creatives that showed the making of this complex and beautiful machine. The propmakers used modern fabrication technologies to build 13 static models, and two that actually drew without the aid of CG (albeit slowly). As I've mentioned before, the Hugo automata was inspired by many automata machines of the 1700s, including watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz's 'The Writer' and the Maillardet automata now at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. And as expected, RPF members have attempted to recreate it, or at least the notebook featured in the movie with the automata drawings.

    In Brief: Six Common Mistakes in Creature Animation

    Friend of Tested Fon Davis shared this really useful article from the AnimationMentor blog. It's a list of common mistakes made by animators creating demo reels showing off their creature work for production houses, and written by Shawn Kelly, an animator at ILM. Kelly, who was the lead animator for the Lockdown villain in the latest Transformers film, calls out animation and editing quirks that ruin the suspension of disbelief, like an inconsistency between the size of the creature and the speed the viewer expects of it. A useful read not only for aspiring animators, for but film nerds to understand the difficulties of animating believable CG characters.

    Norman
    Choosing Buttons and Joysticks for a Custom Arcade Cabinet

    Arcade parts website FocusAttack.com sells 11 varieties of 30mm Japanese arcade buttons, and without some research, it's hard to spot the minute differences that separate one from another. Some are push-buttons, which install into an arcade panel with a simple snap. Others are screw-buttons, which anchor into a wooden surface. There are also smaller 24mm buttons, and buttons with clear tops or clear rims that can be paired with fancy LED lighting. But most importantly, there is the choice between Sanwa and Seimitsu manufactured buttons, Japan's two juggernauts of arcade hardware.

    When you're building your own arcade cabinet, you want the best buttons for your games. But wading into the minutia of arcade parts unprepared feels like going up against a world-class Street Fighter player--while you're clumsily figuring out how to throw a fireball, they're stringing together moves you didn't even know existed. There are just as many varieties of joysticks as there are buttons, each with their own nuanced feel.

    Knowing the differences between these components enables building an arcade machine for exactly the kinds of games you want to play--or, by mixing and matching hardware, you can create a machine with inputs that are great for a wide swath of arcade genres. For the Tested MAME machine, that's exactly what we wanted--something perfect for fighting games like Street Fighter, primed for SHMUPs like Ikaruga, and still able to handle classic 80s games like Pac-Man.

    Here's what we learned while researching our arcade controls.

    The General Overview: Japan vs. America

    There's an easy high-level way to categorize arcade parts: Japanese and American.

    Before we get into the nuances of different models of buttons and joysticks, there's an easy high-level way to categorize arcade parts: Japanese and American. If you grew up going to arcades in the US or Europe, you're likely familiar with American arcade parts made by the company Happ. They're easy to recognize: Happ buttons are concave and have to be pushed in relatively far before they offer that classic arcade click. Happs joysticks typically have elongated cylindrical bat tops, as opposed to the spherical tops of Japanese sticks.

    Japanese parts primarily come from two companies: Sanwa and Seimitsu. Each company produces multiple joysticks and buttons, but in general their buttons are flat or slightly convex, require far less pressure to activate, and have slightly larger faces. Their joysticks are also generally looser than Happ sticks, meaning they have more play to them. The round ball tops of Sanwa and Seimitsu sticks can be replaced with bat tops to make their grips more like Happ sticks.

    A big factor in choosing the parts for your arcade machine comes from personal preference. If you grew up going to American arcades and using American parts, they're going to feel more natural at first, but you might be missing out on something better. The website Slagcoin, which contains a wealth of knowledge about joystick parts, outlines some of the differences between Japanese and American designs and offers up a heavily, heavily researched opinion: Japanese parts are better.

    "Sanwa and Seimitsu make high-quality parts which will not likely disappoint. Happ/IL is a company that seems centered more on simple, public vending parts with high durability at the sacrifice of precision," he writes. "I am not exactly a fanboy for Japanese parts, just quality parts. In fact, it is my opinion that many more Americans would compete internationally much stronger in many more games if our country’s standard/common joysticks were of better quality. I would very much like to see Happ/IL or some other company do better."

    The evidence to support that claim is in the nuances of various button and joystick models. Let's start with joystick technology, the Sanwa, Seimitsu, and Happ options, and which joysticks are best for which games.

    In Brief: Custom Fix It Felix, Jr Arcade Cabinet

    We're kind of in an arcade fix today. Just as we were posting part three of our cocktail cabinet build video, reader Sergio Meyer sent over word of his own cabinet build that he's been working on with his dad. But instead of your typical multi-game MAME cabinet, Sergio's cab is a faithful recreation of the Fix It Felix, Jr. cabinet as seen in the Disney movie Wreck-It-Ralph. Sergio has been documenting his build over the course of 17 weeks, and it's now in a playable state. The most interesting thing about this project may what software he's using to run the fictional game. Disney released a Flash version of the game online, but arcade enthusiasts have recreated it to run in Windows. And as it turns out, a version that Disney made for its promotional cabinets actually leaked online.

    Norman 1
    Tested Projects: Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 3

    With the top and side panels of the arcade cabinet cut out, we move onto the control boards and the holes needed for all the buttons, joysticks, and other gaming controls. Different types of buttons and sticks for each of the panels require unique mounts, so John Duncan teaches us how to set up a router to cut the right kind of hole for each control scheme. (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Photo Gallery: Comparing the Cain Replica to the Original

    Our video today showcased the Chronicle Collectibles Cain robot miniature, a painstaking recreation of the stop-motion puppet used in Robocop 2. We were told how each piece of the puppet was molded and cast for the replica, but it's difficult to appreciate the amount of precision that went into the model without looking at it up close. So here's a small gallery of photos I took comparing Chronicle's replica to the original to give you a sense of how accurate it is. I was also pleased to learn that the Chronicles Collectibles Cain miniature had its paint master done by modelmaker Jason Eaton, who we've previously featured on Tested. Jason is incredibly talented, as we saw in his amazing Blade Runner blimp miniature. You can actually find a ton of great photos of the completed Cain paint master on his website at www.mystery10.com

    Replicating the Original Robocop 2 Cain Stop-Motion Puppet

    During our visit to Phil Tippett Studio, we had a chance to inspect one of the original stop-motion puppets used to for Robocop 2's Cain robot. This intricately designed and machined miniature was actually recently disassembled so its hundreds of parts could be molded to create a series of replicas. We chat with Paul Francis of Chronicle Collectibles to geek out over the little details of this amazing puppet and learn about the replication process.

    Bits to Atoms: Building the Millenbaugh Motivator, Part 5

    After three months of work, the Millenbaugh Motivator has been completed and the parts have been delivered. As Adam has demonstrated before, finishing is extremely important and he immediately got to work on the Motivator parts in order to detail and finish it along with his Mecha-Hand for Comic-Con. There were some difficulties with the crankshaft due to tight tolerances and the addition of paint, but I’m working on a revised version for him to use later.

    Adam's painted Motivator.

    Now that I delivered everything to Adam and am back home, the only thing left to do is the finishing work on my own Motivator! And to be honest, this is the part that I’ve been kind of dreading. This goes way back to when I was a kid and built a lot of models. I would be super meticulous on all the details, get to the very end, and ruin the final paint job--every time. This has stuck with me and almost every time I work on a project, I get to the end and often peter out, leaving it unfinished for long stretches (or sometimes forever). In hindsight, I just didn’t have the right tools or know the right techniques for finishing work. I’d spray paint when it was too humid, too cold, too windy, too dirty, using crappy paint or my really bad airbrush setup. I had a subscription to Fine Scale Modeler magazine and would constantly try higher-level techniques before I understood the basics which almost always ended poorly. In the end, I just thought I was really bad at painting and finishing and it subconsciously kept me from finishing or even starting many projects. I still haven’t fully painted the Stormtrooper Blaster I made five years ago!

    My still unfinished Stormtrooper Blaster - weathering would really help.

    I decided to not screw around with the Motivator and just finish it, but I wasn’t sure how. On the trip to San Francisco, I’d hope to do some painting and finishing with Adam but we ran out of time. I did pick his brain about it and we tossed a few options around. Early on, while I was still building the Motivator, Adam was seriously considering metal plating the whole thing and asked me to look into it. I called just about every place in NYC and surrounding area and didn’t have much luck. Coating plastic, or electroplating, is done all the time--it requires the plastic to be coated in a conductive paint, which the metal plating will adhere to. It seemed like most of the places that do this work usually plate metal and they either didn’t do plastic at all or were reluctant to do so and they didn’t really want to do small jobs such as the Motivator. In the end, Adam decided to move on and figure out a different approach.

    Tested Projects: Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 2

    Woodworking begins on our Arcade Cabinet Project! This week, we have to figure out how to cut the curves for the cocktail cabinet's top board and the control panel's side pieces. Ex-ILM model maker John Duncan guides us through Adam's shop tools to complete the task. (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Adam Savage's Incredible Muscle Suit

    Adam invites us to the Cave to check out a new costume that he can't wait to try on. Without knowing what it looks like beforehand, we get to see it for the first time and are left dumbfounded. It's one of those things you just have to see to believe!

    In Brief: A Beginner's Guide to Drills and Bits

    BoingBoing has been running a nice series of instructional guides to common workshop tools, written by maker Steve Hoefer. He started with a guide to wire strippers, and then a beginner's guide to hammers, and today has published an overview to the many different types of hand drills and bits. I like Hoefer's approach to explaining tools; his write-ups are primers are more about breath than depth, and point you in the right direction for a specific task at hand. Perfect for a beginner like me!

    Norman
    Bits to Atoms: Building the Millenbaugh Motivator, Part 4

    Your patience has paid off--it’s time for the final print of the Millenbaugh Motivator! All the measurements have been made, a rough version has been completed, the final version has been modeled and prototypes printed. After three months of work, it was time to get this delivered to Adam. And that meant making a flight back out to San Francisco.

    For my previous prints, such as the Octopod and Jetcar builds, I’ve used the trusty Objet Connex500. It's a high-end polyjet printer that can print in various materials--even rubber. But as much as I like this machine, I also had access to a 3D Systems ProJet 7000 HD which could print at even higher resolutions and in stronger material, all of which would be especially useful for the Motivator. The ProJet is a SLA (stereolithography) machine that prints by ‘drawing’ the part in a vat of liquid resin using a laser that solidifies the UV sensitive material. Once a layer is finished, the print platform sinks further down in the resin, a fresh layer of resin is distributed over the top and the laser draws the next layer. The resolution can be set incredibly high, and I was told the parts would be dimensionally accurate, meaning a hole modeled at 3mm in diameter would print at exactly 3mm.

    ProJet 7000 SLA 3D Printer & UV 'Oven'

    I was a bit skeptical of this claim, since typically you need to factor in some tolerances when modeling to accommodate the accuracy of the printer and behavior of the material. This has caused me frustration when 3D printing since a model built with tolerances for one printer won’t always print well on a different printer. I have done various versions of the same model with slight tweaks for different printers--an annoying and time-consuming task.

    Adam's Mecha-Hand Posters are Now Shipping!

    Hey everyone, we're pleased to let Premium Members know that we began shipping out the Mecha-Hand posters today. The prints arrived in our office and look fantastic--they're 24"x36" if you want to get a frame ahead of time. We had to approve the packing process, and are shipping them out in batches of a few hundred each. Once Will and I get back from PAX, we'll continue the shipping the rest of the posters a batch at a time, and hope to have all of them out for members who joined during the promotional period in a week and a half or so. The posters aren't going out exactly based on when members signed up, so we unfortunately won't be able to let you know which batch your print is in. Today is also the last day for users to sign up for an annual membership and get in on the first run of these posters.

    As promised, Tested Premium Members who signed up before the Comic-Con promotion will have an opportunity to get these posters too, and we'll be putting them in the store soon after the first run is completed. We'll email members directly and make a post about it so you won't miss out.

    Thanks again for making this print run a success, and hope you're enjoying our new video series (month of builds, shop projects) that are a direct result of your support. Let us know if you have any additional questions about the poster or the membership promotion, and we'll do our best to answer them in the comments below.

    Designing a Custom Arcade Cabinet in Sketchup

    As soon as Norm and I decided to build an arcade cabinet, we ran into a problem: We didn't actually know how to build an arcade cabinet. We knew what we wanted, at least in general--a four-player MAME cocktail cabinet that could support fighting games and beat 'em ups and pretty much anything else we could throw at it. How hard could it be to find exactly what we wanted online, then replicate it at home? Turns out: Pretty hard.

    ArcadeDepot, one of the most popular sources for arcade kits, was knocked out of commission by Hurricane Sandy. The other pre-built kits we looked at didn't offer customization. That left user-built arcade cabinets to work off of. The Arcade Controls forums and wiki are great resources, with one unfortunate downside: Many of the projects linked on the site now lead to 10-year-old dead webpages, and most members only upload photos of their homemade arcade cabinets, sans dimensions or detailed blueprints. That left us with one good option: the detailed Pac-Man cocktail plans and assembly instructions created by Kyle Lindstrom.

    Credit: Kyle Lindstrom

    Most cocktail cabinets are heavily based on the original Pac-Man cocktail, with a few tweaks here and an added control panel there to support two extra players. To make those tweaks, I decided to recreate the Pac-Man cocktail cabinet in SketchUp. Once I had a 3D model of each part, it would (hopefully) be easy to piece them together, add another control panel, and change some dimensions while making sure everything still fit together.

    After recreating the cocktail cabinet in 3D, the next phase of our build could begin: Creating a cardboard mockup, to make sure the dimensions of our modified design would give us enough control panel room. The cardboard build would also give us a good visualization of how the planned 19-inch arcade monitor would look in a slightly enlarged cabinet.

    Starting off in 2D in Sketchup

    SketchUp is a free download, and offers templates upon startup to work in millimeters, inches, feet, and so on. I started with inches, and spent a few minutes fiddling with the 3D camera before settling on a top-down perspective. Then I started drawing each Pac-Man cabinet part in 2D.