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

Lego Bob’s Holiday Adventure!

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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!

 

Lego Bruce Lee – Enter The Dragon

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…

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Dragon on Green Screen background with iPhone 4 Remote Camera

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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.

To get your own awesome Bruce Lee minifigure, visit the guys here http://www.minifigures.com/products/bruce-lee.html and tell them that Ian at Minifigure Motion sent you!

Until next time,

Ian Husbands!

The Devil Made Me

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwcci1Ysxiw

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zp9vHIqbyM

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!

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Minifigures.com Gamma Scientist Review

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Some of the starring minifigures from our forthcoming “Hulk Transformation”

Hello and welcome to the CUSTOM Gamma Scientist Minifigure review! He is based on Bruce Banner, the scientist in Marvel that turns into the Incredible Hulk, the ‘ big green guy ‘ as known by Iron Man. We wanted him because he is a lot like Banner, and we are making an animation of the transformation from minifigure to Hulk. But the figure from minifigures.com didn’t look exactly like we needed, so we asked them make us a custom version to our specifications, including purple trousers and black hair. He arrived today, along with a ‘ Mr Invisible ‘ figure (as seen below, or not as the case may be!)

He has a double sided head, with one of them showing a sad face with midnight shadow, the other showing an infuriated face, a gamma – infected eye, and a gamma – infected scar. His hairpiece is a normal short black one with a fringe. He has a rip on the back of his torso, a broken belt on his waist, a green arm, and rips on the front of his torso and on his right leg. He is truly an amazing figure and there is a non – custom version of him at Mini figures .com if you want one.

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Mr Invisible waiting to be opened!

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He’s not looking happy here!

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Take a look at the awesome detail!

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Good thing he has his back to us!

He will be featured in our Hulk transformation animation, which we will start working on soon, so check back soon to hear more about it! For more cool figures, go to Minifigures.com and to see some awesome animations, go to the ‘studio’ section on this website!

 

Written by: Morgan Husbands, aged 8.

Nikon D5200 Camera Test 1

Nikon D5200

So, we have recently purchased a new DSLR camera, the D5200 from Nikon which we got for a very good price from Amazon, along with an SD card and Tripod. I have taken the camera out with me on a couple of occasions so far and am very pleased with the image quality I am getting from the camera. Part of the reason for buying this specific camera is that it has the Live View feature on it, which should allow me to use it for animating with Boinx’s iStopMotion software, so the other night I sat down and put it through some animation tests…

Firstly, I had problems installing Boinx’s iStopMotion on my iMac, so I am looking into that, but rather than waste my time, I just took some sequential shots on the camera that I then imported into Cateater’s StopMotionStudio on my iPad to create the animations… Obviously working just in the camera, and without onion skinning to see my last shot, the animations are a little jumpy, but the image quality is a vast improvement on my usual setup of iPhone Remote Camera and iPad combination. I tried animating with the auto focus and with manual focus as well as flash on and flash off to see what different effects I would get. I also realised that I need to buy a remote control for the camera… manually pressing the camera button to take the pictures obviously results in slight camera wobble each time, so a remote control should hopefully cure that problem!

One of my biggest problems with working with an iPhone as a remote camera is the auto-focus, which quite often will change of its own accord, even when turned off in the software and sometimes ruining the sequence I am working on. With the Nikon, the manual focus is a dream, it is sharp, accurate and sensitive, resulting in a crisp picture with some great depth of field not offered by the iPhone. Also, at 16.9Mp resolution, the images from the camera are that much better than the iPhone 4S that I normally use and as you would expect the light sensor in the camera gives a flat, clean image, whereas I find the iPhone images end up with a verify noisy background!

I still have a lot of work to do before I can get the camera properly integrated into my work flow, and getting Boinx’s iStopMotion working properly on my iMac is going to take priority now. I will keep posting updates on this, letting you know how I get on! Check out the video below to see the results of my first tests!

The test animations are at 12fps in 720px HD

 

Featured Animator Christopher Gearheart

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Name: Christopher Gearhart
Location: Chicago, IL

Q1) How long have you been animating?
I’ve been stop motion animating since I was 12 years old, although I didn’t start 3D animation until I was about 15.

Q2) How did you start making stop-frame animations?
I started animating when my dad taught me how to operate his Red One film camera. His work as a filmmaker was a big inspiration for me, as were the many talented stop motion animators on YouTube 🙂

Q3) Why have you chosen Lego® and other brick products as your main medium to work in?
Ultimately it comes down to the fact that I’m a huge LEGO fan. LEGO sparks so much creative energy in me, and I genuinely love animating when I’m working with those familiar bricks. LEGO also allows me to produce massive cinematic films on little-to-no budget, which is valuable for an creative entrepreneurial dreamer like me!

Q4) What is your setup like? Which camera and software do you use to make your movies?
We constructed my animation table from scratch so that it was specifically suited for my stop motion needs (sturdy, won’t budge if bumped, allows for creative camera placement around the perimeter, etc). Lately, my camera of choice has been a Canon EOS Rebel T2i on a Weifeng WF-717 Fluid-Head Tripod. This allows me to capture incredibly precise camera movements at a very high quality. For software, I use Dragonframe, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, and Blender 3D. I highly recommend each one!

Q5) On average, how many hours does it take to create your animations?
On average, projects will take me about 9 months to finish. Of course, that figure is thrown off by 4 projects that I’ve put a disproportionately large amount of work into (3 of which are still to come!). I’m a perfectionist, so I often spend up to a month on a difficult or intricate shot for my films. That establishing shot of level 1313 at the end of “LEGO Star Wars – The Underworld” took me about 140 hours to produce from start to finish. I actually built the trailer around that shot

Q6) Do you have a favourite mini-figure to animate, and what makes them so special?
I think my favorite minifigure to animate would have to be Elrond for many reasons. The most prominent of these are that the printing job is elegant, his joints are brand new and easy to work with, and he sports a cape which adds a layer of complexity and challenge to the animation. He’ll be featured in a comedy short I’m hoping to finish up later this year!

Q7) What can we look forward to in the near future from you?
I’m working alongside some of the best animators from across the nation on a secret project that you’ll see very soon, along with the other animation projects I mentioned above. I just released a teaser on my channel for these animations, with footage from each of the three LEGO short film projects! https://youtu.be/1cqj_2L9YNM

Q8) Where can people go for more information or to view your animations?
Definitely check out my brand new website at http://www.bblanimation.com/ to see my animations and for links to my social media pages.

Q9) What one piece of advice do you have for people wanting to start in stop-frame animating?
The best advice I could give to an aspiring stop motion animator would be to start animating with whatever tools, skill, and creativity you have, and then pick something with each new video that you’d like to improve on. You’d be surprised how fast you learn and improve this way!

Featured Video:

Naphill Brick & Model Show

The Arctic weather we were allegedly getting this weekend didn’t come, and a wet morning soon changed to a bright sunny, if quite cold, day. So rather than waste the day, we thought we would go out and have some fun. Toni, my wife, had read about a small Brick and Model Show in a quiet little village called Naphill on the outskirts of High Wycombe, about 45 mins away from us, so we got up and out into the wilds of Buckinghamshire…

After a quick lunch at the Golden Arches, we arrived at a small village hall in Naphill. The show was a very under sung affair, with a hand written billboard pointing the way into the hall, where a lovely lady greeted us and charged us a very reasonable £6 for a family ticket and explained where everything was. The hall was tiny, so you didn’t need a map to get around, but each room housed a small but interesting collection of toys, models and most importantly for us, LEGO. A collection of very well made and truly loved Dolls Houses adorned the first room, where an elderly lady, who was obviously still a big kid at heart, enthusiastically pointed out some of the finer points in the houses and shops on display. A toy shop, the swedish room, a car boot sale and even a pub with cheekily dressed dancers, all dolls house sized, filled the room and the kids loved looking at all the tiny details, especially in the toy shop.

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Morgan after the show with Andrews signed book.

The second room, the largest of the three was the main event for us, and as the kids went in they quickly headed over to the largest display in the room, a huge Fun Fair, with its own Ghost Train, moving rides, flashing lights and even its own burger stall and toilet block, all made from Lego. The builder of this awesome piece was Andrew Walker, the founder of www.namebrick.co.uk who engrave lego bricks, with well… words or names as the URL suggests. Andrew is also one of the builders in The Lego Ideas book, of which we purchased a copy and he generously signed for us. After a short chat with Andrew, and buying some of his name bricks, he told us that the fun fair was actually bigger and a large monorail that dipped up and down like a roller coaster was going to be added for the final display which can be seen at The Brick Show 2015 at Excel London on Dec 11th-13th. If you are going, I would definitely suggest you go and check out Andy’s work, and the great use of his engraved bricks in his MOCs.

A few other displays caught our eye, including a large MOC that had a collection of mines, pizza delivery guys, dinosaurs, knights, rock stars and so much more… There was a poster on one end challenging people to find a list of certain characters which kept the kids busy for a good 15 mins. Some smaller scale buildings also caught our attention, with some cool micro scale street and architecture pieces which were especially good. One guy had brought down his Lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon Collectiors edition that he was in the process of building. He was well organised, with all his bricks in neatly arranged tubs and the instructions on his tablet in front of him, and he was probably about 50-60% into the build, which I later found out he had actually started at the same show a year earlier… A year on, he had returned to finish the job he started back in 2014… We wished the Force was with him and moved on, regrettably not getting the opportunity to see the finished build. Other displays included alternative building systems from the 60s that let you build houses and utility buildings, which although quite interesting didn’t have the same interest for the kids as the brightly coloured buildable blocks that are LEGO, or the trains moving around the show.

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Minifigure Motion blocks from namebrick.co.uk

The next room greeted us with a large, large pile of all green lego 2×4 lego bricks and a sign declaring BUILD YOUR OWN. The kids took their coats off and got dug in, and then mum and dad joined them as we built dinosaurs and the obvious seasonal christmas trees. It wasn’t long before the kids got distracted by the large toy trains chuffing up and down a table the other side of the room, and after a quick chat with the gentleman tending the trains, they were pushing buttons and driving the engines themselves.

A quick coffee and cake break in the reasonably priced café next door, which actually served very good coffee, and we dropped back into the show for another quick look at the displays and for the kids to spend their pocket money on a small lego set each. Then it was back out into the cold, as we hit the A40 for our journey home, which was largely spent with the kids explaining how cool their afternoon had been and their favourite bits!

We didn’t expect anything big or grand from this small show that was neatly tucked away in a village hall in Naphill, but with reasonably priced entrance fees, enough interesting displays to keep our attention for a couple of hours, it was a great afternoon out for both kids and parents, with my own personal highlight being getting to chat with Andrew Walker and his amazing Fun Fair build…

For pictures from the show, check out the Gallery here!

Naphill Brick & Model Show, Naphill, High Wycombe, England

Some shots of the Lego Builds from the Naphill Brick & Model show!

LEGO Star Wars 75108: Clone Commander Cody Buildable Figure

Photo 12-09-2015 16 31 22So this month, after a bit of a hiatus due to web server changes and such, we are looking at Star Wars. Everyone in the family is excited about the forthcoming The Force Awakens, and with some great trailers coming out, showing us some brief glimpses of what appear to be some great characters, we couldn’t wait to check out some of the new Star Wars Lego sets that were being released, especially the minifigures.

One of the things that caught my eye, from an animation point of view, were the new range of Buildable Figures, with takes on Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, General Grevious, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jango Fett, and our favourite, Clone Commander Cody. We picked one up for a reasonable £15 from Toys’R’Us with a view to checking him out and animating him.

The figure stands about 26cm tall and is strong and durable, with fully posable limbs, a buildable blaster rifle and some well printed body parts, including a moulded hemet head piece and a detailed chest plate. Using a basic skeletal frame made from parts similar to those found in Technic/Bionicle/Hero Factory sets, the figure uses sockets and ball joints to create the moveable limbs, with the rest of the armour being designed to clip on to the frame, creating the character. I must say, I make it sound simple, but I did find the instructions a little confusing in places, making the build take longer than I expected.

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The Buildable Figure with a Clone Minifigure at his feet for scale

From the front, the character looks great, with a nice little detail of an antenna on his back pack showing over his left shoulder, but from the back it doesn’t look so hot, and, in my opinion would greatly benefit from some armour to clip onto the back of his legs and his inner arms, concealing more of the skeletal frame. Otherwise, he is easy to pose, holds his weapon well and is quite convincing….

So how does he animate? That was the main reason I bought this figure after all… I saw from the off that animating this figure wasn’t going to be as easy as I originally thought. Anything upper body, making him look around, raise his gun etc, is very simple and straightforward, and is pretty much like animating any other minifigure, but making him walk, that is another thing! The figure is obviously quite top heavy and certainly will not easily stand on one leg in a walking motion. There is a definite need to fix the feet somehow so he can take steps. One way I have found of doing that is by using a single round lego stud in the convenient hole on the bottom of each foot. This allows you to attach him to a Lego baseplate, which offers some stability, but isn’t quite strong enough to hold him totally still or hold all of the weight in a walking action. I have yet to resolve this problem, but have a feeling it will involve large amounts of BluTac in each foot, to add weight, acting as a counter balance and a sticky surface to attach him to a flat table top with.

Check out the video below to see a quick speed build of the character and a short test animation I put together. We hope you enjoyed our look at the Clone Commander Cody Buildable Figure and hope you’ll come back to for more info on some of the recent Star Wars Lego releases…

Note: The blaster visual effects in the animation were created using a piece of software called SaberFX, which I will talk more about in a blog very soon!

Deadpool In DC – Deadpool VS Green Lantern

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In my mind we are living in a golden age of film… With so many great stories built up over the years to draw from, and the technology more available than ever to bring them to the big screen in a fashion that will do the stories justice, it is no surprise that LEGO® now license from some of the big cinematic franchises to tie in with their new releases… Star Wars, The Simpsons, DC Comics, Marvel Entertainment, Lord Of The Rings and many many more have all been given the LEGO® treatment, making more and more fun, cool characters available to minifigure collectors and Brick Filmers… It is no wonder that with this has been a surge of animators making Brick Films that match film trailers frame for frame, write new stories for their small plastic heroes or parody some of their favourite films and TV shows. Due to the popularity of these franchises that Brick Filmers are doing their own takes on, it is quite often these videos that get viewed more on channels like YouTube and Vimeo.

Deadpool is a character that I didn’t think would ever make it to the big screen in his own film. A brief version in one of the X-Men Wolverine films was probably the best I thought we would get, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was confirmed the “Merc with the Mouth” would be featured in his own movie. Ryan Reynolds was a good choice of actor, reprising his role from the Wolverine film, but he obviously has a small green problem hanging over his head… Reynolds had previously played an incarnation of Hal Jordan, The Green Lantern in a previous attempt at a superhero movie, which wasn’t that well received by critics or fans alike, myself included.

So, we thought that we would give Deadpool, and Ryan Reynolds himself, an attempt to right a few wrongs of the film world via the medium of Brick Film…

It is a short animation, which we used as an opportunity to use parts of iMovie for the iPad that we hadn’t ventured into before… It was filmed in 1080px HD at 15fps in Stop Motion Studio for iPad on an iPad2, with an iPhone 4S as a remote camera, as per our SETUP HERE.

The music and graphics were all parts of the themes and trailers available in iMovie for iPad. It uses a simple drag and drop interface which allows you to drop film or photo elements into a pre made template that also allows you to add text to certain pre made graphic panels. The trailer I used was a bit too long for what I wanted, so I had to edit it down afterwards, again in iMovie for iPad. Overall the finished effect is pretty good and feels like a film trailer, which you can watch for yourself below!

Ryan Reynolds is dead, long live Ryan Reynolds!