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Beyond LDraw – The Making of a Train Instruction Book Steve Barile SEBarile@sstanamera.com So you want to make an instruction book… There are tons of things to think about long before you put mouse-to-3001.dat What are your goals? Who is your audience? And to a lesser extent, the mechanics

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so you want to make an instruction book
So you want to make an instruction book…

There are tons of things to think about long before you put mouse-to-3001.dat

  • What are your goals?
  • Who is your audience?

And to a lesser extent, the mechanics

  • Publishing Costs
  • The layout design
  • Model design
  • Rendering path

We will explore these and other topics in detail.

goals
Goals

Is it a(n) …

  • Idea Book – to convey ideas
  • Model Book – to proliferate models
  • Personal Challenge – another project to tackle
  • Educational Experience – the best way to learn is by doing
  • Stature – to gain recognition in the community

…often it’s a combo of all of these!

target audience
Target Audience

Although you might have a certain target audience in mind, be assured that your material will be seen by all skill levels and ages; Kids, AFOLs, non-AFOLs…

--- “I never heard of a train engine without a motor!”

  • Do several usability tests
    • Recruit everyone; kids, AFOLs, non-AFOLs…
    • Tell them: “They are testing you! NOT visa-versa.”
    • Watch, but don’t help or even talk
    • Their struggles are your red flags

--- “He did it on his own with ease! He is 8.”

authorship
Authorship

Should your instruction book only include your ideas?

  • Your designs only
    • You’re never finished, but is it good enough?
  • Not your designs only
    • Many would be honored to share their work but either aren’t interested or simply can’t deal with a project of this scope; just ask!
    • Always give credit, never plagiarize !
    • Compensation (no one’s making any money anyway)
  • Borrowing ideas (Did I think of this?)
    • They’re all borrowed!
layout approach linear or hierarchical

1

2

3

4

5

Layout ApproachLinear or Hierarchical

This is a new concept for me. I have not yet fully comprehended the ramifications, but…

  • Linear (my current approach)
    • standard LEGO models w/sub assemblies (trucks…)
    • easy to comprehend - watch it grow
    • assemble layer-by-layer
  • Hierarchical
    • complete deconstruction into sub-models
    • cognitively challenging - assembly line
    • assembly by sub models

(consider the building experience too!)

layout mechanics
Layout Mechanics

There are several interdependent aspects of the layout that should be considered, this is definitely an iterative process, but gets more intuitive with experience.

  • Portrait vs landscape
    • Aspect ratio of model and model steps
    • Paper size (more on this later)
  • Image scaling
    • Is 1:1 realistic for the number of steps, thus pages, etc.
    • Can’t make it too small
    • Keep the same scale through out!
      • except for major sub assemblies…
  • Backgrounds (be very careful)
    • Ink costs (self publishing)
    • Visually confusing
layout mechanics con t
Layout Mechanics(con’t)
  • Number of steps
    • The # of steps in your .dat file will be a good starting point
    • There are sub-models and callouts etc.
    • Use 1.5x the step count in the .dat file for total layout steps
  • Number of pages
    • Depends on number of steps
    • Brick/model scale
    • Constrained by printing budget
  • Words / No words
    • Multi-lingual?
    • Introduction/forward – must be timeless, books are forever!
    • Credits – careful who you leave out!
    • DON’T forget to thank your significant other(s)!
creating the images
Creating the Images
  • Resolution - what is DPI & LPI
    • DPI = Dots per inch (computer speak)
      • 2 dependencies - # of pixels (x,y) and print size
    • LPI = Lines per inch (publishing speak)
      • CMYK print dither
    • Bottom line numbers: 300 DPI & 150 LPI
  • Isometric vs perspective (I use iso)
    • Camera issues with iso, (back out 5% in POV camera obj)
    • Perspective creates non-parallel edges
      • Makes steps kinda ugly
  • Thick Edge Lines
    • Mega POV Find Edges post process – a must (more later)
    • Line width independent of render resolution
      • Can cause inconsistent line thickness
  • Anti-alias images
    • Use similar color to intended background
    • Use unique color from model elements
layout application needs
Layout Application Needs
  • Configurable page sizes
  • Image import - multiple is nice
  • Transparent color selection
  • Image scaling - not resizing
  • Universal page backgrounds
  • Lettering / Numbering
  • Lines and Arrows
  • Call out boxes
  • Proper print path handling
    • Use full image resolution
adding embellishments
Adding Embellishments
  • Subassemblies – a must
    • Callouts in separate area
      • light blue/ light pink background
    • More work -> more .dats or sub-models
    • Reduces number of full steps, book pages…
  • Exploded sub-models
    • Callout in separate area
    • Even more work -> more .dats or sub-models
      • or MLCAD buffer exchange
    • Further reduces the number of full steps
  • The extra yard
    • Alt color schemes
    • Alt variations
publishing costs
Publishing Costs
  • Real vs Virtual
    • Web (¢), CD(¢¢), Book($$$)
    • Print on Demand via WEB or CD (.pdf ???)
  • Reproduction Costs
    • WEB; storage - bandwidth (kinda free)
    • CD duplication (not free)
      • $0.20ea (home dup, no label, no jewel case…) qty = 1
      • $5.00ea (pro dup, label, slip cover) qty > 100
    • Book duplication, oy! (~30 pages x40)
      • $34.50/book ($1380.00)
        • $1.00/page (office depot) + $4.50 binding
      • $13.00/book ($520.00)
        • $0.30/page (mom & pa shop) + $3.00 binding + $0.50 cover/back stock
      • < $8.00/book ($8000.00)  1000 copies
        • Offset press – all setup costs
publishing tips
Publishing Tips
  • Presentation is everything!
    • Its got to look & feel cool!
  • Not all color copiers are the same
    • Insist on a test run!!!
    • Xerox DocuPrint P12 *was* the best
  • Binding – saddle stitch (staples), spiral, comb, wire
    • Lay flat, fold back on itself, stays bound!
    • Buy a second hand or demo model binder
      • Make sure the “punch” blades are still sharp!
  • Cover stocks (cost savings)
    • Transparent slide stock (not document cover stock)
    • Stiff back cover
      • salvage matte board, white/off-white
      • bulk cut at Kinkos
publishing tips con t
Publishing Tips (con’t)

Paper - Don’t forget about paper selection, there are entire books written on this topic.

  • Size
    • Standard (8.5x11, 8.5x14, 11x17)
    • Trimmed (can’t print to the edge) or folded
    • Portrait or landscape
      • *Aspect ratio of model and steps might dictate
  • Weight
    • Cheap copy 20lb, high quality 35lb
    • heavier = better quality, less transparent, ≠ copier compatible!
  • Brightness
    • Cheep copy 84, high quality 96
  • Color
    • Not a good idea, print the background, be very careful
  • Texture
    • Maybe, be very careful
    • Parchment for castle sets???
and now for the numbers
And Now for the Numbers
  • 7 models
    • 1250 elements
    • 1 custom “straw” .dat file
    • 4 alt color schemes
  • 6 more iterations on a model I thought was done with
  • 182 .dat & .pov files (including tests etc.)
  • 188 rendered images in book
  • 1280x1024 render size
    • down to 320-240
  • 15 book revisions
and now for the code settings l3pao mpov
And Now for The Code Settings- L3PAO / MPOV -

Camera Globe Position ON

Latt 25, Long 50, Radius 0

Camera angle 7

Light (irrelevant)

Background Color 255,255,183

Seam width .75

Quality level 2

Step Clock ON

Resolution 1280x1024 AA 0.3 (down to 320x240)

and now for the code settings declarations
And Now for The Code Settings- declarations -

#version unofficial MegaPov 0.7; // version number may be different

#declare QUAL = 2; // Quality level, 0=BBox, 1=no refr, 2=normal, 3=studlogo

#declare SW = 0.75; // Width of seam between two bricks

#declare STUDS = 1; // 1=on 0=off

#declare BUMPS = 0; // 1=on 0=off

and now for the code settings camera
And Now for The Code Settings- camera -

// Camera (Latitude,Longitude,Radius = 25,50,0)

camera {

#declare PCT = 5; // Percentage further away

#declare STEREO = 0; // Normal view

location vaxis_rotate(<3015.88,-1867.82,-2567.57> + PCT/100.0*

<3038.62,-1849.67,-2549.7>,

<-5.62045e+006,-1.57342e+007,4.71612e+006>,STEREO)

sky -y

right -4/3*x

look_at <-22.7365,-18.1489,-17.8686> // calculated

angle 7

rotate <0,1e-5,0> // Prevent gap between adjecent quads

orthographic

}

and now for the code settings lights
And Now for The Code Settings- lights -

// Lights:

light_source {

<0,0,-1000>

color rgb 1

shadowless

}

light_source {

<1000,0,0>

color rgb 1.25

shadowless

}

light_source {

<0,-1000,0>

color rgb 1.5

shadowless

}

and now for the code settings find edges
And Now for The Code Settings- find edges -

global_settings {

post_process {

find_edges {

2, //depth difference required for line

0.35, //angle difference required for line

0.2, //color difference required for line

1.2, // 2.0 default line width

20, // 1.4 default line sharpness

rgb 0 //color of line

}

}

}

in closing
In Closing
  • It’s the best $2.00/hr I’ve ever made!
  • Keep reminding yourself your having fun, it’s well worth it in retrospect!
  • Continually be a student of each other’s experiences.
  • The tips, tricks, and models are inanimate, the acts of sharing is what builds community.