Topic: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

Welcome to the Weekly Bricks in Motion Filmmaking & Brickfilming Discussion thread!
These threads are designed to inspire discussion, debate and discourse on the topics of filmmaking, brickfilming, storytelling and LEGO. Each week I will start a new thread with a new discussion topic. Everyone is welcome to 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.”

Sorry for the delay in the topic posting! I'm still recovering from driving for 7 hours! mini/tongue

Please feel free to continue to contribute to the previous discussion threads as well. Just because they are older doesn't mean they aren't relevant any more!

Previous Discussions:
Week 1: Why LEGO?
Week 2: Dealing with the Mockers
Week 3: Brickfilms With Licensed Themes



This week’s discussion topic:

What challenges, if any, do you think brickfilmers face that no other type of animator faces?
As animators who use LEGO, brickfilmers occupy an interesting space between hobbies. We are filmmakers and LEGO fans, and with these shared interests come the potential for experiences or challenges that only pop up in our particular hobby. Have you experienced something that you think only happens to brickfilmers?

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

I think that brickfilmers face problems that no other animators face, mainly from our own faults. I'm not saying that all brickfilmers are bad, quite the opposite, actually. But, problems like video quality, lighting flicker, and audio editing all have plagued us from time to time, and, I think that's just because of how we do what we do.

Professional stop-motion productions, such as the films made by Aardman, take years to film, as, every shot is set up carefully, and each frame taken minutes, if not hours apart, ensuring that every single element is more controllable. However, not many, if any, brickfilmers have this luxury. We usually film shorts, and, try to release them rather quickly. - I, for one, take about 2 - 8 frames per minute! Thus, things like dust on the LEGO, lighting problems, and set bumps are more likely to happen. Though, as with most challenges, some simple changes would result in overcoming these problems.

Taping down sets, waiting longer intervals in between taking frames, and wearing dark clothes with gloves while animating would resolve many of these problems. - And have for me.

Yet, going back to my original argument, most brickfilmers can't do this, and those that do choose not to. In my case, I've been working on this one film of mine for nearly 4 years, and, as the length of the script indicates that the finished film will be over 30 minutes, at Aardman's rate, it'd take me about one year to finish just the animation! And, no one wants to wait/work for that long on something that's just 30 minutes in the end, even IF it is a Johnny Thunder brickfilm. mini/tongue

Thus, I feel that, just as with chosen frame-rate when animating, it's a decision of time over quality - many of us finding a "middle ground" to satisfy our tastes, and utilizing our free-time available for brickfilming to show tho progress we want to see.

Last edited by Dyland (May 28, 2014 (11:12am))

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

Just about any sort of non-professional animator will face problems of animating without much aid or funding.  It's not limited to LEGO.

One such problem we face, however, is that there are some pieces which simply do not exist, and it can be difficult to make a specific story since certain pieces you might need aren't anywhere.

I'd like to make many more Riigo-Faloo brickfilms, however, most of the characters have very particular faces and outfits which would require specially printed minifigures.  Comrigone wears a unique purple suit and a unique scarf, Nirim has a white face with a great big scar across it, and several other clowns have very special markings upon their faces.

It is possible to print new pieces or create new molds, however, they often fail to look consistent with everything else LEGO.  There are only a scarce few people who are capable of producing custom LEGO bricks and prints of acceptable quality, but none of them brickfilmers.

There is also the problem of facial animation being very hard to do.  Most people fail miserably, and preferably if you can't do it well you should just stick with a single expression with possibly one or two more faces to be changed out if you have them.

To deal with this problem, I try to voice my characters as though they are constantly stuck in a single emotional state, or possible two if there is a face change.  This way the single minded or polar opposite feelings of the character matches the face.
When I had Brandon do his lines for Welcome to Darkmoor, I instructed him to say everything as though he was raging mad because his character's face is always irreversibly angry.  Everyone else in Darkmoor speaks in a creepy happy way, always consistent with their doll like smiles.
I guess it's not very good to have such a limited and one-dimensional emotional range for one's characters, but I like keeping the facial expressions and feelings as consistent as I can.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

Reflection flicker from characters. mini/blankexpression

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

Size. Lego is a lot smaller than most things used to animate. Thus making it harder to get close ups. easer to bump. And Lego reflects a lot thus making it harder to get good lighting.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

Thac

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

As I've described before, I think some aspects of brickfilming are extremely niche. However, I also think brickfilming shares a lot more in common with other hobby stop-motion filmmaking than some think. I'm sure other animators have experienced set bumps, light flicker, and so one. I don't think it's correct to compare us to Aardman or Laika. Those are professional studios. Instead, look at the thousands of stop-motion films on YouTube that feature puppets or claymation or whatever. You'll see many of the same problems that brickfilmers face.

However, brickfilmers do have to deal with reflections on shiny bricks and minifig torsos. I hate that.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

Scale is definitely an interesting aspect to brickfilming. On one hand it's an advantage, you don't need much space to make a brickfilm. However at the same time smooth animation requires much small movements than on a puppet that's three times the size of a minifigure. It's certainly an added level of difficulty not faced by all animators, but I think it also makes brickfilming a good way to learn animation; it requires a finer degree of attention that I think probably isn't obvious to those who haven't made a brickfilm.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

I'd say scale is by far the biggest challenge to face when brickfilming. Occasionally, a large scale is fitting for the film, enhancing it in ways that are non-comparable with other animation forms. However, it can be incredibly difficult to shoot close-ups without expensive equipment. Add in the fact that you might have to occasionally tear down part of the set just to switch the shot, and you have a really complicated situation on your hands.

Facial animation, like Squid said, is also a tough one because LEGO figs can't make facial expressions. Unless one is a skilled digital artist (or one erases the face of minifigures), facial animation is a no-go for most brickfilmers.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

theres not really any problems or challenges unique to brickfilmers at all

any of the challenges you can find in brickfilming is usually the same thing in like. stop motion in general

but yeah scale and facial animation i agree with

also to me i think brickfilming is a lot easier than say like. any other kind of animation (that requires dedication/talent or etc)

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

Just Kidden wrote:

also to me i think brickfilming is a lot easier than say like. any other kind of animation (that requires dedication/talent or etc)

Brickfilming does require talent and dedication.  Lots of it.  Just like any other type of animation.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

Squid wrote:
Just Kidden wrote:

also to me i think brickfilming is a lot easier than say like. any other kind of animation (that requires dedication/talent or etc)

Brickfilming does require talent and dedication.  Lots of it.  Just like any other type of animation.

oh yeah i meant more to exclude something like pivot animation or something like that (stuff that doesnt require dedication or talent) but the way i said it kind of didnt really work the way i intended, but my point is that with brickfilming its easier to make something of quality than other types of animation

Last edited by Just Kidden (May 30, 2014 (04:48pm))

what could have been: jeffrey and the old man make some robots
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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

Brickfilming doesn't require the artistic skill of claymation or hand-drawn animation. You need sculpting/drawing skills for that. With LEGO you just need a ton of bricks and a willingness to learn on the job. Brickfilming is one of the few hobbies you can just throw yourself into right away without any preparation (grab a camera, download some free software, get some LEGO and GO!) - which is why there are a lot of crappy animations online, because all those people have only just started. The majority of them have a description saying "Yeah, I was bored one day so I made this"

I would say thats a unique challenge, but with pretty much everything you do you're going to suck at first. You don't spring out of the womb fully formed and able to compose operas. You emerge naked, covered in gunk and unable to feed yourself or go to the toilet.

I try to make up for my complete lack of artistic skill (can't make music, can't draw, can't sculpt, can't really act, can't 3D model) by ensuring my writing is good. The reason why the majority of my Brickfilms are just people talking is because I'm best at scripting dialogue. Anyone who says thats boring has clearly never watched a play, or listened to a radio show, or watched a low-budget film/TV series, or gone outside. Anyone who doesn't care for hearing people talking has clearly never observed an interesting conversation in their life - real or scripted.

I suppose thats the challenge we face: taking a straightforward hobby and making it interesting and exciting. Anyone can make LEGO move - but can you make it tell a story?

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

I wrote a blog thing about the challenge of finding LEGO pieces, it's kind of related to this!

The Blog Thing

The reflective properties of LEGO are one of the most annoying yet subtle unique aspects to brickfilming. If you want the colours to look right you have to take all of your surroundings into consideration. Bit of a pain but if you wanted a pain-free hobby you should have picked up a colouring book HRGH

https://i.imgur.com/IRCtQGu.jpg

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

I think one of the big issues I see with animating with LEGO that I don't have to deal with if I'm working with clay or some other non-LEGO animation style is organic shaped sets and props. I've always wanted to create a LEGO film with a Dr. Suese style setting but building houses that aren't conformed to right angles is very difficult with the LEGO system. It is defiantly possible to create things that are more organic looking. But you just don't see people creating films that are trying to push this aesthetic aspect in films.

https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5098/5515324610_f2f09caf7d_n.jpg
A.B.S. Snorter and his Lego brick sorter by Legohaulic, on Flickr

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3702/10936501594_8f148d895c_n.jpg
Crow's Nest by Legonardo Davidy, on Flickr

When I got into stop motion (via some friends who used LEGO and a web camera) I wasn't aware of the existence of the AFOL community. A while after making our first LEGO film we discovered Brickfilms.com and realized how bad our 7fps animation was. It took a few more years to really see the amazing work that adults were doing on just MOCs and I really would like to see more attention to sets, and settings in brick filming in general.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

I totally agree with you, Sloth. I think we've become enamored with the minifigure and as a result are losing out on a lot of possibilities the medium can offer. I want to see more brickfilms that really challenge the norm. Off the top of my head, films like Robota, Little Guys, and Weltraffer are all good examples.

https://i.imgur.com/IRCtQGu.jpg

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

I had never seen Weltraffer, thank you for that.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

Having drawn cartoons by hand with pen & ink, I think it's more daunting that you can't make cyclic animation with Lego the way you can in traditional animation.  In an old MGM cartoon like Tom & Jerry, an animator can draw a run cycle with 16 to 18 frames of each character and then place them in a seamless painted room and they can run forever.  With Lego, even with a scrolling background, you have to make a photo for each frame of walking/running, etc.  Also, you can just draw your backgrounds, props, etc, when in Lego, everything has to be built.  Then you don't have all the pieces you need and have to take time to acquire them, and the process can be very long/tiring.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers

SlothPaladin wrote:

I had never seen Weltraffer, thank you for that.

Same. mini/smile

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