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2015 Roundup & 2016 Plans

January 17th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

plans2016
Summary of yet another year of building and plans for the year ahead.

2015 was an important year for me, because it has brought an unusually high number of changes. My entire photo/video equipment has changed, I’ve improved my skills in making stickers, became familiar with LEGO Trains, started reviewing LEGO Star Wars sets, embraced some third-party LEGO-compatible products, and even got an award for one of my videos. At the same time, I’ve managed to finish just 5 out of 12 projects I’ve had planned for 2015, and while two more are close to being finished, it shows that I need to work harder on making my plans come true. All in all, there were 24 creations built in 2015, which is a pretty good number, but it was largely made up of small, simple models. Looking at the list of all I’ve built last year I see a certain pattern – I seem to tend to distract myself with small models while working on something very difficult and time-consuming. Great examples of that behavior are the Audi R8 V10, T29 Heavy Tank and Nissan Skyline GT-R; each of these models took an enormous amount of work, and each was preceded by a few simple spontaneous builds. I guess that’s a pattern I should be aware of and exercise some control over it.

Regardless of these little distractions I will remember 2015 as a year of hard work, when I’ve learned to focus on large projects and gradually work my way towards completing them, which often required building for hours, day by day, same model for weeks. It can be exhausting but these days my more advanced projects are so time-consuming, it is simply necessary to learn maintain some working discipline. Gone are the times when I could start a model on Saturday and publish it by Sunday evening. In any case, the important thing is that I still keep getting new ideas. I’m not sure if I got 24 new ideas to replace the 24 completed projects last year – I’d like to think that my building is catching up on my ideas and that my “to do” list is gradually growing shorter.

Early in 2015, the Sony DSLR camera I’ve been using for years has suddenly failed because of all the heavy use. I’ve managed to get it fixed, but it got me thinking about finding a replacement. It was a very uncomfortable situation to have work waiting to be done and be left with only one, malfunctioning camera – for a week or two I simply had nothing to work with. So a couple of months later I’ve managed to save enough money for a Canon 70D camera, universally praised for its lasting quality. I’m still learning how to use it, as it’s a very different device from my old Sony, but it can produce truly great results and besides now I have the Sony as a backup.

Somewhere during this time I have also gotten the new GoPro 4 Session camera whose largely reduced size opens up entirely new possibilities when it comes to filming LEGO creations. One of these possibilities was mounting the camera inside a modified LEGO 60051 Train to provide a driver’s view. It’s something that would not be possible with a full-size GoPro, and I really love the results because they can actually make you feel like you’re seeing world through the eyes of a LEGO minifigure. Moreover, seeing how much footage from the 4 Session differs from that from my old GoPro 3 Silver – and learning that GoPro 4 Black Edition now can film at 240 FPS – has prompted me to get rid of my old GoPro 3, whose video quality was a constant disappointment to me, and get the top-of-the-line GoPro 4 Black Edition. The difference is overall image quality and being able to obtain a decent slow-motion footage of a quality far surpassing that produced by my old Casio Exilim FS-10 camera. This way I have ditched literally every single camera I was using before and replaced it with something better. Additionally, I have bought a handheld gimbal for GoPro 4, a device which acts like a hardware image stabilization by making sure the camera you hold in your hand moves smoothly, and it allowed me to create videos like the one below, which was entirely filmed “by hand”, and which also includes some inside-train footage from GoPro 4 Session:

In pursue of a better video quality I have sought after software solutions, too. Sometime in late 2015 I have changed the format in which my videos are rendered, which allowed me to increase the bitrate from 12 to 30 Mbps. In theory this may be a bit of an overkill (and it prompted me to upgrade my broadband connection because the resulting files are enormous), but in practice I’m sure that more than doubling the amount of data in the image has to have a positive impact on its quality. For what it’s worth, I’m appalled by quality of my 2014 videos – they seem to fall far behind what I’m making now.

I have uploaded 79 YouTube videos in 2015, which is a great number and which resulted in a total of 12.5M views, 81,000 likes and over 15,000 comments throughout the year. I have also gained over 38,500 subscribers, bringing me closer to the 100,000 subscriptions milestone and the coveted YouTube silver button. The milestone is bound to happen this year and I’m already planning something to celebrate it and to thank you for it (which perhaps may include a trip to the city of Billund). My YT demography remains generally constant, with 16% viewers coming from US (twice as much as from the next country – Germany), 85% of viewers being male and largest age group being 25-34 years old.

I have tried to somewhat expand my YouTube activity last year by focusing a little more on reviews of the LEGO sets, including that of Star Wars sets. While I can’t honestly call myself a Star Wars fan, I admire many of the sets and I consider UCS SW sets to be among the best LEGO has ever created. These reviews enjoy lower popularity than my reviews of the Technic sets, but there appears to be a demand for them anyway and for the moment being I will be looking for opportunities to continue them (which largely depends on how much I can spend on new sets). My goal is to be thorough and objective when reviewing, and someone has recently told me that watching my review is as close as it gets to actually unboxing a LEGO set personally – that’s very motivating. I have also learned that some of my reviews are being watched by designers of the respective LEGO sets and that the LEGO company actually archives my video reviews. On a less positive note, starting December 2015 all my video reviews have permanent watermarks with Sariel.pl logo embedded into a corner – I hope this isn’t an inconvenience to you, but it’s one of the very few ways I can fight content thieves who have been copying my video reviews to their channels repeatedly in recent years.

It’s somewhat ironic that will all these changes happening, it was one of my first 2015 videos that got awarded. A Grand Video Awards contest was held in Poland in late 2015 and I was asked to submit some videos by my MCN (personally I thought it was useless as I had no hope of getting noticed). Imagine my surprise when two of my videos got nominated for award in the “Hobby” category (which included 7 videos total and I was the only double nominee), and when one of them, shown below, has actually won. It was completely unexpected to me, as I was always convinced that I’m making some pretty niche stuff that goes unnoticed by the mainstream. And it’s probably still true, the trick is that the jury behind the contest consisted of actual movie producers, TV workers and accomplished professionals who cared little for YouTube popularity, but greatly for quality. Somehow this approach got my videos noticed among others, which was just as nice as it was unexpected. When I film, I mostly do it for fun and to share something with you, so getting an actual award for it is an added bonus, one that I’ve never seen coming.

Looking back at my 2015 creations, there are several that stand out for me. First of all, I have finally tried something I was tempted to try for a while: LEGO trains. I have played with LEGO monorails before, but I have come to realize that all monorail pieces are over 20 years old now and the unique motors that make Lego monorails work will inevitably fail. I have two of these, they are still in working condition, but it’s impossible to hope that this will last forever. I have therefore decided not to spend any more money on the LEGO Monorail system and invest in trains instead. I have only built two trains-related creations in 2015, but they have both enjoyed outstanding popularity, which probably means that I’ve made the right choice. The thing that makes trains different from monorails is that I like LEGO train sets so much, I keep the trains intact and mostly just build stuff for them to interact with – bridges, gantries and so on. I now own three various LEGO trains: 60052, 60051 and 3677, and they all can be used in a variety of ways.

As for other creations, I’m particularly happy with completing the AKIRA Kaneda’s Bike because for all its small size it proved to be enormously challenging and took a lot of effort and discipline to complete. I was also glad to see the T29 Heavy Tank completed because I was on the verge of cancelling this project more than once. I liked the Imperial Ankle Destroyer too, because it was completely nuts and people still liked it 🙂

Some creations were, inevitably, rather disappointing. To me, that includes primarily the Nissan Skyline GT-R, because it had little to show for all the work it took, and I think the video could have been way, way better. The BJ Baldwin’s Trophy Truck was disappointing too, because I’ve messed up the proportions completely, but at least it was fun to drive and took little time to build. Finally, I didn’t like the look of the Rosomak WZT because it seems rushed and unpolished to me, and then there was the Mad Max Peacemaker, which, again, took plenty of time and money to create, yet seems to have gone mostly unnoticed.

Speaking of the 2016 plans, there are, again, 12 projects total, but three of these – the Maus, the Kenworth T600 and the USS Sulaco – have been in progress for a while and seem to be on a good way to get finished in the first quarter of 2016. I hope I will be able to control my distractions and keep working on these huge, demanding projects, because I have two even bigger ones to complete: the A-10 and ORP Orzeł, which have been in works for way too long now and it’s my 2016’s goal to complete them. I have also decided to continue with the Apache project from 2015, while putting on hold two other 2015 projects: Ferrari 599 Fiorano and Warhammer Stormblade. In their place, there are 7 new projects, including Maus. One of them is M4 Sherman, which will be built with heavy focus on accurate looks and a working HVSS suspension system. Another is Pagani Huayra, which will be built in the same scale as my Pagani Zonda, but unlike it it won’t be built for speed but for looks and working body parts. My goal is to make a good-looking, faithful model with studless body, featuring front flaps and rear wing that work just like these in the real car. It’s been a while since I’ve built any construction equipment, which is why I want to build a JCB 5CX Wastemaster backhoe loader, combining pneumatic functions with linear actuators and relying on the SBricks for accurate remote control and for perhaps more than 8 functions. There’s also the Tortoise tank destroyer project, which I’ve already started, and which will be my first tracked vehicle in a long time using a subtractor for propulsion. As 2016 is the year the legendary Land Rover Defender is to be phased out of production, I want to bid this car goodbye with a proper off-road model, using custom tires and improving over my Hummer. Finally, I have a light cycle from the TRON movies in the works, because I haven’t seen a decent working model of that vehicle yet, and because it’s a great opportunity to use some custom lighting.

Speaking of custom stuff, 2015 has seen me learning to make proper foil stickers, which are pretty close in terms of quality to the actual LEGO stickers (they depend on the same technology), as well as using new 3D-printed pieces designed by SevenStuds, some new custom lighting by Brickstuff and putting SBrick to good use. I hope to continue coming up with better and better ways to use these various products and technologies, while also occasionally trying out third-party tires, of which there are so many interesting ones. I hope the results will be still acceptable as LEGO creations, because it remains my goal to build with original LEGO pieces whenever possible and only use other products as experiments or when there is simply no viable LEGO alternative. The TRON Light Cycle is a good example here, because while I can build the entire working model with LEGO pieces, the LEGO LEDs are simply unfit for creating accurate and convincing lighting effects for it.

The last important change that 2015 has brought is an entirely new kind of video – a monthly report and overview of what’s going on at my workshop. The goal is to keep me motivated by showing you my progress on various projects, and at the same time to keep you up to date with models you’re interested in, while also showing you a little more of what’s going on behind the scenes when such a model is being created. In a way this is something like a video extension of my Facebook page, but I’m trying to make it complete it rather than overlap it. On the other hand it’s meant to provide you with a content that appears on a regular basis, a content you can look forward to – something that is not possible with my regular models, as I simply can’t work on a “new model every X day of the week” basis. At the moment I have only created a single video of this kind and the entire idea will no doubt require plenty of polishing, but it seems to be well received and to meet your expectations so far:

Finally, you may be interested in knowing that I’ve left my previous MCN and joined another one in 2015. The new one seems to be much more active in finding opportunities to promote my work, which has already resulted in some media exposure, in me showing up on TV, in radio and in press. They were also the reason why I’ve given the Grand Video Awards contest a try at all. I hope this tendency will continue in 2016: you can very likely expect a long interview or two, and perhaps even me teaming up with other YouTubers. These occurences will mainly concern Polish media and Polish YouTubers, but I will take great care in providing at least English translations of any content that may interest you. I hope this will help to make 2016 more exciting 🙂

Happy 2016!

Paul

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  1. PF XL motor
    September 23rd, 2016 at 02:16 | #1

    Why not buy the 41100? Or maybe leave it on the shelves and save money for a yacht?

  2. Sariel
    September 22nd, 2016 at 02:53 | #2

    @PF XL motor
    I’d enjoy owning a yacht and a private jet, and it’s not going to happen either.

  3. PF XL motor
    September 22nd, 2016 at 02:31 | #3

    I did see it, but I’d enjoy you making one 😉

  4. Sariel
    September 11th, 2016 at 20:48 | #4

    @PF XL motor
    I wouldn’t touch LDD with a stick. And there was a great Lego model of Avtoros Shaman built quite recently by Madoca, if you somehow missed it.

  5. PF XL motor
    September 11th, 2016 at 19:24 | #5

    Maybe I’m posting too much comments 😉 Isn’t it possible to edit the Zonda in LDD to make it different colors? (at least if you have a Zonda LDD)

  6. PF XL motor
    September 11th, 2016 at 19:22 | #6

    Also maybe the Avtoros Shaman was a little too big 😉 http://www.topgear.com/car-reviews/avtoros/shaman/first-drive

  7. PF XL motor
    September 11th, 2016 at 06:08 | #7

    Isn’t that PF in that Jeep? Also to inform you that somebody made a version of your Torpedo Trike that goes faster 😉 [24.34 km/h]

  8. Sariel
    September 9th, 2016 at 10:09 | #8

    @PF XL motor
    And I’d encourage you to explore this website. I’m pretty sure I’ve built something with adjustable suspension and RC unit already, and http://sariel.pl/2010/04/jeep-wrangler-rubicon/
    I’m not interested in the other requests, sorry. And I’m not building a Zonda.

  9. PF XL motor
    September 9th, 2016 at 01:20 | #9

    I’m looking forward to making a black Zonda this year. I’m excited 😉 Try white or black and maybe post it in a vid =)

    PF XL

  10. PF XL motor
    September 9th, 2016 at 01:16 | #10

    Hi Sariel, I have a few requests. I’d encourage you to build a model with adjustable suspension and RC unit. Also you could try making it ultralight. Also here are some model requests:
    Avtoros Shaman 8×8
    Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
    6×6 ATV [your decision how you make it]
    With best wishes,
    PF XL

  11. DroidekaOne
    January 24th, 2016 at 23:35 | #11

    light cycle light cycle light cycle LIGHT CYCLE!!!!!!!!

  12. Sariel
    January 22nd, 2016 at 11:06 | #12

    @wanderer
    Thanks. You can already see part of this model at my Facebook page and in my December workshop report video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftc1DnXVCSc

  13. wanderer
    January 22nd, 2016 at 03:22 | #13

    Thank you so much for your quick reply, Sariel. A 90 cm space ship is good enough for me! Maybe if we’re lucky, you will offer plans. I would stand in line to pay for them.

    Even if you don’t offer plans, it would be a supreme joy just to look at your model.

    With your talent, it would be exquisite.

    Kind Regards,

    Wanderer

  14. Sariel
    January 21st, 2016 at 13:55 | #14

    @wanderer
    Thank you. The ship I’m working on will be under 90 cm long, so I’m not sure if it counts as “truly massive”.

  15. wanderer
    January 21st, 2016 at 13:26 | #15

    Hi, Sariel. If I ‘ve read it correctly, it seems that you might be planning to construct a space ship for 2016. I fervently hope that I’m correct. I have hoped for many years that a massively complex space ship with many thousands of bricks would be offered to us. I truly hope that you build it and offer plans for it. I think you are one of a handful of designers who could build something like this. I would gladly pay for the plans. Best of luck to you.

  16. Foster
    January 21st, 2016 at 02:21 | #16

    I didn’t even notice you watermarked your videos until you mentioned it… I would’ve never noticed if you had kept it quiet…

  17. Sariel
    January 20th, 2016 at 12:14 | #17

    @TechnoFan
    Sorry, I’ve done my best to keep the watermark small, I think if it would be any smaller, it would defeat its purpose. But it seems to work, I haven’t seen any watermarked video stolen yet. The Maus is almost ready, it is missing literally two pieces. I hope to get them tomorrow.

  18. TechnoFan
    January 20th, 2016 at 04:25 | #18

    Hi Sariel the watermark in the videos can be a bit distracting at times and anyway how is the progress on the Maus and Kenwoth if you need any parts i can help you in getting them in just 2-3 days. And any hope of having an auction on the Maus.

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