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    Tested Builds: Japanese Papercraft, Part 3

    While Will and Norm are at Comic-Con this week, the build of the Japanese papercraft model continues! Progress is made to the foundation of the chateau, but the pace needs to quicken if the project is going to finish by week's end. Just look at how many tiny pieces have to be cut out and individually glued! To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here. Post your comments and questions about the build below!

    Hands-On with Nvidia's Shield Tablet

    Nvidia's first Shield was a dedicated gaming handheld, but its new model is a high-end tablet with gaming accessories. We spend a little time with Nvidia's new Android gaming tablet, compare it to the original Shield portable, and give our thoughts on this device's appeal to PC and mobile gamers.

    Tested Builds: Japanese Papercraft, Part 2

    Will and Norm continue to build the Porco Rosso Japanese papercraft kit, and the details of the structure they're constructing being to take shape! We only got through one page of the instructions in the first episode, so this next one is extra long at over an hour to catch up and keep page. To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

    Tested Builds: Japanese Papercraft, Part 1

    The month non-stop of Tested Builds continues! This week, we embark on a whole new kind of project: an intricate Japanese papercraft scale model from a classic animated film. It's an ambitious model kit that neither of us have attempted before, so join us for the fun! To watch, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 5

    Our build of the Printrbot Simple 3D printer is finally complete! Time to calibrate it and set it up for a first print. Will and Norm go over the software, load up a model, cross fingers, and test the new printer! Thanks for joining us this week through our build, and hope you learned something about 3D printers along the way. (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 4

    Our build of the PrintrBot Simple Metal 3D printer is almost complete! After some unexpected setbacks, we continue piecing together the Z-axis of the printer, attach all the components of the plastic extruder, and get all of our wiring done. It's really coming together! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Animating Robocop 2's Cain Robot with Phil Tippett

    One of science fiction film's most memorable and menacing creatures is the Cain cyborg from Robocop 2. Cain was brought to life with a full-size robot prop and several intricately machined stop-motion puppets, all which have survived and live at Tippett Studio. We get up close with these iconic props and chat with legendary special effects animator Phil Tippett about the process of designing and animating Cain.

    Alternative Universe Movies: John Boorman's Lord of the Rings

    John Boorman is the director of such masterpieces as Point Blank, Hell in the Pacific, Deliverance, Excalibur, and more. He also almost directed Lord of the Rings, and to think what he could have done with the classic Tolkien tale absolutely boggles the mind. At that point, there was no way a major studio would have backed three movies that told the whole story. It was a miracle New Line Cinema went ahead with three movies when Peter Jackson tackled the trilogy decades later. Still, with a brave and experimental filmmaker like Boorman, you get the feeling it could have been a hell of a movie if he had the opportunity to make it.

    Boorman wrote a bit about his opportunity to direct Lord of the Rings in his autobiography, Adventures of a Suburban Boy. Boorman had just made Leo the Last for United Artists, and David Picker, who was then the head of the studio, approached the director about potentially adapting the Tolkien epic. The first problem was, you guessed it, trying to cram the entire story into one movie. “To compress the three volumes into a three-hour movie was a hugely ambitious undertaking,” Boorman wrote. “But I was grateful to have the chance to try. I was interested in the central metaphor, that the One Ring is of such power that it corrupts whoever possesses it.”

    To help him, Boorman hooked up with Rospo Pallenberg, an Italian architect living in New York who wanted to be a screenwriter. Pallenberg first became aware of Boorman’s work when one night he had an argument with his wife, and walked out into the rain in a huff. Seeking shelter, Pallenberg ducked into a movie theater, which was playing Point Blank, Boorman’s classic crime thriller starring Lee Marvin. Pallenberg loved the film so much, he sat through it twice that night.

    Eventually Pallenberg was introduced to Boorman, who was in New York staying at the Sherry Netherland, having a meeting in his suite about Leo the Last. After the meeting, Boorman took Pallenberg into the suite’s closet, turned on the light, and thrust the three Lord of the Rings books at him. “Do you know them?,” Boorman asked. “Maybe we can write a screenplay together.”

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 3

    In part three of our PrintrBot Simple 3D printer build, we reach a few steps that are deceptively complex. We also use this time to review the steps taken so far, and find some mistakes that need to be fixed before we can continue. No disassemble! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Android Auto vs. iOS CarPlay: How Your Car Will Get Smarter

    Google's announcement of Android Auto at the recent Google I/O conference should surprise exactly no one. Apple is gearing up for its own in-car infotainment service later this year called CarPlay. It's long past the time when Google would hang back and see how Apple's approach to a new market worked out -- Android Auto is going head-to-head with CarPlay later this year.

    Both companies want their mobile platform with you all the time, but how are they going to convince people to embrace connected cars?

    Touchscreens separated at birth

    If there is something surprising about Apple and Google's move into in-car entertainment, it's the overall similarity of the approach. The implementations don't rely on hardware inside the car to do any of the thinking -- the smarts are all packed into your phone so you can upgrade your apps and features independent of the car. This circumvents one of the long-time weaknesses of pricey in-car infotainment.

    What good is that fancy touchscreen if Apple changes its connector and makes your whole system obsolete? Oh, your car only works with USB mass storage devices? Sorry Android doesn't do that anymore. Since your phone's mobile data connection is used for the dash system, you also won't have to worry about getting yet another data plan for your car, which I'm sure is a sad turn of events for Verizon executives.

    When Apple announced CarPlay, it sounded at first like you'd have to get a new car to have CarPlay-compatible setup, but thankfully component makers like Pioneer have stepped up to develop aftermarket decks that will support Apple's platform. Google announced several car audio companies right from the start including Alpine, Pioneer, and JVC. This is a technology segment that has seen decline in recent years as people simply made do with smartphones tethered to inexpensive decks and stock audio systems via Bluetooth or even an audio cable. CarPlay and Android Auto are an opportunity to make aftermarket decks interesting again. This is just another thing Android and iOS in the car have in common.

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 2

    The build of the PrintrBot Simple Metal 3D printer continues! In this second episode, Will and Norm wade through photo-instructions for this low-cost 3D printer, working up from the build platform to the Z-axis and plastic extruder. Along the way, we explain the purpose of each component. Follow along in our 3D printer building adventure! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 1

    We're testing a new video series this month: Tested Builds. Through the rest of July and first half of August, Will and Norm work together to build four awesome maker kits, filming the whole process and releasing a new episode every day on Tested. The first project is a Printrbot Simple, a relatively low-cost 3D printer. We're curious about what kind of prints you can get from a $540 printer today, and how easy an entry-level 3D printer is to set up and maintain. Follow along and post your thoughts about build projects in the comments below! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    How To Walk Like an Ape (for Performance Capture)

    For the new movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, motion-performance actors went through some schooling to teach them to walk like quadrupeds. We chatted with Apes' movement choreographer Terry Notary about how to act and move like an ape, and take a hands-on lesson!

    The Special Effects of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    "We actually call it performance capture." That's how Matt Reeves, director of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, quickly corrected me when I asked him a question about the state of motion capture technology. This was two weeks ago, at the press junket for the new film. Reeves, along with the film's actors and visual effects supervisors, fielded questions for an hour from a packed hotel suite of entertainment reporters. It was the first junket for a big hollywood film that we've been invited to, and the experience was a little surreal. It felt a lot of like a Comic-Con panel, but for just 30 people instead of 3,000. And we had all seen the movie at an early screening the night before (it's really good). And with that opportunity to speak directly to the filmmakers, I wanted to learn about the process of filming a movie on location with the latest in motion performance capture technology. Unlike some films that use performance capture with primarily green screened sets (think Avatar), Reeves chose to build out many of the film's locations as actual physical sets, like the massive ape village, for the actors--both for human and ape characters--to interact in. And the computer generated characters were maybe the best I've ever seen in a live action movie. At this junket, I was able to ask a few of these technical questions to Reeves, actor Andy Serkis, and the film's Visual Effects Supervisors Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon. Here's what they had to say.

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    Tested: Matt, you've talked about how directing this movie differs from directing one without performance capture, without a lot of CG, and how that required you to shoot scenes many times over. Can you go over that process?

    Director Matt Reeves: My biggest fear, having never done this [kind of movie] before, and being such an admirer of Andy’s--specifically being affected so deeply by his performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes--was “How was that done?” I didn’t really understand [the process]. As much as I understood the technical side from the outside, I had this fear that somehow the technology would get in the way with my interaction with Andy. Because there would be this technology between us.

    So then, I looked at all the footage, and what I saw was Andy, working with the other actors, and he’s amazing. The trick to what gives Caesar such soul is that Andy has soul. So that part of it was immediately demystified. I was very happy to see that. The hard part comes after that [inital filming].

    So [first], I’m working with Andy, we’re talking through a scene, and then he does this beautiful scene with the actors. Then we’ve got that shot in reference. And then we’ve got to shoot that shot again. Sometimes, when there aren’t humans in [the scene], we have to shoot it with no one in the shot. The camera operator has to try to reproduce what he did when he was trying to follow Andy, including the sometimes surprising moves that he would make. And other times, I would have to get the humans, who had just played a very beautiful scene with Andy, to play the scene by themselves. Because those shots, were then used to put Andy, [rendered] as Caesar, into the scenes.

    So the shots where the actors have had that beautiful connection with Andy, often were not the shots that were going to be used [in the final film], so I had to let them know “Your performance is still not in the movie yet. We have to get it right now--you have to remember what Andy did. And Andy, then, would get on a microphone, and try to talk the other actors through, the beats they’d just experienced together. It was a very unusual process.

    Building a Custom Computer Desk, Part 4

    After a month of building, Will's almost done with his custom computer desk project! In this episode, Will finishes welding the legs together, and preps the top of the desk for mounting to the frame. It's all coming together, with lessons and tips learned from makers following along with the project. (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    How the Original Star Wars Comics Saved Marvel

    Back in January, Lucasfilm announced that the Star Wars comics were heading back to Marvel, after being published by Dark Horse, who had been putting out Star Wars comics series since 1991. This wasn’t a surprise because Marvel and Lucasfilm are now both under the Disney umbrella, and Star Wars comics actually debuted at Marvel way back in 1977. In a sense, it's returning home.

    Some have credited the Star Wars comics for keeping Marvel in business back in the ‘70’s, and it also became part of the film’s enormous merchandising bonanza when the saga became a blockbuster. Before all that, however, the movie--and the comic series--were a tough sell.

    Roy Thomas, the former editor in chief of Marvel, remembered first meeting George Lucas and the film’s publicist Charles Lippincott, in early 1975. “They were eager for any kind of publicity they could get,” Thomas recalls. “I don’t think there was exactly any media blitz in the works from 20th Century Fox. You’d think there would be, but it wasn’t advertised much. I don’t remember much about the conversation except they talked about it being a sequence of movies, and it was called The Star Wars, it still had the word ‘The’ attached to it.”

    Lucas and Lippincott had already approached Stan Lee about a Star Wars comic and were turned down, so they went to Thomas to see if they could get something set up. In early 1976, they came to Thomas again, armed with the Ralph McQuarrie production sketches for the movie. “They started showing me the sketches, Charlie Lippincott flipped each one over, and he told me the story. It wasn’t likely I was going to be swayed because science fiction hadn’t sold very well in comics, and Marvel hadn’t really done movie adaptations that much.”

    Still, as Lippincott told the story of Star Wars, and flipped through the illustrations, Thomas’s head started spinning. “It was the first time I was hearing names like R2-D2, C-3PO, Obi-Wan, Planet Tatooine…Then they flipped over to the drawing of the Cantina sequence, and I said ‘I’ll do it.’”

    As Thomas recalled, Stan Lee changed his mind when he learned Alec Guinness would be in the film. Marvel decided to do a six-issue adaption, and Lucas and Lippincott were hoping now-veteran artist Howard Chaykin would illustrate the comic.

    Bits to Atoms: 3D Printing Rubber for Octopod Tentacles

    Consider this scenario: while cleaning out your parents’ basement you find your G1 Optimus Prime Transformer (in the original box, natch) only to discover the rubber tires have dry-rotted and fallen apart. Noooooo! What can you do!? Have no fear, the technology to restore Optimus to his former glory is now available in the form of 3D printing: simply print some new tires out of rubber!

    My first encounter with modern 3D printing was at the 2010 World Maker Faire in New York. There, I saw a lot of RepRap-based printers and MakerBot introduced their second machine, the Thing-o-matic. All of these printers used ABS or PLA plastic filament. Aftermarket modifications were soon introduced that allowed you to extrude (print) other materials, like frosting, peanut butter, and chocolate or any other gooey, non-food material--that was awesome. Later, I was introduced to the high-end machines that printed with plaster or plastic resins and even metal. But the material that really took me by surprise was rubber. To my mind that just didn’t seem possible--could printed parts really bend and stretch and be as resilient as real rubber? Online printing service Shapeways uses EOS printers that can print in an elasto plastic material that is translucent and very flexible but still pretty stiff--not what I’d call truly rubbery.

    Flexible shoe printed with Shapeways’ Elasto Plastic. CREDIT: Alan Hudson

    The EOS material is very nice, but as far as I know the only 3D printer that will do a true rubber-like material is the Stratasys Objet Connex line of machines. I was very lucky to have access to one of these at the NYU Advanced Media Studio. At the time, I was preparing to do my thesis project and was waffling between ideas, one of which was the Octopod that ended up being my Inventern submission. A deciding factor for building the Octopod was the Connex500 printer the AMS lab had just purchased which could print in multi-materials, including rubber which would be perfect for dynamic tentacles. Here's what I learned about printing in rubber for that project.

    Building a Custom Computer Desk, Part 3

    On this week's episode, Will continues working on the steel legs for his custom computer desk. He makes more refined cuts to the steel tubing that will make up the legs, and begins welding them together! It's an honest day's work of building and learning from practice. (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    The Science and Mysteries of Booze

    We sit down with Adam Rogers, author of the book Proof: The Science of Booze, to discuss the what modern science and ancient history have to teach us about alcohol and humanity's complicated relationship with it. Grab a refreshing beverage and join us for a spirited conversation about society's favorite poison.

    Awesome Jobs: Meet Martin Nweeia, Narwhal Expert (and Dentist!)

    Martin Nweeia knows more about narwhals than almost anyone in the world. More specifically, he’s probably the world’s foremost expert on narwhal tusks. But Nweeia is only sort-of a marine mammal biologist. He’s actually a practicing dentist and a clinical instructor at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. This guy knows from teeth. So, while it might seem weird that he studies narwhals, if you think about it, there’s some sense to his in-depth knowledge of these whales’ toothy protuberances. We chatted with Nweeia about why the narwhal tusk is one of the weirdest teeth in the world and what it’s like to wade into the arctic waters of Canada’s Northwest Territories with Inuit guides to get a closer look at the real-life unicorn of the sea.

    What exactly is a narwhal?

    It’s an arctic whale with an extraordinary tooth.

    So, maybe it’s not so strange that you’re a dentist studying a whale...

    For everybody else it’s unusual. For me it’s OK. At the heart of things I’m a curious kid. As I went through my dental education I was equally fascinated by people. I had a very strong interest in anthropology that went parallel with my interest in science. These two fields would intersect. For a long time I was interested in dental anthropology, but I happened on the narwhal because I used to give talks and give examples of how teeth would express themselves in nature.

    The narwhal seemed like a good example of an unusual tooth. But it didn’t make sense to me. And the more I read about it the less sense it made.

    Why doesn’t it make sense?

    This is a whale that eats pretty big fish and when you look inside its mouth it has no teeth. If i’m eating large fish, that might require chewing and biting, why give up all those teeth and put all of the energy into growing one giant tusk?

    But there are also lots of the little things that don’t make sense. When you think of teeth, on both sides of a mammal's bite you’d expect them to be the same size and have a mirror image morphology or shape. In narwhals it couldn’t be more opposite. It doesn’t even fall within any parameter of any creature ever known on the planet.

    If you look at the narwhal’s, its tusk comes out of the left side. When you see photos of them, they angle their body so the tusk appears straight in alignment with the horizontal axis. But if you look at them still, clearly the tusk is coming from the left side. The tooth on the right side often stays embedded in the skull.

    You’ve got a tooth on one side that’s between a foot and a foot and a half and on the other side it’s 9 feet. Even in the rare instance when the narwhal has two tusks, the right is usually less in length from the left. The erupted tusk is on the left side or on both sides, or none. Never on the right by itself.