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.
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 LEGOStar 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!
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!
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!
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!
As we continue to look at Stop Motion Animation apps for smartphones and tablets, our next stop is the iMotion App from Fingerlabs and this time we test it on a 5th Gen iPod Touch, with a 5mp iSight Camera.
iMotion is available across the iPhone, iPad and iPod range from the iTunes store and can be downloaded for FREE for the basic version. To get the added extras like Manual Focus, Exposure, Onion Skinning and White Balance control is going to cost you £2.99, but at that price, it really is worth it.
With heaps of features, iMotion is definitely one of the better apps out there for animating on a smart device. It can shoot video in 720p HD or 1080p HD as either time-lapse photography or as stop motion animation, with 3 triggers for capturing the photos, those being manually, by clicking the onscreen capture button, remotely by connecting another iDevice with the iMotion Remote App running or via microphone. The videos can be made in either portrait or landscape mode, autosave as you go and can be set to variable frame rates to suit your animation techniques. In the full paid version, once your animation is done, a few extra tools allow you to add other photos from your camera roll or music from your Music library, or, if you are feeling creative, you can record your own sounds with the built in mic. Once you are happy with all of that you can export your finished animation out to your camera roll, or to the iTunes share, Facebook, Youtube or email.
Despite being a powerful little App for Stop Motion, I did find that iMotion lacked a few things that other apps have. Firstly was the editing capability. It seems that frames can only be deleted after the image capture process has taken place, and you can’t see the actual timeline of photos as you take them. That means if you make a mistake, or the camera focuses wrongly (like it can do with autofocus on) you have to wait until you have finished your animation to edit it out. Once you have finished an animation, you can go back and delete or add frames, but if you have moved the camera, this can get quite frustrating. There are no preset titles or theme music that are built into the App, although with the ability to import music and pics from the iPod itself, you could always create your own titles and songs in other apps and import them in to add that finished look to your animation. The manual capture on the iPod worked well, but you got the obvious camera wobble and I found the capture button to be in a rather inconvenient place, the middle bottom of the screen, which my camera rig got in the way of,making it difficult to snap those shots… So I tried the microphone trigger and struggled to get that working at all, so finally I looked at the remote control trigger via my iPhone running the iMotion Remote app… This worked really well, except there was no sound alerting me that the shot had been taken, which honestly did confuse me a few times, meaning I took the same shot 2 or 3 times before realising it had already been taken… In the videos below you can see both the manual capture and remote trigger being used for image capture.
All in all, iMotion is a pretty solid little app, that at only £2.99 for the full package you can’t really complain about. It is full of great features and regular use would help iron out some of the down sides as you got more and more used to working with it. I will definitely be keeping this on my iPod, just in case I am out and about and feel the need to animate!
Recently, I wanted an app for my Windows Nokia Lumia 635 Phone, for when I’m out of the house, and needed to make some stop motion videos. I came across an app called Stop Motion Studio, from Cateater LLC.
Before I get into the app, I would like to mention the range of stop motion apps on the Windows store. I searched the Windows App Store for a while, and unfortunately, only came across one app. As the Windows phone isn’t that popular, I assume this is the reason why that there are not many stop motion programs, which means you are restricted to the one app – Stop Motion Studio. But does it suit your brickfilming needs? Barely.
I can’t say I’m happy. While this app does have its pros – such as its basic layout, and a free download, the cons make the app very frustrating to use.
The app is FREE to download This is great, which makes it very accessible to people who may not want to spend money on stop motion just yet, or people who want to try out stop-motion for the first time.
The BASIC layout makes it EASY TO USE When using the app, I found it quite easy to get to certain tools. Tools are labeled, or had a practical symbol to represent it. An example is the capture tool, a simple symbol of a camera and below, clearly labeled “capture” which tells me that this where you tap to take photos.
Other Cool Features that I liked:
The frame rate of your animation can be controlled from 1 FPS – 30 FPS which is great, compared to the other apps I have seen where the FPS doesn’t go past 10.
The gallery is pretty sweet, and gives newcomers an idea on stopmotion (but for some reason, they all seem to have been made using the iPhone version of the app, shouldn’t they be featuring stopmotions made using the Windows Phone?)
Very frustrating to export animations. When I was done finishing a little short animation which I was happy with, I was hoping to share it to a couple of mates. When I tapped on the option to save, chose the quality and chose the folder I wanted to store my animation in, right after – the app crashed! After trying multiple times, using the same process – no matter what I do, it still crashed! This is very frustrating to those who want to save it to your album, or share with friends or YouTube. I am hoping they will fix it in a future update.
I did, however, find an option to email it to myself, which I can then send it to a computer or another device. That however, comes at the price of image quality as there is no option to choose what quality to send in, which in the end, was not worth it.
Most features are LOCKED and cost WAY TOO MUCH for what it is worth While the app is free to use, most features of the app, are locked, and are unlocked by purchasing an add on pack. For features as small as adding title cards and adding in your own voice? They should have been included without buying it! I could understand locking features such as green screening or a draw tool, but for titles cards and adding audio, is just ridiculous. Especially when the iPhone version has way more features than this and most of it is free!
Other stuff that bugged me:
Losing animation for unknown reason (went to export to realise that the animation was gone?? Very confused there)
Buttons are not sensitive enough when tapping the capture button (meaning having to press hard and having the risk of bumping the camera
No onion skin layering 🙁
Playback feature is laggy and buggy
Windows Phone camera has average quality at 5 mega pixel (this isn’t much a negative with the app, but more to do with the phone itself)
The app has potential to be a great tool for stop motion. But due to its locked features and a lot of glitches, I do not think I will be using the app, in the near future. Very disappointed. I will continue to search for stop motion apps that works for windows phones and hopefully, one day, I will find an app that will be suit my brickfilming needs, and hopefully yours too.
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!