Affiliate disclosure: I sometimes use vendor & product links that can pay me a small monetary commission if you click them and/or make a purchase. Learn more about this.

Friday, November 8, 2019

What Am I Doing?!


I may seem a bit quiet on the content front at the moment, but don't worry, all is well.  I'm not in a motivational rut and there's no other problem behind the scenes, but at the same time there's no big-bang MOC I'm secretly working on or anything.  This is the most dramatic new product release lull of the year, with the trans-holiday rush looming over the horizon, and I always use this time to work on mundane chores that nobody else cares about.  Most of these "between" seasons have delayed starts as normal work goes overtime, and that has resulted in a significant backlog against which I'm now making as much progress as I can, while I can.  For those curious, here are some of the major groups of chores currently underway:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

FAQ: Price/part vs. price/weight in LEGO sets


Q: Should we look at price to weight ratios for LEGO sets instead of price to part?
A: No. No we should not.
  1. In terms of production costs, the price of the raw ABS that goes into each set is minuscule.  In a quick search as a consumer, not even having access to true high-volume industrial pricing, the price of ABS looked to be around $1/lb. in moderate bulk and I'm sure with the outrageous quantities LEGO deals with, they get a significantly better deal than that. The $800 USD UCS Millennium Falcon thus contains less than $25 worth of plastic.
  2. The smaller LEGO pieces are, the more they weigh for a given volume of completed set; 8x 1x1 bricks weigh more than a single 2x4 brick that takes up the same space, and 3x 1x1 plates weigh more than a 1x1 brick. In other words weight and what I simply call "volume of stuff," the total amount of visible/usable product when assembled, are not directly coupled measures.  You can easily make one LEGO model smaller, yet heavier than another with the same general design.
  3. The sense of value that consumers derive from a LEGO set has nothing to do with its weight. We care about its size, play features & fun, complexity, level of detail & visual interest, accuracy if applicable, and construction.
With the release of 2019's Ultimate Collector Series Imperial Star Destroyer, many people compared the weight of its package to that of the UCS Millennium Falcon to arrive at a single data point "proof" that LEGO prices all of their products by the weight of the raw ABS plastic (plus bags, cardboard, instruction book paper & binding, etc.). The boxed Star Destroyer came in at $0.055 USD per gram, with the Millennium Falcon at $0.060/g.  That's within 9% of each other or even potentially "equal" if you round off another decimal point.  However the theory falls apart quickly if you look at more than two sets.  Bricklink displays the total weight of just the individual components in each set inventoried in its catalog, sans packaging.  Even sticking strictly to boxed minifig-compatible Star Wars sets from 2018-2019, the range is far too wide for comfort:
  • 75229 $0.099/g
  • 75217 $0.094/g
  • 75220 $0.083/g
  • 75243 $0.080/g
  • 75222 $0.075/g
  • 75203 $0.071/g
  • 75234 $0.067/g
  • 75214 $0.052/g
The data doesn't fit the hypothesis, and there's no good logical argument in favor either.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

My thoughts on the LEGO UCS Star Destroyer 75252


Today marked the public release of the second LEGO Ultimate Collector Series Imperial Star Destroyer, the hollow, but beautiful 4,784 piece behemoth.  If you have any interest in it whatsoever, you've surely already been soaked in news announcements and "analyses" in addition to full-fledged (and fully positive) reviews since LEGO shipped pallets of them out for free to generate praise.  As much as I used to wish I had the original mega-model from 2002, I won't be buying the new one.  At $700 USD, it costs too much and more importantly, at over 2 feet wide and 3.5 feet long, it's too dang big.  I do rather like it, though...

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

So, What's Going On?


It's been quite an eventful year for me and my YouTubing adventures, and with a final lull now in effect between release seasons, let me take a step back and let you know where my head is at and how things have been going in general.  The good news is, I still like LEGO, a lot.  I'm also a lot happier with my work today than I was a year ago, with a more positive outlook on the future of my various content publishing channels.  Let me take you through the key points of interest.

Friday, September 13, 2019

FTC vs. YouTube vs... JANGBRiCKS?


It's about time I said something about the elephant in the room.  The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has determined that YouTube massively violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998 by flagrantly turning a blind eye to the huge number of young kids using the service with their parents' accounts or simply by lying about their age during signup.  As a result of that finding, Google's been fined a petty (by their standards) sum of $170M, and more importantly, they're being forced to either clean up their act or face significantly greater consequences. 

As has been the case over and over again when YouTube is caught being criminally irresponsible for profit, they're going to overreact and devastatingly punish a significant number of content creators who have done absolutely nothing wrong up to this point.  This time rather than YouTube purging or restricting all of the fraudulent accounts clearly used by kids under 13, as their systems can easily detect (the root of the FTC findings), they're going to place sanctions on anything they deem to be "children's content." Mind you, there is nothing in COPPA even suggesting in passing that content for kids itself needs to be regulated, or that kids' viewing of that content warrants restriction.  It only insists that identifiable personal data such as names, birthdates, email addresses, home/locations, etc. of kids under 13 must not be stored or tracked.  In other words, there is nothing legally wrong with the existence of "children's content" on YouTube, and there is nothing legally wrong with actual children viewing said content on YouTube.  The only thing that's wrong is for children to be logged in with an account that's not COPPA compliant when they use the site or app.  YouTube's response, to butcher a metaphor, is akin to punishing the baby instead of throwing out the bathwater.  It's egregiously idiotic.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

How To: Criticize


[Originally published January 2015, brought to the top & mildly updated June 2019 in conjunction with a relevant debate going on at Brickset.]

You probably don't want to read a bunch of extraneous text, so let's get right to the point.  I think criticism is a good thing -- criticism of people, practices, products, companies, you name it. However, there are good & constructive ways to criticize and there are bad & inexcusable ways to criticize.  Here are some analogous examples from each side of the fence. Backstory for this article is shoved down at the end, if you're interested!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Peace is restored, for now


Last month I declared war against myself and set up some simple rules of engagement.  I would not publish reviews more than 3 days in a row, and I would take a minimum of 1 day off per week from uploading to my main YouTube channel altogether.  I'm happy to report today that I succeeded at those simple (but deceptively extraordinary) goals, and have achieved a state of armistice for the time being.  Let me share with you what I learned and accomplished during this unique & interesting period.

FAQ: Why don't I talk over my Pure Build videos


Q: Can you add narration to your real-time "Pure Builds?"
A: While this sounds like a good idea for people who like the sound of my voice, the reality of such an effort would fall apart almost immediately.  There are only so many ways one can say, "Look how these two pieces go together; isn't that cool?"  Only a tiny percentage of assembly steps in LEGO sets are ever unusual and noteworthy, and it's even more rare to encounter something truly new.  In other words, me narrating LEGO builds in real time would become agonizingly boring and repetitive in the shortest of orders, to viewers and myself alike.  It has been suggested that I fill uninteresting times with small talk, but I hate small talk.  Multiple-hour LEGO builds and me struggling to find entertaining things to say are two things that definitely do not go together.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

It's WAR! LEGO reviews vs. city updates & MOC work


The numbers are clear.  When asked directly, the majority of JANGBRiCKS YouTube channel viewers want to see reviews of current LEGO products more than anything else, by a significant margin.  However!  There some other reliable quantitative measures very strongly disagree.  The situation is just maddening enough to motivate the kickoff of a risky, radical experiment, and it all starts this week.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A New Personal Record!

Today I filmed, edited, and published a total of 6 hours of content to YouTube:

  • 1 hour 47 minutes of real-time HD Pure Builds
  • 40 minutes of shortened HD time-lapse versions of those builds
  • 19 minutes in a 4K quadruple-review on my Playmobil channel
  • 15 minutes in a 4K set review on the main LEGO focused channel
In all I chewed through 62 gigabytes of raw video footage and uploaded 13 gigabytes of finished product.

Not bad for a day's work?

PS: For MOC fans, the news is that I worked on a custom car for 5 hours the previous night. Didn't get it done, stuck on a perplexing build challenge.  I'll keep working on it and when it's done, it'll be worth about 30 seconds of video viewing time 🤷‍♂️

Saturday, April 13, 2019

I Did It All Wrong (but I'm fixing it)


It's time for me to get very, very candid about some thoughts that have guided my actions, how I made some very serious mistakes in planning New Jang City, and how I've permanently turned a major corner in the course of my involvement in the LEGO hobby on the whole.  Grab a snack or beverage, and let me fully break the situation down for you.

Monday, April 8, 2019

In my LEGO City, the sky is rising


When I first set foot in the second living/family room of this house, I immediately knew this is where I would put the LEGO city, if I got so lucky as to win the bidding war in the cut-throat near-coastal California real estate market.  I thought about how I'd arrange the tables and started to consider options for smoothing out the very uneven background image so viewers could focus on the LEGO, not the fireplace, the wet bar, goings-on in the next room over, etc.  Four years after winning the bidding war, I've taken the next major step in implementing my vision.

How much time goes into one set?


On a whim of curiosity, I tracked the time I invested into one new set, Avengers Compound Battle 76131.  To the public, there was a 23-minute build video and a 19-minute review produced, or a maximum of 42 minutes of total content, out of which the average viewer (per current, real data) will watch 11.5 minutes.  For those fleeting moments of entertainment, check out what transpired behind the scenes.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

I saw the sine


Recently I learned the hard way that surge protectors are a lie.  During an unusually windy storm, there were a couple of power outages back to back that caused power irregularities at their ends that went straight into my main rendering computer and wreaked havoc.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

End of an era


Over a decade ago I purchased my first pair of "softboxes," light bulb receptacles with each a flimsy tent-like pyramidal reflector structure and a translucent sheet of cloth over the big end.  It kicked off the second phase of my quest for an ideal backdrop & lighting setup for YouTube video reviews of radio controlled model cars & trucks.

Today, I disassembled that very piece of equipment, its base yellowed from hundreds of hours of being cooked by storebought household CFLs and LEDs.  I had collected and employed other softboxes over the years, but it's fitting that one of my first to enter service would be the last to be exit.  This strange geeky detail has meaning to me because so much of my work, literally thousands of videos across three main channels and several spin-offs, has been defined by that ever-whiter background and steadily diminishing shadows.

My goal was always to maximize viewers' ability to focus on just the products they came to see with absolutely minimal fluff.  I tried some different options when I ventured into brick-based construction toys, but the lure of the white void was irresistible and viewers all but unanimously applauded its return.  Since then, my methods of achieving the increasingly complete nothingness have evolved significantly, but there'll always be a special place in my memory & heart for those first two, perpetually awkward, always in the way, front- and top-heavy softboxes.  Who knows, maybe they'll get a new lease on life when I start up the inevitable "Studio C."

Friday, February 8, 2019

Insert The LEGO Movie 2 Review Clickbait Title Here (no spoilers)

(I was the first in the theater for this Thursday matinee premiere)

"Absolutely Awesome." "Everything Is Awesome-ish." "Everything Is Not Awesome."  Early professional evaluations of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part have run the gamut from sounding like paid endorsements to utterly trashing the film as a time-wasting bore.  This deep contrast truly puzzles me because while extremism is the ruling force of our generation and histrionics generate clicks & ad revenue, TLM2 itself is a very even-keeled, level-running, inoffensive piece of work.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Hi I'm JANG, and I'm an addict


I suffer from a debilitating compulsion and I cannot escape it.  No matter what I do, I cannot keep myself from continually attempting improve the quality of my videos and the efficiency of producing them.  With my main white void studio I used to do changes once or twice per season, but these days I've found myself with less room to "improve" (a subjective term, I know).  Each update has moved the bar less, up to & including the last minor light rebalancing just a few weeks ago.  I'd assume many viewers don't even notice the before & after differences anymore as I'm well into the realm of diminishing returns. With Studio B for my builds channel, on the other hand, everything is completely fresh and there's no well-defined end point for visual success.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

QUiCKBRiCKS lives!


My short-form LEGO video channel finally earned its custom URL between seasons and is now accessible via http://youtube.com/c/QUiCKBRiCKS. I've just uploaded my first 2019 quick review and will be adding more over the coming months.  This channel is intended for folks who don't have time for or aren't interested in my standard long narrative reviews, and it has also been expanded out to cover previews of large groups of upcoming products plus some additional succinct content types yet to be demoed.

On a barely related note, I also picked up a shortcut for my build channel, so you can get to it on a computer at http://youtube.com/c/JangBuilds.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Wait a minute...


The above poll results from the Community tab on my YouTube channel seem pretty dang conclusive to me.  So how come whenever I dislike absolutely anything in a review, I receive a strongly negative viewer reaction, accusing me of being shamefully ungrateful and completely lacking the brainpower and life experience to understand the material and the decisions made by product designers?  Why is my opinion so often seen as an effrontery if it isn't 100% positive?

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Flashback Friday, Speed Builds Edition


Over the years I've done a bunch of Throwback Thursday & Flashback Friday uploads covering vintage sets or LEGO catalogs, but this week I turned the retro focus on my speed builds, re-rendering a couple of roughly 6-year-old blur-lapses to the JANG Builds It! channel.  I have about 60 such back-catalog videos of varying speeds that I have always planned to bring over to the new channel.  The original plan from a year or more ago was to do the full transfer before launching such a (then hypothetical) build-only sub-brand, but when Studio B came together this season, just before the big release drop, there was no time.  A slow catch-up it will be, then.  No problem!

I also have over 40 hyperspeed clips from my 2015 "built in 60 seconds" experiment that I'm not sure what to do with.  I can slow them down a bit, some farther than others if I dig out the long-since archived original camera footage, but there's only so far that can get me.  I may bundle some together by theme if that makes sense in after a test run.

Because YouTube doesn't allow actually moving videos between channels, the originals will remain live on the big channel as well, doing not much of anything, just as has been peacefully the case up to now.  I've taken the necessary precautions to ensure that I don't get any automatic copyright strikes from myself for reusing my own content 😂

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Thoughts for 2019 & re-invigorating this blog

It's extremely difficult for me to fathom the concept that months have passed since my most recent post here, but the date stamps do not lie!  Truth be told, this site hasn't provided the value to readers it should have for quite a long time.  Most of my posts have been simple links to new videos I've published.  Sadly this can be a more reliable way to get notified of new content than subscribing directly to my YouTube channel and even "clicking the bell," since YouTube's algorithms these days are positively torturous and often seem simultaneously anti-viewer and anti-creator (unless you make or like exploitative compilations of other peoples' content or over-the-top insane conspiracy theories).  That's a rant for another place & time, though.

It's a new year and I'm finally ready to pull Jangbricks.com out of its slumber by giving it a new life closer to its original intended purpose.  I'm going to start (again) focusing on original, free-form text content here, almost as if it's a blog or something.  I've never been a fan of doing videos for the sake of doing videos, especially when a lower-bandwidth medium seems more appropriate, but I do occasionally have random thoughts I'd like to share, and this will again be the place to share them.  I'll begin presently!

Right now the parts of my life that intersect with brick-built construction toys and the "Jangbricks" brand are very well sorted, in some cases both literally and figuratively.  Here are some of the important things I've accomplished over the past couple of months alone:
  • Revived the "my thoughts" content format that I formerly used back in my days as a Hero Factory blogger.  Just six videos of this type got me comfortable with the production work and generated some of the strongest positive viewer engagement I'd seen all year, a fantastic result that I'll reach for again in the future.
  • Bumped up the actual visual quality & detail level in my standard videos.  If you're using a device/browser/app combo that supports it, you'll see a "1440p" video quality option showing up frequently, but even at the previous 1080p HD setting, you'll notice crisper edges and less noise & blotchiness.  I installed minor software & hardware updates on my main work PC and overclocked the processors to help me keep rendering times in check even though the output files now have significantly higher bitrates than before.
  • Bought and/or developed equipment & processes to capture more, and better footage in New JANG City, as previewed recently.  This was a challenging, but fun effort that should pay dividends for years to come as I tune hardware & techniques.
  • Completed a huge round of cleanup around the periphery of the studio, and in short-term product staging and intermediate-term storage.  Basically, I have a lot more space to move about and also to stage 2019 sets before & after their reviews (a bigger deal than it sounds like), and most things I interact with on a regular basis are better organized.
  • Created "Studio B," a very compact, yet very configurable space in which to comfortably film the building of sets with different visual styles.  Also finally soft-launched a YouTube channel just for said builds, something I'd been inching towards for well over a year.
While I'm on the topic of the new build channel (!), I'm really liking the setting and the freedom to be just a tiny bit more creative with regular work even though it technically has slowed me down to initially set it up & dial it in. I'm actually feeling really happy overall, and I'm not sure what all it's about, but there's a sense of general optimism lingering around.

It's a good start to the New Year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

My YouTube viewer comment moderation policy


It has always been my goal to maintain a safe, positive environment in the comments sections of my videos for kids & adults alike.  In this interest, all viewer comments on all videos of all of my channels are first reviewed by moderators (including, but not limited to myself) before ever becoming visible to the public.  Bad behavior is rejected, abusive users are reported & blocked/shadow-banned.  The rule of thumb is, be a basically decent, civil human being, or be elsewhere.

Allowed:
  • Civil disagreement & dissenting opinions
  • Constructive criticism that is actually constructive
  • General silliness
  • Liking something many people don't
  • Disliking something many people like
  • Criticizing a manufacturer or vendor
  • Defending a (legal, legitimate) manufacturer or vendor
  • References to family-friendly memes
  • Video-relevant farcical debate, e.g. "realism" of fantasy objects, canonical appropriateness of character depictions, etc.
Not allowed:
  • Foul language, even if obfuscated or abbreviated
  • Insults, disrespect, personal attacks
  • Hate based on race, age, gender/identity, eye color, etc.
  • Harassment, threats, cyber-bullying
  • Making fun of the suffering of others
  • Creepy, obsessive, or stalker-like behavior
  • Spam, "first" & numbered comment chaff, likebait
  • Promoting Lepin or other outright intellectual property thieves
  • Leaks of confidential information
  • Promoting "YouTube(r) drama"
  • Spoilers for current/recent movies
(The above lists are representative and not exhaustive.)