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    Behind the Scenes of the BattleBots Production

    The BattleBots season finale is tonight, and we were on location during the filming of the final match-ups. Here's what you didn't see on TV. We chat with some of the competitors after their matches, learn how they prepare and repair their bots, and stick around for the unaired grudge matches!

    The Anatomy of a Modern BattleBot

    What does it take to build a BattleBot, and what technology makes a good combat robot? We chat with BattleBots competitor Will Bales about his matches and examine the parts of his HyperShock robot. From chassis to circuitry to weapons systems, we run through each component to give you an idea of how these 250-pound machines work!

    FPV Quadcopter Racing at the 2015 Drone Nationals

    The California State Fair recently hosted the first ever Drone Nationals--a FPV quadcopter racing competition that brought together pilots from all around the world. After two days of races and freestyle stunt performances, we chat with the event's director and the competition's eventual winner about the developing sport of FPV aerial racing.

    Tested Mailbag: 1:220 Scale Models Kits

    Woot! This week's reader mailbag is super cool, and a callback to one of our week of build projects from last year. Ben Jean from Montreal designs small-scale models made of laser-cut wood and liner board. His care package included unassembled kits as well as completed versions, one of which is inspired by the upcoming game Firewatch!

    SDCC 2015: Chronicle Collectibles' Movie Prop Replicas

    We stop by the Chronicle Collectibles booth at Comic-Con to check out their upcoming maquettes and prop replicas from franchises like Terminator and Ghostbusters. We learn about new molding and casting techniques that allow for them to easily scale their models, as well as get our hands on a prototype Syd Mead-designed concept blaster from Blade Runner!

    Sideshow Collectibles at Comic-Con 2015

    We visit the Sideshow Collectibles booth at this year's Comic-Con to check out what new statues, figures, and other collectibles they have on display. Their Superman: Red Son figures stood out, as well as partner Hot Toys' ridiculous Star Wars vehicle prototypes. A full-sized Millennium Falcon cockpit for sixth-scale figures!

    The Macabre Movie Magic of Mario Bava

    This April, an opera was performed in L.A. to the sixties movie Hercules in the Haunted World. Yes, you usually don't equate a sword and sandal flick with opera, but this was no mere gladiator movie, it was directed by legendary Italian director Mario Bava. Primarily known for the horror classics Black Sunday, Black Sabbath (where the heavy metal band took their name), and Planet of the Vampires, Bava also worked in many different genres, and his movies were never run of the mill.

    Bava originally studied to be a painter, and fans of his work clearly noted his movies were a step above the usual grindhouse fare. These movies were the work of an artist, not a B-movie hack. Not to mention that Bava was a master at delivering clever special effects for practically nothing.

    Bava's fans include Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, and Tim Burton, among other top filmmakers. In his native homeland, Bava was also respected by the Italian masters Fellini, Visconti, and De Sica.

    As Scorsese once said in an interview, "I like Mario Bava's films very much. Hardly any story, just atmosphere with all that fog and ladies walking down corridors – a kind of Italian gothic. I would just put them on loops and have one going in one room in my house, one going on in another…creating a whole mood." (The Bava film Kill Baby Kill was a big influence on Scorsese, as well as Fellini, and both used Bava's metaphor of Satan appearing as young girl in The Last Temptation of Christ and Spirits of the Dead.)

    Photo Gallery: Collectibles, Cosplay, and 'Cinephile' at Comic-Con 2015

    Phiew, that sure was a Comic-Con. First of all, my apologies to everyone who's been waiting for a cosplay gallery this year. Between, hosting a party, three Adam Incognito walks, two new Tested projects (one of which we revealed today--The Rancor), and all of our other videos, I just didn't have the time on the floor last week to shoot enough photos for a proper gallery. Promise to make it up to you at Dragon*Con. But that doesn't mean I didn't take any photos. So in lieu of a full cosplay gallery, here's a selection of my photos showing you my SDCC 2015 experience. A mix of costumes, events, props, panels, and collectibles from Comic-Con, along with my commentary in the captions.

    Tested Presents The Rancor Project!

    We're extremely excited to reveal our big creature project at San Diego Comic-Con: The Rancor! Effects artist Frank Ippolito designed and built this incredibly-detailed foam costume in less than a month, based on references from an original test costume used for the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi production team. In the coming weeks, we'll show you how this Rancor was built, and teach you some of the processes Frank and his team used to make a wearable foam creature costume! (Thanks to Model-Space.com for supporting this project. Check out the Millennium Falcon model kit here.)

    Converting Avengers: Age of Ultron to Stereoscopic 3D

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 6/2/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    When booking your tickets for the latest summer blockbuster, you'll probably be faced with a choice: 2D or 3D? With Avengers: Age of Ultron, the question is boiled down to its most visceral form. Is it enough just to see Hulk smash? Or do I want to see Hulk smash in stereo!

    According to the latest MPAA report, Theatrical Marketing Statistics, nine out of the top ten box office hits in US/Canada in 2014 boasted a 3D theatrical release. The same year saw the global proportion of 3D digital screens increase to 51% (70% in the Asia Pacific region). Pundits continue to debate the pros and cons of 3D, but as long as the major studios continue to pump out big stereo movies, the desire will remain to make the 3D experience as punchy as possible.

    Satisfying this desire on Avengers: Age of Ultron were two stereo conversion facilities: Prime Focus World and Stereo-D. In total, Prime Focus World converted 830 shots for the movie, with production running for three months, and the number of team members peaking at 613 across their London, Mumbai and Vancouver offices.

    Cinefex spoke to Richard Baker, senior stereo supervisor at Prime Focus World, about the state of the art in stereo conversion, and about the company's work on Avengers: Age of Ultron.

    So how about Hulk? He's a big guy – does that make him a natural subject for 3D?

    The issue of Hulk's size was an interesting one. We obviously wanted to use the stereo to emphasize his scale, and the natural tendency would have been to pump him up in the stereo conversion. But this actually has the opposite effect, and tends to minimize scale. To increase the feeling that Hulk is much bigger than the other characters, we actually flattened him off a little, slightly reducing his internal depth and ensuring that he was never too separated from the background.

    Star Trek USS Enterprise Scale Replica from QmX

    Star Trek's Federation flagship never looked this good back in 1966! We chat with John Eblan, head of QmX's FX Cinema Arts model shop, about this interpretation of the original USS Enterprise 1701. John explains the design and build of this beautiful scale model starship, including the electronics work and "Aztec" hull plating pattern.

    Bits to Atoms: 3D Printing a Mercury Capsule Miniature

    Shortly before this past Christmas, I was contacted by Lauren Oliver, an extremely polite gentleman who had discovered my Buckaroo Banzai Jet Car on The Replica Prop Forum. He reached out to inquire if I would be interested in building a NASA Mercury space capsule for a short film he was writing and directing. I was most definitely interested.

    Lauren's short film, "T-Minus", is a fictional account of the 7th manned Mercury mission, which was cancelled in favor of moving on to the Gemini program. His plan was to shoot on 35mm film, using nothing but scale models and practical effects. My background is in film production--almost everything I ever shot was on film and I grew up in the 70's and 80's (the heyday of practical effects). This was my kind of project!

    For the film, Lauren intended to build a 1/24 scale Atlas rocket, including the launch gantry (more on this later) but needed the capsule and other parts made. My initial response was, "not to put myself out of a job, but can't you just use an existing model kit?"--I figured there must be a ton to choose from. There are, in fact; that was his original intention, but none were detailed enough and/or at the right scale.

    I have to confess, I know more about Star Wars ships than I do about our real-life NASA fleet and there are as many Mercury capsule versions as there are TIE-Fighter models. So, I was very pleased when Lauren presented me tons of reference photos, blueprints and detailed the differences between them all -- he knew his stuff. Interestingly enough, at the time he was not aware of Tested and all the space goodness that goes down here--but I made sure to fill him in. My job was to build the capsule, the escape tower (the red rocket assembly at top), and the adapter, which attached the whole thing to the Atlas rocket.

    Original Star Trek, Blade Runner, and Rocketeer Props

    At every Comic-Con, we love stopping by the Prop Store booth because they bring out rare movies props, costumes, and miniatures from their vast collection, and let us get up close with them! This year, we examine original Star Trek costumes and filming miniatures, Blade Runner and Fifth Element props, and some production prototypes never before seen by fans. Leeloo Dallas' actual Multipass!

    Photo Gallery: Adam Incognito with Astronaut Chris Hadfield

    Here are some photos I took of Adam and Commander Chris Hadfield prepping for their Comic-Con incognito walk, roaming the convention show floor, and randomly bumping into "The Martian" author Andy Weir! You can actually see the exact moment when Andy realizes that the two 2001: A Space Odyssey astronauts must be Adam and Chris!

    Comic-Con 2015 Show Floor Walking Tour (Single Long Take)

    If you've never been to San Diego Comic-Con, it's difficult to get a sense of just how massive and packed the convention floor really is. Using a stabilized camera on a handheld gimbal, we give you our walking tour of comic-con, shot in a single 20-minute long take! We wade through the crowd to show you how the convention is laid out, step into a few of our favorite booths, and run into a few friends!

    Building Anovos' Star Wars Shadowtrooper Kit (Part 1)

    At Comic-Con 2015, we met up with Anovos, the makers of officially licensed Star Wars costumes and helmets. Among completed costumes, they're releasing a D-I-Y kit for Stormtrooper armor (which includes a finished helmet). We get our hands on an early test Shadowtrooper kit from Anovos, and walk through the process of cleaning up the vacu-formed pieces with effects artist Frank Ippolito!

    Tested Goes to Comic-Con 2015!

    We're down in San Diego all week for Comic-Con International! As the doors to the massive convention hall open on preview night, Norm and Will walk through the show floor to check out some of the major booth setups. Awesome collectibles, costumes, props, and LEGO are on display. We'll be filming interviews and project reveals, so stay tuned on Tested for more from SDCC!

    Frankenstein’s Spawn: Film's Love for Man-Made Monsters

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 6/30/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    When Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was first published in 1818, few people could have predicted how deeply its central theme of "man creates monster, monster runs amok" would embed itself into popular culture…especially the movies.

    Whether it's James Whale's presentation of Frankenstein in 1931, or Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park in 1993, filmmakers have delighted in telling stories about scientists doggedly seeking that elusive "Eureka!" moment … only to be undone by their own misguided ambitions.

    In fact, the only thing filmmakers love more than reflecting on human hubris is reaching that part of the movie where they actually get to unleash the monsters!

    At Fox Studios Baja, in Mexico, "Deep Blue Sea" director Renny Harlin and special effects supervisor Walt Conti attend to one of the production's three full-size mechanical sharks.

    The familiar Frankenstein conceit is back on our screens this summer, as the dinosaurs ofJurassic World run riot through the lush landscapes of Isla Nublar. Thanks to the first three Jurassic films, we're already familiar with the idea of genetically engineered velociraptors, but when it comes to man-made monsters, prehistoric super-critters are just the tip of the iceberg.

    In Renny Harlin's Deep Blue Sea, the remote ocean base of Aquatica is home to three hyper-intelligent – and super-violent – mako sharks. The product of a botched attempt to cure Alzheimer's disease, this toothsome trio – a bubbly blend of both mechanical and digital sharks – chew their way through the majority of the film's cast before expiring in suitably explosive fashion.

    NASA’s Super Guppy–Awkward, Old, and Irreplaceable

    When it comes to airplanes, I have a soft spot for the rare and unusual. If an airplane looks like it shouldn't even be capable of flight…all the better. NASA's Super Guppy cargo plane meets all of those qualifications. I've seen it fly many times, and I was even able to explore its interior once. Yet, it never fails to leave me scratching my head in slack jawed bewilderment. It is a tremendously unique aircraft with an equally unique history.

    Flight – Lacking power-boosted controls, the Super Guppy requires a lot of pilot muscle to fly. (NASA image)

    Genesis of the Super Guppy

    The Super Guppy did not emerge from a clean drawing board. It is actually a mishmash of parts from several airplanes, along with a few custom pieces holding it all together. Some of those parts are from WWII-vintage designs. Despite its "Frankenplane" structure and relative age, the Super Guppy continues to do things that no other airplane in NASA's fleet can do. Indeed, few aircraft anywhere in the world can match this bulbous machine's ability to haul oversized cargo.

    Before dissecting the makeup of NASA's current Super Guppy, it is worth reviewing the genealogy of aircraft that spawned it. As the story goes, aircraft salesman Lee Mansdorf and his friend, Jack Conroy conceived the "Guppy" idea in 1960 as an opportunity to provide logistical support to America's fledgling space program – even though NASA wasn't looking for help.

    The nose of NASA's Super Guppy swings open to allow loading into the cargo area. (NASA image)

    The manufacturers building spacecraft components were located all over the US. The only reasonable means to get these parts from one coast to the other was via ship travelling through the Panama Canal – an expensive and risky journey that could take weeks. Mansdorf and Conroy felt that air transport would be a much better method. Although there were airplanes capable of lifting the necessary weight, none were large enough to accommodate the girth of these loads. The industrious pair felt that they had a solution.

    Tested Builds: Millennium Falcon Studio Scale Replica, Part 3

    Will and Norm continue their build of the DeAgostini Millennium Falcon kit, a 1:1 replica of the studio model used for The Empire Strikes Back. At this stage, we're still building out the cockpit of the model, and examine some of the greeblies that will get attached to the exterior. Thanks to everyone for following along for these past few weeks of build. If you're not a member and want to support us, please consider signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here! Everyone who signs up this month gets this year's limited-edition poster designed by Adam!