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    Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse with Teller

    When Teller (of Penn & Teller fame) isn't performing his show in Las Vegas, he's working on a ton of other projects, one of which is this delightful web series--& Teller--that was co-written and co-directed by our friends Frank Ippolito and and Zeke Zabrowski. The series is about the aftermath of a zombie epidemic in Las Vegas, and Teller's attempts to survive it with his friends in the magic community. The fifth episode was just released, and I've compiled them in a playlist here. Totally worth watching, and appropriate for today's festivities. Happy Halloween, everyone! Stay safe and see you next week!

    Worldbuilding and Storytelling in Disney's Big Hero 6

    Norm visits Disney Animation Studios to get a preview of Big Hero 6, the upcoming film that is Disney's first animated feature based on a Marvel comics property. We interview the directors of Big Hero 6 to learn about the worldbuilding that went into creating this film, and what storytelling lessons have been learned under the guidance of John Lasseter.

    Adam Savage's Ghostbusters Costume

    To celebrate both Halloween this week and the 30th anniversary of the release of Ghostbusters, Adam shares his own Ghostbusters uniform and prop replicas that he has made and assembled over the years. We geek out over fond memories of the film and its contributions to cosplay culture. This is a costume that anybody can make!

    In Brief: The Making of Danny DeVito's Penguin Makeup for Batman Returns

    The Stan Winston school has posted an excerpt from the book "The Winston Effect", chronicling the design and application of Danny DeVito's iconic Penguin makeup for Batman Returns. For the Tim Burton film--which won Winston and collaborators Ve Neill and Ronnie Specter Oscar nominations--DeVito's makeup needed to capture the the director's creepy aesthetic and the essence of the villain. Behind-the-scenes art shows the various concept sketches for Penguin's look (and especially his nose), as well as the application of the prosthetics and paint for filming. DeVito apparently also asked that the makeup be put during voice-over ADR session for Batman Returns, to get back into character. Awesome stuff!

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    The Creature and Portrait Sculptures of Mike Hill

    We visit the workshop of Mike Hill, a renowned portrait sculptor who specializes in recreating the classic horror monsters of Hollywood (and the actors who embodied them). Mike's full-body sculptures of characters like Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolf Man, and even Christopher Reeve's Superman are startlingly lifelike. We chat with Mike about his process, look at a work-in-progress, discuss what he tries to achieve with his portraits.

    Show and Tell: Quicksilver's Stereobelt Replica

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm visits our 3D printing expert Sean Charlesworth in New York to learn about a prop replica project. Sean has faithfully recreated Qucksilver's "Stereobelt" from the most recent X-men movie, a prop that is actually based on a little-known portable cassette player that predated Sony's Walkman. A little bit of A/V technology history, rapid prototyping, and obsessing over film props--everything we love! (More details about this project here.)

    In Brief: Large Gallery of ILM Model Shop Miniatures

    Not exactly sure about the source of these photos, but here's a large gallery of photos of modelmakers and miniatures from the ILM model shop, circa The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The photos show the making of some iconic vehicles like the Republic fighters and cruisers, the Super Star Destroyer, and even Death Star 2. Most of these models reside in Lucasfilm's precious archives in Northern California, and some went on tour in the most recent exhibition of Star Wars models and props. You can find my photos from that exhibit here.

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    Hot Toys Batman Armory 1/6th Scale Figure Set

    Bonus weekend video! Norm shares a new sixth scale collectible figure set he just received: the highly-anticipated Batman Armory set from Hot Toys! This set not only has the armory display, but Batman, Bruce Wayne, and Alfred figures as well. Norm analyzes the quality of these sculpts and paint jobs, and compares this newest Batman model to past versions. No detail goes unnoticed!

    My 10 Favorite Items in Prop Store's Epic Auction

    Tomorrow's a big day for prop collectors and replica prop makers. As we mentioned in our video of Adam's new Samurai armor from 47 Ronin, London and LA-based Prop Store is gearing up for one of the largest film prop auctions in recent memory, and easily one of the most important. The auction is mere hours away, and will be held live in London at the Westfield Mall's Vue Cinema. We were fortunate to see some of those props in person at Comic-Con as well, where Prop Store had iconic items like Marty's hoverboard on display (I touched it!). For those of us who can't make it to the auction or are curious about how much these props end up going for, we'll be able to follow along online at the auction website.

    Since receiving it earlier this month, I've been spending lunch hours poring over the auction catalog and admiring the lovely photos and cool production info associated with each prop. Here are the props from the auction that I'm the most excited for, either because of their significance to film and effects history, their personal resonance, or because they're just so cool.

    1/4 Scale Alien Queen Puppet from Aliens

    "A 1⁄4-scale puppet of the Alien Queen from James Cameron’s action sci-fi sequel Aliens. This puppet was used for the model miniature shots during the scene in which Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) drops the beast into the Sulaco’s airlock, only to be dragged down with it.

    Conceived by director James Cameron and brought to life by Stan Winston Studios, the puppet is made of multiple components built around a metal armature for strength and was designed to be dropped to accommodate the shot. The head, crown and body of the puppet are made in dense urethane. The Queen’s teeth are cast in translucent resin to match the detail of the full-size creation. The arms are made of foam latex with urethane used for the tail, while the legs are made from latex and polyfoam. Due to their age, the outer limbs have deteriorated. Wire runs down the length of the tail and down the arms in order for the limbs to hang freely for the fall. The Queen’s carapace is finished in black with blue highlights to match the lighting of shots within the Sulaco hangar."

    Bits to Atoms: 3D Printing Quicksilver's Stereobelt

    Remember a few months ago when I spent time obsessing over Quicksilver’s audio gear from X-men: Days of Future Past? I thought that exploration was enough to get it out of my system--until my friend Hadley told me that she would be cosplaying as Quicksilver for New York Comic Con. Without missing a beat, I proclaimed that I had to build her an accurate Stereobelt prop. And so my obsession began anew.

    Prototype - designing multiple parts - more work for better results

    To recap: the Stereobelt, a little-known predecessor to the Walkman, predating Sony's portable cassette player by seven years and cobbled together from existing tech. Only one picture and a patent document of it can be found in all of the interwebs, yet the savvy production designers on Days of Future Past based Quicksilver’s unit on the Stereobelt, therefore giving him probable audio gear for 1973.

    Setting out to create my own Stereobelt, I ran into an immediate problem: a lack of good reference material. Other than the magazine cover of Quicksilver, which showed only one side of the belt, I was unable to find any good reference of the other side or back. At this point, the Blu-ray hadn’t been released and unlike every other Marvel movie, there was no “Making-of” book. So, I started work on what I had reference for, figuring that I may have to improvise the opposite side and revise it when I could get ahold of the movie. I didn’t have a lot of time to build the Stereobelt, so my original intention was to keep it simple and print it as one solid piece. The front and back caps would cause some print issues since they were both tapered and would have to use supports to print as one piece. The caps would also print better if the slopes were oriented upwards, so I decided to compromise and print the body and caps separately and assemble using simple square pins and glue.

    Solid body with caps connected via pins.

    Unlike the Hellboy Millenbaugh Motivator, for which I took meticulous measurements using Photoshop, I totally eyeballed the size and proportions of the Stereobelt on paper. Once it looked right, I started building in 3D and quickly realized another issue - if I built this as one piece, painting and finishing would be difficult since it had a lot of trim pieces. I also liked the idea of being able to print this out in two colors, assemble with no painting and still have it look good, so I decided to break it up into more pieces.

    Shooting Scale Models using Forced Perspective

    Joey Shanks of PBS Digital Studios' Shanks FX show shoots a short video using 1/24th and 1/15th scale models of the Back to the Future Delorean to recreate effects scenes from the film. Shanks gives some tips for using forced perspective to make his models appear as if they're driving on a real road, and explains why using a smaller model might be better than a larger one.

    How Much Longer Will Directors Keep Shooting Film?

    Ten years ago, Richard Crudo, the current president of the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers), went through a deep depression, and he’s certain most cinematographers went through the same. The reason? Film was coming to an end, and trying to stop celluloid’s demise would be like trying to hold back a tidal wave.

    Before becoming the president of the ASC, Crudo worked as a cinematographer for many years (American Pie). “I was born, raised and worked in the film era, and I still think it represents the gold standard of visual imaging,” Crudo says. “However, one must be realistic. Film is essentially dead. And to try and keep it going on some rarefied level is certainly admirable, but it really has no application to the rest of us. Clearly we live in a digital world and it’s going to be a digital future. You shoot film, where do you get it processed these days? So many labs have closed. And a laboratory can’t be a boutique operation and be expected to operate with any level of efficiency or perfection.”

    For a long time now, the writing’s been on the wall for cameramen and film fans alike. Once esteemed cinematographers like Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption), and Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters, The Deer Hunter), as well as directors like Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas), made the switch to digital, you knew it was all over. Then again, you also knew that as long as directors like Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, and JJ Abrams kept working, film would still be around, at least for a little while.

    In fact, this summer Nolan and Abrams helped keep Kodak in business. The CEO of Kodak, Jeff Clarke, said in a statement, “After extensive discussions with filmmakers, leading studios and others who recognize the unique artistic and archival qualities of film, we intend to continue production. Kodak thanks these industry leaders for their support and ingenuity in finding a way to extend the life of film.”

    Still, cinematographers today are long past the denial and anger phases of celluloid’s death, and they’re now in the acceptance phase. “The digital image that we see today is as bad as we’ll ever see, and it’s only getting better all the time,” Crudo says. “There’s a couple of developments around the corner that I think are going to cause it to exceed film. This coming from a person who would never dreamed he would be talking like this ten years ago. If I heard myself talking this way back then, I’d have chopped my own head off!"

    Roger Deakins, shooting Skyfall.

    “The scale has tipped 180 degrees from what it used to be,” Crudo continues. “Early on, you’d be very suspect about shooting digitally, and you wanted to shoot film because it was the established standard. Today I’d be very dodgy about shooting film vs shooting digital.” But it's not just about the manufacture and use of film stock that needs to be maintained. There's another side to the equation.

    NECA Toys' Alien Nostromo Spacesuit Figure

    One of the coolest things I saw at New York Comic Con was NECA Toys' new Nostromo Spacesuit figures from their Alien toy line. (It's the costume Adam wore this summer at Comic-Con!) We take the fragile sculpt and paint master for this figure out of the display case and scrutinize its details to examine what NECA's artists got right. This is a gorgeous piece!

    Please Welcome CreatureGeek to the Tested Family!

    Just a brief note to let you guys know that we're stoked to announce that we're hosting a brand new podcast on Tested. The show is called CreatureGeek, and it features Frank Ippolito (who you know from many Tested features) and Len Peralta (from the Geek a Week podcast and tons of other things) discussing creature effects, monster makeup, and everything in between. Expect the perspective of a pro makeup artist (that's Frank) and a well-informed fan (that's Len). They've got a roster of incredible guests in the SFX world scheduled to stop by Frank's shop to chat, and I'm really excited to have them on Tested. I hope you guys will give them a warm welcome. If you'd like to know more, you can post in the comment thread, or reach out to them on Twitter.

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    Episode #1 - Pilot
    It's the very first episode of CreatureGeek - the SFX Makeup podcast from a fan and pro perspective. Len Peralta (the fan) and Frank Ippolito (the pro) talk about their backgrounds, growing up as kids in Cleveland and loving monster flicks and also share some stories about the late Dick Smith.
    00:00:00 / 40:24
    The Great Martian War of 1913

    Here's something you never learned in the history books: the Martian War that engulfed the world in conflict from 1913 to 1917. But it's something that you will find on the History Channel (Canada). For the show "Impossible Factual," UK-based Plazma Design produced these three and a half minutes of footage documenting the fictional war, using a combination of archival war footage and CG. The designs of the Martian invaders' mecha is pretty great--you have the iconic hulking tripods, walking spiders, and even "Lice" tanks that harvest the spoils of steampunk war. Come to think of it, I'd be totally down for an "Alternate History" channel on cable TV. Make it happen, hollywood executives!