Derailed #1 – The Art of YouTube

YouTube is by far the most popular video sharing platform, and no wonder you’ll see plenty of large scale related content over there. From small channels capturing their layouts with a smartphone, to high quality productions from more tech-savvy large scale train enthusiasts.

Video is a great medium for businesses to showcase their products and to engage with customers. The thing is, you need to do it right. Video is incredibly powerful, but if you don’t know how to do it properly, you probably shouldn’t do it at all. Unfortunately, very few companies understand that.

Accucraft recently delivered their N&W J Class #611 locomotive to customers. An amazing locomotive, with a hefty price tag of over five thousand dollars. I went on YouTube to look for a video, and was surprised to see Accucraft had uploaded a video of their new model themselves. The euphoria was short-lived, as the video was of very low quality. 240p? Really, Accucraft? REALLY?

Should I tell them we live in 2016, and that 240p video hasn’t been a thing for like, a decade? 720p (HD) should be the absolute minimum nowadays, although 1080p (Full HD) is a safer choice for the future.

Bachmann regularly uploads product demo videos to their YouTube channel. One of their latest videos is a demo of the Thomas, Annie and Clarabel characters from the popular “Thomas & Friends” kids range. While it’s good to see they are actively promoting the series, the video itself is rather disappointing. The video is classified as 1080p by YouTube, but the video quality is poor. The source video definitely was not native 1080p, and seems to be upscaled. The interlacing artifacts at 0:50 are evidence of poor video quality as well.

It’s not just quality alone, the presentation is also extremely boring. The dull colours and boring circle of track won’t spark children’s interest at all. And the Christmas tree has absolutely nothing to do with the Thomas set either.

The folks of “Pine Tree Junction” on YouTube know how to do it properly, as shown in the video below. THAT is how you get children (and their fathers!) interested, and over 3,5 million views are the testimony of that.

The frustrating thing is that Bachmann very well knows how to make a good demo video. The video below is from 2009, showcasing their large scale Spectrum K-27 locomotive.

Accucraft and Bachmann are just two examples, the story is the same for other companies. Some do it well, some don’t do it at all. Video production requires time and money, and I am very well aware that those resources are limited. But getting a decent HD camera won’t break the bank, and filming your product demo in a nice setting doesn’t require much effort (especially when you can film at someone else’s layout). With a bit of effort, you can achieve a very decent result. The industry may be in a bit of a slump, but getting your products out there is vital. You spent all those resources on creating highly detailed models, but then you are not showing them off to the public…

Marketing departments, wake up!

“Derailed” is a series where I share some random thoughts about the large scale hobby. Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comment section.

Cheap Interior Lighting for Passenger Cars – Part 1: Concept

I have a few LGB and PIKO passenger cars in desperate need of interior lighting, so I looked for some interior lighting kits on the internet. Several manufacturers sell them (either generic kits or model specific), but the costs add up quickly if you want to upgrade your entire fleet.

For example, PIKO sells an interior lighting kit for their “Umbau” cars for nearly 40 euros. Admittedly, it really is a complete plug-and-play kit designed for that specific coach, so it should be very easy to install and cause zero headaches. There are cheaper (generic) lighting kits out there, but I thought I could make something myself for a lot less money.

I don’t want to deal with the hassle of charging and installing batteries. So I listed a few requirements for designing a track powered solution:

  • Pick up power from ball bearing wheelsets
  • Should work on DC and DCC
  • Lighting should be flicker-free
  • Small amount of components
  • Small form factor for easy installation

Ball bearing metal wheelsets are expensive, so I wanted to save money by installing just a single BB wheelset on each passenger car. The other wheelsets are regular metal wheelsets. To deal with short power pick-up interruptions, I need some sort of power buffer. To make the lighting work on both DC and DCC, I need a bridge rectifier. Some resistors are needed as well.

I stumbled upon a blog from a guy doing the exact same thing for his N scale cars, and his schematic was roughly what I had also in mind.

LED strips are super cheap on eBay, so I got two strips with different colors. The warm white LED strip should look good in modern passenger cars, the yellow-ish LED strip seems more suited for old cars. I also ordered the bridge rectifiers on eBay, as well as a bunch of capacitors with different values. I also had a bunch of resistors, so I didn’t need to buy those.

For the test setup I will build the circuit on a breadboard first, and test it with a PIKO ball bearing wheelset on DC and DCC. Once I’m happy with the result, I will solder the components on a matrix board for permanent installation in a passenger car. The first install will be in an American passenger car from PIKO.

Stay tuned for two more parts: Part 2 will be about the test setup, Part 3 will cover the installation of the circuit in passenger cars. And don’t worry, I will list all used components and schematics in the next blog posts. And at the very end, we’ll see how much money I saved!

To be continued…