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    Building the Star Wars Rancor Costume, Part 4

    In the fourth part of our Rancor costume build, Frank Ippolito walks us through the mold and casting process of the large Rancor head sculpt. We discuss ways to add texture and "skin" to the foam suit, and start painting the creature just one week before Comic-Con! Thanks for following along with the build--we'll be back next time with a debriefing of how the Rancor suit turned out. (Thanks to Model-Space.com for sponsoring this project!)

    How Lidar is Used in Visual Effects

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 3/10/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Making movies has always been about data capture. When the Lumière brothers first pointed their primitive camera equipment at a steam locomotive in 1895 to record Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, what were they doing if not capturing data? In the 1927 movie The Jazz Singer – the first full-length feature to use synchronised sound – when Al Jolson informed an eager crowd, "You ain't heard nothing' yet!", what was the Warner Bros. microphone doing? You guessed it: capturing data.

    Nowadays, you can't cross a movie set without tripping over any one of a dozen pieces of data capture equipment. Chances are you'll even bump into someone with the job title of "data wrangler", whose job it is to manage the gigabytes of information pouring out of the various pieces of digital recording equipment.

    And in the dead of night, if you're very lucky, you may even spy that most elusive of data capture specialists: the lidar operator.

    Lidar has been around long enough to become commonplace. If you read behind-the-scenes articles about film production, you'll probably know that lidar scanners are regularly used to make 3D digital models of sets or locations. The word has even become a verb, as in, "We lidared the castle exterior." Like all the other forms of data capture, lidar is everywhere.

    But what exactly is lidar? What does the word stand for, and how do those scanners work? And just how tough is it to scan a movie set when there's a film crew swarming all over it?

    To answer these questions and more, I spoke to Ron Bedard from Industrial Pixel, a Canadian-based company, with incorporated offices in the USA, which offers lidar, cyberscanning, HDR and survey services to the motion picture and television industries.

    Dissecting the Technology of 'The Martian': Air

    This is the second in a series of articles that examine the real-life systems aboard the International Space Station (ISS) which inspired the fictional equipment found in Andy Weir's novel (and soon-to-be-released movie) The Martian. In the first installment, we looked at the many ways in which water is conserved and recycled. This time around, we will investigate the components that process air to make the ISS both habitable and comfortable for the humans inside.

    The Basics

    Before getting into too much detail about the air systems on the ISS, a brief overview of the general layout is probably warranted. As with the water systems, many of the US-made air management components on the ISS have foreign counterparts. For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus only on the US equipment.

    The habitable areas of the ISS are pressurized modules that are typically cylindrical in shape. Three node sections (named Unity, Harmony, and Tranquility) serve as the crossroads for all of the modules No matter which direction you choose to exit a node, your path will soon reach a dead end in some module.

    On Earth we have the luxury of myriad natural processes that create air currents on a local and global scale. This helps to ensure that the same patch of air never lingers over any location for very long. In the manmade ecosystem of the ISS, however, such air flow does not occur naturally. The Intermodule Ventilation system (IMV) compensates by using fans to force airflow between the modules. Without it, the air would stagnate in those dead ends. Well, everywhere, actually.

    The inter-module airflow is extremely important because the life support systems that manage the composition of the air are not present in every module. In fact, most of the US-managed life support systems are located in Tranquility. IMV mixes and moves the atmosphere to ensure that the air quality in every module is homogeneous--or nearly so.

    Tested Visits Prop Store's Original Movie Prop Collection

    We've seen beautiful pieces of original movie props, costumes, and production materials at conventions like Comic-Con and Star Wars Celebration, but we finally get to visit Prop Store's LA warehouse where it stores much of its collection. Brandon Alinger gives us a tour and tells us the story of several of his favorite pieces, including the Nostromo model, a Batmobile, and Back to the Future II shoes. Place a comment below with your favorite item from the upcoming live auction for a chance to win one of five auction catalogs!

    Building the Star Wars Rancor Costume, Part 3

    For the third part of our Rancor suit walkthrough, Frank shows us how he sculpted the incredibly detailed Rancor head. This clay sculpture weighed 300 pounds, and was based on Phil Tippett's original puppet sculpture for Return of the Jedi. Plus, we talk about the electronics solution that allows Frank to look around while wearing the suit! (Thanks to Model-Space.com for sponsoring this project!)

    Hands-On: Real Virtuality Multiplayer VR Demo

    Most virtual reality demos we've tried have been single-player experiences, but we get a sense of the potential of multiplayer in VR with the Real Virtuality platform. Developed by motion-capture firm ArtAnim, Real Virtuality allows for free (and wireless) movement in a large physical space, with the ability to interact with tracked objects and other participants. We chat with its creators to hear what they've learned from testing it.

    An Exploration of Vertical Cinema

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 4/7/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Widescreen! Cinemascope! Panavision! Since the early days of cinema, movie screens have been getting steadily wider. From the squat 4:3 aspect ratio of early 20th century silent movies, through the explosion of sprawling widescreen film formats that began in the 1950s, to today's ever-expanding domestic TV screens, the trend is clear: bigger is better … but only if you stretch things in the horizontal dimension.

    But what happens if you turn this thinking on its head? Or rather, on its side?

    That's the question posed by Vertical Cinema, a Sonic Acts art project comprising ten specially commissioned films made by experimental filmmakers and audiovisual artists. Vertical Cinema presentations have been held since 2013 at locations across Europe and in the USA, with the films frequently being projected in churches. The movies are projected using a custom-built 35mm film projector in vertical Cinemascope. No landscape images here. In Vertical Cinema, everything is portrait.

    Here's what Vertical Cinema has to say about this unusual twist on traditional cinematic conventions:

    For the Vertical Cinema project, we "abandoned" traditional cinema formats, opting instead for cinematic experiments that are designed for projection in a tall, narrow space. It is not an invitation to leave cinemas – which have been radically transformed over the past decade according to the diktat of the commercial film market – but a provocation to expand the image onto a new axis. This project re-thinks the actual projection space and returns it to the filmmakers. It proposes a future for filmmaking rather than a pessimistic debate over the alleged death of film.

    With its mission to challenge established conventions, Vertical Cinema wears its experimental heart firmly on its sleeve. But what's to stop someone making a full-blown narrative feature film in this unusual vertical format? On the face of it, the challenges seem considerable. The entire movie industry is built around the landscape image. Even if you could get such a film made at a technical level, would the vertical format clip your storytelling wings? And would audiences actually want to see it?

    To answer these questions and more, Cinefex spoke with six filmmakers and visual effects experts: Douglas Trumbull (filmmaker and VFX innovator), Tim Webber (creative director and VFX supervisor, Framestore), Rajat Roy (global technical supervisor, Prime Focus World), Paul Mowbray (head of NSC Creative), Marc Weigert (president and VFX supervisor, Method Studios) and Charles Rose (CG supervisor, Tippett Studio).

    The Budget Android Revolution: Pros and Cons of Going Cheap

    Not that many years ago, buying an Android phone off-contract for $250 would assure you of a terrible experience. Buyer's remorse was almost inevitable, and the only way to avoid it was to spend two or three times more on a "proper" android phone. My, how times have changed. A new era of Android has dawned, and the price of solid mid-range devices has come down dramatically. It's not all roses, though.

    Let's take a look at what you gain and what you lose with these budget-friendly Android phones.

    The How and Why

    One of the primary reasons you can get a device like the Asus Zenfone 2, Alcatel Idol 3, or Moto G for well under $300 is that chipset makers have finally caught up to Android's software requirements. Mid-range SoCs like the Snapdragon 410, 615, and MediaTek Helio X10 have enough power to keep Android running smoothly in most instances. Most of these chipsets even support LTE. NAND flash and memory has come down in price dramatically as well.

    There has also been a shift at the top of the market that has sent some OEMs looking for a new angle. It's actually very difficult to make a $600 smartphone and turn a profit while competing with Samsung, LG, and the other big players. Even some notable names in Android have had trouble competing in the premium bracket as of late (see: HTC). So what's an OEM to do? Well, go cheap, sometimes with the help of hardware partners.

    There's an interesting dynamic playing out in the supply chain right now that has pushed hardware costs even lower than they might otherwise have been. Intel is looking to make a name in phones, and its latest generation Atom SoCs are actually quite good. Qualcomm is stumbling right now with the toasty Snapdragon 810, so Intel has partnered with OEMs like Asus to get its chips into budget phones quickly and cheaply. The price of a device like the Zenfone 2 might not have been as reasonable were it not for Intel's aggressive moves as of late.

    The "Movie Physics" of Back to the Future Part II

    One of the things we love about science fiction movies is the storyteller's take of futurism. Films set in the near future take on the challenge of imagining a world filled with technological and cultural changes, and yet are still recognizable and relatable to the viewer. Movies like Blade Runner, Minority Report, and A.I (hey, all based on Philip K. Dick works!) fast forward us in time to create a setting that can be used to reflect on the problems of the present, and adorn that setting with props and effects that signify "the future." Those gadgets in turn have inspired a generational of roboticists, computer interface designers, and even toy makers.

    With 2015 right around the corner, we wanted to take a look back at one of armchair futurtists' most beloved movies, Back to the Future Part II. With technologies like Google Glass, video-recording drones, and ubiquitous video conferencing software, it does seem like BTTF II was particularly prescient in its wacky vision of the future. So what's it like for a screenwriter to see elements from one of his movies coming true twenty-five years after its release? We talked to BTTF scribe Bob Gale about how he and director Robert Zemeckis went about predicting the future, how you can make an audience believe in time travel and hoverboards, and just exactly why Doc Brown infamously pronounced the word gigawatts 'jigawatts.'

    We first asked Gale if he was surprised that some of what was predicted in Back to the Future Part II has come to pass. "Well yeah, I kind of am," he says. "There's a lot of stuff we did a lot of research on, like using your thumb to make a money transaction, what the money would look like, that kind of stuff was all being theorized about back in the day. The video conferencing, there was a rudimentary form of video conferencing that that already existed back in 1989. So a lot of this stuff was me and Bob Zemeckis saying, 'Let's try to take these ideas to its logical conclusion.'

    "One thing that's kind of interesting, is it's like what came first, the chicken or the egg," Gale continues. "We know that people who saw the movie have thought, 'Is there a way to invent a hoverboard?' Then people are out there trying to figure that out. We did the tie-in with Nike to make the shoes, then they started thinking, 'Maybe we can [actually] make these things.' Some of what we predicted may be coming true because people who saw it in the movie were inspired and thought, 'Maybe there's a way to make it come true.' The guys at Mattel that worked on the hoverboard replica were excited about it, they wanted a hoverboard just like everyone else."

    How Fans Restored the Original Back to the Future DeLorean

    It's remarkable how much love fans still have for Back to the Future after 28 years. We're still waiting for October 21st, 2015, when we can ask where our 3D Jaws movie and hoverboards are. And even though we may have have flying cars or auto-lacing shoes, Back to the Future is not a dated relic from another era; it still holds up very well. And thanks to the efforts of producer Bob Gale and a talented group of car replica builders, Doc Brown's legendary DeLorean will continue to live on well past 2015.

    As Gale explains, it was director Bob Zemeckis's idea to make the car a DeLorean. "It was a solution to a production problem, which had to do with the time chamber. Doc Brown had to carry it around on the back of a pickup truck. In pre-production, Bob thought, How are we going to do this? There's a lot of logistics in moving this thing around, then he came in and said, 'Let's put it in the car, let's make it mobile, and that saves a lot of nuts and bolts stuff production wise.' John DeLorean was either on trial, or was about to go on trial for a cocaine sting. That put the DeLorean back in the public consciousness, because the company went out of business. Now it had this added notoriety of the cocaine bust, and that made it even hipper as an outlaw car."

    The car was also picked because its gullwing doors gave it a unique look, and DeLoreans are made out of stainless steel, which prevents them from rusting. "That clearly made it look futuristic to someone in the '50's."

    Gale says once they decided it would be a DeLorean, there was no second choice. One day, someone from Universal's product placement department came in and told Gale if they changed the car to a Mustang, Ford would pay them $75,000. Gale's response? "Doc Brown doesn't drive a fucking Mustang!" (This classic response has been printed up on t-shirts that you can buy at DeLorean car shows.)

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #13

    Happy Monday! For this week's Show and Tell, we have another LEGO Mystery Build! Follow along as Norm assembles this custom creation, and place your best guess as to what's being built in the comments below.

    Tested Mailbag: Blaster from the Past!

    Yay! A package from one of you guys has arrived at the office. Inside, we find a vintage toy space gun that may look familiar to long-time Tested viewers. It's something that will make it's way to Adam to add to his collection! Thanks so much to Zack for sending it our way!

    Ryan Nagata's Space Suit Replicas

    Adam isn't the only replica prop builder obsessed with spacesuits. At the recent Replica Prop Forum showcase, we met Ryan Nagata, a propmaker and independent director who collaborated with Adam on his Mercury suit, and made his own Apollo-era spacesuit as well. Every part of Ryan's suits is an original fabrication, and the suits are wearable!

    Studio Scale Star Wars TIE Bomber Replica

    At the recent Replica Prop Forum project showcase, we met visual effects modelmaker Jonathan Faber, who brought his scratch-built studio scale TIE Bomber. This model is an exacting replica of the filming miniature used in The Empire Strikes Back, including the greeblies sourced from WWII and rocket kits like the ones used by ILM's modelmakers. Plus, Jonathan shows us his newest project, a cross-section miniature!

    Dissecting the Technology of 'The Martian': Water

    Andy Weir's novel The Martian has struck a chord with an audience of readers that extends far beyond the traditional sci-fi demographic. I think that part of the book's broad popularity stems from the fact that Weir never leaps too far ahead of the current human condition. This makes his storyline approachable for readers who would normally dismiss the sci-fi genre as too fantastical, myself included.

    Much of what grounds the story is the technology that is referenced throughout. There are no Zenon alien zappers or antimatter toothbrushes. In fact, many of the systems found on Weir's imaginary Martian outpost are actually in use on the International Space Station (ISS) today. Weir sometimes extrapolates the capabilities of these systems into the future, but he invariably remains faithful to the science at their core.

    Water is a tremendously valuable commodity in space. The ISS contains numerous systems aimed at getting the most out of every drop.

    This is the first in a short series that will examine a few of these real-life space systems that are referenced in The Martian. The intent is not to compare any differences between the actual components and Weir's versions. What would be the point? Although he aimed for (and largely achieved) technical accuracy, Weir had creative license to write about death rays powered by peanut butter if he chose. So there's no point in splitting hairs. Rather, the goal here is simply to provide greater insight into the life-sustaining systems that that are referenced in the book and relied upon by astronauts and cosmonauts every day.

    Today, we'll discuss the use and recycling of water in manned space missions.

    2001: A Space Odyssey's Aries 1B Miniature

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 3/31/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Deadline Hollywood broke the news: Academy Museum Buys Rare '2001: A Space Odyssey' Model For $344,000. Fans were stunned. As any Stanley Kubrick aficionado will tell you, it has long been legend that all the spaceship miniatures from Kubrick's landmark science fiction film were destroyed after filming at the filmmaker's request, to prevent recycling in cheap imitations. Could this be the real McCoy?

    Before the facts were known, a small studio in El Segundo, California, became mecca for a pilgrimage of visual effects professionals who arrived to gaze in awe at the Aries 1B – the spherical trans-lunar spaceship from 2001: A Space Odyssey – that, miraculously, had been found after 47 years in obscurity.

    The miniature was up for auction and the curator, Premiere Props, welcomed guests to verify the find. Facebook images began appearing of spectators posing with the ship — Dennis Muren, Greg Jein, Matthew Gratzner, Ian Hunter, Shannon Gans, Dave Jones, Bruce Logan, Pat McClung, Harrison Ellenshaw, Peter Anderson, Bill Taylor, André Bustanoby, Gene Kozicki, Rob McFarlane, Ted Rae, Dan Winters, John Goodson and Kim Smith (and guest appearances, by phone, from Douglas Trumbull and Steve Gawley). The general consensus: the miniature was real.

    The AMPAS Museum of Motion Pictures eventually acquired the ship for a princely sum. Prior to finalizing the sale, event organizer Dan Levin allowed Visual Effects Society Archive Committee co-chair Gene Kozicki and VFX artist André Bustanoby to a make detailed photographic record of the ship; and Gene shared the experience with Cinefex:

    Jurassic Park Jeep Conversion Project

    Steve Huszar of the Replica Prop Forum is one of many Jurassic Park fans who've converted their Jeeps and Ford Explorers to look like vehicles from the first film. Steve's JP88 conversion project takes a Jeep YJ Wrangler and modifies it to look like the 1992 Sahara used in production. We learn about how the JP fan community works together keep all their car projects consistent and as screen accurate as possible.

    Back to the Future 2 Nike Air Mag Replicas

    Earlier this summer, we attended The RPF Prop Party and showcase, a gathering of replica prop builders in southern California to share their projects. One of those projects is a pair of Nike Air Mag shoes from Back to the Future Part II, created by RPF member Brad Fyfe. Brad shows us his shoe conversion project and a pair of official Air Mags that were auctioned off by Nike for charity. Still working on that power lacing!

    LEGO with Friends: Bonnie Burton, Part 1

    For this week's LEGO with Friends, we're joined by guest Bonnie Burton! Previously at LucasFilm, Bonnie has written several Star Wars craft books and is a regular contributor to CNET and Playboy.com. Together, we're going to assemble the massive Avengers Helicarrier set! Follow along with us by signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here! (The first episode is free for everyone, but the rest of the series will be for Premium Members.)