Tuesday, July 19, 2011

(Un)official Building Instructions?

It all started when it became possible to build virtual LEGO models with fan created software like Ldraw. Over the years many add-on programs were written, to improve and expand the possibilities of the virtual models. High-res renders, flexible elements and semi-automated building instructions (BI) are just a few examples. If it wasn't for those we would never have had BI for some of those great TECHNIC MOCs (My Own Creation) that we see today. People like Nico71, Jurgen Krooshoop and Designer-Han build TECHNIC models and make BI themselves, whereas in other cases it's a collaboration, for example between Crowkillers who builds and Blakbird who makes the instructions.
Many fans take it for granted that those BI are almost always shared for free, and are discontent when someone dares to ask a compensation for it, but actually we should be very, VERY grateful for that.
Compare this for example with other industries: people pay a lot for sculptures and paintings; tutorials for courses cost money, besides having to buy all the materials yourself. So what is it then that makes LEGO creations so different?

Having a virtual copy of a LEGO MOC is one thing, but making step by step BI takes a lot of extra time and effort, especially when in our case we're talking about bigger TECHNIC models. Even though the process for making them can be done semi-automatically today, they are still far away from LEGO standards, unless...

Your name is Joshua Delahunty.
This life-long LEGO enthusiast has been active in the community from the beginning and is a software engineer by profession. After he had made a few smaller building instructions, late 2008 he came across Nathanaël Kuipers' modular ConceptCar and was determined to make this his next project. Because Nathanaël is a former LEGO TECHNIC designer, it would give Joshua a great opportunity to learn many aspects about how to create BI according to LEGO standards. His pursuit would be to develop and present BI as close as possible to the real deal. Little did he realise the very long and intense period that awaited him...
Why did it take more than 3 1/2 years to complete in the end?



First of all we must not forget that this has been a spare time project, and that this has been done besides all the day to day tasks, routines, and difficulties dealt with. But apart from that there were many other challenges to overcome.
Before being able to consider to even start producing BI, the model in question had to be built virtually. Nathanaël used MLCad for this, however, certain elements were not available in the parts library at the time. Philippe Hurbain another big LEGO enthusiast and Ldraw expert was called in if he could design those elements in CAD. Luckily he gladly accepted to help out.



Once the model was created virtually the biggest challenge in the whole process of making the BI was communication. With an 8 hour time difference it was not easy to find a slot to discuss the approach, ideas, model changes, etc. That's right, changes were made on the model during the BI process, as the ConceptCar was not fully designed with BI in mind, nor up to LEGO standards. Making changes on the go is time consuming and dangerous, because they can have influence on other parts, especially in TECHNIC. It's very common to miss something and have a mistake left in the update. This is probably acceptable for a MOC, but in this case Joshua had set himself a clear goal that those BI had to be as close as possible to official ones.

This leads to another major time consuming challenge; creating 'exploded' elements in steps for better visibility. As a consequence this means that not a single step could be produced (semi-)automatic, but every step, including sub(-assemblie)s, had to be created manually. This was only possible due to Joshua his dedication and persisting determination.
Because the process of making the BI had to be quite flexible too - remember there were changes on the go - the piece of code for every single step was saved. This is a painstaking job, and here the programming experience from Joshua was critical!

Click to open the original PDF file: [Left Image] [Right Image]


After the image for a sub or step was created and saved, the lay-out had to be done manually as well by using Adobe InDesign. Windows for BOMs (Bill Of Material) and subs were made, and the images of elements and steps were pasted in. This is not such a big deal for small models, but when we're talking about a model with almost 1500 elements spread over 200 pages of BI, this can be considered a major task!



Often it happened that there was a disagreement about the best way of building/ showing a step or section. Then there was a short discussion with argumentation on which way to go forward. Sometimes more than one solution was produced and then compared. Again this slowed down the process, but that's what you get with strongly opinionated perfectionists.

The end result however can be considered satisfying and a milestone in unofficial building instructions. The downside is that, because the process took so long, there is a good chance that the model is less interesting and possibly outdated by more recent MOCs. By presenting some teasers of the quality of the BI in this article , the developers would like to measure how much interest and appreciation there is for such projects. Is it worth the effort or more like overkill?

53 comments:

Andre said...

oh man i love the modular concept
will the BI be avaliable
I just recently got back into technic and am interested it in, specifically with the transmission and the whole modular setup

Conchas said...

Congratulations!

It looks it was a tremendous work indeed.
I'm also eager to get my hands on these BI. :)

Junkstyle Gio said...

This is a great project!
I guess a lot of people would be interested in getting their hands on this BI. And maybe if it was to be sold with all the parts it would be even better.

d66n said...

I was wondering if there would ever be BIs for this great modular design. I can certainly understand how long it can take to generate the MLCad for technic, but also feel strongly that good models, such as this, should be recorded for future generations. I can also understand why this had to be turned into a pdf, rather than just left as a MLCad file, due to the modular design and problems missing pieces can cause and installs/updates necessary in order to view successfully. Going to the trouble of making it look Lego-esque is commendable. Therefore, I don't believe there is too much overkill beyond what was necessary anyway to properly record this. You could argue that the MLCad file might be sufficient on its own but a pdf is much more future proof, and certainly more user friendly.

Gekke Ted said...

Well done!

Please create a Paypal account so we can send you some cash and get these Building Instructions :)

Micah Nordland said...

LDD can make BI, but as I'm not a real Technic fan, I don't know as to how good they are, and whether or not LDD has all of the necessary parts.

crowkillers said...

Glad to see these are finally completed.

If anyone from the States wants to see Nathanael's Concept car in person, I will have it on display at Brickfair.

Dave said...

The "teaser" images look great! Joshua Delahunty did a most thorough job. I would be willing to pay for these quality PDF Building Instructions; I don't think that the extra effort has been "overkill" at all. Honestly, Lego Digital Designer (LDD) is not very good at modeling large, complex Technic creations, and many AFOLs don't use MLCad. NK's creations are always well received!

Anio said...

He did it !

The quality is very impressive !
I'm impatient to get the BI too.

Cause THAT's a supercar !

Anio

XeO3-CPC said...

Wow. The quality of those instructions looks amazing. I'd definitely consider paying a small sum to cover the cost of producing something like that. I wouldn't really worry about them being "out of date" as it's still a fantastic model.

Erik Leppen said...

This looks very sleek! Indeed you'd almost think this is official of some kind.

What I was wondering...will this in the future become some kind of tool that enables more people to create some of these? Similar to LPub, but with more options? I'd love to be able to create one of those building instructions for my own models :D

Erik said...

Very impressive. Can't wait to build this masterpiece. Paul how do you have a copy of this model already? Just from the Pictures? Is is 100% faithful to Nathanael's design? And Anio, please stop with the sarcasm already.

Nico71 said...

Because Anio has done sarcasm ? Please read his comment, it is not sacarm.

In my mind, it is a well done moc ! design and functionnalities are very good. The BI is awesome, more than mine (despite I make it in 20h).

Too bad that the BI was a lit in late, the front and rear axle could have been improved with new frame. This is definitively a good new for technic fans !

Conchas said...

It is never too late, to get BI for such a model!
It is still very actual, but even if it was not.

Guess that Paul built the model just from the photos available, of the chassis and body. It should be easy for him. Genius understand the mind of each other with ease. :)

I had in my plans to build also one, from the photos. I'm pretty confident I'd manage to do it. However unfortunately I still didn't find the time to do it... :P
Neither for the Lambos from Paul. :(
Now I hope that maybe Eric would invest to do BI for his '2011 Supercar' and 'Super Deluxe 2'. :P
Otherwise the photos must be enough too!

Erik said...

Yes, it most certainly was sarcasm towards the video and the person who made it directly below this article. It is no secret that there is no love lost between Anio and Crowkillers and Anio continues to troll at Paul whenever he gets an opportunity. Why else would THAT be in all capitals? He was secretly giggling to himself after he typed that.

Conchas said...

I prefer to think it was an indirect hint about the official 8070. :)

Joshua Delahunty said...

Paul was actually a "tester" for us when the BI were partially complete. For what it's worth, he did find it more complicated internally than at first expected, if I recall correctly (forgive me for speaking for you, Paul). :)

Anio said...

@ Erik : you believe what you want, I do not care. ;)
I would just appreciate if you could avoid to speak for myself.

By using capital letters I meant that this model matches, IMO, perfectly with the very basic definition of what a supercar is. :)
A gearbox, all wheel drive, a steering mechanism, suspensions, no electric motor, no other features such as those we can find on 8070, and not more than 1500 parts (part number is very important to me since it shows how efficient the construction is).
In other words, the NK's supercar matches IMO exactly with the model which created the concept of supercar : 8880.

PS : I have no hard feeling with Paul. ;) And I think it is the same for him.

Erik said...

If that is true, then I apologize to you.

Anio said...

Thanks. ;)

Allanp said...

Jeez those instructions must have taken ages to do, very impressive. I bet it was very tempting to have more parts in each step on average!

Erik Leppen said...

@Allanp: yes, I was thinking something similar. They even used the same puny little steps used in official instructions :D

crowkillers said...

@ Erik

Yes this model is 99% faithfull to Nathanael's original design. I even ordered the rare very light blue gray liftarms for the seats. The only difference is that I used 3L Blue Pins and He prefers that 3L Black ones...

I badly wanted to take this model to display at Brickworld 2010 for Nathanael, but I couldn't tell exactly how everything was done and I wanted it to be perfect and I also knew Josh and Nathanael were working together on instructions for this model...
I did receive early instructions from Josh in spring 2010(I believe there were 175 pages leading up to the front end construction) and then I collaberated with Nathanael to make sure I did the front end exactly like he did his...

@ Josh

The preliminary instructions that I received were top notch. 10/10

There was nothing complicated internally at all, everything was very straight forward...

What I had actually commented was that the instructions were excellent for new technic builders(which is the absolute most important aspect of them), but the experienced builder will find the instructions slightly more complex than they need to be as far as the amount of pages goes...

Blakbird said...

First let me say a big "thank you" to Nathanael and Joshua for all the hard work put into this project. I agree with everything you said about how people tend to not understand just how much work something like this is. For my own part, I would gladly pay to have a copy of these instructions and to build this model.

Now for the question "is it worth the effort?" There is no question in the minds of the builders who want to build this model that we think it was worth the effort to create instructions. But whether or not the "LEGO Perfection" was worth the additional time is a more complicated topic. We must remember that LEGO instructions are marketed to children (or teenagers) and therefore the difficulty level must be matched to this demographic. An aftermarket AFOL supercar is likely to be built only by adults or at least by fans who have significant experience in Technic. For this reason, I think "perfection" is less important, though still obviously desirable. If we had the option to get these instructions 3 years earlier but less pretty, what would be choose? I will avoid answering that question and simply say I'm glad to have these now! The quality is superlative.

@ Conchas: Sure I'd be interested in doing instructions for some of Paul's newer models. I guess I just need the right incentive because of the huge amount of work involved. The respect of the community is often incentive enough.

By the way, now that the parts list has been posted here, I predict it will take less than a day before someone has created a Brickstore file of the inventory and started ordering parts. I know that's what I'm going to do!

Conchas said...

BTW, I'll also gladly pay to have these instructions. :)


@Blakbird

Your work and from all the others here involved (Paul, Nathanaël, Joshua) have all our respect! At least from the community members who knows to value it. And this is what matters! Kudos to you all!!

Great that you're interested to produce more BI, namely for the latest cars from Paul!
However I very well understand the struggle it is for many of us to bring into practice all the ideas and plans rolling in our minds... because of the time and effort they demand from us. :P

As for the perfection from these BI, I dare to say that most important motivation for Joshua ad Nathanaël must have been the feeling of achievement by doing such realistic and official look like BI. In that sense, the time it took to complete is by far the least important aspect, despite they are still very actual.
Personally I do not regret the time it took to have these, now that we know we are close to be able to get them. :)

Kudos!

Tom Bennison said...

I'm really impressed with those instructions, they look 100% official. I would definitely pay money to have a copy, similarly for some of the ones that Blakbird has produced.....

@Blakbird - do you sell copies of your instructions?

I've only recently returned to Lego Technic (Think my last 'proper" set i bought was 8480 - Space Shuttle) and have bought almost all official technic sets currently available between February and now but I don't find them as challenging as I remember the old sets being (from what I remember the instructions were never as split-up as they are now so maybe that's why, or maybe it's just because I'm not 11 any more...)

How easy is it to buy a list of parts on bricklink so that I could give a go at building maybe Crowkiller's car from the photos?

Thank you to anyone who takes the time to answer my questions, and sorry that not all of this comment is directly related to the building instructions above....

Conchas said...

Oops... almost forgot...

Kudos to Philo as well! :)

Anio said...

I already ordered most of the parts (and for less money than I expected).
I'm very impatient to put my hands on this beautyful car !

Conchas said...

Well... from my side, I'm pretty sure I already have all the required parts in the right colors!... ;D

What I do not promise is to find, in the short term, the required time to build this...
But in fact, with the instructions it might be something like 3-4 hours. :)

Blakbird said...

Collecting the parts is by far the hardest part of building it. Putting it together is easy!

I predict the most difficult parts to find will be the tyres. You must either use 8880 tyres or the super rare ones from Nitro Muscle.

Anio said...

Actually, the thing is that I do not want to pick parts in my others sets ^^

We will see this supercar popping everywhere in the next weeks !

Anio said...

@ Blakbird : thank you so much ! With your comment, I've seen that I had ordered the wrong tires. I fixed that. Fortunately, the shop where I did my order also had 4 8880 tyres !

Otherwise, I think the hardest part to get is the 4 Enzo rims. ;)

On the first page, I'm still not sure if the 1x15 liftarm is LBG or very LBG.
I would say very LBG... but not sure... :/

Conchas said...

@Blakbird

You're absolutely right about the hardest part.
If you have them sorted it turns to be a bit easier.

As for the tires and because they were becoming quite rare, I've collected 18 of them months ago.
Already waiting for this car and eventually some others.
At the time it was easier to find them packed with the wheels (under reference 444772c04).
However now, there are some available, alone. Guess they would not last for too long...
Tire 2997 (from 8880 as you mentioned) also fit, but not a perfect match. They're 2mm thinner.

Conchas said...

@Anio

I believe it is LBG!
The Very LBG are for the seats, and one 15L won't make sense there.

crowkillers said...

Speaking of hard to get parts, I am glad that Nathanael decided to switch to the Trans Red dishes instead of the 2x2 trans red round bricks for the tail lights.... ;)

Actually, you can still order them(the red 2x2 round trans red bricks) from Lego Direct.. Last I seen they had about 50 left...

I actually have Eight(8) 8880 tires if anyone is interested in them...

Also have about 50 of the larger Nitro Muscle tires..

Conchas said...

It looks the parts hunt is open... :D

Joshua Delahunty said...

In the interest of doing this set of BI "The LEGO way," we did indeed include some "dumbing down" steps, despite some long and sometimes opinionated discussions (don't get me wrong -- I enjoyed every minute) about how we wanted to present them -- old school or "by the book." As many have noticed, The LEGO Group works hard these days to target as young an audience as they can, for all their instructions.

Philo does deserve a huge round of applause. He did the tires at the last minute, despite the fact that we thought we had a lead on the official font for the tires (and then that fell through).

Despite my interest in doing these as officially as possible, I did "sneak in" a few changes that I prefer over the official way. The astute reader should be able to find them (once they release). :)

Indeed, the hardest parts to get are the rims, followed by the light stone grey parts. I don't own the rims myself, so I used the rims and tires from 8448, which look very impressive indeed (Nathanaël very nearly used them for his design as it was).

Finally, Anio's comment is VERY relevant here. It was MY thought that this IS the next Super Car (after 8448), whether official or not. And that thought is what lead me to volunteer my efforts to get this done.

Conchas said...

Hi Joshua,

regarding the rims and looking at pages 203 and 204, shouldn't these have an axle protruding backwards from the rim's center!?

Is it a "defect" on the rims LDraw part model?

Joshua Delahunty said...

The part is accurate. The cross axle attachment point is simply not visible from the angle presented. I base this statement on photos I have seen of the part and similar smaller wheel cover posts that I do have examples of in my personal collection.

Joshua Delahunty said...

@paul... What I meant about internal complication was that I got the impression that you felt the model was pretty straightforward at first glance but realized later that the BI showed details internally that were not as easy to guess with just an external glance... But perhaps I am providing my own improper interpretation of your reaction now.

Guillaume said...

These instructions are very impressive and very well done ! I'm a teenager and I think that lego's notices are too easy ( same for 12 years old kinds), so if these instructions can be more complicated, the building experience will be better :) Unfortunaly, I think that i will never have the parts to build this awesome model...

SLFroden said...

As someone that has played a little bit in CAD programs (AutoCad, 3D Studio Max, etc), and even re-created official Lego Technic instructions in MLCAD, I can completely appreciate the time and effort involved.

But getting the model into MLCAD is only the first step. Actually creating a set of building instructions that is easy to follow and doesn't have mistakes or ambiguities in it takes it to the next level and is even harder and more time consuming.

In terms of whether or not it is worth the extra effort, I think for a great model such as Nathanaël's modular ConceptCar then it is definitely is worth it. To have a nicely detailed set of instructions for you own creations not only allows you to distribute them to other admirers, but also allows you to have a record of your own MOC so you can recreate it yourself at a later date if need be.

One thing that I would like to point out... I can understand the desire to keep in line with the official Lego instructions, but if you were to print these instructions on a printer at home, the blue background can use up your ink/toner really quickly. An option to have these instructions on a white background would be good for saving ink/toner.

I would definitely be interested in getting a copy of these instructions, but I think everyone wants to know... does the back page feature a pic of the 'screaming kid' that most official Lego instructions have these days?

Dave said...

@ Nathanael Kuipers & Joshua Delahunty: When setting the price for the PDF Building Instructions, did you consider the results of Nico71's April 2011 poll? There are graphical results about the price people are willing to pay for PDF instructions of Lego Technic sets here: http://www.nico71.fr/lego-survey-the-results/ . Again, I am willing to pay for quality instructions; Nico71 ended up offering his instructions for free.

21st century Cars said...

@Conchas

http://technic.lego.com/en-US/Movies/default.aspx

8110 commercial

Conchas said...

@21st century Cars

Great! :)
Thanks

21st century Cars said...

@Conchas

Welcome

Chris said...

Anyone know what color part 4223211 is?
Can't find it on BrickLink.

Erik said...

It looks like light trans blue. Hopefully it is, because the "very light blue" trans color is hard to find.

walters.stephen1 said...

Cool, I'm glad to see these! I hope we see more MOC building instructions in the future - they're very enjoyable.

Joshua Delahunty said...

@Chris:
LEGO color 42 "Transparent Light Blue".

While I think it might be pretty rare, the idea was for people to get "close," not necessarily spot-on, with the colors. Insisting on Light Stone Grey for for the seats, for instance, is the completionist view, and shouldn't be required to enjoy the model in the least.

Anio said...

lol !

Few days ago, a BL shop still had 44 Enzo rims. Now, he has only 3 of them.

I wonder why !?! :D

crowkillers said...

@Anio

Those 8653 Wheel Covers were all bought by the same person. You can tell because it says Times sold 1, Quantity 44...

Unless Nathanael bought them up himself, that isn't a good sign..

Anio said...

Oh yes, well seen !

I see my order too : 4 for 2.39€ each.

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