Our current Stop Frame set-up!

Wide shot of the work area

Wide shot of the work area, set against the backdrop

AnimationSetup2

Close up of the iPad, notice the USB Hub for the lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I started this website, just over a month ago, I have received a couple of emails asking me about my setup and cost-effective ways to get into stop-frame animation.

I got into making Brick Films accidentally… What started out as a small project to answer the questions my son had about moving Lego men, slowly turned into people liking what I was producing and asking me to produce more. My first animation was made with an old compact camera and a copy of iMovie HD on my iMac, which was far from ideal, and ended up in producing a jumpy, awkward animation… But it allowed me to learn a lot, and so I gathered up the gadgets that I already had in the house and done some research into how I could improve the process without forking out money that I didn’t have. The conclusion that I came to was to use my iPad 2 and one of the many stop-motion apps out there that would also allow me to connect my iPhone 4S via wireless as a remote camera.

Since then, that has been my current setup, and the pictures give you an idea of how I set-up my work space.

Notice the image on the iPhone and the iPad thanks to the Remote Camera App

Notice the image on the iPhone and the iPad thanks to the Remote Camera App

Specifications:

  • iPad 2 running Cateater LLCsStop Motion Studio
  • iPhone 4S running Cateater LLCsRemote Camera” app, allowing me to wirelessly connect to the iPad
  • iPhone Camera Len’s pack (including a macro, fish-eye and wide angle lens)
  • 2 x 48×48 stud LEGO® baseplates
  • 2 x LED Desk Lamps
  • 4 port USB Charging Hub to power the lights and keep the iPad/iPhone charged.
  • Various Matte finish backdrops to work against

 

This setup is what has allowed us to produce all of our animations so far, and works quite well. It is portable and easily setup if you don’t have a permanent area to work in. The remote camera app also allows you to take each photo via the App on the iPad, rather than having to use the touch screen on the iPhone Camera, making sure there is no camera wobble with each shot. Unfortunately there are a few down sides, the main one being the auto-focus on the iPhone Camera which doesn’t always turn off when the app tells it too, causing the focus to change from frame to frame occasionally, which creates glitches in the continuos flow of the motion.

We are currently looking at improving this setup by investing in a new camera and software for the iMac that we use and have considered both Cannon and Nikon cameras with LiveView that will connect easily to Boinx Softwares iStopMotion. We’ll let you know how we get on with this as and when we do it!

Below is a quick animation that we produced whilst taking the photos for this blog to demonstrate the type of quality you can achieve with a setup similar to this. The video is at 15fps at 720HD quality and hasn’t been processed in any other software, letting you see the raw colours direct from the camera. There are a few glitches where I had issues with the auto focus playing me around, and I made a big schoolboy error and forgot to stick my baseboard firmly to the table, so it jumps at one point… Lesson learnt, always make sure your baseboard is firmly attached to the table… I normally use bluetac or sellotape.

These Minifigures are frightful…

So, whilst doing my fatherly duties today and looking after the kids on an inset day (that’s a Teacher Training Day for people my age), we stopped at Argos and picked up some back-to-school treats for the kids… My daughters choice was a plush Sven from Frozen, she is a 4 year old girl after all, and my LEGO® mad son grabbed himself the smallest of the new Scooby Doo sets “Mummy Museum Mystery“… We also noticed that they had the new Series 14 Minifigures in stock as well so, we grabbed a few of those as too…

I must admit, that the first time I saw the pictures of the new mini figures I was a tad disappointed. On first glance it seemed that LEGO® had just churned out zombie versions of some of the previous series characters, with a few exceptions like the Gargoyle and Plant Guy. It felt like the whole range was just setup to coincide with the release of the Scooby Doo sets, giving Mystery Inc. more villains to chase after and to capitalise on the Halloween market that gets bigger year by year.

That said, we bought some anyway, and our first three bags in series 14 contained the Monster RockerZombie Cheerleader and the Mad Scientist… Not the Gargoyle that I was hoping to get… But, all 3 figures are actually quite good, some great new pieces like the Scientists head piece and bottle with a fly printed on it, the Cheerleaders cool hair piece and a great new guitar with a bat print on it, from the Monster Rocker. The actual print on the figures themselves is also quite cool, with some creative attention to detail, especially the back print on the Monster Rocker…

LegoMinifigS14

Monster Rocker, Mad Scientist & Zombie Cheerleader from Lego® Minfigures Series 14

Some great back print on the reverse of the Monster Rocker!

Some great back print on the reverse of the Monster Rocker!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for the Scooby Doo set, for anyone my age, you will be struck by nostalgia if you, like me, enjoyed watching the original cartoons as a kid. The Scooby and Shaggy mini figures are excellent representations of the characters you know and love. Shaggy’s print is simple but effective and Scooby looks, well… just like Scooby. The Mummy figure which is also included in the set is very generic, except for the great addition of a 2 sided head, one of which shows the Mummy face and the opposite side is a human face poking through the bandages, giving us the reveal that it was always the museum curator dressed as a Mummy, and he would have gotten  away with it, if it wasn’t for those pesky kids…

The actual set itself is pretty small, but has a couple of great features, including a hanging hamburger which, when pulled by the hungry Shaggy and Scooby lifts the lid of the golden, nicely moulded sarcophagus to reveal the Mummy behind, who is protecting his hidden jewels which are safely secured in a hidden compartment under the steps…  For the price range it is in, and the enjoyment my son will get out of the Shaggy and Scooby figures alone, I would say it is well worth the money…
Morgan my son rates the set as 5 out of 5

Mummy Museum Mystery Lego Set

Mummy Museum Mystery Lego Set

So, if you like horror stories and the darker side of Lego, go grab yourself some of the new series 14 mini figures and the Scooby Doo sets, they will work very well together…

Enhancing your animations with custom printing…

Custom printed Jack & Sally of Nightmare Before Christmas – Printed by Firestartoys.com

Rear print of custom Jack & Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas – Printed by Firestartoys.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With technology becoming more and more affordable in this digital world we live in, it is no surprise that custom printing has been on the rise… Whether is be a personalised gift card, photo album, coffee mug or t-shirt you are looking for, a quick Google search will reveal a plethora of companies willing to make your custom printed items, all for the right price, and the same applies in the Lego® and mini-figure world also.

The process commonly used to print custom mini-figures is known as pad printing, using a silicone rubber pad with a printing plate that transfers the desired artwork onto the substrate, which is the material to be printed. The inks used are typically solvent based and dry relatively quickly, leaving a permanent copy of the printed image on the mini-figure parts.

With so many companies now able to utilise this printing method, it is no surprise that pre-designed and printed custom mini-figures are easy to find on eBay, Amazon and many specialist mini-figure websites, but if you are feeling adventurous and have some knowledge in design and vector software like Adobe Illustrator or Freehand, there is also the option to design and print your own. I will include a list of links for companies who can help you with this at the end of the blog, as well as a template to help you design your own.

Custom printing really does make the possibilities endless for animators who are looking to take their animations to the next level. A lot of animators out there like to make animated versions of scenes from their favourite films, and often have to settle for creating the characters out of a mixture of parts from previously made, official lego products. With such a wide variety of parts available this can often work, but now we can tailor-print our characters to look as close as possible to our favourite film stars, tv-show characters or musicians. Attention to details mean we can print our mini-figures clothes to include logos that their real-life counterparts may wear, or custom print them accessories like maps or album sleeves on flat base plates, or even print up a whole load of different faces for one character giving us the option to vary our mini-figures expressions throughout our animations without having to get involved with digitally manipulating the faces in post-production… This allows us to bring in a whole new layer to our animations, bringing a richness of detail to the storytelling we are trying to achieve.

Custom printing has so many applications beyond animations as well… How about designing mini-figures of your friends or family? They make great gifts for birthdays, weddings or other occasions. Or custom printed mini-figures for promoting your company or charity with your logo on the body?

Mini-figure branding with custom printed logo on “Max Motion”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Download the mini-figure template as an Illustrator AI by clicking here

The only down-side to this is that custom-printing isn’t cheap, with some custom-printed figures costing $50+ on eBay and other sites, and setup costs from the printers sometimes being quite hefty if you are only producing one-off prints, but the results are often worth the cost, and if you order in bulk, then the costs per figure will come down.

Whatever it is you decide to have custom-printed, be it a mini-figure who is to be the star in your latest animation, or a batch of mini-figures to promote your website, I would suggest shopping around the various sites listed below to find the best price to suit your needs. I would also suggest asking for samples from them to check the quality of the printing before you order! Once you have found a suitable supplier, make sure you get a detailed spec of how they need the artwork supplied from you and any conditions you have to meet before submitting your designs to be printed.

List of Custom Printed Mini-figure suppliers:

www.minifigures.com

www.firestartoys.com

www.minifigs.me

www.citizenbrick.com

www.penzora.co.uk

www.minifigs4u.com

www.fab-bricks.com

www.brickprinter.com

www.x39brickcustoms.com

www.minifigforlife.com

www.minifiglabs.com

Getting involved…

Minifigure by Morgan Husbands

Minifigure by Morgan Husbands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have setup MinifigureMotion.com as a way of trying to help people, especially parents with Lego mad kids, to learn a bit about stop-frame animation, which for parents is a great way to engage with their children and spend some time creating with them to alleviate boredom at weekends and through the long summer holidays, which my own kids are currently on.

When I got home from the day job the other day my son had spent some of his day looking through the minifiguremotion.com website, watching the animations and reading some of my ramblings, after which he had retreated to his Lego table and started making his own Minifigure Motion Lego figures, which he was keen for me to photograph and use on the site…

So, myself and Morgan would like to introduce to you, “Filming Fred” and “Camera Kyle”, who will be helping our mascot “Mac Motion” run the website, make animations and much more… Much like I hope that Morgan will be joining me and helping me run the website and making animations as well…

Its great when you can get involved in your children’s hobbies, and even greater when they get involved in yours!

Featured Animator Ian Husbands

Name: Ian Husbands
Studio:
Minifiguremotion.com
Location:
London UK

Q1) How long have you been animating?
I have been making stop-frame animations for about 3 years now, but first dabbled with it about 8 years ago for a music video.

Q2) How did you start making stop-frame animations?
My son got his first Lego set at age 3 and took a great interest in it, so after showing him a few Brick Films on Youtube, he wanted to know how people made the little Lego Men move. I had recently got an iPad for Christmas, so we done a few tests, got out the camera and filmed our first Brick Film, based on Lego Star Wars together…

Q3) Why have you chosen Lego® and other brick products as your main medium to work in?
Lego is just so easily customised, making your own characters is easy by combining different parts from different mini-figures, and building sets is just as simple with so many pre-designed buildings and vehicles to choose from or customise. Combine the simplicity of Lego with the bright colours, the movability of the figures themselves and the fact that Lego already has a large fan-base, and using Lego make a lot of sense.

Q4) What is your setup like? Which camera and software do you use to make your movies?
We currently use an iPad2 for motion capture, with an iPhone 4S as a remote camera connected wirelessly to the iPad. We used to use Boinx iStopMotion for iPad, but that seemed to develop a lot of problems, so now we use Cateaters LLC StopMotionStudio, which works really well and has some great features… We are looking to upgrade our setup soon and are currently looking at buying a Canon camera to use with a Boinx iStopMotion Desktop software. We also use FinalCut and Garageband/Logic on the iMac to add overlays, special fx and audio.

Q5) On average, how many hours does it take to create your animations?
It really does depend on the animation… I would say on average a 4-5 minute animation can easily take 60-70 hours to produce with our current setup.

Q6) Do you have a favourite mini figure to animate, and what makes them so special?
I don’t have a favourite as such, although you do find yourself getting attached to the characters as your animate them. One of my current favourites would be a mini-figure called Timmy, named by my wife, who is the star of an animation we have just finished called “The Audition”.

Q7) What can we look forward to in the near future from you?
Minifiguremotion.com is going to be our main focus, we want to build up a good basis of animations for our how-to section, so we will be concentrating on that for a while, but we also have an animation we have just finished called “The Audition”, which is in post-production now, as well as another one called “Evolution” for one of our main sponsors…

Q8) Where do you get your inspiration for your animations from?
A lot of the animations we have worked on have been for music videos, so the music is a big player in the inspiration for the visual. Otherwise, we draw from TV culture, podcast, news… Anywhere really, I find that inspiration can hit anytime, anywhere! 

Q9) Where can people go for more information or to view your animations?
Minifiguremotion.com will be where you can come to keep up-to-date with what we are up to, so I hope that you visit back regularly and that our blogs and vlogs are helpful to you.

FEATURED VIDEO:

Animating with the kids

Sometimes we all need to remember why we started something, it can help bring a fresh perspective to a project you are too caught up in, or give you new incentive to carry on. When it comes to Brick Filming, I started because of my son’s interest in “how people were making the little lego people move on YouTube”…

So this weekend, my kids asked could we do a stop frame animation together using some bits from the LEGO® Batman Jokerland set we recently purchased for them. Both Morgan (aged 7) and Evie (aged 3) are big Teen Titans fans and watch the cartoon regularly, so they wanted to bring the minifigures of Robin, Beast Boy and Starfire to life… We came up with a quick idea, set up the iPhone and iPad ready for filming and got started…

I remember getting quite frustrated doing my first animation with my son Morgan. I was learning on the job, and with him being only 4 years old at the time, his patience and concentration were severely lacking, in a job that needs lots of both patience and concentration! As I battled to make the minifigures move, he would pull their arms off, or fly them around the living room, landing them on my head…

But this time round I was more comfortable with the process, having learnt a lot since then and the kids loved getting involved in the whole process of taking the pictures and moving the minifigures a little bit each time to make them wave or spin around on the fairground rides… We spent about 3 hours together animating, editing, adding music and finally watching our complete animation (over and over again). The kids just loved the finished film and it was easy to see they took some pride and satisfaction in their results. From a Dad’s point of view I had spent 3 hours of quality time with my children, not just having fun, but teaching them new skills that they will hopefully remember and possibly use in later life and we have a little brick film that we can watch again and again to remind us of that time spent together…

Stop frame animating with your children is definitely something I would recommend to parents to fill up some of those hours over the weekends and school holidays when the kids get bored. It can be relatively cheap to do if you have cameras, iPhones or iPads already around the house and not only will it keep the kids entertained for a few hours whilst making the film, but it will leave them with a permanent reminder of the time spent making it, in the form of a brick film that they can show to their friends and feel some kind of accomplishment with.

Check out our little animation “LEGO Teen Titans at The Fair” on YouTube here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PFD4s422FA

The animation was made using Stop Motion Studio on an iPad2 with aniPhone 4S as a remote camera. Edits and music were done in iMovie on theiPad.

Welcome to MinifigureMotion.com

Hey guys and welcome to minifiguremotion.com where we will be showcasing our studios own Lego® Stop Motion Videos as well as helping you to make your own by posting informative “How To…” videos, detailing tips and techniques for both beginners and the more experienced animator. Our Showcase page will feature some of the best Brickfilms and Legomations available on the internet and hopefully we will get to talk to some of the other great animators to gain insights from them on how they create their animations.

We will be bringing you tips on software, cameras and lighting, as well as LEGO® and other related minifigure brands and products in an attempt to help you make the most of your own setup so that you can achieve the best quality stop-motion videos possible!

We hope you check back here for more regular updates and look forward to seeing some of your Brick Films soon!