Building your Sets Piece by Piece

Tue Jan 17. 2023

Building your Sets Piece by Piece

Professionals and amateurs have used the medium to create innovative animated works since the invention of film. Stop-motion animation is a form of animation that has been around since the dawn of the moving image. The Humpty Dumpty Circus, which was released in the late 1890s and depicts a toy circus that comes to life, was the first stop-motion film that we know of.

The filmmaker photographs inanimate objects in different poses and moves them slightly for each image to create a stop motion film. The photos create the illusion that inanimate objects are moving on their own by being played quickly in succession. Claymation uses clay to create its characters. Think "Wallace and Gromit." Other films, such as "The Nightmare Before Christmas" or sequences featuring the titular character of the 1933 live-action film "King Kong," also use poseable figures.

Brickfilm is a newer form of animation that is becoming increasingly popular. It is usually created using stop-motion. Brickfilm makers use bricks (Lego bricks) as their main character building medium. Claymation animators use clay, but brickfilm makers use bricks. Although other brands of bricks and materials may be used, the form is often incorporated into other products. The Lego company's fun building toy, which includes a wide range of sets and miniature characters that span a variety of historical periods, professions, and genres, has helped it take off. Lego sets are like little movie sets that are waiting for the right moment. Although Lego did not always make toy building sets, it is the invention that has made them most famous and has dominated their business since then. Ole Kirk Kristiansen (a Danish carpenter) founded Lego in Billund in 1932. He wanted to make and sell wooden toys for children. The Danish phrase "leg godt," meaning "play well," gave rise to the company's name.

Injection-molded plastic was a new area of business for the company in the 1940s. The company began to make the first Lego brick building sets in the late '10s. They were initially called Automatic Binding Bricks. The interlocking bricks were redesigned in 1958 to the shape they are today. To go with the sets, minifigures were introduced by the company in 1978. There are sets available for different time periods and localities, including medieval castles, Wild West towns, modern city blocks, as well as vehicles of all kinds, such as spaceships, automobiles, and pirate ships. Lego also produces high-end architecture sets for iconic buildings like the Sydney Opera House or London's Tower Bridge. Lego sets include many licensed franchises, including "Star Wars," Indiana Jones," The Lord of the Rings," Ghostbusters," Harry Potter," The Simpsons, and Marvel superheroes. A few sets are even available for the popular video game "Minecraft", which involves building buildings and other items from virtual blocks.

The sets allow children and adults to create cool vehicles and buildings out of Lego bricks, connectors, and other construction necessities. They also include appropriate props and minifigures. You can either follow the instructions or build whatever you want from one or more sets. Bricks and other construction pieces are available in a variety of sizes and colors. You can also buy the exact ones you need if your design is unique.

Other companies have entered the building-brick industry since 1978 when Lego's patents on brick design expired. These include Mega Bloks and Best-Lock, which make cheaper bricks that are compatible with Lego bricks. Mega Bloks owns the rights to build sets for several franchises, including "Halo," Call of Duty and "Assassin's Creed," and the Hello Kitty and Barbie toy franchises.

Building sets are not just for everyday play. The sturdy interlocking bricks with their accessories are ideal for creating small movie sets for brickfilms.

Stop-motion photography is the most popular method for creating brickfilms. However, some filmmakers also use other methods such as filming actual moving props and characters (held by wires or hands) and adding other elements like claymation, live-action human actors, and computer-generated imagery. It involves creating and setting up characters and set pieces, as well as moving them in small increments and taking photos of them after each change. The result is a series of still images that are arranged in quick succession to create the illusion that characters and other objects have moved.

Traditional live-action films also include still images. Moving picture is the abbreviation for "movie". Traditional live action photographs are made on moving film. These images capture subjects in motion. The film captures reality. Stop-motion requires a lot of thought and effort to adjust the position of each moving piece or body part so that it mimics realistic movement in objects that would otherwise remain stationary.

To make a stop motion film, it takes many of these individual images. The speed of a film is measured in frames per second (fps). This is the number or still images that flash in front of your eyes in a second. 24 frames per second is the speed of a theatrical film. This is 24 images flashing in a single second. A five-minute film can be made at that speed by taking 7,200 individual photos. 1,440 photos are required to make a 24-fps film. These films take a lot of time to film and stage, and it is likely that they will take even longer to look the way you want.

You can decrease or increase the number frames per second. The number of frames per second can be reduced, but it also slows down the movement. Smoother motion can be achieved by using 24 fps (the film or 30 fps) but brickfilms and other stop-motion animations use 12 to 15 fps. If you want a more jerky look, a lower frame rate is okay. A common technique for animation is to shoot 12 frames of one second of film and then to double them up. This will allow you to play back at 24 fps using two identical photos. The smoother the final result will be if you take more pictures for each movement.

It can take a lot of work to build your sets one by one or brick by brick before the shoot. Brickfilms use set items made with Lego bricks or similar bricks. The characters are usually Lego minifigures and similar toy figures. Brickfilms can also include non-brick items, non-minifig characters and painted backgrounds. If you wish to use color keying to create new backgrounds during editing, you can film against a special blue or green backdrop. To be considered brickfilm, Legos and their similar pieces must be prominently featured. Proper lighting will allow the viewer to see what's happening in each scene more clearly, simulate different settings (such as daytime or nighttime), and help you avoid unwanted flickering effects from shot-to-shot light changes.

You should either film in a darkened room or block any windows from allowing natural light to enter the room. You can use blankets, blackout shades, or any other material that completely blocks out the light from outside. To keep out any other household light, you will want to close doors to other rooms. It may be a good idea to tell roommates and family members that you are shooting so they don't see you. Wear dark clothing, and preferably black, as light will reflect off of light clothing. There should be at least two to three lamps that you can place on or near your set. One for key lighting, and one for backlighting. You can add fill lighting to reduce shadows by using another light or a piece of white paper to bounce light onto the scene. To soften the light and prevent harsh shadows, you might also place a diffuser (or a sheet of paper) on top of the lamp bulbs.

You can adjust the lighting settings by changing the brightness or contrast of the software or camera. To find the best lighting for you, experiment with your camera and take some test footage. You can find many online tutorials on lighting stop-motion or brickfilm to help you get started.

Film is an art form, and there are no hard and fast rules. Because of the constant changes in light (caused by flicker), it is not recommended to film in stop-motion. However, some people have managed to incorporate outdoor shots into brickfilms. There are some things you can do and equipment you can use to make the process more efficient or improve the quality of your final movie.

You can use a fancy camera equipped with expensive lenses, a website camera or your smartphone's camera. You will only need the camera to be able to take still images and export them to edit. A camera with manual focus is better than one with fixed or auto focus. This allows you to control what's in focus in each shot. Autofocus can often change or focus on an element that you don't want. The more control you have over autofocus, the better. Anything that is automatically changed can cause slight variations between pictures, which could lead to strange or flickering effects during playback.

Optic zoom is better than digital zoom. Digital zoom reduces image quality, which would affect your film quality from one shot to the next. These cameras can still be used to take photos, but you might not want to use zoom if you do. You can also try moving the camera incrementally towards what you want to zoom in on, since you are taking still shots.

You'll need to ensure that your camera stays steady, whether it is stationary or moving. Brickfilm makers have even made camera bases from Legos [sources: Hurlinger, Dechiaro]. Remote capture capabilities can be useful to avoid touching the camera constantly and reduce the chance of it moving out of its place. Even a small bump can make a huge difference in the final shot.

Sets should be secured on a stable surface. Items should be taped down or locked in place in case someone bumps into them. For effect, you can move pieces in front the still camera, but it is best to tape and secure them.

To make things move as realistically possible, you'll need to learn stop-motion techniques. However brickfilm motion is different from other stop motion. One thing is that Lego minifigures are not very articulable. The head can turn and the arms and legs can swing forward and backward. But that's it. There are many tutorials online that will show you how to make Lego figures run or walk via stop motion.

You can also paint the faces of the figures, making it possible to express your creativity. You can swap out their heads for heads with different expressions and facial expressions to change the emotion. Some have two faces, one on each side, so you only need to turn one. If you have the funds, there are companies that can customize minifigures. CGI can be very fancy, but viewers don't expect to see fully articulated characters and a lot of expression changes in brickfilms. Other elements, like dialogue and voice acting, can convey emotion.

Unless you're making silent films, dialogue is also important. You can record it at any moment, and most sound effects or music are added to the film during post-production. However, it would be helpful to know the dialogue in each scene to help you decide how long it will take to shoot the shots. It will also help you to find good tutorials and sound equipment for your final film. Digital photography is no longer necessary. You can now take photos on film and send them to development. Digital allows you to instantly see your photos and can also be transferred to your computer to create animations with software.

An animation or film-editing software is required, preferably one that supports stop motion. Stop-motion software can often be connected to your camera and run on your computer while you take your shots. However, you may need to verify your camera compatibility. Multipurpose animation software such as Adobe Flash will work. Onion skinning is a feature that allows you to see transparent versions of frames from previous frames. This can be used with your current image. It can be used to view the progress of a scene and adjust its course if necessary. You can also adjust lighting and color and add special effects to animation software. The software can be used to remove a color from a photo that was shot on a blue or green background and create a new image. This is also known as color keying or chroma keying or blue-or green-screening. You can add fancy details such as a lightsaber glow by using the rotoscope method.

CGI is a skill that takes practice. You can use the software to import your images and set the frame rate so it knows how fast the images will play back. Add your sound and export your film in a playable format. If you are able to tolerate stop motion, you may also be able to learn other filmmaking skills.

Audacity is a sound editing program that allows you to record and edit your dialogue and other sounds. You can also find pre-recorded sounds online or in software packages. Once you have your sound recording, you can pull it into the software you are using to edit the video.

There are many software packages available, some free, some for a fee, including:

Windows Movie Maker

Sony Vegas

Anasazi Stop Motion Animator



Adobe Flash

Adobe After Effects

Apple iMovie

Final Cut

You might need to use multiple software programs in certain cases. For example, one software package might be used for animating images and another for recording sound. The third software package might be used for editing the final film. It is up to you to find out what each software package can do and if it suits your needs.

Lego has even got into the game with their free app Lego Movie Maker, which allows you to create stop-motion animations on your tablet or phone. This app, along with other stop-motion apps, could be used to create and edit a brickfilm right from your phone. More than 600 brickfilms have been collected on the Internet Archive. Many more can also be found elsewhere online. Sources: Brookes, Internet Archive. YouTube has several channels dedicated to this art form and there are many studios that produce them. Anyone can create one with just a little time, equipment and imagination.

As far as we are aware, the first brickfilm was "Journey to the Moon" or "En rejse til manen". It was made by Lars and Henrik Hassing, young cousins, on Super 8 film in 1973 for their grandparents' birthday. To depict a rocket launch and journey, the kids used stop motion, props attached to wires, and one live-action shot of a person's foot. It was silent and used papier-mache, Lego-built sets and props as well as a globe to represent the Earth. The first movable minifigures were not released until 1978. Therefore, the characters were also made with Lego bricks. The brickfilm is the first known. Lars Hassing uploaded it to YouTube in 2013, however, it was not widely available. It featured the adventures of a few characters aboard a spaceship that travels through a portal to different places, where they meet aliens, robots, and other characters. Fleay was awarded a grant by the Australian Film Commission and used many donated Lego sets. It took many years to complete, with almost a year of photography. Many of the set pieces were made of Lego bricks and many characters were stop-motion animated minifigures. However, the film also included other stop-motion animated objects and live-action shots with the animator, outdoor scenes, and claymation. The film's graphics are particularly impressive considering that it was shot on film and edited on it. It will no doubt have inspired many brickfilm makers later.

There are many brickfilms that are outstanding, but here are some of the most notable:

"Go Miniman, Go - 30 years: The Story of the Minifigure" was created by Nathan Wells, a brickfilm maker. It shows Lego figures in different time periods to celebrate the minifigure's 30th anniversary.

"Monty Python and The Holy Grail", a recreation of the Camelot song and dance number, as a brickfilm to Lego and Python Pictures by Spite Your Face Productions. [source: Spite Your Face Productions]

"Star Wars The Han Solo Affair" is a parody of Lego and Lucasfilm created by Spite Your Face Productions. [source: Spite Your Face Productions]

"Lego Shopping," a comedy from Michael Hickox, has been viewed more than 40,000,000 times on YouTube [source: Michael Hickox films]

"The Dandelion," a comedy short by Daniel Utecht, has received more than 6,000,000 hits on YouTube [source : Plastic Planet Productions]

"The Dark Knight Rises Trailer3: In Lego" is a trailer recreation created by ParanickFilmz and viewed more than 2,000,000 times on YouTube [source: ParanickFilmz]

Michel Gondry directed the official music video for "Fell In Love With a Girl", a White Stripes song. He used Lego bricks to create characters in a kind of pixel animation [source : The White Stripes]

The question of whether "The Lego Movie", a 2014 Warner Brothers film, can be considered a brickfilm is being debated. The majority of the Legos and miniaturefigures were created computer-generated. But it definitely caught the spirit of the genre; it contained some homages to brickfilms, and some fan-created brickfilms even made it into the movie, such as BrotherhoodWorkshops' "Gorgy Wants a Horse," winner of the Rebrick Lego Movie Competition (an official Lego brickfilm competition) [source: BrotherhoodWorkshop]. They even have their own filmmaking competitions and festivals. It's evident that Lego has supported brickfilms, hosted a competition and created a brickfilm-making application.

Anyone can join the fun, provided they have the equipment and time. You only have to lose your time. Productions can be as simple or complex as you like. You can either create professional-quality animation using storyboards and a script or you can just go with the flow and let your imagination take over. Many amateur animations have a lot to offer. If you have the desire and a few brick building sets such as Lego, you might consider making a brickfilm. If that seems like too much trouble, you can enjoy them online as the rest of us.