Minecraft Stop Motion Movie Creator on Kindle Fire HD Review

dsc_0003The 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:

Until next time, keep animating,

Ian & Morgan

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

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