Plaster Minifigures – School Holiday Activity!

A lot of parents I have talked too find the Summer Holidays a difficult time to be a parent, trying to entertain kids that are full of energy and who like to complain they are bored, especially when it is raining outside and they are not allowed to sit in front of the TV or play the XBox constantly. We are always trying to find new ways to entertain our two kids, and my wife came up with this fantastic idea the other day.

Last summer I purchased some Lego minifigure and brick silicon ice cube trays from Amazon and to be honest they have hardly been used. So my wife decided to re-purpose them as plaster-of-paris moulds to make some little plaster minifigures for the kids to paint. You can pick up a bag of plaster-of-paris very cheaply from a nearby hobby store, or online. Quite simply, follow the instructions on the packet to make the plaster, pour it into the moulds and let it set, again consulting the guidelines on the packet to see how long it takes to dry.

Once the plaster is dry, (it is probably best to leave it overnight) remove the figures from the mould very carefully. The plaster is quite soft, even when set, and can be quite brittle, so take your time and be sure not to snap off their heads or their legs. Once you have liberated all of the little plaster dudes from their mould, use a small bit of fine sandpaper, or a fine file to carefully removes any unwanted edges and then it is time to start painting.

We used some acrylic modelling paints I had in the house, and these worked really well. They are thick enough to give a good strong colour, where we found that water colours soaked into the plaster more and gave a much weaker colour. I would advise a small thin brush to get into all the gaps, and put plenty of newspaper down so you don’t get paint everywhere…

Once you are set up, lets the kids go wild. They could paint their plaster minifigures in the style of one of their favourite Lego figures, or make up their own designs. Evie, my 5 year old daughter even suggested that these plaster minifgures would make great statues for use in stop frame animations.

However you decide to paint your figures this is a fun little project that the whole family can join in with.

If you decide to do this, please send us some photos of your creations to ian@minifiguremotion.com

We hope you and your kids enjoy this little time filler and look forward to seeing your creations soon!

Lego Batman Movie Maker Set – Full Review

So last week we posted a very short Lego Batman animation that we made using the new Lego Batman Movie Maker set. This week we are going to take a more in-depth look at the set and let you know our thoughts on it.

Lego Batman was huge at the cinemas and after the success of The Lego Movie, there really was no surprise that it was going to do well. Batman is a massive DC Comics franchise on its own, so when combined with peoples love of the iconic bricks and minifigures, it is no wonder that Lego have produced a large new range of Lego Batman toys to go alongside the movie. One of the sets in this range particularly caught our eye for how different it was from the other sets and how appropriate it was to what we do here at minifiguremotion.com – stop motion animation.

The Lego Batman Movie Maker set is aimed at people who want to make stop motion animations with their smartphones, and consists of a stage, a double sided print cardboard backdrop of Gotham and the Bat Cave and a camera rig which consists of a cradle that can hold your smartphone that can tilt, pivot and pan, allowing you to add some cool camera movements to your animations.

The set consists of 152 parts, a lot of which are the Lego technic style bits, which allow for the camera movements. The build is pretty simple, as you can see in the speed build video, but there were a few little tricky bits getting the moving parts together. The stage is very basic, but includes two 45 degree angle plates, which allow the backdrop to wrap around slightly at each end. The backdrop is held onto the stage by small block areas on the stage that have small blue axels protruding from the back of them that match up neatly with the 3 holes in the bottom of the backdrop. Simply choose which side of the backdrop you want to use, push the blue axels through the holes and secure it with 3 yellow spacers and you actually have quite a solid film set.

But it is the camera rig that really makes this set worth having…

Your smartphone sits in a cradle that is adjustable, so should fit almost any standard size phone that you are using. We have used it with an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and iPod Touch and they all fit well with hardly any camera wobble. The phone is secured by three rubber joints which can be pushed up/down to hold the phone firmly and because they are rubber rather than the standard Lego plastic, there should be no scratching to your phone either.

I currently use a camera rig made of of some old vintage Lego skis and a few technic bits to hold the camera tight, and it has done me proud for a few years now, but, the shots it allows me are limited to either left or right pan, or zoom in/out. The camera rig in the Lego Batman set however offers much more choice.

To start with, there is a very limited zoom in/out ability, which quite simply allows you move the camera back or forth down a lego baseplate… this requires moving the whole rig up off the studs and manually repositioning it, so doesn’t make for a very smooth zoom on camera. But, still it does allow you to set up different shots at different camera lengths, if a little limited in scope.

Panning left or right compared to zooming is very smooth, mainly because the camera cradle is fixed into a slotted carrier which allows for very gentle movements with almost no friction to worry about. The distance you can move left or right it quite limited, about 6cm, but this is easily changed just by finding some more parts from your Lego box and extending the length of the carrier.

In the photos you will see a wheel on the front of the camera rig, and this controls the tilt of the camera cradle, which is probably the largest movement that the rig allows, with an arc of about 160 degrees to move the camera through, allowing the camera to look up into the ‘sky’ or down to the floor. We used this effect in the Batercise test animation we filmed.

Lastly is the ability to be able to pivot the camera, around a central point that fixes to the stage with a socket and ball joint. This allows to you to turn the camera through that central point with about a 70 degree arc to move around. This is great for tracking shots, maybe as a car drives past, or a mini figure walks by. The movement isn’t as smooth as the panning or tilting, but it still is very effective if used carefully.

The set also comes with the one and only Lego Batman mini figure and a whole host of accessories including a Batarang and Grapple gun. There are some very limited instructions on setting up and stop motion animation, but I would have liked to have seen something a little more comprehensive for the total beginners. That said it is great to see Lego producing sets like this, which promote creativity and other skills that can be learnt with their products.

For £15.99 from Lego.com this set is a fantastic addition for beginners and more advanced Brickfilmers and I for one will be keeping the camera rig built for use in other animations.

Check out last wells animation below!

We hope you found this review helpful and hope you visit back soon!

Keep animating,

Ian

Batercise – A test animation with the Lego Batman Movie Maker set!

 

This is a quick test animation we have done to check out the Lego Batman Movie Maker Set, a new set from Lego aimed at Brickfilmers who use smartphones to make their movies. The 152 piece set allows you to build a small stage, with double sided backdrop and a camera rig. The rig includes a cradle for a smartphone that pans, tilts and pivots. The whole point of the animation was to test out the functionality of the camera rig and see how its movements could be used in a short film. Batman comes with the set, so we let him make a short appearance and this was the result.

We will be doing a more in-depth review of the set next week, so look out for that soon, but in short it was fun to use, gave me camera movements I haven’t had before and I will be keeping it built for use in my upcoming animations to see if it can add anything! I like that Lego are also encouraging other skills associated with their product, and would definitely like to see more ideas like this from them. On that note, I have also noticed that the official Lego Movie Maker app has disappeared from the app store, so I am wondering if we might see a new and improved version of the app with a Lego Batman branding sometime soon to compliment this set? Let me know what you think in the comments!

The Batman Theme is something I put together a few years back for the kids to sing on, so I repurposed it for this!

It was filmed on a 5th gen iPod Touch in Stop Motion Studio!

Lego Star Wars – Clone Commander Rex Minifigure Comparison

LEGO® Clones – Rip-Offs VS Official LEGO® Products

Front: Official LEGO Rex (left), Copy Rex (right)

Back: Official LEGO Rex (left), Copy Rex (right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a website that concentrates on manipulating LEGO minifigures to create animations, we are often looking for new minifigures to be the actors in our films. The LEGO Collectible Minifigure Series are often easy to get hold of at a decent price, but if you want a minifigure from a specific set, but don’t want to spend the money on buying the whole set, then that minifigure can often be harder to get your hands on and a lot more expensive.

Because of that, it is not surprising that people have started to produce ‘custom’ minifigures, that are available to buy on ebay, amazon and other online stores for a cheaper price. Some custom minifigure manufacturers use real LEGO parts that are stripped of their print and properly pad printed with their own unique, original designs, like the guys over at Minifigures.com do to produce high quality custom figures, but other manufacturers are producing blatant rip-offs of LEGO’s original designs, printed (or sometimes stickered) onto cheaper LEGO compatible parts. We thought we would take a look at one of these blatant rip-offs and compare it against the original LEGO product to see how they compare to see if these cheaper copies are really worth your money… For this copy comparison we aptly chose Phase II Clone Commander Rex of the 501st Legion from the LEGO Star Wars Set 75012. We bought the official LEGO minifigure from Bricklink.com and his cheaper counterpart from eBay.co.uk

The original LEGO version of Rex is up to the usual high standards that they produce. With well detailed, sharp pad printing on the front/back of the torso and legs, the colours are strong and bold with a high level of accuracy to the character from the Star Wars films and animated series The Clone Wars. The phase II clone helmet looks great, with fantastic moulding and fine detailed printing with accurate representations of Rex’s signature Jaig Eye markings and tally marks that he is so well known for. The head underneath is similar to the original LEGO Star Wars minifigure clone heads, but with added ‘midnight shadow’ stubble to give Rex a bit more individuality. To finish the character off nicely he also includes a blue and black shoulder Pauldron and a black Kama belt cape. All of the pieces fit snuggly together, with enough friction to hold the arms and legs firm but moveable at the same time, and the helmet fits the head perfectly.

In stark contrast to the official LEGO Rex, the copy, despite looking pretty good on first glance, had obvious problems from the moment I opened the package. Firstly, the legs would not connect to the body properly, with hardly any friction between the parts to keep them together, and the legs regularly separating from the torso without any effort. The arms were similar, lacking in any kind of interference, so the arms spun freely within the joint of the body, making it practically impossible to put the arms in any other pose than down by his sides. Similarly, the phase II clone helmet, which is slightly shorter and squatter than the original, doesn’t quite fit on to the stud of the head, making it move around lots and not stay in one place. Print wise, the lines are soft and not as fine, with the colours being weaker, paler versions than that of the original LEGO counterpart and the design having been more or less copied exactly from the original. The figures face is a poor representation of the original, and across all of the elements the moulding and plastic quality of the product doesn’t feel as well made. The shoulder Pauldron is just black, as is the Kama belt-cape.

Overall, the Rex copy minifigure, despite being a much cheaper purchase, is vastly inferior to LEGO‘s original in almost every way, from print, through to build quality. As an animator, good quality printing looks better ‘on film’ and the lack of friction on the arms and legs makes it very hard to pose the figure effectively for animation movements. This, to us, really proves the old adage of “you get what you pay for” and although money is sometimes a deciding factor in what and how we do things in life, sometimes it is better to wait until you can pay for the slightly superior product. So next time you need a specific minifigure for your animations, we’d recommend you stick with the official LEGO product or go to a company like Minifigures.com or Firestartoys.com who you can trust to sell you quality product.

Thanks for reading and check back soon! Until then, keep animating!

The Playtrix – The Matrix Parody Animation

Hi guys,

So firstly let me apologise for our absence the past few months. Real life really took hold as we fought injuries, illness, increased work loads and other problems. All the while I was getting itchy to create, but for the past few months I have had to give over my energy to all those other things, so it was great this long weekend to be able to sit down with some spare time and finish up a few projects that needed some love and attention!

The Playtrix was something that has been left unfinished on my hard drive for a few months now, so I sat and done some editing and voice recording to get it complete. It was my first attempt at combining Stop Motion Animation with live action video and I think it worked out pretty well. No Matrix parody would work without some special FX either, so some green screening, overlaying and compositing later and computer screens were displaying, bullets were whizzing and Dragons were flying! Big thanks goes out to Rich Wildman who helped out with the Special FX and lent his voice to Morpheus, as well as to Morgan, Evie and Toni for making the live action part of this with me…

As ever, thanks to the guys over at Firestar Toys, www.firestartoys.com who constantly offer their support and products in helping us create our films! Go check them out for all your minifigure parts needs!

So, follow the white rabbit and enter The Playtrix, and we hope you enjoy our new animation!

Christmas Animation (or lack thereof…)

So, its that time of year when the cupboards are full of nice food, the decorations are up, the kids (and parents) are excited and everyone is publishing their Christmas animations… Except for us that is…

We were all ready to do a couple of Christmas based animations, the sets were built, the ideas were storyboarded, voice actors were ready… and then I woke one Saturday morning with amazingly horrible pains in my left hand. I don’t know how or why, but my palm was swollen, I could barely grip or pick anything up, my hand was barely usable and on the advice of a Pharmacist, I was strapped up in a splint for just over a week. I am on the road to recovery; the swelling has now gone done, and I have use of my hand back, but some of the pain is still there and my grip is a lot weaker than it was. It was unfortunately a major set back on animating, there was no way I could make the fine movement of the Lego figures with one hand disabled, so we have had to put them on hold for now…

We also normally write a Christmas song every year, with a cynical, comedic edge, but once again I had problems with this, as it is very hard to play a guitar with a gammy hand… In the end we settled for doing a quick A Capella song called Commercials Of Festive Delights and you can listen to it here:
http://www.icompositions.com/music/song.php?sid=219475

We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous, animated New Year and look forward to sharing more Lego love with everyone in 2017… Until then take care and keep animating!

Ian Husbands!

BrickLive Show at Birmingham NEC with FirestarToys.com – Oct 28th-30th 2016

img_8393So this weekend I jumped in the car and headed up the M40 to the NEC in Birmingham for my first ever big LEGO® exhibition. The guys over at FirestarToys.com had struck a deal with me that they would allocate some space on their stand to advertise and promote Minifiguremotion.com if I could help on the stand selling their product. So, armed with a showreel of animations, flyers and posters I jumped at the chance to join them.

Last time I was at the NEC I was singing there in my band fREAK-1-C and I had forgotten just how big the place is. It is the 7th largest exhibition centre in Europe and Brick Live as a show claims to be the UK’s biggest celebration of LEGO®, built by LEGO® fans for LEGO® fans, where the World’s best builders gather to display their creations, combined with trade stalls, computer games and even a stage hosting live events. Everywhere you looked, as far as the eye could see, was an massive homage to the little plastic brick and the minifigures that live in that world.

Over 3 million bricks filled the various Brick Pits that were everywhere throughout the hall, each containing its own unique colour brick, with fans, young and old alike, wading through the plastic to sit and make various creations. Many LEGO® fans had shown up to display their builds, with amateur builders and pro LEGO® artists showing off everything from spaceships, towns, cars, castles and even recreations and parodies of famous artworks. People queued for hours to play the latest LEGO® Dimensions games and every so often you could catch a glimpse of a life-sized LEGO® BA Baracus (Mr T.) or Harry Potter wondering around for photo opportunities with children and adults alike.

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Once you had spent your time looking at all the great displays, building in the Brick Pits or getting involved in the various events on the live stage and other spots around the hall, there were plenty of trade stalls to go and purchase minifigures, LEGO® sets and various other related products. Besides the FirestarToys.com and Minifigures.com stall where I was working, who produce some fantastic, unique custom minifigures, lego parts and custom accessories, a few other stand out stalls included the guys over at RedSquareBrick.com who make some awesome minifigure display frames, BaseAce.co.uk who manufacture some very interesting 3D play platforms for minifigures and the very cool Funky3DFaces.com who 3D print minifigure heads that look just like you, or anyone whose photo you decided to send them. A massive Toys’R’Us also dominated a large portion of the hall, selling all official LEGO® product, so whatever it was you wanted to buy, at Brick Live you could probably find it.

The FirestarToys.comMinifigures.com stand was absolutely non-stop for the 3 days that I worked with them, with both children and adults alike queuing up to take part in their Create Your Own Superhero and Make A Monster sections, or pondering over the many quality printed custom minifigures that were on sale. Stan Lee, Tom Baker, Ghost Soldier and Jack The Pumpkin King were firm show favourites, and we were also joined by the hugely talented Elspeth De Montes of Azure Brick Creations who built all of the great displays used to promote the figures at Minifigures.com. I also had the opportunity to meet and talk with many of you that were interested in Stop Motion Animation and it was great to hear that so many younger children were already trying their hand at creating their own Brick Films.

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As of writing this, I am tired, my legs and feet ache, and I am slightly bricked-out, but that said, attending Brick Live with the FirestarToys.com crew was an amazing experience that I hope to be a part of again sometime. I cannot thank Paul, Danny, Sonny, Elspeth, Matt, Lucy and Lewis enough for making me feel welcome and like part of the team, and I look forward to working with them all again and spending some more nights after shows playing pool and drinking with them.

I hope to see you all at a show in the near future, and until then, keep animating!

Happy Halloween

Holidays are always good themes to use for animating, and with Lego making a great range of Horrow/Halloween themed Minifigures, we just couldn’t resist the temptation this year… We used minifigures from the Collectibles Series, Scooby Doo and Dr Who to bring the horror to life, plus some great Skull heads from the wonderful custom minifig manufactureres Crazy Bricks – http://crazybricks.bigcartel.com/products

Both Morgan and I made animations with Morgan using Minecraft Movie Creator on his Kindle, and myself using Stop Motion Studio on the iPad with an iPhone 4s as a remote camera! We hope you enjoy our little slices of horror themed animations and wish you all a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

MORGAN’S ANIMATION:

 

We all need some Therapy… Lego Therapy!

DSCF4801The 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.)

Lego Star Wars, The Clone Awakens…

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…

Keep animating,

Ian Husbands