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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Den Of Geek Compiles The Top 50 Movie Special Effects Shots

Jurassic Park (Image courtesy Aspect Ratio - A Cinema Blog)
By Andrew Liszewski

It’s that time of year when everyone is compiling their ‘Top Blankety Blanks of Blank’ lists, and if you’re a fan of movie special/visual effects, you’ll want to check out Den of Geek’s list of the Top 50 Movie Special Effects Shots. To keep the fighting in the comments to a minimum, Den of Geek laid down some ground rules for the list which only includes individual effects shots that have to be “exceptionally convincing”, “ground-breaking” or “an exemplary execution of an oft-used technique.”

Overall it’s a pretty solid list, though there are some odd exemptions. I’m no fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but there were a handful of shots created with Weta’s Massive software that were pretty impressive. And Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was the first time I was ever actually fooled by CGI, since I assumed at least part of his face was prosthetic makeup. But I do agree with their #1 choice, which is a shot from the T-Rex attack on the tour vehicles in Jurassic Park. For a film that’s over 15 years old and featured some of the first living, breathing CGI creatures, it’s amazing that the visual effects are still better than what’s seen in many summer blockbusters today.

[ Den of Geek - Top 50 movie special effects shots ]

The Games We Played – Hot Wheels (C64)

Hot Wheels (C64) (Images courtesy Lemon64.com)
By Andrew Liszewski

To be honest, I always preferred Johnny Lightning’s die-cast offerings over Hot Wheels when I was younger. Sure, they were a bit more expensive, but I felt the extra attention to detail was worth it. But the one thing that Johnny Lightning never had (to the best of my knowledge) was its own video game. Hot Wheels for the Commodore 64 was a slightly more obscure title, and like Nintendogs or GTA it provided a sandbox approach to gaming where there was really no defined goal. You spent your time driving around a small city where you could stop at gas stations, enter demolition derbies and even swap your ride for a firetruck which required you to put out random fires around the city. Basically the same stuff you did with real Hot Wheels cars and playsets in your parent’s living room.

Hot Wheels (C64) (Images courtesy Lemon64.com)

At the start of the game you could choose from a small selection of pre-designed vehicles (which vaguely resembled actual Hot Wheels cars) or you could walk into the factory and design your own, which was probably the best part of the game. Using your joystick as a mouse, you assembled your car from various components and you could even send it to the paint shop and choose from a mind-blowing selection of 12 different colors! Overall Hot Wheels wasn’t the most exciting or challenging game in my giant box of C64 floppy disks, but it’s open-ended nature made it a staple of those occasional rainy Saturday afternoons.

[ Lemon64.com - Hot Wheels ]

Yet Another Cellphone Bluetooth GamePad

BGP100 Bluetooth Gamepad (Image courtesy Smarterlife.com.au) By Andrew Liszewski

Oh look! Another bluetooth gaming pad designed specifically for cellphones! Usually I ignore stuff like this, since cellphones haven’t exactly matured into the greatest of gaming devices (though the iPhone is trying) but this particular gamepad features a rather clever design.

The BGP100 supports a number of smartphone platforms including Windows Mobile, PocketPC and even Symbian UIQ, and features a unique twisting design allowing it to attach to a variety of phones up to 55mm (2.16 inches) wide. And if your phone happens to be too large to accomodate the BGP100, it can also be used as a standalone gamepad when folded up. It’s powered by a single AAA battery which gives you about 3.5 hours of continuous use, and includes a bi-color LED for indicating the bluetooth connection and power status. And you can pick one up for about $88 (AU $128.45) from Smarterlife.com.au.

[ BGP100 Bluetooth Gamepad ] VIA [ The Red Ferret Journal ]

Send Your Friends Some Air Mail

By Luke Anderson

I always thought that whoever came up with the idea for a postcard was a genius. It’s a cool picture of something, it’s also a place to jot down a quick note and still functions as a piece of mail. Sure, you don’t want to go writing anything private on there, but it works well enough when you want to point out that you’re somewhere much warmer than the recipient. Well I think I’ve discovered a piece of mail that’s actually cooler than a postcard (well, cool as far as postal mail can get).

This piece of balsa wood is perfect for jotting down a note, much like the postcard. However, instead of having a picture of something, it will turn into a plane. I’m sure that most people had a toy plane similar to this one as a kid. You can get one for around 8 bucks, but you might want to check with your post office to see if you’ll need any extra postage.

[ Suck ] VIA [ GearFuse ]

iLuv Unveils iHD171 HD Radio

By Luke Anderson

Ever since Scosche spoiled me with their passPORT, I’ve been wanting a nice radio that my iPhone can dock with. Alas, it’s still rather difficult to find one that will recharge my iPhone, and not make that annoying buzzing sound now and again. Thankfully iLuv has seen this as a problem as well, and sought to fill the apparent void.

The iLuv iHD171 HD Radio has just about every feature you’d want from a home dock. You’ve got the simple stuff like a dual alarm clock, TV output and AM/FM radio with song title display. Then you’ve got the really cool stuff like an HD Radio tuner and iTunes Tagging. If you’re not familiar with iTunes Tagging, when you hear a song played in HD, you can have your iPod (or iPhone) remember that song’s info so that you can download it later. The unit also charges any iPod or iPhone and even has a 3.5mm auxiliary jack for hooking up other devices. Look for this to go on sale next month for $199.

VIA [ iLuv ]

Lexon Credit Card Calculator Manages To Rise Above Lameness

Credit Card Calculator (Image courtesy PureModern) By Andrew Liszewski

Again, there’s really no reason anyone should need to carry a standalone calculator these days, unless you’re the type of person who doesn’t have a cellphone, which means you’d probably opt for a slide ruler anyways. But this Lexon Credit Card Calculator designed by Sam Hecht is still awfully tempting, particularly since it’s just $6.

The most unique feature, besides it’s credit card thin form factor, is the raised numeric keys which use that ‘credit card number’ font arranged in a single line, instead of the typical grid layout. It not only allows for larger ‘buttons’ given the size of the card, but also provides some handy tactile feedback. And like I said, for just $6 from Pure Modern, it’s hard to pass up.

[ Lexon Credit Card Calculator ] VIA [ Better Living Through Design ]

Wireless Power Consortium Promises The Future, Eventually

By Evan Ackerman

One of the things I really hope to see a lot of at CES is wireless power. Or rather, I hope to see wireless power that has progressed beyond a gimmick into something I can actually use without it being more trouble than it’s worth. Last year, we saw works in progress from companies like Powercast and eCoupled, but what’s keeping these technologies from showing up on my desk is (among other things) lack of a wireless power standard. The recent formation of a “Wireless Power Consortium” made up of some notable electronics manufacturers may help move things along by creating standards for charging electronics wirelessly, just like the standards currently applied to wired chargers make it so that you only need one convenient charger for all of your gadgets. Er, yeah.

Anyway, such standards should make it easier possible for current consortium members like Texas Instruments, National Semiconductor, Olympus, Logitech, Sanyo, and Philips to integrate wireless charging options into their devices. The first thing you’ll probably see is a standard for wirelessly delivering 5 watts or below, which will charge cell phones and comparable devices in about the same time as a wired charger.

[ Wireless Power Consortium ] VIA [ PC World ]

One Minute Drink Chiller Works Better Than A Fire Extinguisher

By Evan Ackerman

As I’m sure you all know from watching Mythbusters, the most efficient way to cool a six pack of beer is by dousing it with a fire extinguisher. Using this method, you can chill six beers in about three minutes, which is much more efficient than putting them in ice water, putting them in the freezer, or burying them in sand doused with gasoline and lighting it all on fire. The Cooper Cooler Rapid Beverage Chiller does even better, being able to chill a can of beer (or soda, for you lightweights) down to 43 degrees F in just sixty seconds. You fill a compartment with ice and water, put the can in, and close the lid, and the machine will rotate the can while dousing it with ice water, a process that’s “40 times faster” than just sticking the can in your fridge. If you want “extra chill,” you can also set it to drop the temp to 34 degrees. The beverage chiller works on bottles of wine, as well.

I suppose you could argue that the fire extinguisher method is more efficient in that you can chill an entire six pack in only three minutes, which works out to 30 seconds per can. But I think you’ll agree that it’s better to have one cold beer now than six cold beers later, and besides, if you’re the type who drinks beers at a rate greater than one per minute, the exact temperature of what you’re pounding is probably not of the utmost importance.

The Cooper Cooler Rapid Beverage Chiller is sixty bucks from Amazon.

[ Cooper Cooler Rapid Beverage Chiller ] VIA [ bookofjoe ]

Drawdio Electronic Pencil Let’s You Draw Music

Drawdio (Images courtesy Ladyada.net)
By Andrew Liszewski

The Drawdio was originally created by Jay Silver, and it’s basically a simple music synthesizer that uses the conductive properties of graphite in a pencil to create unique sounds based on what you draw on a piece of paper. In fact the name ‘Drawdio’ is a combination of the words draw & audio. As you can see in the photos, it’s built around an actual pencil, and while mechanical pencils work just fine, you’ll apparently get better results by using something with softer graphite.

To use the Drawdio you hold the pencil in one hand so you’ve made good contact with the copper tape wrapped around the body, and then touch your finger on your other hand to what you’ve drawn on the paper. The current from the AAA battery on the pencil flows through the graphite and uses your body as a sensor, producing a unique series of sounds based on what you’re drawing. It’s kind of hard to explain, so just take a moment to check out the YouTube video I’ve included showing the Drawdio in action.

Building your own Drawdio is apparently not that difficult, and you can find the parts list and assembly instructions on the Ladyada.net website. Alternately, they’re also available for sale from Adafruit Industries in an easy-to-solder kit for just $19.50.

[ Drawdio! - Sketching with Hardware & Drawdio ] VIA [ designboom ]