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2016 Roundup & 2017 Plans

January 24th, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

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

2016 was a difficult year, for a number of reasons. I have built much less models than in the preceding years, my YouTube channel generated slightly less traffic than it did in 2015, and the Lego company introduced some changes resulting in me getting review sets later and later. There were good things about it, too, such as my visit to the Lego headquarters at Denmark or the release of the 2nd edition of my Unofficial Lego Technic Builder’s Guide. Let’s take a look, then, at what has happened in 2016.

I’ve spent the first half of 2016 working hard on the 2nd edition of my first book, which may explain why I’ve only finished 3 models in the first 5 months. My output has improved slightly in the second half of the year, but it was still far below the norm. I believe one of the reasons is that some of my projects get very complex or very challenging for reasons that are easy to miss, and as a result they take enormous amount of work yet seem relatively simple. A good example is my T-34/85 “Rudy” tank model, which took me ages to finish because I wanted to fit so many functions in such a small model. I’m pretty sure that more work went into this model that did into my Maus model, but it hardly shows – the result was a small, unimpressive model that looked simple and didn’t get much attention (as I write this, the Maus YouTube video has almost 10 times more views that the T-34/85’s video). I hate giving up on project, but perhaps the lesson to learn here is that certain models are not worth the time required to create them. In any case, it’s certain that the fact that a model is challenging doesn’t guarantee that it will also be impressive.

Other than the acclaimed Maus model, which was, frankly, very simple to build and felt a little dull, the highlights of the year for me were two models: the Land Rover Defender 90 and the A39 Tortoise. They have both taken plenty of time to finish, but the Land Rover was particularly demanding, requiring hours of hard work on details, functions, stickers and plenty of money spent on tan pieces. The Tortise, on the other hand, was a pleasure to work on. I feel really at home when building medium-sized models with studfull bodies, especially military ones. The Tortoise, too, was challenging in its own ways, but it also allowed me to develop some interesting mechanical solutions such as the elevation mechanism in a very tiny turret.

All in all, I have built 5 out of 12 projects I have had planned for 2016, and I have progressed with work on another 3, which isn’t a great result but better than year before. I was unable to shake of the habit of having multiple projects in progress at the same time, but they are not so many now and I think I’m doing fine managing them.

2016 was also another year spent on improving the quality of my videos. I have finally abandoned my obsolete editing software which I’ve been using for way too long and switched to Cyberlink’s Power Director. This change brought a long list of benefits, such as ability to make more complex videos, much shorter rendering times, and also ability to edit and create 4K and 360° videos. I’m a strong believer in both of these new technologies – just like we went from 640×480 videos to the Full HD standard, so we will go towards 4K with new TV’s and new computer screens, whereas the increasing popularity of VR headsets will make 360° available to experience fully to more and more people. Personally, I think 4K videos are particularly useful for speed builds of Lego sets. To be able to create such videos I had to invest in video equipment again, but this time I was helped, at least with the 360° camera, by the community. The 4K camera, the Panasonic G7, I’ve bought myself and I like it so much that it now acts as my primary camera at all times. I’m still exploring its abilities, for example I’m looking forward to filming at 50 fps, my only regret is that compatible lenses are very expensive.

Speaking of videos, my YouTube channel has been a source of concern to me this year. The traffic and the revenue were simply lower than they used to be, and while all numbers grew nicely, they did not grew as much as in the previous years. Ever since its beginnings, my channel used to grow faster and faster every following year, and 2016 was the first year when it slowed down – I wonder how much it has to do with my smaller number of published models. It now seems that I can’t rely on YouTube for money – it can generate some nice revenue in the best one or two months of the year, but for most of the year it  brings just a few hundred dollars for weeks of hard work. This is especially true for Lego sets reviews, which are very time-consuming to make the way I want to make them, and when I get sets late – like it happened with 1H2017 sets – my reviews simply get less traffic and make less money. Having considered this, I have decided to limit my reviews to Lego Technic sets only, with occasional Creator or Ideas set that features a vehicle and can thus be interesting to a Technic audience. I’ve decided to quit reviewing the Star Wars sets, even though I like them very much, because the fact that I was buying them with my own money and the fact that they have failed to sufficiently engage my audience mean simply that they were costing me a lot of money and time. I feel like my time and other resources are better spent building more models. The bright side of 2016, among all the low income and low traffic and being nowhere as popular as the clickbait videos that YouTube seems overfilled with these days, was hitting 100,000 subscribers and subsequently getting my own silver YouTube play button. I appreciate it a lot, especially since it’s the first time I physically got something from YouTube for all my efforts. I would love to get a gold play button one day, too, but with the rate at which my subscriptions are growing this will take the rest of my life.

YouTube wasn’t the only place to change – as you might have noticed, a few months ago I have also turned off all comments at this website. I was unfortunately forced to do this after a long struggle with some mentally challenged kids who have too much time on their hands. The problem was that I wanted to keep the comments system open for anyone, without the need to create an account and log in, but some people are simply not mature enough to be allowed to comment anonymously. Since I don’t want to force anybody to make an account in order to comment, and I don’t intend to spend my time checking if every comment is genuine or just someone playing with me, the only option was killing the comments entirely. It’s not a perfect solution, but it effectively spares me wasting my time on morons, and I can still communicate with normal people via YouTube or Facebook. So sorry about that, but I’m afraid the comments here are going to stay disabled indefinitely.

Finally, for the 2016 plans, I’ve picked 12 projects again, some of which were carried over from 2016, and 10 of which are already in progress. These are:

  • USS Sulaco: my first spaceship model with custom lighting by Brickstuff. It’s under construction, it will be mostly static with some moving parts, and I hope to finish it this year. The Alien: Covenant movie seemed like a good reason to publish something Aliens-related this year, but after seeing the first trailer I’m not sure about it anymore.
  • Kenworth T600 truck: a big-scale truck model that is already pretty close to being finished. I have struggled with finishing it through 2016, partially because it’s so huge that my desk space is barely sufficient to work on it. But I will be moving to a new apartment early in 2017, and I plan to create increased working space there, thus giving me good opportunity – and good reason – to finally get this model done.
  • A-10 Thunderbolt II: the plane I’ve been working on for several years now. The trouble was, I have first started building its hull with studs facing forward, which was a very unusual solution and didn’t really work. I have abandoned this approach and I should have a better chance of creating it finally with a traditional way of building.
  • King Tiger XL: another tank model, but this time, I hope, an innovative one. Since it’s going to be a really big model of a fairly regular tank, my plan is to make it work while having realistic exterior AND interior. Since the functions are simple and the scale is big, I should be able to hide the mechanisms and electric parts inside the engine, transmission and such, allowing me to recreate large part of the real tank’s inside. There should even be enough room for some furry crew members.
  • Volksrod: a model to look well and drive well. Nothing new and nothing we haven’t seen before, but hopefully something that excels at both. I’m currently hesitating between propelling it with 3 or 4 Lego RC motors.
  • ORP Orzeł submarine: just like with the Kenworth truck, this model proved difficult to build with my current working space. Hopefully it will be easier once I move.
  • Mark V tank: a project inspired by the Battlefield 1 game. It might be a good chance to improve on the Mark I model I’ve built 9 years ago, but it might also prove to be too similar to it. I have a bit of mixed feelings about this one, but we’ll see. Perhaps I’ll end up simply cancelling it.
  • JCB 5CX Wastemaster backhoe loader: a very challenging model combining Power Functions and pneumatics in a small package. Already in progress, it will most likely require the pneumatic functions to be powered and controlled from a compressor and valves attached by tubes to the model.
  • Liebherr LTC 1045-3.1 mobile crane: I haven’t built a mobile crane in ages and I would really like to get back to it. This very interesting, unusual machine seems to provide an excellent source material. It’s one of just two models on this list that I have not yet started working on.
  • M4A2 Sherman tank: a model that has seen only a little progress in 2016. My ambition is to fit it with a realistic HVSS suspension and so far I have been only developing one suspension variant after another. Now that I think I have exactly the suspension I wanted, the build should progress.
  • Aliens APC: a model I’ve started working on only a few days into 2017, and it has seen enormous progress since then. Most likely the first model from this list to be finished. I enjoy working on it tremendously, but at the same time it’s going to be larger and heavier than I’ve initially planned, leading me to abandon the idea of building a matching-scale Aliens Dropship model to carry the APC. At the current scale, the Dropship would simply need to be enormous and it would still struggle with APC’s weight, and I might lack the pieces to actually finish both models at the same time, since they’re supposed to be built in the same color. It seems like a better idea to keep the Dropship model separate, make sure it’s built in the scale that suits it best, and perhaps fit it with some smaller, simpler APC model to accompany it.
  • T-35 tank: the other model on this list I haven’t started working on yet. Seems pretty straightforward to make but still fun. I’ve been looking for an interesting multi-turreted tank for some time and I came pretty close to choosing the O-I tank, but T-35 seems more challenging and less grotesque, all things considered. Finding a convenient way to control surely won’t be easy.

Keep in mind that the list above only includes the models I want to build for sure, but I will certainly, as usual, end up building many other models as well. Something trains-related would be nice, I think, and I have also just recently got the Lego EV3 set which seems like a good source of inspiration. There are also ideas that have been bugging me for a while now, like a Tsar tank or a ski lift. We’ll see.

Last but not least, following the moderate success of my Lego Ideas Hamster project in 2016, I’m planning on something entirely new in 2017. It will not be related to the hamster project, it should appeal to more people, and it will be coming not long from now. It will have something to do with a certain 2017 movie and – who knows? –  perhaps it will one day land on your desk as an official Lego set.

Happy 2017!


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