Top of the mountain, an interview with 3DBotMaker
There's a good chance that if you're new to the diecast racing scene, you probably got here by way of seeing 3DBotMaker's incredible racing videos. The 3DBotMaker YouTube channel has been on fire over the past year, and double so since COVID put everyone on lockdown and looking for new hobbies. But the story of 3DBotMaker goes back well before we were stuck inside.
The man behind 3DBotMaker is Adriel Johnson. And while to many 3DBotMaker is regular YouTube viewing, those of us that have been around a while know the 3DBotMaker name because of the great track accessories he produced - specifically starting gates and finish lines. But as we all know, life is a journey, and Adriel's path from track master to video king has been years in the making.
We last talked with Adriel back in 2018 about his start in the diecast racing hobby and his track prodcuts. I encourage you to read that interview if you're interested to know more of his backstory and how he got to where he is now.
An interview with Adriel Johnson
Redline Derby Racing: The last time we talked was back in 2018 and you were selling what were arguably some of the best track accessories for racing, starting gates and finish lines. Since then you ceased production to focus entirely on your popular 3DBotMaker YouTube channel. When and why did you decide to shift your business from making accessories to producing videos?
Adriel Johnson (3DBotMaker): Originally the videos were a way to help promote the products as well as a creative outlet. As time progressed the racing league developed as well as the king of the mountain modified series. Fast forward to 2020 and I added the Diecast Rally Championship, started making merchandise available, set up a Facebook group and a website. Managing all of that along with fulfilling product orders just became too much for one person. Also the YouTube channel had grown to the point where it was more profitable than the 3D printed product side of the business, and since that’s where my passion is really at, I made the shift.
RLD: I think it's also safe to say in the world of diecast racing you're quite the celebrity. I've had news outlets interviewing me to talk about you! How's it felt to have all this attention and what type of impact has it had on your production?
3DBM: It’s great to see people appreciate something I’ve put a lot of work into, but I really feel like a behind the scenes character. Most fans probably don’t even know my actual name. As far as the production, I’ve always been trying to improve what I’m doing regardless of how many people are watching.
RLD: Speaking of production, what does a normal week look like for the 3DBotMaker crew?
3DBM: I try to put out 2 videos per week. That includes planning, staging the track with people and cars, filming, graphics, editing, sound design and voice over. The editing and sound design take the most work. In-between all of that I try to respond to messages and manage the other aspects of the business.
The 3DBotMaker studio at Adriel's home in California. Photo: Adriel Johnson
RLD: About your crew...obviously, it can be said that "3DBotMaker is Adriel Johnson," but do you have any others on staff that help get things done?
3DBM: 3DBotMaker is a one man crew.
RLD: Last time, you had talked about how you quit your secure desk job to start a career in toys, which eventually led to making accessories and now videos. Is it safe to say that gamble has paid off?
3DBM: My oldest son is 10 years old and I’ve been able to spend those 10 years at home with him making memories that are priceless. So I’d say my decision to leave my secure job has been paying off for the last 10 years. Being successful in what for me is a dream job (making videos) is icing on the cake.
RLD: Your channel has more than 300,000 subscribers and millions upon millions of views for your videos. Last year there was quite a hubbub about YouTube changing rules that impacted monetization of videos. Is that still something you have to worry about or has that all shaken out by now and less of a concern?
3DBM: Yes it was a major concern. At first the information they released was very vague on what "made for kids" actually meant. A lot of adult hobby channels weren’t sure how the new rules were going to impact them, causing some to abandon ship. It seemed like any video that had a "toy" in it was going to be labeled as kid’s content. After the FTC and YouTube clarified some things, I felt confident in continuing as a channel that’s aimed towards an adult audience.
Adriel and home with his sons (from 2018). Photo: Adriel Johnson
RLD: You mentioned before how your sons played a part in your product development and the all-important play testing. How is your family involved now in the 3DBotMaker universe of racing?
3DBM: They may occasionally help out with something but they’re not really involved in any of the production.
RLD: What does your family think about your success?
3DBM: I don't think it's a big deal to them. My kids thought the silver play button [award from YouTube] was cool, but it’s a shiny object so…
RLD: A couple months ago you had a Hot Wheels prototype casting in one of your episodes, the Lancia Delta Integrale. Talk a bit about how that hook-up happened and how you got involved with Mattel.
3DBM: That was really just an informal thing. One of the marketing managers is a fan of the rally series and thought it would be cool to reveal a new model on the channel. He reached out to me on Facebook and I almost blew him off because I thought he was making the whole “I work for Hot Wheels” thing up to try to submit a car.
RLD: Any future Mattel exclusives we should look forward to on your channel?
3DBM: There’s nothing planned at this time.
RLD: The process of producing a weekly show is certainly different than designing physical products but both require heaps of creativity and hard work. Talk about how making videos scratches your creative itch compared to how designing products did prior?
3DBM: Product design is a creative process when you’re doing the designing, but once that part is done, it becomes a manufacturing job. Making and assembling parts week after week doesn’t really do anything for me creatively. A lot of times I would listen to podcasts to pass the time while soldering circuit boards.
Producing videos on the other hand taps into skills that I’ve been acquiring since I was in school. Graphic design, photography, cinematography, audio recording, sound, music, diorama and model making. Give me a project that involves all of those things and I light up creatively. I read somewhere that if you lose track of time doing a certain activity, that’s where your passion lies. That’s what being a video creator is like for me.
RLD: And the question I have to ask...is there any chance you'll sell your track accessories again, or has that chapter in the 3DBotMaker history books come to end?
3DBM: At this point it’s come to an end, but it’s always something I can fall back onto if I need to.
RLD: In the last interview, you talked about how rewarding it was to see your products being used and enjoyed by people in their homes. What is the most rewarding part now that you're focusing on the YouTube channel?
3DBM: Needless to say 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. I’ve received a lot of messages about how my videos have helped people pass their time in quarantine and given them something to look forward to. I never really imagined that my diecast racing videos would be meaningful to other people. It’s very rewarding to be able to give people a little bit of joy in these troubling times.
RLD: You've talked a bit about how your brand and channel has evolved over the past 2 years. What do you see in the future for all things 3DBotMaker? Anything coming soon? And what's further out on the horizon that you can tease us with?
3DBM: There’s a new series I’m working on that’s quite a bit different than my current series. I’m also planning on some new tracks.
I want to thank Adriel for taking time out of his crazy busy schedule to once again talk to us and get some insight into his rise to fame. It's been great watching his story evolve over time. I'm sure I'm not the only one that is bummed he will no longer be making those awesome finish lines, but we can't argue his success nor his contributions to getting diecast racing in front of more people that anyone (including him) probably imagined.
Make sure you visit the 3DBotMaker Channel and subscribe. You can also connect with 3DBotMaker through the official web site and Facebook group.
Cheers, thanks for the interview & update on 3D!
Great guy doing a great thing. Cant beat it. Keep at it Adriel, my Son (soon to be Sons) and I are addicted to your videos and look forward to what ever it is you come up with next!
Great interview! I remember being a fan once my kids stumbled upon the 3DBotMaker channel. It was always clear that the production level was at a higher standard to most and that along with the entertainment of the races made me a huge fan.
Inspiring! Best of luck in the future 3D!
Great interview. Keep up the good work!
Great interview. Channels like 3D Bot Maker gave us a lot of joy in 2020, and boy did we need it. It also helped inspire our own track building and fun-making.
Thank you for helping a lot of people get through this pandemic by getting us to revert to our inner children. I had forgotten how much pleasure there was in simply running a toy car down a home built track, and being able to compete against "the kid next door." Now it's like, "Wow, this is leagues ahead of what I used to do, and it's FUN!"
I started in October of 2020, pure rookie without a clue as to what I was doing. So far, to date (April 2021), I've built about twenty cars, raced at least half a dozen, and have lost track of how many I've drilled for modifications, not to mention devouring YouTube videos and signing up in about thirty different diecast racing groups. I feel like a kid again!!
Again, thank you for what you do. Your hard work and dedication to quality has not been overlooked, and is greatly appreciated. Thank you, and maybe one day, "I'll see you on the track."
Awesome! Love to hear more about what's going on for him as it was the DRC track that got me into this whole crazy hobby and I love it!