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    Brick-A-Pic Kickstarter Project Creates LEGO Mosaics

    When I visited LEGO Master Builder Nathan Sawaya's art gallery in New York last September, I asked the brick artist about how he designs and constructs his beautiful LEGO mosaic renditions of iconic and classic paintings. Sawaya told me that he creates those 2D LEGO paintings all by sight and hand--choosing the individual brick colors one at a time to adapt the original piece of art. Not all of us have that skill, so a new Kickstarter is attempting to automate that design process using clever software. Brick-A-Pic takes any image and processes it for LEGO's relatively limited palette of colors (16 current ones, 29 retired colors). The software will be available on their website, and Brick-A-Pic will even compile the pieces needed to build the picture in a kit if you want to pay for it. I like that the designs aren't restricted to 1x1 pixel pieces, and the samples they've shown look pretty lovely.

    The Brick-A-Pic Kickstarter video is embedded below. Now to think about what image I may want to turn into a LEGO portrait...

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #7

    Time for another mystery LEGO build! This week's kit comes from one of Norm's favorite custom LEGO designers, and is a wonderful tribute to an important piece of computer history. Place your best guess as to what's being built in the comments!

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #6

    Norm empties bags of LEGO bricks on the table and commences another edition of the LEGO mystery build! This week, the pieces from two small projects are mixed together, with one of a them a custom creation from our friend, LEGO designer Carl Merriam.

    Show and Tell: BioShock's Motorized Patriot (in LEGO!)

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm brings a new collectible figure produced by the toy company NECA. It's the Motorized Patriot, from the game BioShock Infinite, and a wonderful toy sculpt. Norm is also joined by Carl Merriam who has his own Motorized Patriot to share, in LEGO form!

    Show and Tell: Custom LEGO Creations

    For this week's Show and Tell, we're joined by special guest Carl Merriam, and professional LEGO builder who shares several of his most recent creations. Carl talks about competing in the "Iron Builder" challenge, and announces an awesome new job. Check out more of Carl's work here!

    In Brief: The Cinematography of The LEGO Movie

    If you've seen the LEGO Movie, you'd believe it when I say that it's a marvelous technical achievement. It's one of the first [nearly-all] CGI movies that approaches photorealism--the animation looks convincingly like actual stop-motion, photographed in the real world. Just ask our pal Jeremy Williams. The movie's 3D artists have talked about using microscopes to photograph and scan the texture detail of minifigs and other LEGO pieces, and the lighting gives the characters an almost hyper-real quality. Craig Welsh, a cinematographer and the Lighting Supervisor on the film, wrote this blog post about the research he and his team at Animal Logic conducted to explore how LEGO pieces look under different lighting conditions and the "virtual lenses" of CG renderers. I love that they looked to macro LEGO photography for atmospheric references, as well as their use of fingerprints and floating motes of dust to give the minifigs a sense of scale. (h/t Brandon Blizard)

    Norman 1
    Behind the Scenes: Making LEGO's New Sand Crawler

    I love when LEGO puts its designers in front of the camera to unveil their new creations. The video for the just-announced Jawa Sandcrawler is particularly great, highlighting some of the small touches that make these large kits really exciting. It hasn't bumped the R2-D2 designer video as my all time favorite, but it's still pretty damn good.

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #5

    Let's start the week off with a LEGO mystery build! Once again, Norm finds a custom kit designed by a talented independent LEGO designer, knolls out the pieces, and assembles it in time-warping time-lapse. This kit is only 220 pieces, but the finished build is gorgeous.

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #4

    Will tackles a LEGO Mystery Build in this week's Show and Tell. It's a small kit that doesn't take too long to assemble, but neat knolling of all the pieces still helps! See if you can guess what Will's building during the time-lapse.

    In Brief: Light LEGO Design in Chrome

    It's fitting that on the anniversary of the first LEGO brick patent (filed January 28th, 1958), LEGO announces a new digital design application for fans to piece together virtual LEGO creations. This time, it's a Chrome browser app developed in partnership with Google to promote the upcoming LEGO movie (which looks good!). The Chrome experiment runs on WebGL, and gives you 21 different LEGO pieces to work with. That's not nearly as full-featured as LEGO's stand-alone Digital Designer program, much less the wealth of third-party LEGO CAD apps available. Will experimented with the LDraw app a while back, but there are apps like LeoCAD, SR 3D Builder, and Bricksmith too. Professional LEGO artists have told us that they don't use CAD apps for their design, and I'm curious about which one is best for prototyping MOCs and generating PDF instruction manuals.

    Norman
    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #3

    Norm kicks off a new year and new season of our Show and Tell series with the third LEGO Mystery Build. This is actually a new official LEGO kit, but see if you can guess what's being built during the time-lapse!

    LEGO Announces First Official Simpsons Set

    Today, LEGO announced an official Simpsons kit. The Simpson family home includes a removeable roof, Homer's pink sedan, and minifigs of the entire family, plus Ned Flanders. It features 2,523 pieces and will retail for $200. Jesus at Leg Godt has tons more pictures of the assembled kit, which will be available in February. I can't wait.

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #2

    This week, Norm picks up another custom creation from LEGO artist Chris McVeigh and assembles the kit in a time-lapsed mystery build. See if you can guess what's being built, and then admire the design of this well-crafted gadget. Find more of Chris McVeigh's LEGO creations here.

    The LEGO House Museum to Open in 2016

    New York-based architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) reveals their designs for The LEGO House, an official museum (or experience center) dedicated to the building block company that's slated for construction later this year with an opening planned for 2016. The LEGO House, which will be built in LEGO's hometown of Billund, Denmark, will feature over 7,600 square meters (82,000 sq ft) of exhibits showcasing the history and ideals of LEGO. BIG's design animation--which looks inspired by LEGO's own Architecture Series--shows a flagship LEGO store, showrooms for sculptures, and even an underground vault for LEGO treasures.

    Bricks By the Bay 2013: Carl Merriam's LEGO Cthulhu

    I intentionally left one LEGO creation out of my Bricks By the Bay photo gallery. During the two hours I spent walking through the exhibit floor, I kept a mental ranking of the favorite pieces I saw there. Carl Merriam's "The Madness from the Sea" stood out as far and away my favorite. It's a menacing Cthulhu armed with a flowing entanglement of tentacles, sprouting both from its back and slithering around its mouth. The beast towers on a platform of LEGO rubble which floats on a bed of translucent blue and white studs that shimmer as a wake does clashing on the shore. Majestic and awesome were the words that stuck in my mind as I stared at this model.

    Carl, who builds custom creations under his handle The Brick Laboratory, is also the creator of the amazing working LEGO microscope (a design now on Cuusoo). But this Lovecraft-inspired piece debuted at Bricks By the Bay is far more organic than his other creations, which include an elegant John Deere tractor, StarCraft Battlecruiser, and even soldering iron. And as Carl explained to me, its creation originated with the hunt for a rare LEGO minifig.

    LEGO released its 10th series of stand-alone minifig "blind box" packs this year, which included a rare Mr. Gold figure. While buying packs in search for Mr. Gold, Carl found himself with an excess of Medusa figures, which caught his attention with its beautiful dark green tail piece. He knew he could use that piece for a custom creation, and thought on vines and trees, but it was the idea of the Cthulhu that clicked.

    With the Medusa's tail (13 were used in total) setting the tone for the piece, Carl also had to find complementing bricks that would pair well with it. Apparently, dark green isn't a common color for LEGO models, so Carl sourced some parts from Bricklink and even bought a random bag of 225 dark green parts from eBay a week before the convention. 30 hours of building and 1,400 LEGO bricks later, a Cthulhu was born. And even while at the show, Carl continued to tweak and mod the piece, swapping dark green hands (originally from a Star Wars Dewback body) with light green pieces with printed art found from an old modular dinosaur model.

    High-res photos of Carl's build below. (And the best part of seeing this piece in person? Overhearing awestruck kids explain to their parents what a Cthulhu is.)

    Photo Gallery: Bricks By the Bay 2013

    Three words most commonly heard at a LEGO convention: "that's so cool." That's the phrase I heard over and over again this past weekend at the annual Bricks by the Bay LEGO exhibition in Santa Clara--a sentiment well-earned. The Hyatt hotel ballroom where BBtB was held (also the home of California Extreme) was packed with attendees, builders, and retailers mired in all things LEGO. The room was split into themes: art pieces, historical, space/science fiction, and nautical, with each area showcasing a mix of sculptures and set pieces. Here are some of the entries that caught my eye. A spotlight on my favorite pieces coming up soon.

    Why LEGO Minifigs Have A Hole in Their Heads

    Is that hole that goes through the bottom of a LEGO minifig's head to the top of its stud to save on plastic? To snap on hats and helmets? As Giz's massive FAQ on LEGO explains, the hole was actually designed to allow the passage of air in case a child swallows the minifig head piece. Other pieces of trivia include how many bricks LEGO has made in its lifetime (400 billion), and why there are no multi-ethnic LEGO minifigs.

    Norman
    Tested Visits The Large Hadron Collider and ATLAS Experiment

    Norm travels to Switzerland to meet with physicists at CERN's ATLAS Experiment, the incredible particle detector that contributed to the discovery of the Higgs boson. 100 meters below ground and in front of a 7,000 ton machine, we try to understand the Higgs boson with the help of Star Wars LEGO...