Over the course of this month, Punished Props' Bill Doran is building a 1:1 scale replica of the alien assault rifle from District 9 to unveil with us at Comic-Con. Bill's build logs and videos will walk through his design and fabrication process, and his finished piece will be paired with a surprise at SDCC. Place your questions for Bill in the comments below!
Welcome to the second installment of the District 9 rifle prop build! The project is moving along at a good pace and I've made a lot of progress. While the main body of the gun was made mostly in flat layers, there are a bunch of cylindrical pieces and it would be a pain to build them from flat sheets of material. Instead, I opted to bust out my lathe.
Working with Foam
For these pieces, I used a urethane tooling foam called RenShape. It comes in several densities. I ended up using the most dense foam I had. This stuff is so dense that you would think it's made of rock.
I was also made aware by my pal Harrison Krix that sometimes this kind of foam could cause curing inhibition in platinum cure silicones, so I performed a simple test. I took a small sample of each of the four densities I had on hand and dumped silicone over them all. Sure enough, the two least dense foams caused some inhibition, while the two most dense ones did not. Hence the decision to use the most dense stuff!
Adam Savage welcomes Astro Teller to The Talking Room! Astro is Google's 'Captain of Moonshots', directing the Google X lab where self-driving cars, smart contact lenses, and other futuristic projects are conceived and made real. Adam sat down with Astro at the Tested Live Show this past October to chat about the benefits of thinking big and failing quickly.
For the past week and a half, I've been playing around with the TinyDuino set that Tiny Circuits founder Ken Burns sent our way. I first saw this postage stamp-sized development board and its accessories at this year's Maker Faire, where Ken's team was showing off numerous Tiny Shield configurations that make use of an ATmega 328 processor (the same chip in Arduino's own Uno board). TinyDuino was successfully launched on Kickstarter as a bite-sized alternative to the Uno board, designed to be stackable with a plethora of shields that add connectivity, storage, communication, and inputs to the microcontroller. Like Uno, its processing power is relatively puny--ideal for simple wearables--but its size allows for some creative implementation. For example, this 3D-printed Space Invaders arcade cabinet, for which Tiny Circuits will release STL files so you can make your own. (They are all about Open Hardware.)
A more typical use of TinyDuino pairs the processor board with a USB shield for programming and some kind of LED matrix or display (all powered by a small rechargeable lipo battery). I particularly like the use of a microSD shield and the 96x64 pixel OLED Tinyscreen to run loops of animated GIFs. Snap that same screen and processor on the joystick controller shield and you get a miniature two-stick console that can play clones of classic games like Asteroids or OutRun. Tutorials and sample code are available for all of the shields, the Tiny Circuits forum is filled with useful advice for beginners.
The TinyDuino starter kits aren't expensive, and the size of the stacked boards is appealing. Plus, all of the hardare is made in the US at Tiny Circuits' Akron, Ohio factory. Find more TinyDuino projects on their Hackster page!
Wanted to share this recent find with you guys. While shopping at IKEA last weekend, I was drawn to this LED light box display case in the children's section, and promptly bought two of them. The Synas is an acrylic display cube that measures nine inches wide (24cm), with LED lights embedded in the base. The edges are rounded and it was really simple to assemble. At nine inches tall, it's a little small for 12-inch/sixth-scale standing figures, but perfect for small LEGO builds and 6-inch Hasbro figurines (eg. Star Wars Black Series). I would combine it with short acrylic or wood risers to display smaller pieces, and will experiment with dressing one up like a self-contained diorama. IKEA hackers have also modified it to use as a DIY light table, though I haven't tried that yet.
IKEA has the Synas listed at $35, which is pricey for an acrylic case, but my local store (Emeryville, CA) had it on sale for $30.
No big spoilers for Jurassic World, but this behind-the-scenes video from Legacy Effects shows the design and fabrication of the sole animatronic dinosaur that got screen time in the new blockbuster: "For Jurassic World's most touching scene, Legacy was asked to bring a gentle giant to life. Go behind the scenes with the Legacy team as they use both new and traditional methods to create an animatronic Dinosaur!" It's a beautifully animated robot that really contributed to the scene. Bonus: another SoundWorks Collection featurette profiles the sound design and editing on the film at Skywalker Sound.
Time for more weeks of build! To kick things off, we're joined by effects artist Frank Ippolito to learn some basic model kit painting techniques. Using cast blanks from talented sculptors Neil Winn and Andy Bergholtz, we learn how to get started with airbrushing and painting to bring some scale-model creature kits to life. Follow along with us by signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here!
Becky Stern from Adafruit sent over this video of a recent quadcopter project: "Recently some friends and I worked on building a quadcopter that can spray paint as it flies. The sprayer device works by depressing a lever with a servo motor, which the bot controls as though it were part of a camera gimbal (a more common payload) from the RC transmitter. I suited up a 3D Robotics IRIS+ with a sprayer device and proceeded to fly it around inside, with middling success." Read more about Becky's experiment and lessons learned at her Adafruit build log.
There's no question that motorized gimbals do a fabulous job of hiding the bumps and bobbles when you're using an action camera. They're pretty much required equipment for multi-rotor flyers who want to capture decent footage from on high. Recent reviews of the DJI Inspire 1 Mount and the Feiyu-Tech G3 Ultra convinced me that I needed a gimbal for my ground-based video shoots as well.
As I was browsing the selection of handheld gimbals, I ran across the Yuneec Steady Grip. Like the Inspire 1 Mount, the Steady Grip merely provides an alternate method to hold, power, and control a gimbal that would otherwise reside on a multi-rotor. The unique pistol-like form factor of the Steady Grip made me realize that I already had most of the parts that I needed to build my own handheld gimbal mount. So I abandoned the store-bought approach and went D-I-Y.
My prime motivation for this project was the desire to easily swap one of my gimbals between its aerial mount and the handheld mount. Being able to utilize a gimbal I already owned presented a substantial cost savings. Adding a gimbal to the bill of materials for this project would likely make it more expensive than just buying a handheld gimbal system outright.
I chose to use the GB200 2-axis gimbal from my Blade 350QX2 quad. The entire gimbal assembly can easily be removed from its mount on the quad by lifting a lock tab and sliding the base off of its rails. I had already upgraded the gimbal with the proper frame to hold a GoPro Hero 3 camera.
To emulate the style of the Steady Grip, I plundered my stash of old RC systems. Among them are several pistol-grip transmitters that I haven't used in years. I located a well-used Futaba Magnum Sport that looked like it would do the trick. It didn't matter that the electronics of the radio were still in good shape. I really only needed the plastic shell. Finding a new use for one of my squirreled-away "treasures" has certainly done nothing to improve my hoarding tendencies!
I wanted to be able to control the pitch of the gimbal while it is in the hand mount. On the quad, this function is controlled by a channel of the radio. I used a servo driver (also called a "servo tester") to transfer this capability to the hand mount. I'll explain later just how that works.
Different gimbals may require a wide variety of input voltages to operate. I wanted to be sure that I provided the correct voltage for the GB200, but I could not find any specs that defined what it should be. I measured the voltage output at the gimbal power pins on the Blade 350 at around 4.3 volts. With that value in hand, I felt comfortable buying a 5 volt voltage regulator for the hand mount.
We're thrilled to announce that we're throwing another party at this year's San Diego Comic-Con! Last year's Incognito party was a wonderful opportunity to meet Tested readers and showcase Adam's costumes in a celebration of cosplay. This year, the party is called Cinephile, a celebration of our love for film and cinema. If there are fifty movies in your top ten list of favorite films, this event is for you. The party is on Friday, July 10th, and will be held at the Fluxx nightclub on 4th in San Diego (very close to the convention center). We'll be bringing props, costumes, and projects from the cave to the party, as well as unveiling a few surprises!
As with last year, we're also announcing a limited-edition art print for the Tested Premium Member community. New and existing members who sign up or renew now will automatically get the print of Adam's line-art rendition of his famous ILM modelmaking toolboxes. It's a beautiful and highly-detailed drawing that also lists all of Adam's essential modelmaking tools. Current members will be able to get the poster too--we'll have details about how to extend your membership to get the print soon.
We're also starting the next weeks of build video series soon (it's a really good one!), so now's the perfect time to sign up to join our premium member community. RSVP for our party and hope to see you at Comic-Con!
Norm's note: We're super excited to announce a new collaboration project with Bill Doran (aka Punished Props) and Smooth-On. Over the course of this month, Bill is building a 1:1 scale replica of the alien assault rifle from District 9 to unveil with us at Comic-Con. Bill's build logs and videos will walk through his design and fabrication process, and his finished piece will be paired with a surprise at SDCC. Place your questions for Bill in the comments below!
It's no secret that I love me some space guns, and District 9 had some of the most incredible weapon designs from the mad geniuses over at Weta! Ok enough gushing, let's dive into this build!
Design and Reference Material
The design for this gun was mostly based on the 1:1 replica that Weta released a couple of years ago, but I also took a lot of inspiration from the 1:4 scale replica that I have sitting on my desk. I took measurements from these sources and laid out the gun in SketchUp. The 3D design was layout in flat layers, in the thicknesses that I knew I would be using from the MDF wood stock.
Once all of the layers were designed, I was able to have them printed out, full scale, as 2D blueprints for each piece. These shapes were then spray glue adhered to flat MDF stock to prepare for cutting and gluing. The idea is that I can build up a prototype of the gun in layers, clean it up, and then mold and cast pieces for finishing.
It took a lot of extra time to "build" the gun in SketchUp, but the effort was worth it. The blueprints I was able to print out made for a pretty fantastic kit, once all the parts were ready to be cut out. Also, I had already pretty much gone through the entire build once, planning it all out before even buying my material.
BattleBots is coming back, and we couldn't be more excited! We've been granted exclusive access to the BattleBots pit, where teams from all around the world have brought their new robots to be tested in the combat arena. In the first of a three-part series, we meet with eight of the teams to learn about their robots' fighting potential and how new technology has changed how BattleBots are built.
Adam Savage welcomes author Andy Weir to The Talking Room! Andy wrote 'The Martian', the story of an astronaut stranded on Mars--it's a book we can't recommend enough. Adam and Andy talk about the research that went into writing the book, the portrayal of astronauts in fiction, and the upcoming film adaptation!
Time for another prop-making tutorial with effects artist Frank Ippolito! This week, we stop by Frank's shop to learn how to transform a cheap plastic skull into a gory horror prop using simple materials. By layering and sculpting cotton and latex, we can simulate gross charred flesh on the skull or any other body part. It's very effective! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)
For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares the WoodnBoom Rubber Band Machine Gun that was launched on Kickstarter and recently delivered. It's a motorized launcher that holds several hundred rubber bands at once, releasing them in a steady stream. Norm loads it up at the office and looks for a target to test it.
We first saw Daniel Rozin's interactive mirror installations in New York at NYU's ITP program, and the artist has continued to make analog motorized mirrors out of different materials. This one is made of 450 stuffed penguins! Another recent mirror build material for Rozin: pom poms. (h/t LaughingSquid)
Adam's friend Traci Des Jardins visits the Cave with a challenge: fix and improve her cat's exercise wheel. With some tweaks and swapping out of parts, the giant wheel's operation is greatly improved. It ended up a fun little project that required a bit of problem solving, and Traci's cat got a great workout out of it at the end!
Niklas Roy built this supersized pinball machine for the Phæno science center in Wolfsburg, Germany. Its playfield is 3x6 meters. Check out his build log forphotos, block diagrams, and even Arduino code for the project. Roy's other builds are pretty great, too!
It may take us two years to build the DeAgostinni Millennium Falcon model, but you may recall the scratch-built 38-inch papercraft Falcon built by Polish modelmaker Bernard Szukiel (watch his build video here). Szukiel, who is also a member of TheRPF, didn't stop there, and has recently completed three additional 30-inch scratch built models of the AT-AT Walker, also with paper and cardstock. Find photos of these gorgeous AT-ATs in his build log. Next up, he's tackling the X-Wing!