YIDIY: Travis Simpson & His White Metropolis

GeForce Garage, Interviews, YIDIY

Every so often you find a build that just catches your eye. Up 'til now, all our previous YIDIY spotlights have focused on seasoned modding vets previously featured on GeForce Garage. Yet when a colleague of mine pointed out a build he saw online, I knew I needed to talk to the owner of White Metropolis to find out more about it. When I finally tracked down the creator, Travis Simpson of GHCustoms, I was surprised to learn this was his first attempt at a mod.

He therefore gets my nomination for modding Rookie of the Year, if such a category existed. Let's discover more about Travis, and his system.

White Metropolis Specs

Component Product
Chassis CaseLabs Mercury S5 w/ Pedastal
Graphics Cards EVGA GeForce GTX 970 Superclocked ACX 2.0
CPU Intel Core i7-4790k Haswell 4.0GHz
Motherboard ASUS Gryphon Z87 with Armor Kit
Memory GSkill 16Gb 1866 (4x4GB)
Storage Samsung EVO 120GB
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB
Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB
Power EVGA SuperNOVA 850W G2
Cables Ensourced
Cooling CPU Block - EK Supremacy EVO (Nickel/Plexi)
GPU Block: Bitspower VG-NGTX970ESACX (Nickel/Plexi)
Radiators: XSPC ex360 and Black Ice Nemesis 240 GTS
Ram Block: EK Monarch x4
Pump: Swiftech M​CP35X
Pump Housing: EK DDC Hea​tsink
Pump Top: EK-D5 X-TO​P Pump Top​ CSQ (P​lexi)
Reservoir: Bitspower Tank Z-Multi 150 (Acrylic top/bottom)
Fittings: Bitspower Deluxe White, EK-ACF (White), Koolance QDC's,
Tubing: E22 12mm OD acrylic tube (S5), PrimoFlex Advanced LRT 3/8in. ID X 1/2in (Pedestal)
Coolant: Mayhems Blue Berry
Fans: Bitfenix Spectre 120mm

So what got you started with PC building in the first place?

I’ve been interested in computers most of my life and my favorite game back when I first started gaming on PC was Counter-Strike 1.6 and actually still is (talk about an overkill computer to run a game from 1999). I played on my parents old Gateway which turned into my parents old Dell and finally in 2012 I bought the parts to build my very own custom computer.

I was perfectly happy with this computer which sat behind my desk collecting dust and running smoothly, that is until I began seeing all the cool things you could do with watercooling. After seeing a bunch of builds that blew my mind I knew I had to try it out but when I go big, I GO BIG so I wanted to create something people would look and at least think “Hey that’s a pretty cool computer” and hopefully I’ve achieved at least that.

Where did you draw your inspiration for White Metropolis from?

Functionally I wanted a build that was of a small form factor, allowing for easier transportation when going to a LAN but not at the expense of sacrificing cooling power when home and overclocking. This process needed to be simple and quick which is why I developed a quick disconnect system from S5 to the pedestal allowing me to separate the two with ease. Visually, I wanted to create as clean of a build as I could, allowing for all the special custom bits to shine through.

The name "White Metropolis" started out because I was trying to brainstorm a name that wasn't cliché with a white build and chose it with no intention of including it in the build theme. That all changed when I got inspired by city skylines. In this build you will find the silhouettes of major cities all across the world such as Hong Kong (China), Bangkok (Thailand) and Jakarta (Indonesia) because of how they looked around the other components.

I've hopefully succeeded in tying all these things together in a visually appealing, high detail design. My desire for windows all around led for designs that complement the computer no matter which side you look at it so no matter where you view it from you get a different and equally pleasing view.

Of all the city skylines in the world, why those 3 cities?

The reason I chose these 3 cities was primarily based off aesthetics and secondly on familiarity. For the aesthetics portion, I wanted ones that had high rise buildings that could really be shown off in the build from all angles. If I used one that only had small buildings on the midplate for example you wouldn't be able to see if unless you were looking more straight down on it. Plus when I think of the word "Metropolis" I think of large towering skyscrapers. The second piece of the puzzle was familiarity. I wanted to make sure I included at least one recognizable city and that was Hong Kong. Someone on Reddit correctly identified it so I guess it worked. Bangkok would be the next most familiar one followed by Jakarta.

How much time did you spend on the rig?

Well I began by browsing builds and pulling in inspiration. This led to me picking out different parts and doing measurements in my head and on paper to see what fits because although the case isn’t the smallest out there, it certainly isn’t big. I began the “modding” process by painting parts/screws and polishing waterblocks while I awaited my case to come in. Once the case came all hands were on deck. I began putting as much time into it as I could and started logging my hours at that point, putting in 5-10 hour days (after working 8-9 hours at my normal job) so that I could complete this within a reasonable amount of time.

Something that added to the time spent but greatly increased the aesthetics of the build was all the mockups I did. I tested out 4 other SSD designs, another GPU Backplate that I also got laser cut that didn’t make it in, and many more. Doing this allowed me to see what each item looked like in perspective and only choose designs that complemented each other. After all was finished I logged over 140 hours on this project.

With this being your first build, where did you go for information on modding? What resources did you use?

With it technically being my first build I wanted to prove myself as being a worthy modder which is part of what pushed me to include many of the small detailed things. Overclock.net was by far my main resource. I'm very good at researching so I was able to take in tons of good and bad advice and pick out and use only the good stuff. After gaining a lot of knowledge I began offering advice to others on Overclock.net, LinusTechTips, Bit-Tech, and Reddit.

I did watch the following GeForce Garage videos during my build:

Are there any specific details on the rig that you really want to point out?

In my mind I wanted to design the interior of the case to have an interesting viewpoint from wherever you stand. I also wanted to design the tubing runs to be incredibly clean and logical, adding to the aesthetics, but not overpowering the build as a whole.

I made many custom parts for this build such as the GPU backplate, the midplate, the backlit PSU cover, the reservoir brackets, SSD design, and more. Some of the smaller and possibly unnoticed details I take pride in is the Bitspower Dragon logo in the GPU block and on the HDD’s I created my own label to replace the old one, and as well as remaking all the info with correct barcodes, I also recreated the QR code that was there and if you scan it, it will bring you to my build log.

My favorite and most difficult to plan item was where the pump is mounted to. Originally I thought I was going to be able to fit the whole thing in that side of the S5 but I quickly found out I was wrong. Instead of scrapping my idea of showing off the pump I decided that I would bite the bullet and cut into my case and mount it with only the acrylic top showing which in my opinion came out cooler looking than my original plan and is something I haven’t seen on other builds in this case.

The last thing I would like to explain in more detail is why I have a lower section of my case that I can remove. I wanted to build something with a priority on aesthetics but with watercooling power to match and in order to have top level aesthetics I felt the need to have a full windowed top of my case, an XL window on the left side, and a window on the right side which means I only really had room for a 240mm radiator in the front of my case. This was not going to be optimal for cooling my Overclocked RAM, CPU, and GPU so I devised this system to allow me to stay cool, but still keep a compact build.

When I’m at home the pedestal is attached and the liquid is running through the 240mm radiator in the case and down through the 360mm radiator in the pedestal. When I want to transport my computer I just have to turn the valve (seen in the pictures) and disconnect my Koolance Quick Disconnect connections and now the liquid only runs through the top portion of the case and I can leave the bottom section at home. I also modded the pedestal and case by installing some of the extra ball end pieces that are used to hold the sides on, so instead of having to install 16 screws to hold it in place all I have to do is place it down on top of it and you’ll hear it *click* and lock into place.

What were the most valuable skills you picked up or learned?

Planning things out ahead of time is by far THE MOST important skill I improved on. I meticulously planned out almost every aspect of this build before I actually started fabricating things. This leads to less miscalculations later on and can save yourself a headache (or 10).

I also learned proper techniques with tools that I lacked the full knowledge of such as heat guns, micrometers, jewelry saws, step drills, chamfer drill bits, and the list goes on…and on…and on.

The last important thing I learned was to not panic if things don’t work the first time around. As I mentioned before I could have scrapped the whole plan of showing the pump off and that whole side of the case in general once I found out the pump would not fit. You have to learn to put it down and go back to the drawing boards and weigh out your options before just scrapping something completely, or making poor decisions that affect performance or aesthetics in a negative way.

What do you enjoy most about DIY? Why do you DIY?

I enjoy DIY because ultimately the end result is in my hands. If a project fails I have no one to blame but myself, but when something goes right I can say “Yes, I created that, and it’s one of a kind”. I find computer building to be a work of art. It’s the visionary ideas, the innovation, the fabrication, and the implementation of the builder that makes each creation unique and worth the time and money spent on it. You won’t get this type of innovation and personalization from any store, so doing it yourself only limits you to your abilities, which are always improving.

I'm hoping to expand into new builds if I get sponsorships or client builds because I have many more good ideas and just need people who want to see them and/or include their products in them.

For more pictures of this awesome rig, check out Travis' build log over at overclock.net.

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