Topic: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

This week’s Brickfilm of the Week is Robota by Marc Beurteaux.

Typically, brickfilming is a fairly insular hobby. Brickfilmers know of each other and other brickfilm’s work, but it’s rare for brickfilmers to break out into other notable work, and it’s equally rare for other filmmakers indulge in brickfilming. Marc Beurteaux, an animator and director from Canada, is an exception. His film Robota is his only brickfilm, but he’s contributed animation to TV series and shorts. Robota made the festival circuit and has won many awards, all detailed on the Brickfilms Wiki page here. Robota is follows the story of a broken robot trying to survive in a robot world, and features large puppets built out of LEGO and other construction toys. It features some of the biggest models and sets ever seen in a brickfilm.


Watch Robota on the Brickfilm Archive

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SPOILERY DISCUSSION BELOW!

While most brickfilms use minifigs to tell a story, Robota scales its world way up and tells its story with puppets that are up to a foot tall. Because the story only features robots, the use of the blocky LEGO pieces and mechanical Technic pieces really compliment the visuals. The use of LEGO and the movie’s theme of rebuilding also go hand in hand, and demonstrates Beurteaux was very careful and intentional in his choice to use LEGO. I think this is an interesting contrast to most brickfilmers, who use LEGO out of ease of access. Most brickfilmers are young hobbyists who already have access to LEGO, and couldn’t afford to make a custom puppet. But Beurteaux made an explicit choice to use LEGO to make the world of Robota.

What are your thoughts on Robota? What did you like about it? What did you think of the use of large-scale LEGO sets and characters? Did you have a favorite moment?

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

This is my favorite brickfilm! I think the LEGO medium really works in the story's favor without becoming a direct metaphor or something, which is a hard balance to strike. As a result, I think it works well not only as a brickfilm but as a short film one might show to an outsider of our community.

I really enjoy the worldbuilding of the story and how we're thrown into this world with all of its own rules but without having it explained to us.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

Even though this isn't my number one favorite brickfilm, it is definitely in my top five favorites.
There are so many nice touches to the animation.  I love the design on robots.  They all have a unique design.
The atmosphere is also very well done with some great touches, like the backwards music in the beginning.

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

Robota is a brickfilm that I sort of have a love/hate relationship with.

It's a great work of art, don't get me wrong, and, is one of just three brickfilms that I always redirect to newcomers interested in the hobby. However, there are a few things that, for me, keep this film from being a contender for my #1 favorite brickfilm of all time.

The first, and most prominent of my dislikes, is the ending song. It just breaks away the attitude and tone that the film had obtained up until that point. One minute, I think I'm watching a masterpiece of dialogue-less, otherworldly cyber-punk, and the next minute it feels like the ending of an episode of Rolie Polie Olie. It just doesn't seem to fit.

The other thing I don't really care for is the sound design. For what it's worth, it's pretty good. However, I just can't help but feel that, If I had helmed the editing, I would have been much more particular with each little sound effect. Again, it's more a matter of taste, but, I just think some of the pings, cranks, and zooms are just a bit loud. I'd try to keep everything at a bit more of a quieter volume, letting the visuals help the music (and specific sound effects) to pop - instead of just boosting the sound to compliment the visuals.

But, I really think that everything else is spectacular! Where the film (in my opinion) fails, it seems to bounce back even stronger someplace else. I don't like the ending theme, but simply adore that opening screech. Where I hate the sounds of the 'outdoors' shots, I love the sounds of the rowdy crowd for the inside scenes.

Perhaps the greatest weakness Robota has is it's technical limitations. I'd just love to hear this in a 5.1 surround sound mix, on a large screen, in 1080p or above! I think it would suit the film better, and make it much more memorable.

As it is, though, Robota is great. It's still inspiring, and, even if I must mute right at the end, I still find it an enjoying watch. For a film that doesn't feature minifigs, it certainly still makes you feel for the characters. Its sets never seem too cramped or empty, perfectly sucking you into its fictional world. That sci-fi grunge seems like a perfect mashup between Blade Runner and Robots. I love it, and am glad that I saved it before it did temporarily go offline.

This is a film that desperately needs to be saved for future brickfilmers to enjoy. I'm glad that the Brickfilm Archive team was able to make certain of that! It would have been a great loss if this film would have been lost to cyberspace. I'm glad it's saved, and, I'm still glad that I can watch it over and over again.

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Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel Animated & Edited by yours truly!

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

Dyland wrote:

Perhaps the greatest weakness Robota has is it's technical limitations. I'd just love to hear this in a 5.1 surround sound mix, on a large screen, in 1080p or above! I think it would suit the film better, and make it much more memorable

Dyland, I think your reviews embody everything that is wrong with this community. The obsession with technical perfection over more important elements like storytelling, even when it doesn't make any sense, is such a huge problem in this community. (This film was made before HD video technology was readily available to independent filmmakers) I don't like to criticize other people for making reviews but it's hard to keep my mouth shut about stuff like this forever! I'm rereading my own post here and wondering if I'm being too mean about it as you are a nice, well-intentioned guy who does a lot of good for this community, but the truth is we drive away so many people with this backward approach to filmmaking.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

Once the film finally finished downloading ( mini/tongue ), I got to watch it for the first time. I had heard of this film, but never seen it until today.

I did not find anything wrong with this film at all. The animator was a very talented person, and really put life into those gigantic LEGO characters. A film of this scale is very impressive, and I wish we could have more films using a large scale today (of course, an obvious reason we aren't seeing them is because of the limitation of funding to purchase a large enough LEGO brick collection). The animation, lighting, story, and sound design were great (in fact, I found the ending song extremely fitting).

Not to say this film is perfect, but there is a difference between "not finding anything wrong with it" and perfection. Not that there aren't mistakes and small things that could have been improved, but those can be easily overlooked. Sure, we all wish that our favorite brickfilms were playing at a theatre in super HD quality with the very best audio, but that's impossible, so I'm just going to be content with viewing it as it is.

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Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

Sméagol wrote:

...The obsession with technical perfection over more important elements like storytelling, even when it doesn't make any sense, is such a huge problem in this community. (This film was made before HD video technology was readily available to independent filmmakers) I don't like to criticize other people for making reviews but it's hard to keep my mouth shut about stuff like this forever!

I think I came off a bit too strong in my original post, too. mini/tongue

Of course, the job of a film-maker should always be to the story. Film, to me, is just an extension of storytelling. Characters, situations, and world building should not take a backseat to flashy visuals or enhanced sound. Some of my favorite films and brickfilms are bound to things I'm not that big a fan of.

Take Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and The Wizard of Oz! They are some of my favorite films, if not my favorites - yet they have a pretty square aspect ratio, and, were all mixed in mono. That doesn't make them bad, I'd actually argue the opposite, however, it does set them apart - and for some, that's not exactly a good thing.

rioforce wrote:

Sure, we all wish that our favorite brickfilms were playing at a theatre in super HD quality with the very best audio, but that's impossible, so I'm just going to be content with viewing it as it is.

Brickfilms like Grace or The Gauntlet don't need to be flashy, or have a great mix. They are masterpieces in their own right. However, whereas Grace is much more a storyteller's story, The Gauntlet is more a visionary's story. Yet, both get along just fine in a standard definition, since, they don't need anything above the norm. - They already excel!

Robota, on the other hand, while still great, would have benefited from a surround sound mix and a clearer picture. That way, you'd hear clinks and screeches all around, and the picture would allow you to see the focus points more easily, and much clearer.

I guess it's sort of a similar issue to music in mono vs stereo, specifically when it comes to The Beatles. Just give a listen to Strawberry Fields Forever or Nowhere Man in stereo first, and then search for the mono. On both of those songs in particular, the stereo just seems flat to me. The songs are awesome, but, hindered, in a way, once you've heard the mono. Not to say mono is better, but, it can really go either way depending on how the editing is done.

I, myself, use GIMP for all of the special effects in my films. - Mainly because I like the freedom of being able to edit things frame by frame. Those who can make better effects in less time in something like after effects aren't necessarily better. So many times have I seen a gunshot stand so far out from the rest of the editing and look of a brickfilm. Whereas some good old lightsaber effects pasted on just right can give off a better, and even campier feel, which I think can usually be a good thing. (Just look at Beast or Aladibababad for some campy, yet impressive brickfilms)

I don't mean to ramble on, but, I really love having discussions like these. It's nice to hear different opinions on a subject that I am so passionate about - film. Brickfilming, both as a serious line of work ,or just as a weekend hobby, can yield some truly wonderful experiences, both on and off camera. In Robota's case, I'm sure Marc Beurteaux had some great experiences making it, just as much as I have watching and discussing it.

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Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel Animated & Edited by yours truly!

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

I think you're missing the point. You said Dr Jobs was a perfect film, seemingly because of good technical work, and you're picking apart Robota as a film you "hate" in some ways, primarily on the basis of small technical foibles and the fact that it wasn't made with technology that wasn't available when it was made.

It comes across as an absurd degree of pretentious nitpicking and misses what makes a film worthwhile to anybody outside of the bizarre world of the Bricks in Motion forums, where the worst crime a filmmaker can commit is light flicker.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

Sméagol wrote:

I think you're missing the point. You said Dr Jobs was a perfect film, seemingly because of good technical work, and you're picking apart Robota as a film you "hate" in some ways, primarily on the basis of small technical foibles...

It comes across as an absurd degree of pretentious nitpicking and misses what makes a film worthwhile to anybody outside of the bizarre world of the Bricks in Motion forums...

To each his own. I shot a test the other day in 4:3 with my Lego Studios Movie Maker camera, just because I wanted the grainy-ness, since, I thought it fit the mood of the subject I was shooting. (That of my first ever Lego set) The  low quality pixelated images mimicked the distant and fading memories of my early childhood perfectly...

I feel that Dr. Jobs (part 1) is 'perfect' because it embraces it's limitations, and still shoots for the stars. Similar to the approach Robert Rodriguez takes on his feature films; some directors just know how to make the best of their medium. Films before the 60's only had one rating to shoot for - approved. Yet, they still found ways to creatively 'step around' the limitation to still tackle adult, or even risque issues. Same with Star Wars (the original one). It overcame limitations in budget to actually inspired more creativity.

To put my point with Robota differently; While I'm watching something like America: Outlawed, I never get pulled out of the story. It's a story that might not work on the big screen, but, does work well as a brickfilm. Same with Nathan Well's winning video Blinders - As a live action film, it may not come across the same. But, only by embracing the medium can it truly expand beyond the confines Lego, and really give off an emotional connection rarely ever achieved in film in general. And that's impressive.

Beurteaux is able to quickly emotionally invest you in the main character, and keep you from 'getting out' of the film. However, beyond that, I feel that he's more limited that he could have been in any other medium.

While it's true that some, if not most of the charm of Robota is the fact that everything is Lego. However, I feel that a story, told in the exact same way, with the exact same approach and tone, would work just as well if the characters were made of metal and were a foot or so taller.

I'm not saying that Robota was a bad idea as a stand-alone brickfilm; quite the opposite, actually. It's just that I feel it could have been so much more than just another experimental work of art. By embracing the technical limitations to create something greater, not ignoring them, Robota really could have been something else!

I guess I'm just a bit of a picky perfectionist. mini/tongue And, am trying to use my own 'guidelines to film making' on other people's films - which is not a specifically good thing to do. However, it seems that while I can find lots of older brickfilms that fit to my 'standards,' Robota just isn't one of them. It is still great, and I'll watch it night and day, but, it's not a film that creatively inspires or influences me in the way that something like Nathan Wells' Bliders or even TLFScarheart's Johnny Thunder: Return to the Aztec Lands did, and continue to do.

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Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel Animated & Edited by yours truly!

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

{spoilery discussion continues...}

Robota, to me, is a high point in our community and I am glad it has a chance to shine again as Brickfilm of the Week. Just a short time ago someone had mentioned on the forum that the link was down and the film was gone. My heart did a little flip flop as I ran to my pile of burned CDs and searched fruitlessly. There was something in how I felt right then that helps convey the emotional attachment I have with this movie.

If my friends have had time in the past to see a good brickfilm Robota was always amongst the ones I chose and the feedback for the film was always positive. My children love it for different reasons. My son especially loves the end where the singing starts and he laughs when "the dart shoots out the bird butt". (sic) My daughter who is a bit older enjoys the scenery-the city has an expansive feel to it. She knows just from playing with our own collection how big these robots and sets really are.

I really enjoy the little movements that Beurteaux achieved to breathe some life into the puppets. The small point the main robot uses to choose a winning bird and the large robot who gets hurt so bad his eyes go in opposite directions are small yet creative ways to tell the story and they're humorous too.

The subway animation is my favorite part of the film - how believable it is. It rolls and stops on the outside (and the doors almost don't let him in!) and lurches/jumbles about inside-this is a great scene. And as a group of animators here-it's nice to notice the subway set (interior and exterior) only make up about 15 seconds of the ten minute running time. The robot could have easily rolled across the street from the gambling hub and there would be no need for a subway. I like the challenge it implies and opens up the possibility of an even bigger world in our minds.

The robot designs-they're awesome. If you needed some ideas or just wanted to be inspired to build-Marc's creations excite. Each has their own personality within the bricks that make up their faces and bodies.

Dyland wrote:

...the ending song... just breaks away the attitude and tone that the film had obtained up until that point.

The entire film we see a robot pushing himself around. By the end of the film the robot has legs-something to sing about! The song was different and meaningful and humorous and (dare I say it?) literal. The robot rejoicing and the animator who made it shouldn't be making you question your views-you're doing that yourself. Moods are meant to be shattered and lifted as the creator sees fit. The film reached the end that, to me, worked perfectly.

-Jared

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

Dyland wrote:

Beurteaux is able to quickly emotionally invest you in the main character, and keep you from 'getting out' of the film. However, beyond that, I feel that he's more limited that he could have been in any other medium.

While it's true that some, if not most of the charm of Robota is the fact that everything is Lego. However, I feel that a story, told in the exact same way, with the exact same approach and tone, would work just as well if the characters were made of metal and were a foot or so taller.

I'm not saying that Robota was a bad idea as a stand-alone brickfilm; quite the opposite, actually. It's just that I feel it could have been so much more than just another experimental work of art. By embracing the technical limitations to create something greater, not ignoring them, Robota really could have been something else!

I must say, I'm not sure what you mean by saying that Robota does not embrace it's technical limitations. It would seem to me that it is built on them instead, knows exactly what it can and cannot do. It's huge, it's ambitious, it's well done, has a clear idea of what it wants to achieve and gets it right... it doesn't ignore, it sidesteps limitations, which is a wonderful thing most people can't even dream of being able to do.

I don't know about your 'guidelines to film making', but they seem to focus on what this movie is not rather than what it actually is.

Robota, on the other hand, while still great, would have benefited from a surround sound mix and a clearer picture. That way, you'd hear clinks and screeches all around, and the picture would allow you to see the focus points more easily, and much clearer.

How great would've been if Chaplin shot his movies in color and have 5.1 surround sound, shot in 4K and had the technology we have today for special effects? Maybe it would've been interesting, but that's not what Chaplin did and that's not what his movies are about (despite the fact that I think they would look horrible). This is "missing the point".

Your critique on the song, on the other hand, is appropriate because it talks about what's actually there. It seems to break from the rest of the movie is because there is a significant change in the main character, but if you listen carefully, you hear it retains the same tone of the rest of the film, like taking bits and pieces of what has come before and exploding in the end as this silly, uplifting, joyful song, but with a little touch of melancholy. Whether you like it or not, however, is a different matter.

As for me, to put it simply, it's a brickfilm of uncommon proportions. There's much to be learnt from it, and not just for brickfilmers, something people seem to forget often: brickfilms shouldn't be made for the community alone, they should be made for the rest of the world too.

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

MPfist0 wrote:

I must say, I'm not sure what you mean by saying that Robota does not embrace it's technical limitations. It would seem to me that it is built on them instead, knows exactly what it can and cannot do. It's huge, it's ambitious, it's well done...

A wholeheartedly agree that it does try to build upon it's limitations. (all films must, unless they literally had an infinite budget) I'd also agree that Robota is huge, ambitious, and is executed very well.

MPfist0 wrote:

it doesn't ignore [limitations], it sidesteps limitations, which is a wonderful thing most people can't even dream of being able to do.

Sidestepping limitations isn't as effective in filmmaking as embracing limitations is. When you 'work around' limitations, I feel that it's still ignoring the problem. If you don't have a lot of bricks for walls - and decide to shoot your film with a lot of close ups (just for example) that's not specifically a solution if the story doesn't match the situation. However, if you 'crafted' your story around a very emotional - and character driven focus, you'd justify using close ups...

Again, I feel that I'm approaching a very, very grey area in my approach to film-making, and, just as a viewer, what does and doesn't work for me. Robota works, but, seems to (not 'age,' per se, but rather...) fade with each viewing. It's still great, but, It's just not inspiring. And I love to watch inspiring things.

I like bad movies when I can learn from them, and I love good films when I can strive to obtain the greatness that they gave to me... I'm not talking about remaking Citizen Kane; I'm talking about making a film that, to me, would give off the same feelings that I alone had in my singular and specific reaction to that film.

MPfist0 wrote:

I don't know about your 'guidelines to film making', but they seem to focus on what this movie is not rather than what it actually is.

It certainly does seem like that on the surface, as, I do often look at films from a sort of 'in between the lines' approach. However, whenever I have given brickfilms the same guidelines as I give to feature films, I often find that they can hold up. (and, both can fail as well)

It's sort of a sixth sense feeling, I guess. When I talk about an emotional connection, or even story investment (to a small degree) - Robota falls short, for me. However, that's not to say that it's bad...

MPfist0 wrote:

How great would've been if Chaplin shot his movies in color and have 5.1 surround sound, shot in 4K and had the technology we have today for special effects?... This is "missing the point".

This is where I think that everyone is misunderstanding me... I think that every film has it's best suited formatting. The Chaplin films are best without sound, and in black and white, and on film because they just are. Would "The Tramp" work in a modern setting - no. It has to be done in the style that it was done in... And I'm not talking about historical limitations at all. I'm saying that, if someone decided to make a short with Chaplin's "The Tramp" character today, they should do it just like it was done. Not for continuity, but just because it works best there.

Inception, on the other hand, would have failed in 1920's film. Even if it was in color, and was still in Imax (and somehow transcended through time) It would simply be too different. In a world of silent pictures, something achieving too well would be, in my opinion, a burden, ironically enough.

To put it more simply - Some directors will always shoot all of their films for their entire career in 16:9 or 4:3 or 1.85:1. And (in a modern sense, I'm talking) I don't like them. There shouldn't be just one aspect ratio, or approach, to filmmaking. Each film should be different, and, hopefully, be done in the best way possible. I'm doing my Sliders The Animated Series in 4:3, will do Johnny Thunder in black and white and 1.37:1, and will do Alpha Team in 2.35:1. I don't care if the bouncing letterboxing would look ackward on a collection DVD... If it's best for the individual film, then, don't go against the grain.

I feel that, especially since Marc Beurteaux has been involved in 'professional' TV and shorts, he could have shot Robota differently. If he couldn't have, perhaps he should have taken a bit more time to polish it up, and perhaps, even re-shoot a scene or two. Perhaps I'm wrong... perhaps he couldn't do that, or even, perhaps he purposely shot it that way to make it 'seemingly' mix in a bit better with the other few brickfilms online around that time... And, if that is the case, then I must be just missing the point with his original intentions.

But, that's why I have the thoughts that I do on Robota. - If I am interpreting it wrong, then so be it. That's why there's the disconnect. That's why, while others think I'm being too nit-picky, I'm actually just trying to comprehend why I don't much care for a film that, deep down, I do admire and love. That's just the best way that I can explain it...

MPfist0 wrote:

As for me, to put it simply, it's a brickfilm of uncommon proportions. There's much to be learnt from it... brickfilms... should be made for the rest of the world too.

I agree. Robota is uncommon, and original. While I didn't really find anything that I could 'learn' from it, exactly, I do think that brickfilms (in their own way) should be respected just how hollywood films are respected, if not more. I find Doug Vandegrift's Pirates, Zach Macias' Hypothetical Possibilities, and Philip Heinrich's Unrenewable more enjoying than Jaws, Man of Steel, or even The Wizard of Oz. And, I feel that I'm not the only one.

If brickfilms can have that much of an impact on anyone, then, they should strive to do so. Robota doesn't top Atlantis: The Lost Empire in my opinion... Yet, something like Nathan Wells' Driven easily equals it in fun.

For what it's worth - While Robota just doesn't do it for me, I do hope it does for others. It's nice to see that a 10 minute brickfilm can spark a 30 minute conversation! That's certainly, in one way or another, the sort of impact that storytellers can only hope to achieve; Interest that outlasts the subject itself.

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Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel Animated & Edited by yours truly!

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

Dyland wrote:

While I didn't really find anything that I could 'learn' from it...

Man, I can't shake the feeling that you have an internalized grudge against this film cause some of your arguments come across as crazy convoluted. I digress.

Robota is one of my favourite brickfilms of all time. The scale of the film is mind bogglingly huge; I've tried large scale brickfilms before with the Pokeballin' series but Robota takes it to an unprecedented level. I would have loved to see Marc's setup in real life. This degree of expansive physical world-building takes Robota past being a simple brickfilm, and like others have said, is extremely accessible to people outside the community.

I talked about that a bit in my BiM doc interview, actually. Not many brickfilms try to be anything more than a LEGO video - and there's nothing wrong with that, I mean we're all doing this cause we love LEGO videos - but some manage to transcend the medium and could be regarded by the public as a short film, independent of the connotations associated with the medium. LEGO is such an iconic toy that in a way it restricts many animations to being a LEGO video dominated by the inherent brick aesthetic, and it takes a certain quality to break away from that. The scale that Robota is built shifts the visual focus from the brick design itself to something wholly original in aesthetic. Its physical foundation is in the brick medium sure, but it's easy to get lost in this film and enjoy it simply for what it is.

I don't mean to discredit brickfilms, I just think there's something admirable about one that can use the medium and turn it into a creative and new visual design, and I think we can all learn from that.

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

I agree and disagree with Dyland.

I think that every Brickfilm should be made to the best of 1) the animator's ability and 2) the level of technology they own.   That said, I'll watch Robota as a postage-stamp sized live recording of a film projection if it's how he was able to best make a digital copy.  Like Smeagol said, the storytelling is paramount.  On the technical side, make the best film you can with what you have.  This film is years old and the available technology has dramatically improved in just the few years since its release.

At the same time, I love the grand scope of the story, and consider it a masterpiece.  But I have the same gripe with the storyline:

Spoiler (highlight to read)Still, I too didn't like how a gritty sci-fi tale with a potential moral changed genres, becoming a dance comedy in the end!  Especially with no clues at all along the way... no comic relief moments until the surprise ending.

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

Robota is a beautiful work of art.  I first saw it played in a theater at Brick-Fair several years ago where they played a whole lot of brickfilms.  It was really interesting to see it played in front of so many people.  At that point I hadn't even seen that many brickfilms, and it felt magical and epic.

I'm gonna save this forever.

-Squid, Head of ANP |  I am the Night

Re: Brickfilm of the Week: Robota (Mar 13, 2015)

I loved how it was soooo smooth! Every little movement was nice, and I loved the Chris Boyer-styled background light gel-ness. I really have nothing to complain about! I don't give a crap about the technical aspects AT ALL. The story is ALL THAT MATTERS. If you think that 3 times more resolution is going to make me believe that the story has all of the sudden become"better", than think again!

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