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The Best of Tested 2012: May-June

By Norman Chan

This year in review, part two.

The first two months of the new site were filled with fun trips and interesting experiments in content, but we were just getting started. The next two months were absolutely insane. Looking back at the features and videos we posted in May and June, I don't know how we managed to cram everything in and still have time to test new hardware and record podcasts. May included a packed weekend at the Bay Area Maker Faire, an incredible trip to Phil Tippet Studio, and also marked the beginning of our visits to Adam's workshop.

If you weren't hanging out with us during those months, spend the day catching up on our awesome adventures.

Exploring the Aesthetics of NASA's Iconic Space Suit Design

We were one of the first places to cover Felix Baumgartner's supersonic freefall while it was in its planning stages, and Wes and I came up with the idea to explore the design of NASA spacesuits. Wes reached out to the David Clark company, which has been making pressure suits for over 60 years, to learn about space suit construction and to get a sense of what the next generation of space suits may look like.

Tested Visits the Reed Research Reactor

As Will often points out, standing on top of a nuclear reactor (while it's running!) probably tops of the list of things we never could have imagined we'd be doing with Tested when we relaunched the site. Our trip to the Reed Research Reactor just outside of Portland introduced us some of the most interesting people we've ever met: students who spend their free time operating a nuclear reactor in the name of science.

Precision Gear Porn: Why Mechanical Wrist Watches are so Cool (and Pricey)

Wes's investigation into the world of high-end mechanical watches was one of Tested's first forays into the minds of obsessives and their high-priced hobbies. In typical Fenlon fashion, Wes brought a unique perspective to this story with quotes from William Gibson.

Inside Adam Savage's Cave: The Zorg Industies ZF-1

Ah, the Man Cave. To be honest, we didn't know what to expect when we lugged our camera gear to Adam's workshop that first Saturday morning. I later described it as walking from an nondescript San Francisco street right into Narnia--a place I didn't want to ever leave. Our first Cave video with Adam was about his 13-year project building the Zorg ZF-1 from The Fifth Element, a prop both Adam and I had held for the first time at last year's Comic-Con.

16-bit Time Capsule: SNES Emulation and Software Preservation

Video games? We like those too. For this feature, Wes interviewed the developer of the Super Nintendo emulator bsnes about the technical challenges of emulating the decades-old console with modern computer hardware (not as easy as it sounds) and why game emulators are an important part of the software preservation movement. Easily one of my favorite Tested stories from this past year.

Tested Goes to Maker Faire Bay Area 2012

This was our most important event of the year, and we made the most out of it. Will even spent several weeks building a third-person camera rig to wear at the event. We started off with a great recap video:

Adam gave a memorable keynote speech about the maker movement:

And we interviewed some awesome makers to talk about their projects:

The Wall-E Builder's Club

Warhammer 40k Space Marine Armor

And perhaps the most impressive project we saw, the Viper Full-Motion Flight Simulator

Wes later followed up with Team Viper and wrote about how these young makers wired their simulator together.

Inside Adam Savage's Cave: Rasputin's Mecha Gove from Hellboy

For our second visit to Adam's cave, Will chatted with Adam about his friendship with director Guillermo del Toro and the task of recreating a prop that's only seen in Hellboy for a few minutes. We'll be checking up on the progress of this project in the coming year.

The Science of Tintype Photography

This video explains where and how we shot those big Tintype portraits we have hanging behind our set. PhotoboothSF is one of the first photo studios reviving the art of Tintype photography (there are quite a few these days), and portrait photographer Michael Schindler was gracious enough to walk us through the process and take our photos too!

Still Life, Still Death: Where Stop Motion Animation Models Go to Rest

Stop-motion animation is a fascinating craft, and we've had a few features on Tested explore the topic. It's a painstaking process that's both very hands-on and also utilizes some very cool modern tools (we'll have more on modern stop-motion software on the site soon). One of its more interesting facets is the creation of the models used for filming--Wes and I saw some at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, which led to the formulation of this feature. Wes spoke to an animator who worked on 2009's Fantastic Mr. Fox and a stop-motion historian to learn just where these handcrafted puppets go after a production is finished.

Inside Adam Savage's Cave: Tyrannosaurus Rex Skull

Funny story behind this video. Adam mentions that he thinks that this T-Rex skull was cast from a real skeleton that's owned by Microsoft founder Paul Allen. Turns out he was wrong, as we discovered firsthand from the true owner of the skeleton--Modernist Cuisine's Nathan Myhrvold.

Tested Visits Phil Tippett Studio

My favorite trip we went on this year. I had actually been to Tippett Studio several years before while on assignment at Maximum PC, but it came to mind again when Wes and I saw Phil Tippett talk at a career retrospective in Berkeley last fall. It was there that we learned about Mad God, Tippett's pet project that he revived and funded with Kickstarter, which made a great opportunity to reach out and help him spread the word. Tippett has a jaw-dropping collection of props and maquettes littering his offices, including the original models for the ED209 and Cain robots from Robocop. We have to find a reason to go back again.

Inside Adam Savage's Cave: Metal Lathe, Rocketeer Jet Pack, Indiana Jones Bullwhip

Our next few videos from Adam's Cave spotlighted a mix of old projects, ongoing ones, and also tools from around his workshop. Each object has its own compelling backstory, and we used these videos as a way to introduce you guys to concepts like prop weathering and machining.

Thieves, Cobblers, and Fan Edits: The 50-Year Odyssey of an Animated Masterpiece

Wes petitioned to write this story--the little-known tragedy of master animator Richard Williams' magnum opus and the dream of one fan to restore it to its original ambition. Like many stories of creative obsession, this saga was filled with many depressing downturns and uplifting twists, making for a thrilling tale that I'm glad Wes had the chance to tell. It's a wonderful read.