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    LEGO Invisible Lift Contraption is Hypnotizing

    My only real encounter with LEGO technics pieces are the ones included in standard LEGO sets, but this amazing ball elevator contraption makes me want to start building those mechanized kits. Designed and built by hobbyist Akiyuki (check out his other YouTube videos too), this "Great Ball Contraption" elegantly elevates LEGO soccer and basketballs through a Rube Goldberg-like sequence. The build took 70 hours. It's the kind of thing I would expect to see on display at a science museum. (h/t Adam)

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #10

    Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We're starting this week off with a LEGO Mystery Build! It's been a while since we've done one, but the timing couldn't be more appropriate. This week's build is actually three of the same sets, with different colors, assembled concurrently. As the time-lapse engages, place you best guess as to what Norm is building in the comments below!

    In Brief: LEGO Ideas Next Set May be Their Best

    LEGO Ideas (formerly Cuusoo), has really taken off in the past year or so. The program, which allows users to submit their own creations and theme ideas for voting and review, has produced eight sets (and spawned a whole line of Minecraft sets) since it began in 2008. This year saw the release of the Mars Curiosity Rover set, a space-themed Exo Suit, the Ghostbusters Ecto-1, and the very popular Research Institute. The first two Ideas sets to be released next year have also been announced: there's a Big Bang Theory playset, as well as what may be the best set I've seen in a while: Birds. Designed by Tom Poulsom, this set includes a Blue Jay, Hummingbird, and Robin, each on their own stands and with a flower to boot. The set is 580 pieces and priced at $45, going on sale Jan 1. These sets usually sell out really quickly, and LEGO has not been known to do second runs after they're gone.

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    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #9

    Let's kick this week off with a LEGO Mystery Build! Norm gets a new custom kit designed by one of his favorite LEGO artists, and assembles it in his home office. Place your best guess as to what the kit is in the comments below!

    Show and Tell: LEGO Ideas Research Institute

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm snags a new LEGO kit that sold out in just one day: the Research Institute minifies set that was designed through LEGO's user-submitted Ideas program. Here's why we wish LEGO would release more of these sets.

    Photo Gallery: Bricks by the Bay 2014

    We're veterans of CES, E3, Maker Faire, and even Comic-Con, but one type of event we're still very new to is the LEGO convention. And there are many of them. There's BrickFair on the east coast, BrickCon in Seattle, KidsFest, Brickworld, and Northern California's own Bricks by the Bay. For the past three, years, I've attended this gathering of LEGO aficionados to appreciate the amazing custom creations designed by locals and visiting builders. Held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, this year's event expanded to two ballrooms, with tables set up to display builds in various themes: space, fantasy, historical, high seas, pop culture etc. My personal favorite category are the intricate diorama scenes showcasing intricate architecture and clever use of mini-figs. This year's large-scale standout was a massive Rivendell set made by Seattle-based builder Alice Finch. Finch spent five months assembling over 200,000 bricks for her set, which was carefully driven down to the convention by friends. I also loved the beautiful HMS CrazyBricks Man-O-War ship build, which carried a crew of 300 wacky mini-figs. There are many LEGO conventions held around the world, big and small, and I encourage you to make it to one if you ever have the chance!

    In Brief: The Average Price of a LEGO Brick

    Since we're building LEGO on the site this week, it's a good time to revisit the economics of toy bricks. The price of a single LEGO brick is a topic that data nerds love to analyze. I've previously shared this in-depth statistical analysis of LEGO set pricing from early 2013, and Wired's wonderful Dot Physics blog tackles the topic again today. Wired's surveying of modern LEGO sets identifies an average price of about 10 center per piece--what LEGO fans and Brickset traders have known for a long time. But Wired also points out that LEGO Duplo and Train themes are the most expensive sets (per brick), while the Architecture theme is the best bargain. Of course, LEGO fans know that it's not just about the number of pieces you get per set that determine its value, or even its licensed theme. Some sets are prized because of their diversity in LEGO pieces, as well as one-off pieces. Of course, there's also mini-fig exclusivity. And the people who may worry the most about the variations and fluctuations in brick pricing? LEGO artists.

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    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #8

    We saw many new LEGO kits announced at this past Comic-Con, so what better to celebrate that than a LEGO mystery build! This week's kit is an official LEGO one that was actually designed by a Tested reader. Place your best guess as to what's being built in the comments!

    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)

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    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.