The versatility of Lego never fails to amaze me, that and the fact that it is seems to appear in all aspects of my life…
With a husband who does stop motion animation, creating Brick Films with minifigures and two children who just love Lego, I expect it to be a regular feature of my home life but imagine my surprise when I arrived at work this morning to be told I was being given training in ‘Lego therapy’.
My job as a learning support assistant see’s me helping young children with a variety of needs but a common feature of my job involves promoting social skills. Helping children to share, cooperate and communicate effectively are essential skills and its fantastic that lego can be used for this purpose.
Working in groups of 3 or 4 the children are assigned the different jobs of Engineer, Supplier, Builder or Supervisor and are encouraged to work together and communicate in creating a set piece, requiring them to use skills such as descriptive language, patience, sharing and listening. We tried it and these skills are a lot harder to use than I realised but it is also a lot of fun.
Lego Therapy is growing in popularity, with many books available on the subject and I have seen and heard much evidence of that in my work place over previous years. I am really looking forward to experiencing the benefits of Lego therapy in future groups I am working with.
May the uses for Lego continue to grow.
By Toni Husbands
(Toni is a Social & Emotional Healthworker, has nearly completed a Bsc Honours in Psychology and has recently undertaken a diploma in Art Therapy.)
So, in keeping with our series of Stop Motion apps on Smart Phones and Tablets, today we look at an App called Motion on a Samsung Galaxy GT18200N from 2014 running Android 4.2.2 with a 5mp camera.
Honestly, I am frustrated, and this blog is actually going to touch on several stop motion apps on the Galaxy, which is part of my frustration. The phone is my wife’s old one, and to be honest has seen better days, but I am not really an Android kinda guy and for a rare change had to take some tech advice from the lady herself. Once I had managed to navigate my way to the Google Play Store and find some stop motion apps, i was already missing my iPhone but pushed on and found some stuff to download…
I started with Animative’s PicPac Stop Motion & Timelapse App… It had pretty good reviews and a 4.3 star rating so I downloaded it, set up to animate and opened the app… It looked pretty good, but I soon found out that the focus kept going all over the place and that there was no manual camera control, just a time-lapse timer that let you set different time settings between each shot… I soon got tired of that and headed back to the Google Play Store… I tried another one called Stop Motion Video from kkaps but couldn’t get on with that either, so back the store I went…
I was hoping it would be third time lucky, but no chance… I finally settled on a FREE app, Motion by Feras Alnatsheh. This is a very simple stop frame app that sadly lacks a lot of basics, let alone some of the nicer bells and whistles we’ve found on some of the other apps we have been using. Its a simple pic by pic app that sadly lacks a frame counter or anyway of editing frames, not even the ability to delete bad frames after the animation process. It has a time lapse feature on it, which, luckily for me, could be turned off, allowing for manual camera operation. The touchcreen on the Galaxy was very sensitive, so I found that if I locked the camera down well enough I got very little camera wobble when I actually took the shots. Problem was, the alleged manual focus that I thought the app had wasn’t working… It would focus nicely on the minifigure, get a nice sharp image and then in a split second revert back to a soft focus somewhere well behind the minifigure. It didn’t seem to matter where I placed the figure in the depth of field, I could not get a sharp focus now matter how close or far away he was. So, in the interests of science, and the fact it was getting late, I animated anyway. The nice thing was the speed control went from 1 to 50fps, so I set it to 12fps and managed to export the animation to the video roll pretty easily. The video only exported out as 640×360 SD and was horribly out of focus, but you can check it below…
But I wasn’t happy with the results, and was certain that there must be something descent out there for Android users to use… So, back to the Play Store and there I found my go to animation app, the FREE version of Stop Motion Studio from Cateater LLC. I have been using this on the iPad for a couple of years now and pretty much know the software inside out, so I wondered how it would behave on the Android and if it would solve the focus problems I had had with several of the apps I had been looking at. I am not going to do a review of Stop Motion Studio now, but needless to say I would always recommend it, it is solid, has some great features and seems to be available on most smartphone and tablet operating systems.
It was nice to be working in a familiar environment again, and sure enough, the manual focus control worked well, got a nice sharp picture and let me animate with ease. I done another quick test animation and all pleased with myself, went to export it out to the camera roll… And got error, after error, after error… Now, I am no expert, it may have been the app, it may have been the phone, or even the available hard drive space on the phone, but no matter how hard I tried it would not, or could not render the video… I tried 720HD, 640x360SD and more, to the video roll, to dropbox, via bluetooth to my iMac and nothing… It just wouldn’t export. I tried it as a .gif and it worked, a small victory and then I had a brain wave… I tried exporting the animation as a project file and it let me… Would I be able to open this project in Stop Motion Studio on my iPhone or iPad? The simple answer was yes, I plugged the Galaxy into the iMac, dragged the file off, uploaded it to dropbox and opened it from there on my iPhone in Stop Motion Studio… Result! My trusty iPhone then let me export the video out as a 720p HD file, which you can view below as well…
Using Stop Motion Studio on the Android based Samsung Galaxy did work, and yielded some not bad results… The image quality could be better and the colours are weak, but that could be fixed to some degree in post. The exporting issues were frustrating, in fact my whole Android animation process was frustrating. I struggled with the simplicity of the apps and the camera focus was a big issue, but that is why I am doing the hard work, so you guys don’t have too…
Sorry for such a long blog, but this is the result of 3 hours of animation issues!
Continuing with our Smart Phone Stop Motion series, today we look at Stop Motion Café on the iPhone 6, which is available for FREE from the App store, and works on iPhone and iPad.
Getting straight into it, this is a relatively simple app that lacks a lot of the bells and whistles of some of the other apps we have been looking at for this series… That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a look though. There are no themed titles, no libraries of music to add, no sound fx and no frame-by-frame editing to add drawing, or change the colours, contrast etc and lastly there are no filters to add to your final video. It also lacks a focus and exposure lock, which would be very handy.
Using this on an iPhone 6 seems to be a little problematic, as it doesn’t seem to be optimised to work on the slightly larger iPhone 6 screen and seems it would be more suited on an iPhone 4 or 5. This only really causes a problem in the image capture section, where it cuts the bottom menu in half, but seeing as the controls in that menu aren’t that important it doesn’t make a huge difference.
The animation features of the app are pretty good, including access to the flash, onion skinning (or ghosting as they seem to refer to it) as well as a frame counter, HD on/off and the ability to switch between iPhone cameras, allowing you to use the front or back camera as you need. It supports and can save multiple projects, which you can go back and do some basic editing on after you have finished shooting.
The editing, as I said, is simple… You have the ability to save out separate frames to the camera roll, as well as duplicate frames or delete them to get rid of any nasty mistakes you may have made. The video can be set at speed of between 1fps – 30fps, and once you are finished you can “Elaborate” your movie, which renders the animation and saves it to your camera roll in 720p HD.
Despite its lack of features, and the slightly childish look to the app, the image quality is better than some of the apps we have been testing and it is very simple to use, making it great for people who are just starting out in Stop Motion. There are better apps out there for the iPhone and iPad, but if you are looking for a quick, easy and simple Stop Motion app, then Stop Motion Café might just be for you.
Check out the test video below to see what we did with Stop Motion Café!
The Lego Movie Maker App, FREE from App Store on iPhone, iPad & iPod
Today we continue to look at Stop Motion Apps for smart phones and tablets, with this blog concentrating on the Lego Movie Stop Motion App being used on an iPhone 6.
With the release of the Lego Movie film in 2014 it isn’t hard to understand why Lego® wanted in on the Stop Motion App scene. Their official App, available for iPhone, iPod and iPad is FREE in the App store. It has a nice bundle of tools that you can use to create your animations, including 13 different title screens to choose from, allowing you to add the film name and director before you even start animating. The instructions section is simple but informative, showing you the very basics of stop motion as well as how to use the app and its various features…
The animation features of the app are pretty good for a smartphone, with a the ability to be able to adjust the focus, activate the flash, overlay grids or onion skinning as well as a very neat little feature that allows you to snap your fingers to take the photos. This saves you having to touch the iPhone whilst animating, thus eliminating any camera wobble or movement.
Once you have shot your Brick Film, you can then use the editing facilities to delete or add frames, change the duration of individual frames, apply various filters like Black & White, Contrast or Vignette to the whole movie and even add graphic style “stickers” to separate frames. There are also a whole host of pre-loaded sound effects you can add to frames, with car sounds, birds, comedic boings and many more in the library. If you are feeling adventurous, you can also record your own sounds and use them time and time again. To complete your movie, you can pick one of the 12 pre-loaded “Lego Movie” themed songs to play under your movie, all of which sound great and add some flavour to your film.
The biggest let down of this app for me was the available frame rates… We have been looking at a lot of Stop Motion Apps recently and most have a range of 1fps to 30fps… Most Brickfilmers will use a frame rate of anywhere between 12 to 24fps, but the Lego Movie app has a maximum frame of only 10fps, giving your final movie a slightly stuttery feel.
Overall, the picture quality is good with the iPhone 6 camera shooting at 8MP and the app exporting videos out at 1080p HD. You can save your movies into the Movie Gallery and then export them out into your Camera Roll on to your phone or tablet, where you can upload to YouTube from there. If this app had a better frame rate, I might actually use it myself, but again, this is a great entry level app that will be great for giving kids a start in animating Brick Films.
Check out the test video below to see what we did with it!
The love of Brickfilming seems to be growing in our house. I try to involve the kids in the animations as much as I can, and they have joined me in building sets, designing minifigures, voice over work, acting and animating during the time we have been making Brick Films… But recently Morgan downloaded the Minecraft Stop Motion Movie Creator onto his Kindle Fire HD and decided to try making his own animations independently of me…
He sat for a good couple of hours making various test animations and working out the best way to use the software, move the minifigures around and add the music and titles to his films. The software seemed quite intuitive to him, and the tutorial slideshow that was part of the App was easy for him to understand and gave him a good beginners insight into the Apps functions as well as the basics of stop motion animation. Like most stop motion software, you can take pictures from within the app, and it strings them all together on the timeline, allowing you to change the frame rate from 1 to 30fps and has the option to delete frames that are wrong or you want to change. The editing options include basic colour control of the frames (Brightness, Contrast, Hue, Saturation), the option to extend the length of individual frames, a text editor and the ability to add and record sound fx, which for an App that is FREE to download, I didn’t really expect that much. One of Morgan’s biggest problems was camera wobble, as his Kindle is in a case which has a stand on it, but isn’t that stable. Every time he touched the screen the Kindle would move slightly and that camera shake was evident in his animations, so we resolved this by using the Apps handy 3 second timer function which was enough time for the Kindle to settle before the picture was taken. By using this, Morgan saw a great improvement in his final movies.
Once you have finished your animations, the Minecraft Stop Motion software has some Minecraft themed title screens, fonts, and colour choices so you can add titles and outro credits to your movie, plus 9 video effects like Pixellated, Vivid and Underwater to change the look and style of your video. Lastly you can choose from one of 11 Minecraft theme pieces of music to play under your movie, which can then be rendered and exported to the in-app Gallery at 720HD. I managed to get the animation off of the Kindle via it’s USB cable and onto my iMac as a .webm file, which I had never heard of before. I managed to convert that in Handbrake to an MP4 which was usable for YouTube.
Unfortunately, there were a couple of downsides to animating with the Kindle. Firstly the camera on the Kindle is only 2MP, so image quality isn’t that great and the video ends up slightly pixellated and noisy. Secondly there doesn’t seem to be a way of adjusting the camera focus from within the Minecraft Stop Motion App, meaning that you always have to keep the camera at a set distance. But again, this is a FREE app, aimed at kids on a tablet that costs £50 from Amazon, so I suppose you can’t expect too much!
Overall Morgan had a lot of fun using the App and it allowed him to express himself creatively as well as learning to do things for himself. Although being a great starting point for him, he has expressed an interest in trying to find a better Stop Motion app for the Kindle, so we are, of course, going to have a look for that, and probably do another blog once he has had a chance to use it. But, for a simple, fun and creative step into Stop Motion animation, the Minecraft Stop Motion Movie Creator is a good start, but it won’t be long until you find yourself wanting for something a bit better!
Check out one of Morgan’s quick Kindle test animations below:
Like many many people, our household is full of Star Wars fans, with myself being a fan since I was a kid all those many years ago… When they announced that they were making The Force Awakens, we watched all the trailers eagerly and kept up with all of the fan theories that were speculated on way before the films actual release… One of our favourite fan theories was that Kylo Ren was collecting Darth Vader’s possessions in an attempt to clone him. We wondered exactly how that would work, so we decided to do an animation in Lego to show just how that might go, with some comedic effect!
The whole film, as usual is filmed in Stop Motion Studio on an iPad2, using an iPhone 4S as a remote camera. This was also one of our first attempts at using green screen techniques, which I am quite pleased with, although I know that with a bit more patience and practice we can get that looking better… Lego plastic is a very reflective material, so overspill from the green screen onto the characters and set’s was very difficult to overcome, and this is something we need to think about in future green screen work.
All of the green screening and editing was done on an iMac in Final Cut Express, and sound FX, music and dialogue were added in Garageband. The music was a collection of loops and jingles that come in the Apple Jam Packs which I strung together, and actually work quite well I think… At least it stops Disney and John Williams from trying to sue me for using the official Star Wars theme…
Some of the cool lighting was with LED’s purchased from Firestartoys.com and they are the same lights we used on the stage set in The Devil Made Me by Paul Miro. The light set actually comes from a company in Holland called www.brickled.nl and they provide some great stuff from light bricks through to street lamps, all of which are Lego compatible.
One of my favourite scene in this animation was Kylo Ren exiting the shuttle… It is a brief scene, but to get a good distance shot and figures that matched the smaller size spaceship we built, I decided to use micro figures from the Lego Star Wars Battle Of Hoth board game… Kylo Ren was actually Darth Vader, but with his back to you its hard to notice and the Stormtroopers were just Snowtroopers from the game… Over all I think the scene worked really well, even if those little figures don’t really animate well…
We hope you enjoy our latest offering and would love to hear some of your comments either here or on YouTube…
So this year we took a family break for a few nights at Pontin’s in Brean Sands, Somerset and we decided that it wouldn’t be a proper family break without at least one Lego minifigure joining us… So we made Bob, and his sole purpose was to help us record our holiday in a series of photos! It was a lot of fun to do, and the whole family got involved, making sure that Bob was included in our activities whilst away and looking after his every need! He came out on a trip to Wookey Hole Caves, played board games with us, joined us at meal times and even got himself a tan on the beach…
Below is a quick photo slideshow of Bob’s holiday… Enjoy!
Name: Sergio Marques Dias Location: Differdange, Luxembourg
Q1) How long have you been animating?
Q2) How did you start making stop-frame animations?
First stop motion I did, was the video invite to my wedding. We posed, took a picture, took another picture and so on…
Q3) Why have you chosen Lego® and other brick products as your main medium to work in?
I’ve always loved Lego, and I had a few in the basement, so I decided to give it a try. I love animating with Lego because you can touch on sensitive topics, but with humor.
Q4) What is your setup like? Which camera and software do you use to make your movies?
I use a Nikon D7100, my first DSLR, with the basic lens 18-105mm. I use mostly Adobe Premiere.
Q5) On average, how many hours does it take to create your animations?
Ooohhhhh… Well depends on the animation. The brickfilm “The Engineer” took me 3 weeks, it was my first try at brickfilming. “The Parking Spot” took me 2 weeks. The problem is that everytime I do an animation video, I try to incorporate new movements or techniques that I never used.
Q6) Do you have a favourite mini-figure to animate, and what makes them so special?
Hahaha! My Mini-Me and my wife’s Mini-Her. He is, and will be in every of my future Brickfilms. Why it’s so special? Because they were a gift of my best friend for my wedding, and they sat on top of my wedding cake.
Q7) What can we look forward to in the near future from you?
Trick question. I don’t know, I go day-by-day, and when I have an idea, I write it down and hope to have time to realize it.
Q9) What one piece of advice do you have for people wanting to start in stop-frame animating?
Don’t start right away, read a book or two about stop-motion for beginners. And afterwards, go for it. Don’t isten to people telling you it’s hard. Take critics well, most of them can take your animations to another level. You don’t have the material? Of course you have. Take your smartphone, a lamp, a figurine, and start taking pictures. Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it.
We have been thinking about making an animation featuring a fight for a while now, it’s a direction we haven’t really gone before, except for a couple of simple ‘lightsaber’ fights for previous videos, which to be honest weren’t very good. So, when www.minifigures.com sent us out their Bruce Lee minifigure to play with, it made sense to feature him as the star of our fighting video.
The figure is an awesome representation of the iconic martial artist, based on his appearance in Enter The Dragon, with the cuts and scratches over his face, arms and torso and a double sided head, one with scratches, one without. Allegedly Bruce Lee was the fastest martial artist ever, and in filming him they had to tell him to slow down his moves as well as slowing down the film so that the human eye could actually see the punches and kicks he was throwing.
To capture that speed, we decided to film the fighting parts of the animation at 30 frames per second, which meant making a lot of the moves for each frame a lot slighter than we would normally if we were shooting in 15 fps for example. This was indeed a challenge and took a lot longer than our usual animations to get done. But the results are quite slick and actually capture the sense of a fight rather than the slow sluggish movements we have previously managed to accomplish. Filming in 30fps also allowed us to do an effective slow motion punch that didn’t look too jumpy. To give the fight scenes good visual pacing I tried to keep each segment quite short and change the camera angles a lot, again trying to capture the sense of speed that is seen in Bruce Lee’s real fights.
Another thing that we have been aiming to do is animate other Lego creations that are bigger and more animatable than minifigures. For this video it came in the form of the Lego Creator 31032 Red Creatures set, which allowed us to build a fully animatable Dragon. With his moving limbs, wings, head and mouth he made the perfect character to animate. We wanted to get shots of him flying, so setup a green screen and animated him on that, then composited a sky and clouds in afterwards using Final Cut. We haven’t done much green screen work, but we were really pleased with the final results…
Dragon on Green Screen background with iPhone 4 Remote Camera
Screen shot of final dragon composite as it flies through the sky
The animation was filmed on an iPad in Cateaters Stop Motion Studio, using an iPhone 4 as a wireless remote camera. The final edits, green screen compositing and overlays were added using Final Cut and the audio was added using Garageband, all on an iMac.
We wanted to give the animation a bit of a 70’s feel, so we played around with the colour balance of the shots, added a warm orange overlay and finally some film grain, from www.gorillagrain.com
We hope you enjoy our new animation, and don’t forget to give us a like and subscribe on YouTube.
Today saw the release of our new Brick Film, or more precisely Brick Music Video. Our good friend and talented musician Paul Miro has released his new double A side single, All Hope Is Gone and The Devil Made Me, and we have had the great pleasure of working on the music videos for both. The video for All Hope Is Gone is a simple but effective lyric video using a great bit of software called Superstring which can be purchased from the Mac App Store. Check out the video here:
The second video for The Devil Made Me is a full on legomation that took us quite a while to do. It is filmed in 18 frames per second on the iPad version of Cateater’s Stop Motion Studio, using an iPhone 4 as a remote camera via wifi. The scenes were then compiled, retouched and edited to the music in Final Cut on our desktop iMac. Our great sponsors Firestartoys.com supplied us with some great minifigure parts to build the custom characters and sets, so a big thanks goes out to them! I have lost how many hours we spent on this, meticulously moving our hero Timmy one peg leg fraction at a time until his meeting with his dark destiny! Check out the video here:
We hope you enjoy the video and Paul’s music and hope that you will help Paul fund his new album by making a pledge here: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/paul-miro
Pledging for the album won’t just get you one albums worth of great music, but loads (and I mean loads) of bonus material from videos of Paul explaining some of the songs, live acoustic videos of the songs and a whole album of live acoustic material from various gigs Paul has played, all for the price of one album! You really should do it! 😉
Here’s a couple of pics of the minifigures we used below, we will get a full gallery of the project up soon!