NOTE: This is a meta update about MonoTown! Meta updates are “out of character” updates that “break the 4th wall” and are made out-of-character to our normal content. They provide behind the scenes info and updates to our supporters, they don’t affect the story, and you can choose to ignore them entirely if you want!
It has been just over a month since we we acquired some dedicated space for a new MonoTown HQ. We’re really excited about it, and there has been some pretty intensive work to get everything up and running. We’re still not there, but we’re making progress!
Layout / Configuration
The new flat has the following rooms:
- Living Room – this will house the city and is creatively named “The City Room”. It’s slightly smaller than our old room, with slightly lower ceiling height, but it’s still a huge room and overall, it will provide us significantly more usable space for the city.
- Front Bedroom – this will be the “Studio” to house special projects, our green screen, and AV and streaming equipment. Set pieces like the command center, MonoTown FC’s stadium, the stadium entrance, and pretty much any non-permanent part of the city will be filmed in this room up against the very large (comparatively) green screen space we’ll have. There is also a nice closet right next to this room which will provide much needed storage.
- Back Bedroom – this will be the “Build Room” and will house most of our sorted parts storage. The walls will be lined with storage and we will have a sit/stand build table in the middle of the room that I’m really excited about.
- Box Room (large closet – strangely called a box room in Scotland) – this houses our washing machine (used to clean dirty LEGO) and provides a ton of storage.
- Kitchen – drinks, snacks, tool storage, cleaning supplies, and the all important coffee station.
- Bathroom – used as normal.
Here’s what this all looks like, rendered pretty closely to scale, but not exactly:
After obtaining the keys it was time to get the LEGO moved over. I decided to use a moving company (or as we say in Scotland, a removal company) and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made so far on this project. The heroes from Stockbridge Removals showed up on time, did an incredible job of packing everything up, and eight hours, many trips up and down several flights of stairs, and two truckloads later everything was in our new space! Overall, this went much faster and was much easier than I anticipated. There was almost zero damage to the many complex and assembled sets – the worst that happened was I had to quickly rebuild one floor of Assembly Square and one piece of the ferris wheel collapsed.
Storage and Shelf Gate
We have a LOT of LEGO, and it was kind of nuts watching all the contents of one very large room and several closets worth of sets be moved and take over a small flat. The first priority was getting the storage situation under control. This meant installing three shelves in the Studio, and while we eventually got it done, let’s just say it wasn’t the smoothest experience! I’m not super handy so I got a friend to help, and lets just say that a bad combination of poor quality IKEA raw plugs, insanely deep plaster like you sometimes find in Edinburgh flats, the design of the shelves themselves, and some over-confidence on my part meant, well, that the shelves fell out of the wall. Shelf gate!
Fell out, thankfully, is a bit of an exaggeration – the top shelf pulled out of the wall, and was totally on its way to completely fall down, probably bringing the rest of the shelves with it, but we were saved by none other than Ninjago City! One of my favorite sets of all time has become even more legendary – the set is so high that when the top shelf pulled out, it rested on top of Ninjago City which prevented the shelf from falling, and none of the modulars on any of the shelves actually fell! We even got the whole incident on video from our security cam!
I personally felt like it was the best of both worlds – I get to never let my “handy” friend hear the end of it (max embarrassment for him), and miraculously, none of the LEGO modulars on the shelves were damaged (minimum actual damage).
There was also a bit of nervousness before on whether the shelves were in properly, and now after redoing everything, there definitely isn’t. And we got some great content along the way. Win-win-win.
One significant challenge that has slowed our progress down has been the overall cleanliness of the flat. The previous owners left it in a pretty disgusting state – there was multiple years worth of dust covering all the woodwork and pretty much any exposed surface, and things like the fridge, kitchen cabinets, washing machine, and closets were absolutely disgusting. Basics like simply vacuuming the floors or wiping down the fridge or cabinets hadn’t been done, and bright white painted woodwork was covered in deep layers of black dust.
It was left in such a bad state, it actually felt disrespectful. We’ve had to spend many hours cleaning all of this stuff, a lot of it up ladders, and it’s just one of those unplanned setbacks that is also very annoying.
Ultimately, progress has felt slow. Things like Shelf Gate were not just a few day setback, for example, it meant that we had to line up two schedules in order to get it reworked, and I’ve had several work related trips (and one very needed holiday) in the last month. I had hoped we’d be back streaming by November 1, but more realistically, it might be later than that. I may start to stream some simple stuff and gradually work up to our normal level of technical madness.
Despite the annoyance at our current velocity, we have made a lot of progress in many areas!
- Security – the flat is guarded by a professionally installed alarm system and is monitored by video cameras in every room. We’ve also upgraded the locks and installed blackout film on the windows. This not only prevents people from seeing what’s going on (still possible even though we’re not at street level), but it also protects the LEGO – one of the most destructive things you can expose LEGO bricks to is sunlight. It yellows them and ages them very quickly.
- Storage – we’ve done a quick first pass of storing the many sets and loose bricks we’ve acquired, and already this is proving to be major relief compared to our old space. We’ve also moved a lot of stuff like our model railroad equipment into “long term storage” underneath the city table. This has freed up considerable space! The shelving in the Studio has meant we can store almost the entire city on these shelves while we work to reconfigure other areas. The Box Room is getting cabinetry installed soon to make the storage situation even better.
- Lighting and Production – one of the most annoying hassles in the old LEGO room was working around what seemed like endless tripods, boom stands, lighting rigs, camera rigs, and control surfaces, and we are determined to solve this problem. To that end, we’ve designed and will soon be installing a complete rigging system in the City Room. Just like a real film studio! The rigging grid will support attaching lights, cameras, mics, and anything else we need without requiring on-the-ground supports or stands. The Studio and Build Room will also have wall and ceiling mounted lighting and camera attachment points – we’re not sure yet if we’ll install a full rigging system in these rooms as they’re smaller and probably don’t need as much flexibility.
- Network and WiFi – we’ve installed a state-of-the-art WiFi 6 network powered by TP-Link’s excellent entry level commercial WiFi offerings. The flat is hooked up to 500mbps internet that hits our TP-Link router which maintains VPN connectivity to our original flat and can load balance between multiple upstream providers, which may be in the cards in the future. The flat will be completely wired with gigabit ethernet and house our secondary Network Attached Storage (NAS) array which holds all of our video and other content assets which are then mirrored to the primary NAS located at our original flat.
Future City Design and Questions
Over the last two years I’ve decided that I want MonoTown to be unlike other LEGO cities. This was always the goal, actually, and while the city definitely had its iconic elements (the Skydock, the elevated trains, large hospital MOC, and of course the seawall), I started to feel like MonoTown was looking too much like every other LEGO city out there. My heavy emphasis on modular buildings (despite trying to combine more than one set into larger modulars) meant something like 80% of the city would always feel the same. I decided to take this opportunity of moving into a new space to reboot the city design and move most of the modulars out of town and into storage, or at least customize them so heavily it wouldn’t be immediately apparent.
That obviously has some pretty massive ramifications and means we are looking at a pretty decent setback, butI think it’s worth it.
The goals for the redesign will be:
- Heavy use of MOC buildings. Sure, we’ll probably buy some building plans on the internet but I want to do my best to build stuff that is completely unique.
- Modular Construction, no Modular Buildings – one of the Big Lessons Learned is that I need to build stuff more modularly. I’ve rebuilt the entire seawall twice now, each time saying this will never need to be rebuilt, but guess what? All new construction will adhere to a modular standard in each dimension.
- True cyberpunk styling and theme – I’ve always referred to the city as an ultra modern cyberpunk city, but apart from a couple areas, it never really looked like that, so we’re going to change that. I’ve been gathering a ton of reference photos and inspiring LEGO builds and I think this will be really fun.
- Plenty of trains and monorails, of course.
- Retain the skydock and seawall elements
- Incorporate lighting from the ground up in all designs.
One question for us all – how does this impact the story of MonoTown? We have had some long-delayed and long awaited content referring to the terrorist Factr Faction attacking the city and maybe they succeeded? Maybe the entire city imploded and needed to be rebuilt? Food for thought.
We will keep things updated here as best we can. In general, we’re documenting progress on the following platforms:
- TikTok / Instagram for short form videos on a much more regular basis.
- YouTube videos that are longer and come out less frequently.
- Blog posts here – much less frequently but we’ll link to the above content as we go.
If you really want to get involved, head over to our Discord server and join the community!