Topic: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

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.”

Please stay on topic and keep your comments civil and respectful of other members.

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
Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers
Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only
Week 6: Please Like, Comment and Subscribe
Week 7: Areas of Improvement
Week 8: Be Inspired
Week 9: Modding and Mega-Bloks

This week’s discussion topic:

What is your opinion on the use of CGI in brickfilms, including fully-CGI brickfilms? What do you think of CGI effects versus “practical” (AKA in-camera) effects, such as using cotton balls for smoke and clay for blood spatter? Do you prefer no CGI or limited use of CGI, or are you all for as much CGI as possible?

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

I prefer to avoid CGI for effects and love to do and watch brick-built effects. practical effects that aren't made from LEGO pieces (like cotton smoke) tend to result in a style that feels more "homemade" which could be what your going for.
Even though I prefer in camera effects, CGI effects work as long as they blend in well enough, if they don't it can become distracting.
Completely or mostly CGI brickfilms can work as long has the CGI is high enough quality (like the quality of the Exo-Suit reveal video) it can be very enjoyable without be distracting.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

I like in-camera effects instead of using CGI. I like the creativity I have to use to come up with the best way to simulate the effect I'm looking for. Obviously things like glowing headlights, are very hard to do in-camera, so things like that deserve CGI.

Personally, I hobby in 3D CGI. I don't mind seeing a LEGO animated film, as long as it's done right (correct proportions, lighting, animation, etc). In a brickfilm I am currently working on, I am incorporating a scene made entirely out of 3D CGI LEGO bricks. It's photorealistic, and I hope nobody will know the difference between the CGI and real LEGO. I think 3D CGI is appropriate in brickfilms only when you don't have enough bricks to do it with bricks. (The scene for my movie is fairly large, and I don't enough bricks to make it, so I used CGI). I don't think that mixing 3D characters on a brickfilm internment is right, though, it ruins the look of the film and everyone can tell that it is CGI and it is very distracting.

In summary, use CGI when absolutely necessary and don't over do it.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

It really depends on how loose you get with the definition of CGI. I don't like relying on other people for things I can't do myself, I don't ever want to end up with a project I can't complete because some effects work need to be done where I can't find someone to do it at the quality I want or do it myself.

But I digitally add a lot of stuff into my shots via After Effects with digital composition. I think maybe 50% to 75% of the shots in my current project feature digital effects. On of the very early shots I did was a cliff side beach, this is how it looked while I shot it, and after it was done I put blue base plates every ware they were not seen in the shot, so it was still actual LEGO, but they were moved and cloned to fill the scene, then I mask out the floating rig for the blimp next and the last thing I did was animate about 5-7 waves on the beach. I only animated each wave once but in After Effects I turned them into loops so it looks like they were constantly lapping up on the beach. I consider stuff like that CGI, does everyone else?

I've seen members post that they -don't use effects except masking- as if masking is not an effect, and maybe it's because I use masking so excessively and they are not but it is still a computer generated effect (unless they are using optical composition, ha, ha, but lets be real, they are not.)

One of my most extreme use of composited layers is this shot, in that shot I have 3 layers of pedestrians because I just didn't want to animate 14 minifigs all walking in different directions at once plus something like 9-11 layers of cars moving on the street. I animated each can separately because I wanted to create some real motion blur and while it does look good, in retrospect, I would have preferred to add digital motion blur as having a clean copy of each car would make composition easier. (And I did use digital motion blur in a close up in the following shot and the effects ultimately are interchangeable, no one will know that one was real and the other was fake) It really would make my life easier if I had done all the minifig animation in one take but I am not the greatest animator and I can't keep track of that many minifigs at once, as it was there were mistakes and issues I over looked (but I found I could cover most of those up with passing cars) but I don't think I could have created the illusion of a large city without the intense amount composition.

Onto the topic of 'fixing stuff in post' I am super guilty of this. Sometimes I will get the animation I want out of a minifig only to find I bumped some background prop, if the scene is long enough that I don't want to reshoot I will paint the prop out of the shot digitally and comp a static image of that prop over the painted out section. The computer consoles in this shot were super problimatic and I had already shot the scene around 3 or 4 times, so I digitally removed them and then added them right back in and got the shot I wanted, no one that has seen the footage is even aware of this. And that is all that maters to me, I want my shots to look like they were created on camera, but if I have to use After Effects so be it, as long as it still blends well with the film.

I think things like lens flare or explosions that have been added in digitally need at least some in camera effect to make them blend better, like shining a light on a minifig that is firing a gun, if you are adding a gun flash digital and the real set lights up every time it happens it's not going to pull people out of the film.

As far as digitally generated bricks go, if I could created brick based special effects like are featured in the LEGO Movie I would, I wish I could create brick-based water effects and composite that into my shots but all of my 3D water effects test I have done are untimely very disappointing and I wouldn't include them into one of my films. It's really only a matter of if the effects blend well with the film, if it does go for it, if they don't try using a different technique for your effect.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

I wish I had the time, patience and skill to learn Blender so I could do CG set extensions. That would be marvellous.

My philosophy for VFX in anything is that they're fine if they're done well. In mainstream cinema, this is a moot point as CGI has got to the point where it's almost totally photoreal (just look at the wolves in The Twilight Saga, and Zod's all-CG armour and Superman's all-CG cape in Man of Steel), but for brickfilming there's significant variation. There's one brickfilmer who produces some amazing effects, but then lets them down with some really ambitious shots that they just don't pull off. I won't give a name for fear of offending them, which I don't want to do as most of their work is awesome, but it's not just one person anyway. I've done it a lot in the past, with my earlier animations.

I actually do AE-generated CG quite a bit, for snow, light effects, rain etc. I think if you're subtle enough about it, and can grade and composite everything correctly, you're onto a winner with CG. For instance, you can't really animate snow in stop-motion.

Honestly, I think blood splatter is inappropriate for most brickfilms rarely looks good when done with clay (although I have seen it done well, once or twice). Similarly, I think no matter how well you animate it, cotton balls for explosions look tacky. In my opinion. Whereas a little understanding of digital compositing goes a long way.

Most people (myself included) probably can't pull them off very well, but a good brick-built explosion looks amazing. The LEGO Movie is proof of that.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

I really like the look of cotton, I feel it lends very well to the nostalgic elements that LEGO frequently achieve. I have even actually had some people how I did some effects that were just cotton. I have used digital smoke effects in the past which have looked rather bad in retrospect, but it all comes down to blending with the quality of the film. While cotton and paper cut out gun flashes look great in The Magic Portal they might look more out of place in a film using flesh colored LEGO that has a less nostalgic mood.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

I prefer, at least in my main series, to do EVERYTHING in-screen.  This is an extension of my purist approach.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

About using clay, though, I don't really think that clay works well with LEGO. It's such a pliable material, and in my opinion, it makes the brickfilm look kind of cheap (unless it's done the proper way, which I rarely see). Most people use modeling clay, and I guess that's the reason...

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

My opinion of CGI in general is either go all-out or just don't do it. Either have nothing but CGI or have almost nothing but corporeal objects. Don't create a bizzare mix of the two.

CGI mingled with live-action/LEGO only really looks good with a greenscreen replacing a matte-painting, or with little stuff like gun-effects/lasers/magic spells. The problem with CGI is that if you place a character right in front of a greenscreen then your actually much more restricted than if you would use a set - because the only action you can have is a character standing in front of a 2D enviroment like a bloody weatherman. If you have a proper set assembled then you can place the camera in a variety of different places, and you can have your characters interact with the set. Also you can actually play around with the lighting rather than have to add filters in post that make the whole thing look even more fake (I know film itself is an illusion...but could you at least try to make it look less so?)

A room with a window that leads out to a greenscreen is fine. A balcony is fine. The outside of a train/plane is fine. A character on a rooftop looking out to a greenscreen is fine. Having the set be nothing but a greenscreen looks awful. Its not laziness (CGI takes a lot of time and effort to do)...but it actually looks so much worse than just building the set yourself.

There are of course exceptions to everything. I would say never make a 3D character interact with live characters...but then we have Gollum, who's awesome. And there are Brickfilms such as Unrenewable where Jack Darter would stand in front of nothing but a greenscreen - and it would look perfect. And, of course, there's everything Nick Durron has ever made...

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

Max Butcher wrote:

The problem with CGI is that if you place a character right in front of a greenscreen then your actually much more restricted than if you would use a set - because the only action you can have is a character standing in front of a 2D enviroment like a bloody weatherman. If you have a proper set assembled then you can place the camera in a variety of different places, and you can have your characters interact with the set.

Depends what you're doing. You can build a big set, but if you had a single character that was all CG - let's use Smoke Monster as an example - that needed to move around the physical characters and weave around pillars and stuff, you might want a greenscreen behind whatever object the Smoke Monster needs to move behind.

But I do agree with your point, Max.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

NathanWells wrote:

What is your opinion on the use of CGI in brickfilms, including fully-CGI brickfilms? What do you think of CGI effects versus “practical” (AKA in-camera) effects, such as using cotton balls for smoke and clay for blood spatter? Do you prefer no CGI or limited use of CGI, or are you all for as much CGI as possible?

I have pretty much the same opinion on this as the modification one for LEGO bricks.  If it fits and still works well, either or is fine.  In general, I personally prefer to do as much in camera as possible just for simplicity's sake.  I'm not entirely comfortable doing a lot of CGI work so I'll try and do it in camera.  It's been a bit restricting, but I also think it helps me learn how to solve certain problems.  Heck, in Perpetual Twilight I didn't want to mask for the film so there was no masking at all.  Even in the shots where they're jumping, I cheated and was able to attach the minifigs to each other or the background with a long rod and bluetac.

I also think a lot of it depends on the film it is and the actual animator, basically, do what you can do well.  There's a lot of brickfilms that use clay for blood and it works great.  There's also some that use clay but it looks lame and poorly done.  Same with when people put prekeyed blood splats into the brickfilm (though there's a lot less that I think are done well).  I can't recall many brickfilms using bricks themselves as blood where it worked well, this is kind of a case where actual bricks simply won't work well.
I could say the same thing about smoke or explosions.

As for using CG to do things like digital set extension, I'm perfectly alright with it if it blends well.  I think Sloth's work is a good example, it looks great and has a huge scale that would be near impossible to do if it were all in camera over one take (though technically most of it was in camera).  This kind of thing, I think, kind of blends the lines between doing CG work and using physical bricks. 

My final opinion is pretty simple, if it works well and looks good, do it.  If it means finding an alternative to how most people do it because you don't have the resources or the know how, do the alternative but try and learn how to do it the other way as well.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

The point of special effects is so that the viewer maintains their suspension of belief. If the effects are noticeably bad and take you out of the story, you shouldn't use them.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

I am about the most anti CGI person around. I absolutely hate post production, because it is tedious and mind numbing. I didn't even edit anything in my brickfilms unless you count my 3 latest films. I actually got a CGI animation software from a friend's dad, but it is extremely hard to understand and after a frustrating hour at the computer, I gave up. I have used cotton balls for an explosion, and I have used 1x1 flat tiles for bullets.For a film I am planning for I am going to try to make an explosion with only lego bricks (like in the LEGO movie). Overall I would think that if possible, post-production should be limited.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

Talipoli, post-production DOES include syncing audio & video, pacing, putting frames int he right order, etc.  I'm sure you do SOME post-production work.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

I think CGI can be used in brickfilms as long as it doesn't make up more than 50% of the film. 100% CGI brickfilms don't even make sense to me. I mean, if you're going to use CGI, make something that looks real. In my opinion, a CGI brickfilm is not a brickfilm at all.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

Aren't you spposed to write a script and record voices in pre-production? I also don't really consider the ordering of frames and scenes as post-production, because it takes only about 15 minutes at most to do that. The real time consumer in post is picture editing. I have not edited a single frame except in my three latest films, so I really haven't experienced post-production much.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

brickelodeon wrote:

if you're going to use CGI, make something that looks real. In my opinion, a CGI brickfilm is not a brickfilm at all.

Yeah...I'm not going to waste time trying to create a human, animal, creature, monster, etc. model.  And The LEGO Movie is what, then?  A LEGO movie?

I like LEGO.  I enjoy brickfilms.  I want to make brickfilkms.  I tried making stop-motion brickfilms.  I lacked the brickfilmer's dexterity to animate smoothly nor have the materials to make things that I want to make.  CGI was my substitute.  I didn't start using CGI to make CGI films.  I use it to make brickfilms.  I try to conform to the limitations of physical bricks.  I've tried breaking out of that mold.  I've tried going back into it.

Now you may classify me as a CG brickfilmer, or not even a brickfilmer, just a CG animator.  You may not even want to associate my work with yours.  That's fine.  I'm not going to change your opinion.  You're not going to make me pull up my camera, spend hundreds of dollars on plastic toys that I have no place to store, with no space to build, with not enough lighting equipment to use and not enough patience or a healthy spine to tolerate.  I've already gone through that. I've made 8+ stop-motion brickfilms and decided this approach isn't for me.  I wasn't happy being hunched over a table in a hot attic every night.  I moved on.  I still like LEGO.  I still enjoy brickfilms.  I still want to make brickfilms and I make it with CGI.

This hobby can get very expensive.  I chose a less costly option long ago.  I think incorporating CGI elements to a scene is fine if you have the talents to make it photorealistic or match the scene.  I think full CGI brickfilms are fine, as long as you're learning and improving your skills with it.  I don't quite like custom elements in CGI brickfilms like non-LEGO piece, but that's the purist in me, ironically.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

Talipoli Studios wrote:

Aren't you spposed to write a script and record voices in pre-production? I also don't really consider the ordering of frames and scenes as post-production, because it takes only about 15 minutes at most to do that. The real time consumer in post is picture editing. I have not edited a single frame except in my three latest films, so I really haven't experienced post-production much.

Post-production is everything after filming. It's editing, CGI, soundtrack, re-recording, uploading, etc. Post production isn't a bad thing. Sure, they didn't have all the computers and masking tools when film was around like we have today, but even film had post production. They spliced, they rotoscoped, etc. Post Production completes the film. A film without post production is just a few thousand frames sitting on your hard drive.

Check out this Wikipedia page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-production

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

Talipoli Studios wrote:

because it takes only about 15 minutes at most to do that

Not if you're making a brickfilm that's forty minutes long.

Also, I've never edited anything, even my 10-second animation of the Flash, that's taken anything less than half an hour to edit from start to finish. And that half an hour was for the 10-second Flash video. I'm sure most users here will agree with me when I say that editing can be pretty lengthy, even on shortform projects.

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 10: We'll Do It In Post

Exactly, Jampot! Editing takes time, and for a quality film, it takes more time. Just throwing stuff in a concrete mixer and pouring it out within 5 seconds isn't going to make concrete (ok, that was a strange comparison). Editing shouldn't be a side thought, it should be just as important as writing scripts, building sets, recording audio, and capturing frames. mini/smile

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