February 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm #440018
Here’s an article that I think would really help. I did not make this, I found this online and posted it here. Here we go:
The Art of Brickfilming – A Basic Guide to Creating LEGO Animations
Chances are, if you are reading this guide, then you are probably either interested in the art of making Brickfilms or you want to make Brickfilms yourself. This guidebook should help you in either case. It covers all the basic (and not-so-basic) techniques that you need to make a good Brickfilm. From the pre-production stage to the post-production stage, this guide will take you on a journey – a journey that tells the grand tale of how Brickfilms are made and how you can produce them yourself.
Section #1: Pre-Production
Before you start filming a Brickfilm, there are many things that you must do first. This is the stage known as “pre-production,” which basically means, “before filming.”
– Script Writing –
The first step in creating a Brickfilm is making a screenplay, or in other words, a script. Now, a script, by definition, is a document that outlines every aural, visual, behavioral, and lingual element required to tell a story (in a movie, play, ect.). Basically, a script tells the director and his cast and crew exactly what is going to go on in each scene or shot. A typical Brickfilm script may include dialogue, emotions, the setting, the props needed, and what the lighting and camera angles are going to be needed. When you are making a script for a Brickfilm though, you don’t necessarily need to include all these things (especially if you are the only one working on it). Your script can be as detailed or as simple as you like.
– Storyboarding –
The second step in creating a Brickfilm is making a storyboard. A storyboard is, by definition, a panel (or series of panels) of rough sketches outlining the scene sequence and major changes of action or plot in a production to be shot on film or video. In other words, a storyboard is like a comic strip for a film. It normally will consist of many panels, each showing an image that symbolizes a scene. Under each panel is information such as dialogue, sound effects, and scene duration. There may even be multiple images for one scene. Every time the camera changes in fact, there can be another image. They are very helpful in planning out your Brickfilm shot-by-shot. The purpose for a storyboard is to help the crew and cast visualize each shot. A storyboard can even take the place of a script in some cases, especially if your Brickfilm is very short.
– Set Design –
The third step in creating a Brickfilm is set design. Now, you may just think that building a set or prop for a film is just like building any other LEGO model. Wrong! Building props for films is often very different than creating regular LEGO creations. For example, when you are creating a prop for a film, there are several important points that you should take into consideration:
You don’t have to build giant sets to make a good Brickfilm. In fact, small sets are often better when you are filming. Just remember that you only have to build sets for what the camera actually sees! This means that you will probably find yourself building a lot of one or two walled props. This also helps to conserve bricks.
You may find that you don’t have enough bricks to make a new prop right after you finished a shot with an extra large one. No problem! Just take apart the old prop and make a new one with the pieces. Just make sure to film all the scenes that involve that prop before you break it!
Make sure that your set is pleasing to the eye. Don’t use harsh colors (such as red) if you can. Harsh colors make it harder for your eyes (and the audience’s eyes) to really enjoy your props. Try using colors such as white, tan, sand-blue, or sand-green. Also, DO NOT MIX COLORS RANDOMLY! This looks absolutely awful, and only makes your film seem really amateurish.
Scale is also very important in a Brickfilm. If you had a big overhead shot of a city, and you wanted to make the camera fly over multiple buildings, yet you did not have many bricks, then simply shrink the props! Miniscale building is great for emphasizing distance and depth of field. Another example is if you wanted to have a shot when a guy is on the top of a building and you see lots of tall buildings rising in the distance. While you could try to blue-screen some in (a technique covered later), most of the time it is wise to instead use miniscale. If you just place some miniscale buildings a few inches behind the minifigure actor and make sure they are out of focus, then you get a very convincing illusion of a large city.February 14, 2014 at 1:23 pm #440038
- Choosing A Camera –
The fourth step in creating a Brickfilm is choosing a good camera. Though this may seem like an easy thing to do, it is in fact sometimes quite a difficult task. When looking for a camera, the following tips should normally be taken into consideration:
Make sure the camera has manual focus. Manual focus makes it so that you can make your shots look sharp and high quality. Make sure that your camera does not have settings that say “Fixed Focus” or “Auto Focus.” If your camera does use one of these settings, then it will make it so that your camera will almost never be in focus.
Make sure that your camera has a fairly high resolution. This is especially important if you are going to choose a webcam. The minimum quality that a Brickfilm should have is 640×480.
Decide how much money you want to spend on a camera. There are a lot of good cameras out there, but most of them are quite expensive. If you don’t have lots of money to spend, then probably the best thing for you to get is a webcam. Though many of them are low quality, quite a few are in fact quite good. The highest rated webcam for Brickfilming use is the Logitech Webcam Pro 9000.February 16, 2014 at 4:21 pm #440067
Section #2: Production
Next is the production stage. The production stage is usually one of the hardest and most time consuming stages of Brickfilming.
– Preparing A Shot –
There are several things you must do before you begin to film a shot for your Brickfilm.
Make sure your props and sets are taped down. This avoids set bumps, which are something that you should never do. Duck-Tape or sticky-tack are both very useful when trying to steady a set. Even LEGO bricks themselves can help support and keep a set or prop steady.
Make sure your camera is plugged in and your filming software is open. Some software requires you to plug in your camera first and then open the software, while others require the opposite. You should find out which technique to use before you begin to film. There are several free capture software programs available, but the best of them you normally have to buy. “Monkey Jam” is the highest rated free Brickfilming capture software.
Make sure your camera is firmly placed and locked in position. This will help you avoid camera bumps, which, like set bumps, are something you do NOT want. Often Brickfilmers will construct tripods or frames for their camera, so that they can even pan or dolly if they want to. These also help to keep your camera fixed in a particular position.
Make sure your camera is in focus. A nice crisp and sharp image is something that can really make your film be considered high quality. Some cameras have a focus ring, which you can turn to adjust the focus. Most cameras though have to be adjusted on the computer program itself. Once again, make sure that you have a camera with manual focus. “Auto” and “Fixed” focus are no-nos.
Make sure your lights are all positioned. It is very important that you have good lighting in your Brickfilms. Good lighting not only improves camera quality, but it also makes your shot look more as if it were shot at the daytime. DO NOT EVER USE NATURAL LIGHT! Natural light is not even or constant, and will almost always cause major light-flickers (which are big no-nos). When filming, make sure there is no natural light coming into your room. It is normally good to use at least two lights but three is the norm. Use one light as the main light, one light for the backdrop, and one light to take care of all unwanted shadows. If you want to film a night scene, do NOT turn off the lights. Instead, go into the settings for your camera and turn down the brightness and contrast. Turning off the lights will only result in disaster!
Make sure you choose what “Frames Per Second” (FPS) you want to animate at. The norm for Brickfilming is 15 fps, but lots of people often film at 12 fps. A few (very) dedicated Brickfilmers even animate at 24 fps! 15 or 12 fps will probably work best for you, though.
Don’t be worried if it takes you several hours to set up a shot. Taking a lot of time preparing a shot is a sign of a good Brickfilmer. Getting the perfect shot will make your films much more enjoyable and professional looking.February 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm #440086
– Animating A Shot –
After you have taken the time to prepare your shot, it is time to film it. When filming a shot, there are some very important things that you must keep in mind.
Make sure there are no light flickers. Light-fmean that you should make a run sequence be slow like a walk sequence, but it means that you should always try to make the running the same speed whenever your minifig runs, and your walking the same speed whenever your minifig walks.February 21, 2014 at 3:13 pm #440099
Section #3: Post-Production
Last of all is the post-production stage. In this stage, all the “goodies” are added to your animation that really makes it stand out and seem professional.
– Special Effects –
Special effects are all the effects (such as lightsaber glow and laser fire) that are added to your Brickfilm after it has been filmed. It is important though that you do not go “overboard,” so to speak, when you are adding effects. A film does not need a lot of effects to be good. In fact, a well-animated film with very little or no special effects is normally appreciated more than a film with hundreds of effects and poor animation. Of course, in some cases, it is necessary that you add lots of special effects to a shot, such as if you were having some Jedi fight off an army of clones. Though we will not go over all the effects that can be used in Brickfilms (there are hundreds), we will explain a few of the most common.
Chroma Keying – This is also known as either blue-screening or green- screening. What basically happens is two shots (a backround shot and the main shot) are layered. Then a certain color in the main shot is selected (such as blue or green), and the color is then erased, leaved the backround image showing. Blue backrounds are normally considered the best when it comes to Brickfilming, being that they are unlikely colors that you would actully have anywhere else in your shot. Chroma Keying is normally handy if you want to create a false backround for a movie, such as in Star Wars.
CGI – This stands for “Computer-Generated-Imagery.” (This actually is not really normally considered a special effect, but for this guide we placed it under this category because there was not really any other place to put it.) It is used in Brickfilms (and real films) to make elaborate shots that cannot be done with regular animation and props. It is often even used on its own (like with Pixar) to make full-length movies. Normally though, when it comes to Brickfilms, it is used as a way to do shots or build props that you either don’t have the pieces for or would be impossible to animate.
Lightsabers/Lasers – There are a variety of ways to do these effects. Probably the effect that gives the best results is actually taking a shot of your film and editing each picture individually in a image-editing program (such as GIMP or Photoshop). You could also opt for using a program specially designed for that kind of effect (such as LSMaker). There are many tutorials available for both techniques.February 24, 2014 at 2:33 pm #440113
Muzzle Flashes/Explosions – There are also a wide variety of ways in which to do these effects. The technique used the most often though is going to a site with free muzzle flashes and explosion footage (such as detonationfilms.com) and simple inserting and positioning the footage in your film. The other technique though is actually drawing a muzzle flash for your gun on an image-editing program (such as GIMP or Photoshop). Either technique you use though, you must experiment and work a while to get a good result.
Masking – This is a technique that is quite common in Brickfilms, as well as other animations. Basically, what masking does is simply make it seem like your LEGO bricks are suspended in the air with nothing holding them there. This can be a very useful effect in many cases, especially in lightsaber battles. What is done is that you take two images of the same scene. One acts as the background image, and the other acts as the foreground image. The background image does not have the object you want falling, and therefore no supports either. The foreground image, on the other hand, has the falling object and the supports. What you simply do is layer them (with the background in back and foreground in front) and then erase the supports. Since you had the background image behind the foreground image, it should seem as if your brick is really falling. It is very important though that you make sure that the lighting is the same in both images. If the lighting is different, then you will see a sort of “shadow” where the support you erased was. Once again though, if you truly want a good effect, then you have to practice and experiment a lot.
Color Correction – This is an effect used by most every film company and in pretty much every film. What it basically does is it allows you to adjust the hues, tones, and color grading of your shots to make them look more natural. Often times color correction can affect the mood of a shot as well. Color correction can also be used to make a day-time shot look like a night-time shot. There are not many (if any) free programs that have color correction options, so if you want to do this effect you will probably need a fairly expensive program like Sony Vegas or After Effects.February 28, 2014 at 6:35 pm #440173
The Saga continues…
– Sound Effects –
Sound effects help to not only add realism to your Brickfilm, but also to help make your Brickfilm seem either comic or serious. For example, if it was a serious film, a man falling off a building would just have a swish and maybe a scream. If it was a comedy, a man falling off a building would have a “whoop” and possibly an accompanied “oof!” Having more or less sound effects can also either help or detract from your film. For example, some shots in your film might have a lot of action and things going on. This type of shot would most likely need more sounds than a shot of a man sitting on a bench in a park. Some people opt for having virtually no sounds, even in busy shots. This is OK too, but you need to be careful about what sounds you choose to use and which ones you leave out. There are a lot of places on the Internet to get free sounds (like FindSounds.com and FreeSounds.com), and if you can’t find a sound you want anywhere on the Internet, then simply record the sound yourself or ask a friend to!March 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm #440180
- Music –
Choosing music to use in Brickfilms can often be one of the hardest things to do in the process of Brickfilming. Choosing the right or wrong music can totally change the way your Brickfilm is seen by your audience. For example, you wouldn’t have happy music in a sad scene or sad music in a happy scene. Music in fact is sometimes considered one of the top things that determines whether or not your Brickfilm is good or not. Wrong music in a Brickfilm can totally ruin it for your audience. There are a few places to get free music on the Internet, but most of them are copywritten. A good site to get free non-copywritten music from is Incompetech.com. There are also several programs available on the Internet that enable you to write your own music. Almost all of these programs though cost a bit of money.March 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm #440201
- Voiceovers/Casting –
In your Brickfilm, you probably have some talking between your minifigs. You could always record your own voice for all the figs, and then tweak your voice to sound different for each character, but this technique almost always has fairly low-quality results. The best plan of action to take is to assemble a cast. Real people most likely all have very different voices, and will sound much better than your own voice tweaked. It is important though that your cast knows [u]exactly[/u] how they are supposed to sound and what emotions they should show. If you don’t, you will get a lot of different voices of people just blindly and emotionlessly reciting lines. It is also good to let them know the story behind your film, so they know how to really “be” the character they are voicing for. Good voice-actors can really make your Brickfilm seem realistic and professional.March 8, 2014 at 6:28 pm #440235
When you are done with your film, it will probably be just 800×600 or 640×480, which is 4:3 format. You might want to have widescreen though. The normal widescreen ratio is 16:9. To do this, you have to do some cropping and some math. You have to do math to figure out just how much you need to crop off the top and bottom of your video. The mathematical equation is explained below.
Take the width of your video (the first number) and divide it by 16. For this tutorial, we will be using an 800×600 video. The number we will therefore get is 50.
Take this new number (in our case 50) and multiply it by 9. This gives us 450.
Take this number and subtract it from the height (the second number). This gives us 150.
Take this number and divide it by two. This gives us (in our case) 75. This is the exact amount you need to crop off the top and bottom of your video. You don’t necessarily need to cut off the exact amount on both the top and bottom, just as long as the combined sum of the numbers is the same (in our case 150). This is handy if you accidentally filmed a shot too high or two low to crop.
Now that your video is (hopefully) widescreen, you can either choose to keep it this way or letterbox it. Letterboxing is when you add black bars to the top and bottom of your widescreen video to make it uncropped again, so to speak. A good free program to do both widescreen cropping and letterboxing is “VirtualDub.” There are also several very helpful tutorials on this subject available on the Internet.