Saturday, July 19, 2014

Brickworld Chicago 2014 Round-Up

Name of Event: Brickworld Chicago 2014
Found at: http://www.brickworld.us/
Details: For the second year in a row, LMOTD made it out to Brickworld Chicago. Technically speaking, back in 2013 we were still trying to merge with Beyond the Brick, so we skipped rounding up coverage last year in favor of video work (Matthew) and behind-the-scenes efforts for the aborted site (Dan). I may try to do a proper round-up of BW13 at some point, but for now I'm focusing on 2014.

In the interest of being competitive, I did not take enough photos to beat my record from last year, but I did seem to take more than any other individual. I don't know if that counts as winning, but it's a start. It's weirdly satisfying knowing that I ended up missing a few of the MOCs because I was too busy enjoying rare opportunities to catch up with friends from previous events. Another nice thing for many of us is that the amount of high-profile people who showed up this time around and don't always make it (the west-coasters in particular had a huge presence this time) turned this into more of a networking event than in prior years - it was great getting to meet many of you that I previously only knew from online.

Pictured to the left: the spectacular Micro-GARC Brickworld Grand Prix was not just a highlight of the event, but perhaps the most successful online community collaboration ever, with dozens of excellent models being put in a side area because of overwhelming participation. Usually you see group layouts find creative ways to work around low participation - this was the first time I've ever seen extra space required to fit excess models. This photo of part of the layout is by Cale Leiphart.

As always, if you have or know of photos or other coverage of Brickworld 2014 that I don't have here (I'm sure there's something I'm missing), feel free to mention it in the comments or send an e-mail to legomodeloftheday@gmail.com so that we can add it here.

My (Dan's) Flickr photos
Brickapolis (Matthew)'s Flickr photos
Beyond the Brick's Flickr photos (most descriptions have links to their videos on YouTube, including the keynote address and a tour, as well as interviews - which they're actually still editing and uploading)
Nick Brick's Flickr photos: day 1, day 2, World of Lights, day 3, & day 4.
Kevin Hinkle's Flickr photos
CEE Team Blog Event Recap
RedCoKid's Flickr photos
Cecilie Fritzvold Flickr photos
hinckley39's Flickr photos
Joe Meno's Flickr photos: setup, World of Lights, 1, 2
Bill Ward's Flickr photo album and (blog post)
Cale Leiphart's Flickr photos
The official Brickworld Flickr pool
SavaTheAggie's Flickr photos

We also rounded up coverage of Brickworld Chicago in 2010 and 2011.

Some housekeeping sidenotes: Yes, we still intend to round up coverage of other events, in particular BrickFair Virginia 2013, BrickFair Alabama 2014, and BrickFair New England 2014, because I (Dan) loved all of those and continue to be active with BrickFair as an event volunteer (please join us in Virginia later this month!). Also, I've decided to back off of trying to keep track of the official Flickr jargon - from here on out, we'll just refer to a grouping of photos on Flickr as "Flickr photos" (rather than "photoset", "set", "collection", or "album", since these seem to change).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gorilla Train Engine

Name of Model: Gorilla Train- Alternate build of 70008
Created by: MasonKH
Found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/61974423@N06/13537166385/ (there are 7 photos total: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7)
Details: MasonKH came up with this clever build using only parts from set 70008 Gorzan's Gorilla Striker. The uses of the large curved elements (even that really stylized vehicle mudguard element) get a surprisingly believable shape for a train locomotive. Some of the details weren't possible to do too well, but were still a valiant attempt (such as the simple running gear). I tend to avoid minifigures when making alternate builds, but the Gorilla driving the train is adorable. That's what Chima characters are supposed to be, right?

This was originally designed for the BE THE SPECIAL - THE LEGO® MOVIE REBRICK COMPETITION (which has since ended) hosted by LEGO's ReBrick. We haven't previously covered ReBrick, but it's an interesting service LEGO currently runs that can be thought of as "tumblr for LEGO fans". In recent months, they've taken to using fun activities like this to get more fans interested in the site. Considering my penchant for alternate builds (or really, anything that forces us to be clever instead of throwing a large LEGO collection at an idea), I'd expect to see more entries from this contest pop up here over time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Miniature Husky Sculpture

Name of Model: Miniature Husky
Created by: Quy Chau
Found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nxtquy/sets/72157644934079871
Details: This is one of those rare models that is technically interesting, aesthetically pleasing, and documented in freely available instructions. While the availability of specific small pieces and studs-not-on-top elements has meant that most people can't easily attempt this style of building, the reality is that it can be quite tricky to get the geometry to work out just right - it isn't easy even with all the right pieces handy. Having instructions (for something more complex than a Lowell sphere) is a great place to start, and should get more people trying this out (even if only to build other dog breeds).

There are some other nice details in the model as well. Note the use of 1x1 plates with teeth as claws and Bionicle ball joints as eyes. The "SNIR" (Studs-Not-In-a-Row) approach to the eyebrows is a clever way of filling in a gap that requires getting away from 90 degree angles, and a similar problem with the ears is solved by having them attached to Technic half-pins (which have a stud on one side and will allow anything attached to that stud to swing loosely). While a bit simpler, I'm a fan of the collar as well - it's a detail that makes the finished result more believable, and the studs-not-on-top geometry makes the cheese slopes look perfectly believable as a round surface.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

More Site News

We have some more news to share:
  • We (Dan and Matthew) made it out to BrickWorld Chicago this year. I'd like to put together a proper photo roundup at some point, but for now, you can watch the photos I'm still uploading to Flickr. Some of you who saw us may have gotten your hands on some of our promo tiles we've been giving away, if not, you can try to catch us at BrickFair Virginia in a few weeks. I (Dan) will be there co-leading the Mini Con layout - if you're a registered attendee bringing MOCs to display, bring a miniland-scale version of yourself and a mini version of your MOC to display. Matthew and Seth should also be around for some of the event, but can't keep the sort of crazy hours I tend to keep at LEGO conventions.
  • We are starting a LUG! Most of the details are still To-Be-Announced, but the idea is to provide a stopgap for people who want to be involved in the LEGO fan community but aren't already involved in another LUG (this will be primarily an online LUG with meetups at conventions). If you want to be involved with this, you can shoot me an e-mail at legomodeloftheday@gmail.com
  • Our first set giveaway will be starting soon! Our friends on LEGO's Community Engagement & Events team have very generously given me a few goodies that we will give you a chance to win in the near future.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mini LEGO Con

Name of Model: Mini LEGO Con
Created by various people, see below
Found at (semi-official Flickr group): https://www.flickr.com/groups/2318936@N22/
Details: As I hinted at earlier, there's a big project I've been involved with for a while now that I am really excited to share with everyone. That project is Mini LEGO Con - in short, a miniland scale model of a LEGO convention. This is a massive group layout that you can expect to see at many LEGO conventions (and other conventions, too!) in the years to come.

Mini LEGO Con was first displayed at BrickCon 2012 by Steve Oakes (BrickCon Microscale coordinator) and Mariann Asanuma (former LEGOLAND Master Model Builder). Mariann brought Mini Con to other events throughout 2013 (BricksCascade, Emerald City Comic Con, BrickWorld, BrickFair VA, Bricks by the Bay, BrickCon). After BrickFair VA, BrickFair coordinator Todd Webb decided to make Mini Con a part of BrickFair going forward, and purchased the parts required to assemble the layout at future conventions. Most notably, Todd decided to change the layout from being a caricature of a convention to being an exact match - at BrickFair, the baseplates and tables are set up in the same layout as the convention itself.

Back at BrickFair Alabama 2014, I (Dan) assembled the miniland-scale (roughly 1:20) tables, chairs, and stanchions for use at BrickFair events, the next of which will be in Manchester, New Hampshire, this upcoming weekend (public hours are May 10th & May 11th, 2014, 11:00am - 4:00pm, we'd love to see you there!). If you've registered to participate, you should make sure to bring a miniland-scale version of yourself and microscale versions of the models you're bringing (BrickFair provides the bare bones of the layout, so you shouldn't need to pack your own mini tables and mini stanchions). If you're attending as public, you're in for a real treat, as this enormous layout will completely match the map of the convention (and should be filled in even more than the layout in Alabama earlier this year).

Can't make it to New Hampshire next weekend? BrickFair will also be in Virginia (July 30th-August 3rd) and New Jersey (October 30th-November 2nd), and similar, smaller layouts (without BrickFair's backing) should be appearing at BrickWorld Chicago (June 11th-15th) and BrickCon (October 2nd-5th). We're hoping this catches on more generally as a theme and a building standard for group layouts at LEGO events (like moonbase or the Cafe Corner standard).

I've started a Flickr group to make it easier to find ideas, inspiration, and displays related to this theme. For blogging purposes here, we're mostly talking about LEGO conventions, but these displays are also a hit at Comic and Sci-Fi conventions (think: minilanders in costume as their favorite characters) and I intend to expand to Maker Faires this year as well. The Flickr group discussions include an attempt at a list of all Mini Con events.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Banjo-Kazooie

Name of Model: Banjo and Kazooie
Created by: Sir Nadroj
Found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sirnadroj/13911243670/
Details: I regret that we don't see as much from Sir Nadroj as we used to, but whatever he builds never fails to amaze. I'll admit to never playing the game(s), but I am familiar with the characters and they are captured perfectly here. Particularly amazing to me is the way Banjo's brow is handled, surrounding those ball socket eyes perfectly. Not an easy task with a part easier used in even goofier-looking creatures. The paws deserve a shout-out too; I didn't even know you could use that technique with the 2x2 slope pieces.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Another Blog You Should Read: the LEGO Community Team Blog

Name of Blog: Community Team Blog
Created by the LEGO company's Community Engagement & Events team
Found at: http://ceeteamblog.com/
Details: If you've been following our coverage of LEGO-related events over the years, you've probably come across some interesting examples of official visitors to these events and official support for these events from various parts of the LEGO company. This is something that has been in flux over the years as LEGO tries to determine how unofficial events can be of use to the LEGO company and how best to support unofficial events. Those constant changes can make it hard to keep track of what LEGO does and doesn't do for the fan community, but all of the official efforts are managed by LEGO's Community Engagement & Events (CEE) team, which (since November 2012) has a blog to help you stay in the loop. It won't tell you everything (because some community support programs are relatively secret pilot programs), but it's a great resource and will show you many fascinating aspects of the LEGO fan community and the LEGO company.

We really can't thank the CEE team enough - they're out there trying to keep track of every LEGO User Group in the world, listening to a ridiculous amount of concerns from LEGO fans, and constantly answering the same questions (even though most of the answers are as follows: "No, we can't confirm or deny anything about the future or upcoming products", monorail/old grey/Bionicle/9V trains are not coming back, LEGO does not have the license to make that, and no, we can't supply you with free LEGO pieces for your personal projects). I don't know how they do it, but they are fantastic and do an excellent job of being our voice inside of the company and representing the company to the larger community of LEGO hobbyists.

Full disclosure: Senior Community Coordinator for the Americas Kevin Hinkle is a "somewhat awesome" friend-of-the-blog who has previously featured my work on the CEE team blog (see screenshot above) and may or may not secretly be on our payroll. Those may be excellent ways to get my attention, but I'm still not above razzing Kevin for not making it to every LEGO convention in the world.

Further disclosure: We don't actually have a "payroll" and much of this blog's relationship with Kevin (and his team) is based on our previous relationship with Beyond the Brick. Beyond the Brick recently interviewed Kevin in his Enfield, Connecticut office and Kim Thomsen, Community Coordinator for the EU, blogged about that video.

I'll be disclosing more (about a project I've gotten involved with that has indirectly received support from LEGO) in the near future.

L3-G0 - Life-size Motorized R2-D2

Name of Model: L3-G0
Created by: Shawn & Lara Steele with help from Nikita Steele, Laurel Lee Steele and Hosik Lee
Found at: http://l3-g0.blogspot.de/
Details: Sure, this isn't a purist LEGO model (it uses both non-LEGO electronics and non-LEGO mechanical parts), and its status as a still-evolving model sort-of violates my own rule of not covering Work-In-Progress (WIP) creations, but this is too exciting not to cover. I think it's safe to say that most of us who have displayed our LEGO creations at events where members of the R2-D2 Builders Club are also displaying their astromech droids have wondered if it would be possible to combine the two. You can stop thinking that's a clever and original idea now, because it's been done, and done very well. Interestingly, the builders of this 'bot actually joined the R2-D2 Builders Club and borrowed ideas from that community, but ultimately had to design a unique internal structure to compensate for the LEGO portions being thicker than most of the materials typically used for building astromech droids.

This model has already appeared at BrickCon 2013 as a mostly stationary model (this still involved head movements, lights, and sound), at Emerald City Comic Con 2014 as a functional moving radio-controlled vehicle. You can see it at BrickCon 2014, with additional not-yet-built features. I don't usually like to speculate (it can be hard to find time to get big projects working right), but judging by how ambitious and successful this has been so far, I think by BrickCon it will fit into a matching fully-function X-Wing Fighter.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Revisiting "Another Blog You Should Read"

Yes, more wordy news. This time we're revisiting our "Another Blog You Should Read." series, before we start adding new posts to the series. Here's where things stand now with our previously featured favorite bloggers:
  1. Bruce nh/Bricktales and the "_Bricks" blogs - these are still going strong and there are even more of them now - in addition to the previously mentioned MicroBricks, VignetteBricks, GodBricks, and MinilandBricks, there's now also ArtisticBricks, ContestBricks, ComicBricks, DisneyBricks, SciBricks, and TolkienBricks. All of which are quite good, and updated fairly frequently. Incidentally, you can also use ContestBricks as something of a replacement for that Contests calendar layer we recently covered the demise of.
  2. Mariann Asanuma's Model Building Secrets - Model Building Secrets is still as fantastic as always, although perhaps updated a bit less frequently these days (justified by her ongoing career as a professional LEGO artist). Since 2009, she's also become a fixture on the convention circuit, allowing more of us to put a face to the name behind the blog. She's been getting more commissions lately, including a recent Rocketship House for the upcoming game WildStar Online.
  3. TechnicBRICKs - TechnicBRICKs remains up to date and largely the same as it was when I recommended it in 2009 - the emphasis is still primarily on set news, with videos, techniques, and original creations being more occasional features. It's a must-read if you have even a passing interest in Technic, and a good way to keep up to date with the seemingly endless stream of new Technic pieces we've seen in recent years.
  4. The NXT Step - The transition from the NXT kits to the EV3 kits didn't stop The NXT Step. Although updated a little less frequently than it was in 2010, it's still a good source of Mindstorms news - the best Mindstorms news source in RSS format that I know of (although I may be slipping, since the Mindstorms community tends to gather around forums instead of blogs).
  5. reMOCable - Mike Doyle's reMOCable was apparently a bad call - it hasn't been updated since September 2011 (and we only featured it in August of 2011). It was a fairly new blog when I recommended it, although his Snap blog was more established at the time. Snap primarily focuses on his own creations and displays instead of covering other people's models, but is certainly worth keeping up with (and can take reMOCable's place on this list). Entertainingly, I described reMOCable as a cross between a blog of LEGO creations and a coffee table art book - and now Mike Doyle's gone on to release a coffee table art book of LEGO creations (a second volume is on the way). We probably won't end up reviewing the book (since it came out during our unintentional hiatus), but No Starch Press lets you see some pages from it online.
As a housekeeping sidenote, while we are still using the "Another Blog You Should Read" tag, most of our tags/labels will be in flux until this site's new format is settled in (and we have no idea when that will be). The handling of tags/labels was one of the things we didn't like about the 2012 update of Blogger, and we weren't terribly organized with them beforehand.

As another sidenote, at one point, we were planning on making a Google Reader Bundle for all of the other blogs we've highlighted here. Now that we're up to fourteen (14) blogs (with more that I intend to cover soon), it seems more important than ever to make it simple to start following blogs to keep up with the online LEGO community, but the days of easy RSS-based blog reading in Google Reader ended last year.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On the BrickJournal Shared Calendars...

Over the years, we've written about and contributed to the BrickJournal Shared Calendars many times, going back to October 2008. We've had a link to their Google Calendars on our sidebar for years, and I was added to the list of people allowed to update these calendars in November 2008 (over time, I've granted myself access on other e-mail accounts).

I've decided (for a number of reasons, not all of which I'm comfortable sharing at this time) to withdraw my support of the shared calendars and remove our sidebar link, effective immediately. When I first got involved with the shared calendars, they were truly a shared project updated by a large pool of community-minded AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO). One of the main appeals was that there were many different layers, all of which had a variety of events on them. While I haven't added as many events in recent years as I used to, it appears that the majority of contributors have dropped off of it entirely. Several of the layers have become entirely useless, while the others are now updated so inconsistently that I can't comfortably recommend them anymore. Further, a look at who contributed the remaining upcoming events reveals very little variety in who still contributes: there are four people left, one of which added most of what's there. The second most active contributor (myself, with 3 upcoming events) lives in the same part of Florida as the most active one (but the two rarely speak). The other two contributors have added one event each. These sorts of community projects only work if they are actively maintained, but as it stands, it's too far gone for me to justify my further support.

The LEGO Displays layer appears to be almost entirely abandoned. I recently added LEGOPalooza, which has not been officially announced online yet, but is this weekend in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (full disclosure: I was previously NCLUG's "website guy", but between when I offered to announce the event and when I actually had the event's running time in-hand, someone else stepped up to "run" the website and simply removed all news). The only other upcoming events on it are Scouting for Bricks (May 3rd-4th in Leesburg, VA, although the calendar incorrectly lists the 5th as well), and "Kärleksmisär", which is on August 30th but the calendar doesn't give any clue as to where that is (a quick Google search doesn't clarify the situation).

The Events/Conventions layer appears to still be relatively maintained, albeit almost exclusively by one person. I've recently added BrickFiesta (Fourth of July weekend in Texas) and Bricks By the Bay (August 7th-10th in the San Francisco area).

The "Mindstorms and FLL Events", "Contests", and "Fan Club Meetings/Events" layers all seem to have been abandoned entirely.

I am not prepared to endorse any other calendars for LEGO events at this time, although we will continue sporadically announcing specific events on this blog.

Although we will not be advertising them anymore, you can still bookmark a link to the BrickJournal Shared Calendars.