So what are YOUR tricks?

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August 3, 2008 at 6:12 am #398162
Avatar of Sean

Not sure if someone had already made a thread for this, but here’s mine.

What are some little brickfilming tips and tricks that you’ve made up or developed from another idea by yourself?

I’ve got a couple so far…

For turning minifig heads, I didn’t want to shave anything off the neck. So I do the next best thing; I shave a miniscule amount of plastic from inside the head. This means it animates smoothly, and more often than not the hair won’t move unless I try to make it move.

My other one is for animating hands. I use the “pointy” end of a lego spear which slips in easily and lets me make small adjustments to rotation or position. the length helps too.

Now, I’m sure someone else has done these, but these are some little tricks I developed without influence.

So what are some little tricks you’ve developed? They can be for anythign, from animation to lighting to set building, etc.

Share your secrets!

August 3, 2008 at 1:18 pm #398177
Avatar of BertL

I usually pick up my minifig, change its position and put it back in its old place. That way my sets won’t move around (I suck at making my sets secure).

I spend a lot of time on getting the lighting right. At this point I only use one lamp (because I can’t be bothered to put my second lamp next to it; there’s no room for another lamp anyways), so it’s very important to find the right position.

August 3, 2008 at 3:14 pm #398195
Avatar of MysteryCo.

If you dont have a webcam and have a digital camera, first make sure the flash is off and your pictures wont come out blurry.

August 3, 2008 at 7:01 pm #398211
Avatar of Mess de la Fritz
Mess de la Fritz

I used to animate Bert’s way, by taking the figs off the set and putting them back down after I moved them, but I always forgot where they were meant to be. I couldn’t check the previous frames very easily without moving my camera so I used to wait until I’d finished to see if any mistakes were made.

That kinda put me off, so I started using the fig tools like spades, forks of spears for the hand movements, and taking myself down to their level for walking.

Actually, for walking, I kinda rock the fig forward with its foot out so it fits snugly into the creases bewteen studs.

August 3, 2008 at 7:19 pm #398214
Avatar of daboog

onion skining is one of the best things on earth for animating!
it’s not exactly a tip but it’s a great thing to use.
You can animate bert’s way and put the lego in the exact same place,
and if there is one little thing out of place you can see it.

August 3, 2008 at 9:46 pm #398226
Avatar of Prog Shooter
Prog Shooter


1. Smear a little bit of petroleum jelly on the neck- it makes it looser on the turns so the head will move with less friction. Same thing on the arms and legs. Petroleum jelly is neat stuff.

2. Get your camera on a tripod if you can, and secure its cord with duct tape. Tape it to your desk, for example. That way, it’s not moving the camera all over the place. You can use duct tape on the sets to secure them to your workbench, as well.

3. Try to animate at the eye level of the minifigs- this will bring the viewer right into their world.

4. Wear black. Any other color of shirt reflects light back onto your set.

5. Stick with 15 frames per second when you’re animating. The minifigs are really too small for 24fps, and the higher the frame rate, the less you will be able to get done in a day. I know a guy who is still working on his film after starting it 3 years ago. This stuff takes time, so find shortcuts without sacrificing quality, and use them to your best advantage.

6. Try to animate to a soundtrack. That way you won’t have to guess so much about timing- it’s already there.

7. Bounce lights off of white card wherever possible. If you don’t have any, get some baking paper and tape it over your lights. It will diffuse them and give you even lighting.

8. Frame toggle is your friend. Try not to rely too much on onion skinning, as something that looks right with it on will not look right when you’re flipping from frame to frame. Use toggle whenever you can, but don’t overuse it. The best device you have for checking your movements is your MIND!

9. Try to lay down some background noise to tie all of your sound effects together. Not having any makes the scene sound “dead”.

10. Plan out your film before shooting anything. You will catch most of the problems in pre-production and save time off the back end.

August 3, 2008 at 10:15 pm #398228
Avatar of Sean

Prog, what’s the difference between frame toggle and onionskinning?

August 3, 2008 at 10:44 pm #398230
Avatar of Squash

Frame toggling is when you flip through your frames, back and forth, rather than seeing them all layered onto one image. I prefer to use it as well, as it can tell you how the movements will look in the final film. It’s also a bit less busy than onion skinning, allowing you to focus on one thing at a time. It’s more a preference than anything, but it does help you learn about movement.

August 3, 2008 at 10:54 pm #398231
Avatar of Sean

That’s odd, when I use onion skinning in SMP it only compares it to the last frame taken.

August 3, 2008 at 11:16 pm #398232
Avatar of Buxton

Traditional onion skinning takes several frames and runs through them so you can spot glitches in the animation. SMP’s onion skinning is exactly the same as prog’s frame toggle. I thought I read somewhere that you can set it up do do multiple frames but I’ve never found a way.

My tricks:

Watch lots of movies and think about how they’re shot, then try to apply that to brickfilms.

When you’re editing audio, use headphones and turn the sound up loud. Things that sound ok through pc speakers sound terrible through headphones.

You can do something entertaining in 30 seconds. It doesn’t have to be a ten minute epic.

August 4, 2008 at 4:05 am #398242
Avatar of Prog Shooter
Prog Shooter

I’m confused by this useage of terms.

Stopmotion Pro has both onion skinning and toggle. Toggle is just a tick-tock flipping of images back and forth, maybe going back several frames, and then going forward to the live feed, which you treat as just another frame. When you’re satisfied, you click and start working ont the next frame.

BUT, I would be remiss to leave out what makes a good animator- believe it or not, the technology of being able to see what you’ve shot actually slows you down! If you do animation enough, you will know instinctively how much to move something each frame. As a general rule, my animation comes out much better if I’m not constantly checking it. Just jump in, make your moves, and toggle between them in the framegrabber only as a fail-safe. 1 or 2 frames is all you really need- as Ray Harryhausen put it, “I don’t want to see where I’ve already been. I want to know where I’m GOING!”

Working this way does two things: 1. It allows you to get more animation finished in a shorter amount of time, and 2. It forces you to think more about what you’re doing while also thinking about why you’re doing it. On nightmare before Christmas, the animators had only crude framegrabbers which showed them the previous frame- that’s it. To get the smooth motion, they relied on memory, surface gages, and their own intuition. <— all of that will do more for you than any framegrabber.

August 4, 2008 at 1:21 pm #398253
Avatar of BertL

“Mess de la Fritz” wrote: I used to animate Bert’s way, by taking the figs off the set and putting them back down after I moved them, but I always forgot where they were meant to be.

I know that some people put a brick as some kind of “marker” on the set when they take away a minifig momentarily. That way you can just put the minifig back on the old spot, remove the marker, and take a frame.

Buxton is absolutely right about the audio editing. Unless you have a very professional audio speaker set, using a headphone will give you much better results.

Onion skinning is usually “overlaying” one or more previous frames over the frame you’re going to take, giving some kind of “ghost” image. This allows you to check for smoothness. I’ve never used onion skinning; it’s too distracting, and because of the overlay you can’t properly see what you’re doing.

August 4, 2008 at 1:53 pm #398255
Avatar of daboog

Sorry my onion skinning is like seans.
although I can change it to multible layers.

August 4, 2008 at 6:53 pm #398273
Avatar of Halo123217

i have a special charachter that i worked on so that the head, arms, and legs are all easy to move so like when i have a guy walking i don’t have to pick him up and move the body part it works :D

August 4, 2008 at 7:49 pm #398287
Avatar of Littlebrick

Have a bag to punch when you get frustrated.


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