Topic: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

Welcome to the Weekly Bricks in Motion Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion thread!

These threads are designed to inspire discussion, debate and discourse on the topic of filmmaking, brickfilming, storytelling and LEGO. Each week I will start a new thread with a new discussion topic. Everyone is encouraged contribute as long as you have something thoughtful to say. Paragraphs are encouraged! If you are going to participate in this thread, please keep the discussion civil and refrain from pointless jokes, image macros, or “memes.”



This week’s discussion topic:

Why do you choose LEGO as your primary filmmaking medium?
Every filmmaker has a medium. Most filmmakers chose live action. But others prefer animation mediums, such as anime (Hayao Miyazaki), plasticine (Nick Park), puppets (Henry Selick), traditional/cel (Walt Disney, Don Bluth), CGI (John Lasseter), machinima (RoosterTeeth), and stop-motion with LEGO (David Pagano). Other directors move smoothly between mediums, such as Brad Bird. With all of these choices, why did you choose LEGO? Was it a conscious choice, or did you just "fall into" using LEGO?

Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I basically "fell into" using LEGO. It was just on hand when I began stop-motion. I guess i could have used clay, but it's messy. When I began, I actually started in the living room floor (yes, it was a while ago) and clay just wasn't a logical choice because it would get in the carpet. LEGO is a great medium. Just connect heads and torsos and legs, just build your sets, and animate!

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Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I use LEGO as my go-to medium as it is the easiest to set up. I can build my set and set the scene in a matter of minutes, no modeling required. LEGO is also very easy to clean and dismantle a set and then I can just reuse it, without throwing any bricks away. The reason I chose LEGO over Mega-Bloks or a different company is because it is of a very high standard and can last many years. I still have some of my Uncle's old LEGO pieces and they are still usable today.

Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

Not sure, really. I think I fell into it, after doing a short animation at my grandparents house with my dads' old LEGO, back in 2007. It was about the time I'd started secondary school, so I must have been about 11, and my first animation was Spaceman: the movie, where a classic red spaceman runs into a shelter. That was literally the whole animation, I think it was only twenty or so frames and done entirely in Windows Movie Maker. The music was one of the space themes from classic-era Doctor Who. I think I still have it somewhere.

It's actually really odd that I still brickfilm. I got bullied not only liking LEGO but for brickfilming most of the way through secondary school, to the point that I didn't tell my own cousins about it for years (though I think they knew anyway) and I didn't tell anyone at college about it until a year, or in some cases a year and a half, after I started there. My parents decided I had enough LEGO back in 2005 and said I wasn't allowed to buy any more, and tried to find other interests for me. Even though I still managed to get the odd set here and there, they were pretty strict about what came in and what didn't. As far as editing goes, I only had terrible second-hand computers that failed after a couple of months right up until January of last year, had a myriad of hard drive failures in which over the years I've probably lost at least half an hour of footage, and kept getting bought editing software too advanced for the computers I had. Now, finally, when I have an amazing computer and proper animation equipment, and a relatively good place to animate in, and I'm almost comfortable with it as a hobby, I'm in my exam period at the end of college (so can't spend much time on it) and am about to go to university at the other end of the country, where there's no guarantee I'll be able to continue brickfilming, even though it's the only thing I truly enjoy in my life now.

All in all, it hasn't been a rewarding hobby at all. Quite the reverse, and I don't know why I've stuck with it. I should have given up years ago, but I'm glad I didn't.

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Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I suppose I really just used LEGO because it was what I had available.  LEGO had always been like my most favorite thing ever when I was younger, from about 6 until...well, present-day. 
I looked around on LEGO.com a lot back then and saw The Han Solo Affair and a few of the contest winners of that old LEGO Star Wars animation contest (maybe around 2007?).  I had also seen a few things made with the Steven Spielberg LEGO set and thought that stuff was awesome. 

Fast forward to maybe around 2009, I was at a soccer game my little brother was playing in.  Being the wonderful big brother I was, I sat in the back of the car and played with LEGO, specifically the 2005 Batmobile with Two Face's van.  After realizing my mom had a small digital camera, I just put two and two together and animated my first 'movie'.  It was batman running over Two Face and smashing into his van, filmed in the back of our Honda.
My next birthday my mom got me a small animating kit so I started doing that a bit more, and it ultimately turned into my hobby.

About that time I realized I loved filmmaking and it was something I wanted to do.  Due to a complete lack of friends, I was never able to, and still haven't, done live action filmmaking.  I still REALLY want to make an actual live action film but yeah, you know, you kinda need actors for those things. 
Since LEGO and animation were both things I could enjoy in my room by myself, that's what I did then, that's what I do now.  Even though I haven't animated and actual film since like August...I am still an animator. 

I must say, I'm really sad I don't have any of my original LEGO animations.  My first ones were never put on a computer, I just clicked through the pictures really fast on the camera.  When I was first starting out I made a lot of short films that were weird and just plain bad...I made a few Hardy Boy animations, a lot of Johnny Thunder shorts, a few knight/ninja shorts, and this weird thing based off Age of Empires III.  For some reason I decided that the Japanese Ninjas and Samurai discovered America first and then the Spanish came in and they fought over all that.  I even made a sequel and a prequel to that, intense, I know, 

My first 'big' project was recreating all of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2010.  It was almost 8 minutes long and now that I look back on it...interesting.  I voice acted for like, everyone, and you just have to see it to understand. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcEGH_tSgYs


So that's a rather long-winded explanation of why I started using LEGO and still use it.  It certainly helps that I absolutely love LEGO itself and collect, not "play" mini/shifty with it, so I have a very large collection.  Like $10,000+ according to Brickset large.  I hope to brickfilm well into the future.

Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

Great idea Nathan, I'm looking forward to seeing the results of these discussions.

Why Lego?
Well, I began animating thanks to a stop-motion kit I received one Christmas. The kit used Lego, encouraged its use, and having plenty on hand, I began animating with that medium. Why have I kept with it? Couple of reasons.
First, it's what I've done before. Being a creature of habit, I don't normally change what I do unless there's a good reason.
Second, I have, and even at that time, had a large Lego collection, allowing me to build just about anything I needed from stuff around the house.
Third, it's simple to animate, as opposed to action figures/clay that have many more elements and points of motion that must be considered and perfectly animated/modeled or it looks poorly done.
Fourth, I was a Lego fan in my early childhood, and strangely kept returning to it time and time again, thus, I apparently have a subconscious attraction to it.
And lastly, it's more clean, reusable and sustainable than many other mediums. Clay you have to specially mold each time, action figures and the like are limited in customization and wear out over time, and you can't easily build unique environments with other mediums with the same materials. Plus, clay is sticky, nasty, and gets all over everything.

To me, other modes of animation have to be professional and nigh-perfect for them to have much appeal. If something is just a little off in animation or design, then when that is combined with the more human-like models, it tends to fling things off into the uncanny valley. But with Lego, the cartoon-y looks, and less realistic design, allow more freedom with animation, tone, and style that enable the blocky figures to seem more human, or even less so, as the movie requieres. But still without feeling all weird and off-putting. That also helps to cushion against flaws and imperfections.

As for live-action, it involved getting friends to help. And I didn't have any that were interested in that kind of thing. Also, costs shoot up a lot with the transition to live-action, and I couldn't be as much of a control-freak in terms of adjusting everything little detail until it's perfect like I can in stop-motion.

It took me a while to really develop any skill with animating, and I did take a few months break away from the hobby. Thankfully, that phase didn't last long, and thanks to (somehow) placing high in several contests, and the encouragement of the BiM community, I remain a committed brickfilmer to this day.

Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I've just been a huge LEGO fan for most of my life.  I got my first ever set in 1997 and since that time I've been obsessed with it.  I wanted no other toys besides LEGO, and thus through the years I have collected a large number of them.

For a very long time, I had also wanted to make LEGO movies after seeing Monty Python and the Holy Grail in LEGO, however, I did not get to it until 2007 when the LEGO Star Wars movie making contest happened.  I attempted to create an entry, however, it was horrible, and I made a mistake in submitting it so they never even saw it, but it did get me started.
It seems that contest got a lot of people to start brickfilming, and I'm very glad that it happened.

Even before being a brickfilmer, I loved thinking up story ideas, and for a very long time I had wanted to become a writer, but after starting my interests shifted to telling stories as movies rather than in writing.

I do believe that brickfilming is probably the best way someone can make a short film as a hobby.  Unlike with live action, you can easily build almost any sort of setting you want on a small scale without having to build a massive expensive set for real people.  Of course, stop motion is time consuming, but it does have certain advantages.

It's probably the most rewarding hobby I've ever taken up.  There is nothing at which I am better than brickfilming, so I'm glad to put my talent to use to entertain some people.

Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I just seemed like an obvious and fun choice to me!

When I first discovered Brickfilms on Brickfilms.com and YouTube (I want to say around late 2006-early 2007), I felt like it was a good choice due to the relative inexpensiveness of LEGO and its familiarity and fun. After all, it was and still remains my favorite toy!

I've dreamed of being a filmmaker for a huge portion of my life. In fact, when I was in 2nd Grade, I inadvertently made my first Brickfilm based on Knights Kingdom. (I use "Brickfilm" loosely, since it mostly consisted of my brother and I walking around our house dressed as Knights). So when I discovered this new way of using my toys and making films, I really wanted to jump onto it.

Brickfilming has several advantages over traditional animation/ stop-motion or live action films. For the latter, there is less headache over worrying if your actors and crew can all work it out in their schedules to be on set to film. With Brickfilms, for the most part, the only schedule you need worry about is your own.

As for traditional animation and stop-motion, Brickfilming doesn't require the expensive tools that those need, such as materials to make armatures and figures.

But most of all, LEGO just has this irresistible charm and familiarity about it that other forms of animation can lack. Literally EVERYONE I've ever met has played with LEGO. This cannot be said about Transformers, or MLP, or GI Joe, or anything else. And we all remember making up outlandish stories with them, which we acted out with complete seriousness. This is something that I've found really connects with most people who I have shown my Brickfilms.

And that, to me, is what makes Brickfilms special.

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Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I sort of fell into it, but I continue to use it because of several advantages. Firstly, I'm terrible at drawing, so redrawing almost every frame in a flash animation would be a nightmare, on top of this, animating Lego seems a lot quicker. For example, for an arm movement all you need to do is raise an arm, whereas in Flash you need to redraw it every time

Spoiler (click to read)

unless you want to go for keyframes which more often than not look ugly.

  Secondly, managing shots and sets is much easier than in flash, for example, every time the shot changed you don't have to redraw the background, you can just move the camera. It's also easier than stop motion with say, clay as you don't have to intricately create your own backgrounds that will end up getting wasted later, as you can reuse the pieces for other sets or props.

  There are some disadvantages though, first and foremost unless you have After effects or something, the still faces of Lego leave little room for expression outside exaggerated gestures. There's also limited limb movement, with no elbow or knee joints, making some movements unnatural and things like action scenes especially difficult to pull off. There's also the matter of payment, Lego is very expensive, and unlike Flash where you pay once upfront and then you're ready to go, with Lego you constantly need to buy more to create the right sets or props for your film.

So it has it's ups and downs, I mostly just stick with it because it's pretty basic, if a little too simple.

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Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

Hmmm.

I'd always been a LEGO fan, and I guess that just blossomed into brickfilming overtime. I think I originally stuck with LEGO just because it was the majority of my film-able belongings, and then came to love it - and the community that came along with it.

Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I always liked making up stories and building toys. When I was little my parents had to be present when I did fire truck drawings because by the end the paper was covered with black crayon "smoke". I also liked making up stories and acting them out by myself or with my younger sister. When I was young I played with Duplos, then K'nex (before they were a LEGO knock off), then regular LEGO.
   I first thought of filming my LEGO stories when I saw the Star Wars contest entries along with the LEGO Club and Space Police animations.
   When I got a lightly used Flip video camera from my uncle I started making (terrible) live action videos where my hands moved the characters.
   When I was living in California my mom found out about a short summer brickfilming "class" at the Charles M. Schultz museum that lasted for a week where I learned the very basics of stop motion and how to use Monkeyjam. Those films weren't great (lit with natural light and filmed at 5-10 fps) but they led to me brickfilming all the way to now.

Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

Memoir alert mini/tongue

It was June 15th, 2001 when I first discovered what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. At only five and a half, I was pretty much in childhood heaven. – I had a PlayStation 2, VHS tapes of the classic Disney Afternoon of the early 90’s, and was just phasing out of DUPLO, and converting over to the regular, tiny LEGO bricks that I’ve grown to love since. Sure, I had “One Saturday Morning,” “Back to the Future,” and the original Star Wars saga on tape, but, I’d never seen a movie in theaters. – This evening was to be my first experience at the cinema!

Atlantis: The Lost Empire was the film – One of the Disney Company’s last attempts at traditional animation before purchasing Pixar and devoting most of their time to CGI films, and Marvel series. Though I regard the film highly, I’ll admit that it’s plot is a pretty generic action/adventure spectacle! With a crew of explorers and a mystical lost city to pursue, it sure made for a great ride – especially for a first-timer.

From that day on, I knew I was gonna be a film-maker, no matter the hardships.

In 2004, I wrote my first story – another pretty generic adventure. But, at this time, I didn’t have the recourses to put something like that to film, so, I had to settle for a short-story. – A story that has garnered me much praise from both friends and teachers alike. It’s one heck of a conversation starter!

In 2007, great change came over me in two ways. The first: I discovered Youtube for the first time. The second: I heard that the great Steven Spielberg was filming another Indiana Jones blockbuster, set for release the next year. I was so excited! It actually inspired me to, for the first time, put down the pen and paper, and start to put my ideas to film…

For me, LEGO  has always been a conscious choice for film medium. I quickly learned this after some testing with filming toys. The Star Wars action figures had to be held by hand, and claymation was WAY to hard for someone like me to concentrate on… I had to find a better way to film, and what to film with.

The answer, oddly enough, came from the old Rankin & Bass holiday specials – all animated with stop-motion and little figures. Thomas Edison must have been proud, as the “light-bulb of idea” switched on above my head. I could stop-motion animate my LEGO minifigures.

The reason I chose stop-motion was clear, and so was my choice of LEGO. Aside from being my favorite toy in the world, I had been lucky enough to stumble upon some brickfilms on youtube. The rest is history, I guess.

I’m SO excited that Nathan Wells created this thread, because, he’s another chapter in my autobiography to be released in about 60 years mini/tongue Beast was one of the first brickfilms I ever saw, and definitely the first one I ever loved. It was the final push in the right direction that I needed to pick up Brickfilming as a beloved hobby. Even if I’m one day directing blockbusters in Hollywood, I’ll always Brickfilm. I just love it, and, I’d like to think the community likes me too. I’ll always contribute my films to the craft – as long as there is a community there waiting to be entertained. (:

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Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

Cos' its cheap, easy to do, and I have a crapload of the stuff laying around from my childhood.

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Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I don't. mini/tongue

I went into live-action a while back, but I still love brickfilming. I started brickfilming with my dad's old tape camera when I first saw the winner of the 2007 star wars contest. Because of that, I never outgrew LEGO. Every LEGO set I bought from that point on was "for a movie". I just kind of got comfortable with the community and now I just can't leave it. I love watching brickfilms, and every time I see one I get an idea for a new video of my own. With my "brickfilm addiction", I spend a lot less time working on my live-action films.

So for me, brickfilming is actually a curse, if anything.

no more brickfilming *sad face*.

Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

Because you can make good professional movies without spending too much. You don't have to hire actors, buy tons of clothing and props. Instead, you can just buy a few sets and start building! That's a particular thing i liked about brickfilming. Another reason was that i always was interested in filmmaking and Lego. And ofcourse there was YouTube aswell, where everyone started uploading brickfilms. I decided i'd try it for myself and became more experienced with the years.

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Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I've always loved art in general and animation specifically, especially golden age cartoons which were my steady diet.  A few years back, I created two hand-drawn cartoons that were about 5 to 6 minutes in length each.  One of these were shown at a film festival.  I returned to my love of Lego around the same time.  A few years later, I read issue of BrickJournal magazine on brickfilming.  I've seen Lego animations prior and was thinking about trying it myself, but the magazine really was my inspiration.

I decided to go all out and focus on a sitcom series, and pattern it after a live action series.  I knew this was a huge undertaking because the films would be 20+ minutes in length.  For a while, I sought out and watched Lego comedy series.  The one that most inspired me, however, was Joe Brickmond.  They were hilarious, well-written, pleasantly animated, and well-acted.

So, in conclusion, the answer to why Lego is threefold: 1) Love of animation, 2) BrickJournal issue on animation, and 3) Joe Brickmond.

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Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I had gotten the chicken pox, so I had to stay home for a week. I pretty much just spent the days playing computer games, and I just discovered youtube. I was obsessed with this game called "fancypants adventures 2", and I played it every day. I was stuck on the last level, so I went to youtube to look for a cheat code or something, then I discovered fancypants the animator. Then, the rest was history.

Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

This is a great topic idea, Nathan.  Though funnily enough the discussion topic reminds me of an exam question.

I guess I might as well tell my own story as to how I got here.  LEGO has always been my favourite thing ever.  I've loved it for literally as long as I can remember.  It's always had a special place in my heart; you can pretty much build anything you want, and it's a great creative outlet for me.  So brickfilming is in a way an extension of my love for LEGO.  (It probably also helps that my current social life is about as lively as a morgue at midnight.)  I saw some brickfilms a long time ago (2008-2009ish) on YouTube (such as eanimation) and while a friend of mine and I briefly considered making our own brickfilms, it never really went anywhere (they probably would have been horrible anyway); either way I've been out of contact with him for quite some time now.

Then, about two years ago, I discovered Squid's brickfilms and I finally decided to start making them myself--although it took me around a year just to get started.  I guess it doesn't say much for my sense of time-judgement that I finally decided to start brickfilming during what would become by far the busiest (and definitely worst) two years of my life thus far thanks to a ton of schoolwork and a bunch of personal crud I won't elaborate upon for obvious reasons.  I barely managed to release two films, both of which were for contests (ironically I haven't made any of the films I'd originally intended to), and have had literally zero time to do anything since the summer besides a few tests and half a script.  Thankfully this particular phase of my life will be over in a few weeks when I finish my exams, and I'll have loads of time to finally brickfilm.  Unfortunately I fear there will be many films that I've wanted to make that will never see the light of day, as I have no idea how my brickfilming future will run beyond this summer.  I'm more or less in the same boat as Jampot, as I'll be off to University in September/October and I don't know if I'll be able to continue.  I'll be studying a subject completely unrelated to film so I won't even have some sort of excuse to continue.

Though Brickfilming has given me an interest in film and cinema I'm not sure I'd be good at live action, since I'd have a lot less control and be a lot more limited in terms of professional equipment, and I'm not sure how well I'd interact with other human beings.  (I suppose I could become an actor, but I'd probably only ever enjoy roles that I'd be interested in playing and I'd be really paranoid that I'd end up playing in a critical bomb that would ruin my career and I'd be remembered as "that guy who played in that awful movie".  Or I'd have to play in a Shakespeare play, of whom I have a deep-seated loathing.)  I really want to continue brickfilming, but I don't know what the future holds for me.

Sorry if that wall of text is too much. mini/blankexpression

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Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

I know I'm not very regular here, so it might seem strange to be writing so much, but I enjoy reminiscing for my own sake.

When my family first got a computer in 2006, I quite quickly discovered the legendary 'Microsoft Paint' and 'Windows Movie Maker'. My first animation was a very basic series of about 20 frames of Anakin and Obi-Wan fighting on Mustafaar, each frame lasting a couple of seconds, in what must have been a painfully slow 40 seconds for anyone watching! Still, I was amazed at what I could do with just the free software on my computer, especially at the age of nine. Over the years I discovered Brickfilming, which was the perfect medium for animation, as I was a big fan of Lego and had amassed a fairly large amount of the stuff. I did a few very short animations that weren't really much good at all, as I lacked the software or technical expertise to do much. However in 2010 my school started an animation club, which I attended with about 3 other people, and I made use of the art department's iMac's and webcams to produce my first proper films. Since then I haven't done an huge amount more, I'm sorry to say, though I have done some live action filming of my own with a couple of friends which I'm pretty proud of. In the last year I've acquired a good webcam and a better capture software, so I now have no excuses whatsoever to not be animating, and I hope to have more content to share here soon.

As for why I persist with Lego as a medium for animation? It's insanely versatile, so you can apply it to any genre. It can be either cartoony or realistic. The amount of scope for sets, props and characters is almost limitless. The grid-based arrangement of bricks makes it fairly easy to redo frames, something which can't be said for plasticene or clay. And I have tonnes of it stacked away in boxes from my childhood, so I might as well do something with it...

Last edited by Jayem (May 7, 2014 (11:25am))

Re: Filmmaking and Brickfilming Discussion - Week 1: Why LEGO?

Like many others, I got into animation because of LEGO. I think I've told the story here before, but a friend of mine showed me LEGO the Force Unleashed by fancypants when he found out that I like LEGO, and after of month of viewing literally every brickfilm I could find on YouTube (I watched all of KG's films up to April of 2010 in one sitting), and seeing a few very basic tutorials on stop motion by brickfilmers, I realized I had all the tools necessary and thought I'd give it a try, cause how hard could stop motion be. mini/tongue What started as a love for LEGO and a desire to see minifigs come to life by my hand and the hands of others, turned into an even greater love of stop motion itself. I choose LEGO because that's how I started and it's a great medium to learn in. I'm actually starting to graduate into more complex puppets, and as soon as I get through finals and summer starts I'll be working with them a lot. I will however continue to make brickfilms along with other stop motion animations, as my love of LEGO has now firmly planted itself, and for a long while into the future I will enjoy creating living worlds of LEGO, regardless of how my stop motion work evolves.