Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Something new, something blue: Animated backdrop for real LEGO

Take a peek back, if you will, at my original undersea display that I put together in 2015.  It brought great personal joy to me, satisfying my love of underwater scenes that previously surfaced in my first LEGO city in the year 2000 and my zoo's aquarium in 2014.  Once I dedicated a whole table to this theme, though, I just couldn't stop thinking about it.  I doubled its size in 2016 and added a shipwreck in 2017. Behind the scenes, though, I was desperate for more.  I've given very serious consideration (and dedicated plenty of research) to all manner of techniques to add more depth & "life" to these displays, but it wasn't until today that I realized I should just add... a display.

My very first flat screen TV, now over a decade old, hasn't gotten much use in the past couple of years though it still works fine, making it a nearly perfect candidate for conversion to looping video backdrop duty.  I say "nearly" because it's a fraction of an inch too tall to fit under my tables upright, thus requiring me to angle it back very slightly.  It's a small price to pay, for not having to pay for a whole different TV.

I've wrapped my existing backdrop drapery around the back to preserve a clean backdrop for the adjacent Nexo Knights display, and I've started using some thick weatherstripping to create baffles to eliminate reflections from my colored light strips.  I've also angled the LEGO table towards us slightly to improve visibility.  The video looping on the screen, meanwhile, is a quick merge of a few stock clips with some real underwater sounds, playing from an outdated Android tablet that at least has a micro HDMI port.  

Some further tuning is warranted, but this is a big step forward for one of my favorite LEGO things in the world, simple as it is.  I'll definitely apply this technique to the other seafloor display (since it's split in two these days) in due time, but hopefully I'll be able to resist going deeply into debt adding all the TVs to all the things.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A bit of LEGO room work

Over the past couple of days I've been tearing apart, putting back together, and shifting around large areas of New Jang City and its adjunct displays.  Table tops have been reoriented & legs removed.  Fresh ground has been prepared for new building.  In all, I have over 350 sq. ft. of easily-accessible tables dedicated to LEGO displays, with space to add still more in the future!  For the sake of context, the last time I measured the surface area it was under 250 sq. ft.

Time to order up some more under-table lighting and some bulk terrain parts to kickstart some of the new displays!

Monday, January 8, 2018

LEGO city layout plan & queue (updated Jan. 8, 2018)

The basic plan for my LEGO layout was formulated when I began in 2013.  When I moved to a new house in 2015, I gained some space and added a handful of items to the list.  Any empty space you see in any photo or video is already reserved for future build. Anything that looks incomplete is incomplete, and will eventually be completed to my specs over time.  Any official LEGO-designed structures or vehicles are only stand-ins and will ultimately be replaced by my own custom builds.

This is not a crowd-sourced project.  While I appreciate that many viewers have ideas for how they would do things if New JANG City belonged to them, this is my own personal project, being designed & built by me, in my own home. I do not use viewer suggestions for changes or additions at this time*. The number one, key, core reason for any of this to exist is for me to freely express my own personal creative interests & desires. I do not add, remove, or change anything on request.

Here's how the build queue looks as of the date in the title of the post...

I will include:

  • Metro area (with at least 4 very tall office buildings)
  • Freight harbor with ships, containers, crane, trucks, etc.
  • Industrial area with factories, etc.
  • Residential neighborhood with custom houses and possibly an apartment complex
  • Planetary Defense Force base (above and below ground)
  • Second elevated narrow-gauge passenger train stop
  • Small city maintenance crew yard
  • Pet store
  • Chinese restaurant
  • Dance club
  • Underground mining area
  • Small underground dinosaur/prehistoric zone
  • Cars, Trucks (passenger and commercial), other normal vehicles you'll find in any city
  • People
  • Trees & plants
  • Underground "Mellemby district" area for mostly official LEGO sets, details TBA
  • There will be much more that's not on this list!
  • I do not add to this list on request -- as explained above, this city is all about my own inspiration & creativity.

Already added:

  • One skyscraper (the first of at least 4)
  • Police station (currently awaiting full rebuild)
  • Fire station
  • Shopping mall
  • Small boat marina
  • Zoo (to be expanded some day)
  • Gas station with car wash and adjacent car repair/service garage
  • Arcade
  • Ice cream shoppe
  • Bike shop
  • Musical instrument store
  • Laser tag arena
  • Two 9V standard-gauge rail loops
  • Standard-gauge rail yard
  • Elevated narrow-gauge rail loop
  • Large passenger train station with elevated rail connector
  • Second mainline passenger train station
  • Large train yards
  • Stand-ins for residential area
  • Stand-in for cargo harbor
  • Underground Minecraft overworld & Nether displays
  • Temporary Nexo Knights battle diorama

I will not include:

  • Airport.  NO AIRPORT, PERIOD!  An airport would ruin the plan for the entire city by taking up an absolutely enormous amount of space (if done to my satisfaction, and everything in my city must be done to my satisfaction).
  • Heliport.  Same as above, just smaller (but equally undesirable)
  • Above-ground parking garage.  Again, tremendous waste of incredibly valuable space (would need the area of at least 4 modular buildings to be even halfway decent).  Maybe an underground one some day, way off in the future?
  • Big ol' bland, basic parking lot. Same as for the parking garage, except even worse since a parking lot is only one level and thus an even worse waste of valuable space that could be used for an entire multi-level commercial building, residence, or at least a park.
  • Super Heroes area
  • Ninjago area
  • Chinatown or Japantown
  • Star Wars area
  • Race track
  • Minecraft End City
  • Certainly countless other things will not be built in my layout.  Stay tuned to this blog and my YouTube channel to see what I do build!

*These unfortunate disclaimers have had to be added in response to increasingly large numbers of increasingly rude viewer demands for additions to & removals from my layout, at worst numbering in the hundreds per day when major updates are posted.  The enthusiasm behind normal, casual suggestions is appreciated, but demands for changes are simply unacceptable.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

LEGO Creator Downtown Diner 10260 review

The newest big modular building for 2018 transports the much-loved series forward by a couple of decades, landing square in the middle of the 1950s.  It's not just a new gimmick with a pretty exterior; this is actually one of the more spacious big builds to date.  In addition to introducing some new prints and basic part recolors, this set brings back the classic "teal" color that was wiped from the LEGO palette over a decade ago.  Grab a snack because this is a long video!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Star Wars The Last Jedi set collection summaries

With the second wave of TLJ sets in the books, I've gone back to take a look at the entire lot together, first checking out the (brick-based) builds, then the series of minifigs that so far number far less than we got for TFA.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Epic set review season continues

Over the past two short weeks I've purchased more than $2,700 USD worth of new sets (above is pictured barely over 1/3rd of that) and published 42 videos of them.  That adds to the over 45 reviews made during the 5 weeks prior, with a sprinkling of hauls & throwbacks interspersed.  I haven't gone back to check previous years, but this feels like my most productive Winter season to date, though it's not yet over!  Still at least two dozen late-2017 & early 2018 items remain in the queue to cover before I can take a deep breath & relax for a moment or two. 

With this volume of production obviously I've not been able to keep the blog updated, and I must apologize for that; it's not a situation I'm happy with, but I'm running right around maximum capacity, requiring some things to fall by the wayside in favor of the top priority.  As always, if you want to stay on top of what I'm publishing on YouTube, the best thing to do is check the channel itself on a regular basis.  Keep in mind that even if you subscribe, and even if you click "the bell," YouTube will still often decide not to notify you of new content from me, instead prioritizing things "the algorithm" believes will lead to higher ad revenue for the company.  'Tis just how 'tis.

Well, back to work I go!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Another big win for the channel

A couple of months ago I wrote about a milestone I had achieved in a process with YouTube that got a little flag of what I simply called "trust" applied to my account.  That flag allowed me to proceed down a path that's very rarely opened to content creators as small and independent as me, and I'm happy to report that this week I have successfully reached the destination.

I have been granted use of the Content ID system, YouTube's semi-automated copyright protection framework.  The system is unfortunately much maligned due to a history of hyperactivity and abuse by improperly-trained and overly claim-happy administrators, but in the past year or so it received an important rework that has made it much more fair for everyone.  Besides, I have no intention to use this thing for evil.  I couldn't get away with it if I tried.  Remember, I'm the guy who got a what amounted to a cease & desist order from a LEGO IP agent for reviewing toys that were being sold... at LEGOLAND. 

What Content ID will do for the JANGBRiCKS channel is provide better protection from the vast re-upload industry; people around the world who blatantly copy entire channels worth of videos to try to skim off traffic and revenue from unsuspecting viewers.  Rather than relying on vigilant viewers reporting illegal copies of my work, and then having to use the slow and agonizingly repetitive manual copyright claim process, I will begin to see potential claims brought to me directly in the system, and I can act upon them with a few clicks.

Interestingly, Content ID is not fully automatic like I used to think.  Though I'm fully set up, I still have to manually activate it on a video by video basis, which means it'll be awhile before all of my existing content is protected.  I'm also going to take care to follow the terms of service and code of conduct in the most strict manner, which includes manually self-reporting any segments of videos that feature content that I did not fully create.  Mega Construx videos with little bits of video game footage, for example, need special treatment.  Older reviews with longer intros before narration begins require exclusions where I used licensed music versus tracks I produced myself.  I don't want anything to go sideways with this.

Though I have a lot of grunt work ahead of me, the most harrowing and uncertain part of the process, getting in the door, is behind.

LEGO Technic Racing Yacht 42074 review

I hoped this set would be good.  The main build is.  The second build makes it even better!

Full set of Mega Construx Destiny Series 1 individual figures reviewed

Mega's Destiny line has demonstrated, in my view, the pinnacle of their design and production capabilities since its inception.  That has certainly not changed with this latest lowest-cost product offering.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

LEGO City Mountain Arrest 60173 review

Black bear!  Beehive!  Double-face head!  Alright!  Net shooter, large heli with hardly any space, hrmm.  It's a fairly average set overall, but one thing that really hurts is the price.