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11 Things We Learned About The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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Sony Pictures

Spidey is back in theaters today in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the sequel to 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. We found out a little bit about the movie from the director, stars, and producers.

1. THE ENTIRE MOVIE WAS FILMED IN NEW YORK.

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In fact, it was the largest film to ever shoot in New York State. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 filmed on location in the boroughs of New York City and in Rochester, as well as at studios in Brooklyn and Long Island. Some places to look out for: the Hearst Tower at 57th Street and 8th Avenue, which doubles as Oscorp; Lincoln Center; Union Square; Brooklyn Bridge Park; and Chinatown.

2. SPIDEY’S SUIT LOOKS DIFFERENT THIS TIME AROUND.

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The suit in the first movie was designed to look like something a kid from Queens could actually make himself, using materials he could easily procure (the eyes, for example, were made with sunglasses). This time around, director Mark Webb wanted to stick a little bit closer to the suit that’s in the comic books, making the blue darker, and the eyes of the mask white and large. Costume designer Deborah L. Scott—who created Marty McFly’s iconic look in Back to the Future and made the costumes for Titanic—brought this version of the suit to life.

3. PRODUCERS WANTED TO MAKE GWEN STACY A TRUE EQUAL TO PETER PARKER.

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Producer Matt Tolmach said that in many of the previous Spider-Man movies, the focus has firmly been on Peter Parker’s journey—but it’s different in this film. “The truth is, [Gwen] is driving this story,” he said. “Peter is trying to keep it all together. That’s his struggle. Gwen has a real sense of who she is and what she wants. It’s not that it isn’t complicated but it’s incredibly empowering in a character. She’s making choices.”

Emma Stone, who plays Gwen, agrees. “I love how the relationship evolves in the second movie,” she said. “The clarity and maturity that Gwen has sort of achieved—I think because of the death of her father, honestly—has brought her life in sharp focus. So she’s really following her destiny. I think that’s one of the most inspiring parts of their relationship is that it is two incredibly equal parties.”

“When the comics were written—in the ‘50s and ‘60s—women didn’t really have much of a role in comics,” producer Avi Arad said. “They were supposed to look good and stay on the side and we are all very proud we were able to change [that] completely.” And a lot of that credit, he said, lies with Stone: “When you have a great actress and you give her the bulk of the material, now you have a real scene. You don’t just have someone screaming. When you have someone like that, you better make it a two person act all the time.”

4. THE CREW BUILT A REPLICA OF TIMES SQUARE.

For the scene where Spider-Man faces off against Electro for the first time, the crew shot for a couple of nights in Times Square—and then built a replica set at the studio in Long Island. “The logistical obligations of that scene were so complex, [that] we had to, and we could, amazingly,” Webb says. “I remember that scene came up in the script and we worked on it a little bit and I was sorta denying myself the pain/fear of how it was actually going to be shot.” The replica included the red TKTS stairs, recreations of storefronts, Father Duffy Square, and numerous Jumbotron scenes (the rest of the area was added later using CG).

But even though building the replica set allowed the crew the control they needed, it still wasn’t easy. “It was a very difficult thing, just in terms of bringing the amount of lights that were required, the amount of cement that was required,” Webb says. “Our production director did a really extraordinary thing, and it was a huge spectacle. There were explosions and extras and all that stuff.”

5. BOTH JAMIE FOXX AND DANE DEHAAN HAD TO UNDERGO A PHYSICAL TRANSFORMATION TO PLAY VILLAINS.

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Foxx wore 21 thin silicone facial prosthetics—which better mimic the quality of skin than foam prosthetics—to transform from Oscorp employee Max Dillion into Electro. The look was designed by The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero of NBB EFX Group and finalized by special effects makeup artist Howard Berger. “It was like taking me and dipping me into blue candle wax like four hours,” he said. It was also his idea to give Max a combover. “My sister is my hair stylist and she created the ‘Django’ look; Ray Charles and things like that,” he told Jay Leno. “When I’m the nerd guy, I want to be the first black man with a comb-over. I told her, ‘Make me look like I would look if I never made it.’”

DeHaan, meanwhile, endured 3.5 hours in the makeup chair—donning contacts, teeth, and prosthetics—to play the Green Goblin. “Then there was another hour just to get into the suit,” he said. “I literally had four people using screwdrivers and wrenches getting me into that suit.” Performing in the suit was tough not just because it weighed 50 pounds, DeHaan said, but because of the temperatures on set. “[The] set was at least 110 degrees. They were literally pouring buckets of ice water down my suit in between takes,” he said. “It had evaporated by the time they called action—that’s how hot it was. I think I lost 7 pounds in like two days. Which for me is a high percentage of my body weight.”

6. TO NAIL ELECTRO’S LOOK, THE VFX TEAM STUDIED ELECTRICAL PHENOMENA.

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After deciding on the right look for the makeup, Foxx said, “[The VFX crew] took it from there. Those guys are geniuses at what they do. [Jerome Chen, Sony Picture Imageworks Visual Effects Supervisor] was like, ‘We got it, we know what we want to do. We want to make a thunderstorm inside your body.’ It’s great to see it all work.” VFX artists made it look as though the electricity was inside of Electro, not just running along the surface of his skin, and watched footage of nighttime thunderstorms and bioluminescent animals and photos of nebulae to achieve the look.

Foxx was thrilled with the way the CGI and practical makeup worked together. “The CGI guys would come out and be there and look at me and take pictures and say ‘stand this way, say this, laugh,’” he explained. “It was really fun. It was like you were back at your crib where you’re looking in the mirror practicing on how to act. When I looked and saw what they did with the CGI, I was like that is incredible because people don’t even know that that is actually me. They think it’s all CGI.”

7. IN ONE SCENE, GARFIELD’S FOOT GOT BRUSHED BY A CAB.

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Andrew Garfield, who plays Peter/Spidey, has a favorite scene—which Webb and Stone also love—in which Peter and Gwen see each other for the first time in a year. Garfield had the idea that Peter should see her and cross the street, oblivious to all traffic. “[He] talked about cartoons—when the skunk gets a smell and he floats across,” Webb says. “It was that kind of idea.”

Peter Parker might have been oblivious to the traffic, but Garfield didn’t make it through unscathed. “In the take [that was] used, the taxi actually ran over my heel,” he says. “You can see a little facial recognition of that just as I’m about to step onto the pavement. Literally, a tire smacked my heel. It was really scary.”

8. PAUL GIAMATTI WANTED TO PLAY THE RHINO.

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The actor appeared on Conan O’Brien’s show in 2011 and said that if he could play one character in a Spider-Man movie, it would be The Rhino. “Rhino came to us for the role!” Arad said. The Rhino’s mechanized suit is entirely CG, but he wore a rig on set.

“[Paul] was so great to have on the set,” Tolmach said. “He just showed up and [was] about fun. This movie felt like we were now free in some ways to have fun, and to tell a bigger story—and a more tragic story. We were freed up of the obligations of origin. [We could] build a movie that we all really believed in and tell this big superhero opera. And that’s what you’re going to see more of going forward—the expansion of the universe with all these characters.”

9. CERTAIN SCENES WERE INSPIRED BY SILENT-ERA STARS.

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Webb, Garfield, and stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong are all big fans of silent film stars like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, who performed physical comedy on-camera. This time around, they wanted some of that physicality to inform how Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) moved. “Sometimes, Spider-Man is witty and sometimes not—he’s trying his standup routine out on the criminals before he takes it to the comedy floor,” Garfield says. “The physical ability he has—we don’t want to just be punching and kicking and being cool. There’s something sort of trickster element that we wanted to capture.” They hired Cal McChrystal, the physical comedy director on One Man, Two Guvnors, to help come up with a few moments.

“It was dipping into a different kind of filmmaking and acting,” Webb says. “If you sit down and watch a Charlie Chaplin movie and don’t listen to the music—or if you play different music over it, like a Pixar soundtrack—it becomes accessible in a way that is profound. It becomes emotional and beautiful and there’s something really powerful there. That was an attempt to bring back vaudeville for a second, which is a lost art. It was one of those things where people watch and it goes by and it's as it should be. But it took a long time to do.”

Armstong watched a particular scene from one of Keaton’s shorts where the actor grabbed the back of a moving car and is whisked out of the scene almost horizontally; once he figured out how Keaton did it, they emulated it for a shot in ASM2.

10. THE PRODUCTION BUILT RIGS TO DO STUNTS PRACTICALLY.

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A fight in a plane that kicks off the movie was accomplished mostly using actors and not stunt people. The crew built the interior of a G-5 plane and combined it with a motion base and two rings that could rotate the plane 360 degrees. They also used the rig in a later scene—inspired by Fred Astaire’s work in The Royal Wedding, in which the actor danced on the walls and ceiling—where Garfield rolls up onto the wall and walks along the ceiling, removing the Spidey suit. “All that stuff, people get a certain kind of pleasure from that,” Webb said. “It’s different from comedy, it’s different from action. it’s like watching people dance in a way. It’s physical virtuosity that people enjoy in a different kind of way.”

Garfield prefers to do his own stunts, but it's not always possible. "I used to be a gymnast and an athlete and it’s important to me—just like with every other aspect with the character—[that] I have some enjoyment of it," he said. "I don’t want to let it pass me by and watch somebody else play Spider-Man. I want to do it because it’s my only chance to really play it in a way that’s not just crawling up the doorway at my mum’s house. So I felt really stoked to get a chance. There’s me and there’s two stunt guys. It’s usually better man wins in terms of whatever stunt we’re doing. Sometimes it’s just the insurance risk is too high if I do them. If I die, the movie has to stop."

11. THE MOVIE WAS SCORED BY HANS ZIMMER … AND A FEW FRIENDS.

It was Webb’s idea for the Oscar-winning composer to form the supergroup that would create the music for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The band called itself The Magnificent Six and featured Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr (The Smiths), Michael Einziger (Incubus), Junkie XL, Andrew Kawczynski, and Steve Mazzaro. The idea, Zimmer told Billboard, is that “Peter Parker, is a kid, he's just graduating. If he had to listen to music and that was the way he expressed emotion, it wouldn't be big Wagnerian horns and Mahler strings. It would be rock ‘n' roll.”

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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