I have often preached my thoughts on which Brickfilmers I suggest every brickfilmer know, however, I’ve never really touched upon specific brickfilms in particular. And, in wanting to avoid making “just another list” I tried to narrow down the most inspirational brickfilms that I’ve seen, but could only limit it to two. So, here I go: Two brickfilms I’d recommend to that every brickfilmer watches…
Now, I don’t want anyone to think that I brought up this Brickfilm just because Nathan Wells made it, and he also, coincidentally, is hosting the BiM weekly discussions. This film is truly a great example of what brickfilmers should strive for during production.
The animation flows so smoothly, every character beautifully walks, runs, and sits. Nathan even did a great rebel-like “wall lean” animation half way through that also shines out in my mind. Not only do these little fine details in leaning, walking, and talking stand out when done well; they enhance the overall feel of the film, making it more aesthetically pleasing to the eye – something that can be a real challenge at 15 fps.
The “talking” animations also enlighten the film, as, there are no lip-synched mouth animations – something that a lot of more modern brickfilmers do. (Such as ForrestFire101) However, I usually don’t like brickfilms that don’t feature mouth animations, as, it’s often easy to lose track of who’s talking, and when. However, Nathan Wells shows that you don’t need flashy post-production skills to make a quality Brickfilm. (Actually, if I remember correctly, Beast was edited solely in Windows Movie Maker…) The fluid hand, arm, and even body movements are just enough to keep the film interesting, and give the animated world a little more pizzazz!
The story is also very complex, especially for something that’s borderline a parody. It’s easy to see that Beast is based around a pretty basic Jekyl and Hyde, or Wolf man type layout. However, Nathan Wells really keeps it fresh with it’s modern setting, motivated characters, and, the rush for a cure for cancer. It perfectly contrasts the classic monster movies that it was inspired by, and, truly shows off what a Brickfilm should do – entertain.
The characters aren’t that deep, but, in only a ten minute Brickfilm, there’s not really much story that can be told to begin with… perhaps with one exception in Grace. And though Grace is also a great Brickfilm, in by defense, I’ve put Beast, along with the next film, above Robinson Wood’s classic. Nathan Well’s film is just as good, goes just as far, and tells just as much of a story as Grace, and yet, Beast is a parody! Thus, I rank the Nathan Wells classic as not only one of my favorite brickfilms over all, but, also, I recommend it to any brickfilmers I meet, having shown it now to over 12 starting out brickfilmers. It was one of the first brickfilms that I saw, and I’m glad it was – Thanks for setting the bar so high Nathan, it’s really helped me to push my own ideas even further in production, and, hopefully, will result in some more great brickfilms pretty soon.
My other great recommendation is…
What makes Jay Silver’s Brickfilm a masterpiece?
The animation is a little rougher than usually expected of a “great;” the characters often bumbling around pretty messily. The sets are pretty much just solid chunks of gray walls – the only real furnishing being a big black chandelier, which jolts around pretty annoyingly in one shot. Also, the music is a stock royalty-free piece of classical music, “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” I believe. On paper, this looks like it’s just another amateur Brickfilm, nothing special… But, believe me, The Gauntlet is very special!
Starting out in a cell, somewhere in an unnamed mountainous range, the Brickfilm starts out with a bang, literally. Our protagonist breaks a chain, escaping from the dungeon that he’d previously been dwelling in for who knows how long? He runs out, escaping with but the clothes on his back, and a singular stick – his only means of defense within the mazes of the mountain fortress that he is captive in.
As our protagonist runs out a large door, trouble begins. Sure, at first, things are calm, and all, but, soon, we see a shadowed figure watching him. This sinister face seems to have anticipated his captive’s movements, and thusly, summons a large rock creature to follow the man…
For such a simple idea, Jay really runs with it, making for a great little adventure! The sets, though mainly monotone, are shadowed perfectly, making for a perfectly eerie atmosphere surrounding the red-haired escapee. The music, only more so heightening his feelings, and intensifying the building tension.
The animation in this Brickfilm, unlike that of Nathan Well’s Beast, is actually very rugged, showcasing a little more of a “natural” look to the running and chasing scenes in particular. Silver seems to be straying from using any animation cycles, relying on what works in the moment – something that a lot of the early pioneer brickfilmers had to do.
One move that I like, in particular, is the “slide” that the main character does a little over half-way through the Brickfilm. Now being chased by a giant rock-monster, the protagonist speeds around a corner, sliding on the assumed damp ground below. It’s not only a somewhat comical break from the otherwise tense tone of the film, but, it also showcases that Jay Silver really does know what he’s doing. The animation overall is meant to be rugged looking because, well, running for your life isn’t meant to be perfect, nor is it meant to be simplistic… You scramble away, as fast as you can, using all of your energy to escape a following predator with all of your might.
I wonder if Silver ever studied human movements, just as traditional animators usually do. That might explain some of the oddly animated; yet really correct movements that the characters make.
Overall, whenever I talk to newer brickfilmers, older brickfilmers, or even just casual watchers of youtube, I have a list of brickfilms that I always whip out, encouraging them to watch. Nathan Well’s Beast and Jay Silver’s The Gauntlet being two of my personal favorites, as, those are the ones I look back to, and even watch, frame by frame, to help me whenever I’m in a jam animating, writing, or constructing sets! – Something a little ironic as, both brickfilms are about as different as you can get! Beast showcases a lot more on the side of minute details, cycled animation, and perfectionism at its best. The Gauntlet, on the other hand, shows how simplicity can be obtained just through doing things as simple as possible! I like having recommended two films on the opposite ends of the spectrum, as, most will agree, both are really good. Only in learning from them can brickfilmers become great!