8 Brickfilming Tips and Tricks for LEGO Stop-motions

*A Guest Post by James Hirlehey

Have you ever seen an amazing brickfilm and thought ‘wow, what makes their animation better than mine?’ Well, these are some of my tips and tricks to help you improve your LEGO stop-motions. You may also want to read this LEGObased animation book for a much more in-depth look at how to create amazing stop motions.

Firstly, let me introduce my stop-motion YouTube channel, Amari Studios, where you will be able to watch my LEGO films.

8 Tips and Tricks for Filming Better LEGO Stop-motions

  1. Tape your set down

Taping your set down is really important because when you don’t do this, every time you move something, you will move your set. It will look like there’s an earthquake.

You can hold your set down with sticky tack or tape. If this doesn’t work, make sure you’re using a steady table.

  1. Use a good program

There are some programs that are better than others. Here is a list of my favorites.

  • Dragon Frame 4 (software only) – $195
  • Stop Motion Studio Pro for Mac / PC – $10
  • Stop Motion Studio Pro for Mobile – $5
  • Lapse It Pro – $2.99
  • iMotion – Free

The reviews for iStopmotion 3 ($19.99) are really bad. For me it kept crashing and wasn’t pairing with my cannon rebel t2i, even though it said it was compatible.

Lapse it and stop motion studios both have free versions, with less functions and tools.

Dragonframe logo

Dragonframe logo

  1. Shoot at eye level

eye contact/level

eye contact/level

Eye level or eye contact is where the camera is parallel to the subject. The reason this is important is because it helps make suspension of disbelief (the audience feels like the story is happening, even if it is unfeasible). Though this can be difficult when filming LEGO minifigures, I really think its worth it.

filming LEGO

Look at how you can barely see his face when the camera is above eye level.

camera is above eye level

You can see his face much better when the camera is at eye level.

  1. Ease in and ease out

Disney’s Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston wrote a book called “The Illusion of Life”. In it, they covered the 12 principals of animation (here’s a link to all 12 in video form) https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-bOh8btec4CXd2ya1NmSKpi92U_l6ZJd).

In my opinion, the most relevant to brick filming is number 6, slow in slow out, also known as ease in ease out. In real life, every action starts slow, speeds up and slows down. This rule is not without exceptions, such as someone falling to the ground.

Using ease in ease out can help make the motion in your film more life-like.

pendulum slows to a stop

At each end, the pendulum slows to a stop.

  1. Reduce light flicker

Light flicker is where the light is inconsistent from frame to frame. This makes your brickfilms look ugly and unprofessional. My never ending battle with light flicker has taught me some tricks to deal with it.

  1. Cover your windows with curtains or cover the window completely.
  2. Use lights that are positioned directly over the set so that you don’t cast a shadow.
  3. Wear a black shirt or use paper (see below) to reduce reflection.

block reflections

using paper to block reflections

  1. Move your set, not your camera

This is more a useful tip, than rule. Lets say there is a shot of a minifigure walking down the beach and the camera is following him.

There are two ways to shoot this. One is to slide the tripod or, two, slide the set. I would suggest sliding the set instead of the tripod because it’s easier to control incremental movements with a base plate.

  1. Higher frame rate doesn’t mean better animation

This is a common misconception. You don’t need a high frame rate for your animation to look good. Some people assume that a great animation is shot at 24 fps, (frames per second) but many, such as Fancy Pants, only shoot at 15 fps. That 70’s kid and his toys film at even less.

What is more important than fps is how well you understand the frame rate at which you’re shooting; you will understand what every movement you make will look like when it’s done.

  1. Add Style

Lego Brickfilm

Lego Brickfilm “Asteroid Strike, Comet Encounter” LEGO Film Action HD

Style is what makes a film, any film, great. Style in brickfilm is hard because everything is so small. Style give a scene atmosphere.

Look at the frame above. The lighting and color gives the shot an eerie feel. While that film is far from perfect, it has a mood to it.

When you’re making your next brickfilm, consider the mood. Is it happy and fun, sad and dark, dramatic and violent? Now think about how you can reflect that mood in the animation, lighting, and color choices.

I hope these tips and tricks are useful. Comment any other tips and tricks that you have!

*Brickfilms does not accept compensation for guest posts. Guest Posts must be unique and provide value to readers, and not published anywhere else now or in the future.  After your post is published you may include a snippet of the article as a teaser on your blog that links to the entire post on BrickFilms.com.


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