Basic instructions for brickfilming

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September 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm #412343
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Brikcrate

I was always fascinated by flipbooks since the first time I handled one. To think that you can get a static image to animate (come to life) just by linking together a bunch of other static images is still mystifying. I remember using colored pencils in a sixth-grade art class to make my own, and then selling them to a couple of kids for a few extra bucks; early appreciators of the fine artwork I’m never likely to produce.
Here it is twenty years later, and I can finally do what was prohibitive a generation ago– make real movies. I’ll cut to the chase with the step by step in a moment, but before I even do that, I want to direct you to the site for brickfilmers (as you’ll come to be known)– http://www.brickfilms.com/tutorials/ Here, you’ll find a great store of resources, some of which helped me in my initial (and so far only) try.

acquire a camera– you have three choices here

One, use a conventional digital camera in the following circumstances:

You can disable the onboard software and use the camera in a manual mode that allows the white balance and focal adjustment to be fixed for the duration of the shoot. Otherwise, your camera will adjust for even minor fluctuations (like the light reflecting off your body) to capture the best shot. In a single frame this is a good thing for a point and shoot, but in stop-motion it leads to strobe-like fluctuations in your picture.

You can suitably diminish capture file size to match the desired resolution. You won’t want 6 or 10 meg pictures, but instead you may want VGA or 1080p.

You can link your camera directly to a computer via cable for efficient transfer of data.

You can use a remote device (like the old plungers or a keystroke on the computer) to keep from accidentally bumping the camera.
Two, use a digital video camera. Most digicams will meet the above criteria, but are substantially more expensive. You’ll have to figure out how your particular model allows single frame captures though.

Three, use an peripheral webcam (one not attached to your laptop). You can get these for as low as $10, though the qualities vary widely. They are perfect for a beginner. You might consider one with a tripod mount, or buy the tripod and use zip-tiesto secure it. Refer to articles in the above link to help you select a model for your needs.

set up a practice shoot

You won’t get it right the first time, so set the bar low right off and try to get the various components of picture making all straight in your head.

Try taking a series of thirty shots with slight alterations to the set– say, adding one additional stacked brick to a stable base for each successive frame.

Play with lighting to avoid getting your shadow in the picture. Also consider shooting at night, or in a dark room. The slow tracking of sunlight as a day advances will be visible in your finished picture.

get organized

This is a must for a would be stop-motion animator. Determine the right file structure to suit your needs. Perhaps establishing a master file for your movie by title would be a good start. Then try organizing your stills into sub-folders by scene. If it is a short film (less than say 1000 slides), then maybe one sub folder labeled “stills” is fine. Make new folders to hold sound clips or storyboards or scripts.
Keeping your house in order is key to making the time spent setting up and shooting count.

pick your movie software

If you are a PC user, try starting out with Windows Movie Maker. Chances are you already have it (so its free to you), and it is simple enough to figure out.
Watch a tutorial like this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gQc4-hW1LI to get your frame rate settings. The shortest stock setting for WMM is 8fps, though you can manually shrink them to about 15fps if you are willing to do one at a time.

tweak your movie

get a recording device

Adding sound is a must to make a cool flick. Sound effects are great on their own, but the addition of a musical score creates a roundness that makes a scoreless piece seem somehow flat. Microphones can be pretty inexpensive if your standards aren’t too high. Try looking for free sound effects from http://www.freesound.org and scan youtube for free renditions of covers or original work that might fit your film. Always be careful to observe the rules of utilizing others’ work!

check out dialogue tools

This software (called Papagayo, Spanish for parrot) lets you animate your minifigs mouths to synch with your audio track. I believe it is a freeware download.
http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia … gayo.shtml

write a script

Even if your film is very simple, even if there is no dialogue or voice track, write down what happens in a coherent fashion. It’s pretty difficult to create a compelling story as you build and shoot. If your film consists entirely of a LEGO® minifig getting repeatedly trampled by a herd of horses, then describe this in detail such as:

Man enters frame from right and trips on a cactus. Three horses enter frame from right and run over him. He tries to stand and is run over again by two horses entering from the left.

Simple, heh? Well, it will be immeasurably helpful when your stories become complex enough for storyboarding.

storyboard

Transfer your script into a shot by shot pictorial representation of what needs to happen in your film and in what order you need to take your shots and in what order you will link your finished shots. If two scenes with the same camera angle are to be separated by another scene, like a close-up of a character talking, you might like to shoot the two scenes with the same camera angle back to back. You can store the scene stills is labeled files and during production can get them in the right order.
One good suggestion is to compose your storyboard in the order that will be in the final film. Label each of these “scenes” in order alphabetically, ‘a’ for the first scene and so on. Then, label the first scene that you are to shoot with a prominent numeral ’1′, and so on. Make sure you make the numerals dominant, as you can always rearrange the scenes later on, but it may be next to impossible to restore a set or camera angle when you realize you shot the scenes out of shooting order.

That’s all there is to it! Go get ‘em tiger.

Ty Hansen of http://www.brikcrate.com is a freelance badass living in Naples, Florida with his wife and passel of children. He produces storage solutions for the avid hobbyist.

August 18, 2011 at 2:14 am #413066
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dinhdai88

Hi, this is a good article, hopefully I can learn a lot :)

September 8, 2012 at 4:10 am #416927
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Northrop

I have been looking for a resource for me to reference upon whenever I have doubts. Your article was so comprehensive and right on. I just bookmarked it.

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