Monday, September 10, 2012

TBs TechTalk 9 - with Paul Boratko, Crowkillers (Part II)

[Part I]

Lets proceed to the last part of the TBs interview, with Paul Boratko (Crowkillers).

TBs: What usually makes a bigger challenge for you - To create cars like the Vampire GT and SupercarDeluxe models [1, 2] out of your imagination, or to replicate real cars like you have done with Ford Mustang, the Chevys (Camaro [3, 4], Corvette), Porsche and the Lambos (Gallardo, Murciélago)?

PB: That’s a tough question because you can build your custom models around your mechanisms and then base the appearance around that, but when trying to replicate a real car, you can’t do this as easily without losing the quality of the overall look, which is extremely important. When I do my own custom model, I really try and put more emphasis on new features that work properly. I can’t really say one way or the other which is more difficult overall, but aesthetically it is more difficult to get an actual car model built due to the majority of the panels being triangular shaped.

Above, the 1967 Mustang.

TBs: Have you ever imagined how the Vampire GT would look like if he became a real car out of the drawing board of some designer?

PB: I actually did some sketches of the Vampire GT after I built it, as what it could actually look like if it were an actual car. They were the first drawings that I had done in a long time. I think they are still posted at my folder at brickshelf.

From the drawing board, into ABS.

TBs: And if by means of CUUSOO it turns into a LEGO official set – Can you imagine which changes might be introduced by the LEGO designers?

PB: I would imagine that they would keep in the color and the gearbox since it works so well and probably the dash switch which also works pretty nicely. There would probably be a lot of pins and other parts removed that they felt were not necessary. The key to this design (and it’s name) Is the color, the doors, and the gearbox. I would just be happy if Lego would bring back the 19L Flexible axles in Black, which are as rare and rare can get.

TBs: I believe that for a CUUSOO project like the Vampire GT, it is a matter of time until it reaches the 10.000 supporters.
If you really gets there, have you already though about what to expect from the LEGO review? Are you prepared to face an eventual ‘No-Go’? In which circumstances do you think it could happen?

PB: If they reject the design, then they reject it, the model has already gained quite a bit of publicity around the net both on and off of Lego related sites. It would be a little devastating because this project has been a ton of work just to get it to 2,000 supports without a license backing it and since most Lego builders write Technic off as an actually being real Lego. By the time it gets to 10,000 supports, I’ll probably have a better model (or two) done by then anyways.

TBs: Besides the symbolic prices asked for the building instructions from some of your models, selling at eBay and your own website, once you faced some criticism from other community builders. Although some other builders also sell their own instructions.
How do you feel about that? Do you think it is a fate from the top builders, because of some jealousy created around them, or there are just too many people thinking that everything should come for free?

PB: I think there is some of that going on in all of the Lego community, not just the Technic field. People see that you ask a small fee for a download, but they fail to realize the amount of time that instructions take to do, especially when it is a collaboration between people from 2 parts of your own country, or even 2 different countries. While I ask for compensation for some of my instructions, I also give back to the Lego community in a multitude of ways.
The whole jealousy issue from fans of some builders is something that I would like to see stop though. Before my website got revamped, I was getting a ton of hate messages from other builder’s fans. So when Juanjo came up with my new website design, the main thing that I wanted to do was have a Friend’s Wall with links that not only took you to some of the more popular builder’s websites, but the link was also a picture that showcased a piece of their work.
I try to be the first guy to comment on some of the top builder’s new projects, especially since I have so much respect for many of them.

TBs: Often, others have copied your models based on the same instructions, to make profit on eBay selling them.
How do you feel about that and what do you think that can be done to prevent this?
Is it possible to report such auctions and make eBay to cancel them?

PB: I used to worry about this years ago, but anymore I don’t really care. If someone has a bit of fun building something that I did and tries to make a profit from it, then more power to them. As long as they are not selling the actual instructions, I have no problem with it. I don’t think that there is really anything that can be done about it anyways.

TBs: Besides the building instructions you sell, occasionally you have been selling also some kits from your models at eBay. It means a lot of time and effort, to gather all the required elements. Is it a mean to promote your work, or do you have any other objectives to fulfill?

PB: Selling kits was purely a method to promote my work. There is really very little money to be made in selling Technic kits. It is far too much work ordering parts from 20 different people just to resell them at a small profit. A fine example is the Concept car kit that I did to promote Nathanael Kuipers’ Concept Car instructions last year. After all of the Fees from Ebay and Paypal were taken out and the cost of the parts (not to mention the time acquiring them) I think Nathanäel and I split like $125. Hardly worth the time and effort, but it did help the promotion of his instructions.

TBs: How did you get the idea to run an auction for charity, with the proceedings going to benefit the "Make a Wish" foundation?

PB: I was asked to do a Lego Kidsfest event back in June 2011 in Pittsburgh, which is near my hometown. I think it was the first session on Saturday where a man and a young boy who appeared to be around 12 or 13 walked past the array of cars that I had on display and the boy had whispered something to his father. The father then asked me if it would be alright if he could take a picture of his son holding one of my cars, he said that he and his son had seen my work online and they couldn’t believe that I was actually there. Without hesitation, I told him of course, and asked which one. His son pointed to my Red Gallardo and I handed it to him. His father said “Don’t worry, if he drops it, I’ll pay you for it”, to which I replied, “Don’t worry, my models are stronger than typical ones and can easily be fixed”. The boy then handed the car back to me and his father said, “Thank you, today is my son’s 21st Birthday”
I was really humbled and taken by that moment as I knew that I had made a special connection with a young man that had some problems.  That entire incident was burned into my brain for the duration of the Kidsfest weekend and as soon as I got back home, I knew that I just had to start doing Charity work and Make-A-Wish was the right way to go. Maybe the $1,626 that the Vampire GT raised back in May fulfilled a kid’s wish to go to Legoland.

TBs: Which is your most favorite official LEGO supercar or alike?

PB: Easily the 8448 Street Sensation. Believe it or not, that was actually the last official Lego set that I had built some 13 years ago. My wife is the set builder in the house and I get the sets she doesn’t like added to my inventory. Nathanael’s GT Car was my biggest inspiration to start building cars though. I also built Nathanael’s Concept car from his instructions to take to shows here in the U.S. to promote it.

This couple split the tasks at home! She builds the LEGO sets, he builds the MOCs.

TBs: Which is your preferred LEGO Technic part? Why?

PB: Probably the 2 x 4 L-shaped liftarm. It is a great part to add stability and has the axle hole to get multiple uses out of.

TBs: If you could influence the re-release of LEGO parts, we know at least some you would ask for! [5, 6]
It wouldn't be the first time, some parts were effectively re-released after your "demand" [7]. Just keep asking!...
But if, instead, you could suggest a design for a new Technic part, which one would you like to suggest? Can you describe it?
Feel free to tell us, if you would have more than one to suggest...

PB: I would really like to see a 3L thin liftarm with 3 axle holes. Currently the only piece similar to this is the thin cam which also has a ½ stud axle hole which can be useful, but the shape can be impractical. It is also high time to introduce a whole slew of new technic clutch gears to do a gearbox that is more simplistic. Most of the gearboxes built in Lego are far more advanced than they need to be, but due to limitations of clutch gears, they are forced to be.
Oh yeah, 8 tooth gear needs a redesign because it has some issues sliding on axles and into the holes of liftarms.

TBs: Which is the next car in which you're currently working?

PB: I am working on 2 things, a new gearbox concept for a car that is probably going to be a complete original custom for next year and another car that only features steering and a rear wheel drive train with front mounted engine. It sounds boring, but it is going to be something that I don’t think has ever been done before. This one is probably going to take me more time to do than any car that I have ever done.

TBs: Can you tell us a car which you still have not done, but you'd like so much to do?

PB: I would really like to redo the 5th gen Camaro that I did back in 2007/2008. Much to my surprise,  that model ended up on every car forum overnight, but looking back, I know now that it could have been done much much better.

TBs: Just to close, which is your actual real car, the previous one and which would like to have in the future if you can afford to buy it?

PB: I currently drive a 1996 Camaro Z28 (In the summer) which I have owned since day one (and dropped a ton of money into over the years) Someday, I would like to pick up a 2006 Pontiac GTO or a Yellow 2002 Pontiac Trans-Am WS6.

Paul, thanks a lot for your time and keep building great cars!

TBs: Hey, hey… wait, wait!! Just one last…
What is the origin of the "Crowkillers" nickname? Is there a story behind it?

PB: Back in the mid 90's I was about 23, and worked as a kitchen manager for a restaurant chain and our store was located near a large cemetery. There were tens of thousands of crows that inhabited this cemetery. Around 1997 we began to have problems with the crows attacking the employees and some of the guests. My cousin worked there and took garbage out one day and a dozen or so crows flew out of the dumpster and attacked him. Since I was in charge of the Back of the house, it was my duty to take care of this crow problem.

The next day I took my pellet rifle to work and began shooting at the crows. Unknown to me a Crow's feathers are like armor and they are very hard to take down. Over the course of the next year I was shooting at them, chasing them around in my car early in the morning before the store opened, and even throwing snowballs at them. Once I hit one in mid flight with a wicked (Lucky) curveball and brought him down. I dropped down to my knees and threw my hands up in the air like I had just won a Gold Medal.

The crow squawked at me and flew away, and when I got up off of my knees and turned around, about 6 guys who worked at the car wash next to our restaurant were shaking their heads back and forth in disbelief of what appeared to be a crazy man provoking these birds. So everyone began calling me "The Crowkiller"and the guys from the car wash would say "Hey, Crowkillers is here" when I would arrive at work. Various people were also commenting that they always seemed to hear crows cawing and squawking when I was around. I didn't notice it much, because I had gotten so used to it.

The following year some very odd things began to happen. The crows started waiting for me when I got off of work. And when I say that they were waiting for me, there would literally be 4 or 5 of them on the rear spoiler of my Camaro squawking at me when I would walk out of the back door from work. They also began following me home. One morning in the fall, I was awakened at 6:30 in the morning to extremely loud cawing coming from the rear of my house. When I opened the back door, the leafless trees were completely full of crows, At least 1,000, maybe even more. This is when I began to realize that I had gotten in over my head with these intelligent creatures.

Later that day when I got in my car and started it up, the crows in the trees cleared out like a swarm of angry bees and several of the birds followed me up to work (I could see them flying overhead through my glass T-tops). When I got to work I told some of my fellow employees what was happening and one of my good friends said "Paul, you got to leave those birds alone, you can't win"

Right then and there I decided that it would be in my best interest to make peace with these birds who had me greatly outnumbered. The "Crowkillers" name stuck with me since then, but the funny thing is, I don't think that I ever actually killed one.

1 comment:

Alex Campos said...

Thanks for the interview, it was most insightful!

I must confess I'm more of a fan of heavy machinery than cars, but appreciate a lot the work done to have so much authenticity, both in the design and especially in the aesthetics.

As for your models, actually I guess the Porsche is my least favourite. Of course, not because of any possible lack of functionality or faithfulness to the original looks, but because of the original's own looks... I never liked that rounded, frog-like design Porsche uses. Besides the Vampire GT, for its design and functions with that dash of personality, my favourite is the Murciélago. I have a sweet spot for Lamborghinis, and if you ever made a Countach or a Reventón any of those would steal my heart. :)

Finally, the history of your nickname is hilarious! Although it probably wasn't for you at the time... your case may not be the only one, as this article confirms. I'm fortunate there are almost no crows where I live!

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