10K Club Interview: Introducing Chris Nordberg of UCS Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
'It's a racecar and we're winning!' Chris Nordberg's (aka Norders on LEGO Ideas) UCS Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has finished in first place, if you count the 10K Club as first place that is! You can learn all about the man behind the iconic LEGOfied car right here. Please be sure to congratulate him in the comments below too!
- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
I’ve grew up in a few European countries, but now I live in a town called Guildford in UK.
- How old are you?
47 years old.
- What do you do for a living?
I’m a mobile software engineer (I write apps for phones and tablets).
- What hobbies do you have?
Other than LEGO? Programming, family life, dog walking, mowing the lawn, DIY. I dabble with the piano and guitar. I also like running and trying to keep fit.
- Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?
I built a huge Technic helicopter when I was younger, which I sent a photo of into the LEGO Club magazine. They didn’t publish it. I’m also proud of my Windmill (currently on LEGO Ideas), which took quite a bit of research to get right. But to be honest I’m proudest of Chitty!
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I expect same as most people I guess - very young. Maybe 5 or 6. I don’t ever remember having DUPLO so it probably wasn’t around then!
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games.. or 'just' watch the cartoons.
For me LEGO is primarily about solving hard build problems and making the creation work, visually and technically. Which is very similar to phone programming - your creation has be perfectly functional but also look great.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
I loved LEGO Space in the ‘80s - and yes I had many broken ‘Bennie’ space helmets! And while I like modern studless Technic, I actually prefer the original Technic studded beams that blended perfectly with System.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
This would be the original Technic Car Chassis set 8860. It was under the Christmas tree one year and the box was HUGE! I was 9 or 10 I guess. I’ve still got all the bits now, albeit all mixed up with our newer LEGO. I re-built it with my son 35 years on and it was perfect!
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
The original minifig red construction worker’s hard-hat. I remember having one when I was quite young - it must have been some time in the 80’s when the first minifigures appeared with proper arms and legs!
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
Mike Dobson and David Gilday, the designers of the CubeStormer series of LEGO robots. I can do the Rubik’s cube but it takes me about 2 minutes - CubeStormer can do it in 3 seconds!
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
Besides the usual ones, Eurobricks always has something that will make you smile on the front page. Given the times we’re living in, we all need a smile.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I loved the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film as a child, but the idea for building the car out of LEGO came from some work colleagues. In WhatsApp someone had put up a link to the "1930s Racing Car" model. We all agreed how cool it looked and that it would go far. And then someone else said "They should have made Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. We thought how fitting it would be that I make a version Chitty, because my model "The Old Mill" was gaining good support (in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was built in a windmill). So I started to take a look.
- How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
Having seen a few Chitties come and go on the LEGO Ideas platform, I wasn't sure it was a good idea until I started putting a few parts together in LDD and realised a large scale version of the car could work.
So after a month of designing, modelling, re-designing and re-modelling, Chitty V1 was born. The final scale of the car was set by the wheels.
It was screen-shotted and submitted and gained good support. It got a staff pick but despite that it didn’t get quite enough support to get the momentum going. At the time I was conscious that screenshots didn’t look real enough.
When it expired in November 2018 I made a few changes and re-submitted V2 with photo-real renders from Studio. It never got a staff pick, but I remember it trended on the website’s front page for a number of weeks, which really helped votes.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
When designing the digital model I didn’t realise some of the some of the parts were not available in the required colours. So when it came to building it for real some painting was required. The wheels for instance are all painted with red enamel. The two rear wheels are actually transparent and the two fronts are grey! Also LEGO makes the large 6x6 red tiles used in the wings but not the yellow ones. So they're painted yellow.
The hardest part of the build was the folding wing mechanism. It took some thinking to come up with that but it works really well!
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
If you’re going to design digitally, build tricky functional mechanisms for real. I spent far too long trying to solve problems in software that would have been much easier to solve by messing around with real LEGO.
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
I don’t know exactly but I’m going to say around 100 hours. Promoting it was a bit more sporadic - a website here, user group there. I think asking people to not only support but also share back on their social media is the key to getting good traction. I’m really not good at marketing - I’m more on the technical side.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
Amazing! I tried to stay up late to watch it go over 10K but ended up going to bed. I woke up the next morning and it was all over, two weeks ahead of the projected date. What a great start to the day.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
It’s just around 2,000 pieces. The original V1 submission was nearer 2,300 but during the redesign I discovered lots of parts that could be replaced with fewer, larger parts.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
I really like blending the functionality of Technic parts with the creativity and realism of System bricks. That’s probably why I like the old studded Technic beams more - they integrate better with normal LEGO.
My favourite technique in the model is the ‘bonnet cowl’, which uses two flexible hoses that are bent into a horse-shoe shape. 1x1 clips are attached to the hoses, folded down and then slopes are attached to the clips. That went through a few variations before settling on this design.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
Originally Chitty V1 was done entirely in LDD. I didn’t have a ray-tracing renderer so the images from that were literally screenshots from LDD, with a bit of post-processing.
Chitty V2 was ported from LDD into Studio and then updated. I love Studio’s rendering engine. I’d been messing around with Bluerender, Blender and POVRay to get photo-realistic images but it was a lot of effort. Studio makes it so easy now to make photo quality images from digital models. But there’s no substitute for building it for real.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
I didn’t but a final model might have a few, e.g. for the GEN11 number plate, and the fact plaque. If you’re using Studio it’s now got a custom part designer that allows you to add your own ‘stickers’ to parts, which is very cool.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
In my mind the model needs to stand as an artefact on its own and be wholly self-contained. And you need to be able to recognise what it is right away from the image (even if you can’t see the title!). It also helps to have a little charm or a bit of fun about it!
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
Instagram and Facebook are your friends. There are loads of user groups that share your interest in your model’s theme - join some of them and then drop a friendly “might be of interest” post in there.
My colleague network has a “hobbies” channel I could post to, which got a few more votes. I also created a QR code that linked back to my project page, and a couple of IDEAS supporters printed out posters with it on and went around their local toy shops asking if they could put them up. Awesome, and thanks to those guys!
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
Mr_Kleinstein’s Wall Clock blew my mind. And the Playable Piano - what can I say?! There are loads of others though - the quality is so high. Baby Dragon and Earth Globe are two examples of being pretty and charming to look at but also very cleverly designed internally.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea
Have a vision of the final product and stick to it from design right through to producing the final images. And if it’s digital, render it in Studio. It’s imperative that the images are photo quality!
- Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint what that might be?
I am working on something (another kind of vehicle..) but I’ve got to a point where I’m not actually sure that what I have in mind is possible to do with the degree of accuracy and realism I’d like. I’ll persevere though!
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