The Set Bump http://setbump.com Brickfilming news, reviews, contests, tutorials, and more! Wed, 18 Apr 2018 21:24:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 Sunsetting The Set Bump http://setbump.com/2018/04/sunsetting-the-set-bump/ http://setbump.com/2018/04/sunsetting-the-set-bump/#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 21:23:59 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2899 Dear readers: it is with heavy hearts that we have decided to close the Set Bump blog.

Over the past few years, we haven’t been able to update or post things as much as we would have liked, and our discussions on the world of LEGO animation and brickfilms have moved almost entirely to our individual web and social media channels (e.g. Paganomation and BRICK 101).

But before we take down the blog on DESTRUCTION DAY™ (May 16, 2018), we wanted to give you a chance to save any of your favorite links or articles from the site.

Thanks again for reading and contributing to The Set Bump!

– David Pagano and Dave Pickett

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Lando’s not a system, he’s a man! http://setbump.com/2018/01/landos-deal/ http://setbump.com/2018/01/landos-deal/#comments Thu, 25 Jan 2018 23:18:35 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2882 Hello… what have we here?

We still haven’t seen an official trailer for “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (and it’s possible we never will).

In the meantime, you can whet your appetite with “Lando’s Deal“, a wonderful film starring everyone’s favorite smooth-talking space pirate. I’ve seen a number of live-action Star Wars fan films, but none of them seem to capture my interest and attention like this one did.

There’s a lot to like here—strong cinematography, dynamic blocking and staging, solid sound and voice work, neat bits of animation, and an overabundance of in-camera effects and lighting (the telltale red-and-black Brickstuff wire is a giveaway). And that’s basically all ignoring the fact that it’s a brickfilm; I’m not even sure that ‘the LEGO of it all’ factored into my enjoyment.

Overall, it’s just a simple, fun film, and it feels like Star Wars—you can tell that director Adam Nies has a particular fondness for that old card player / gambler / scoundrel.

And of course, the easiest way to win me over is with a behind-the-scenes video.

LEGO Star Wars: Lando’s Deal – YouTube

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Brick à Brack Introduces English Forums http://setbump.com/2017/11/brick-a-brack-introduces-english-forums/ http://setbump.com/2017/11/brick-a-brack-introduces-english-forums/#comments Thu, 16 Nov 2017 18:16:24 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2866 French brickfilming community Brick à Brack has recently added a new English section to their primarily French forums to encourage English speakers to use their site.

Brick à Brack, founded in 2008, is a website devoted to the French brickfilming community. With over 1,500 users and 3,400 brickfilms on the site, Brick à Brack is one of the largest brickfilming communities on the web, rivaling Bricks in Motion.

I got an exclusive interview with Brick à Brack administrator Maxou44 in Brick à Brack’s Discord chat discussing the forum changes:

– What is the history of the creation of Brick à Brack?

– Brick à Brack was created in September 2008 by Parod and R-Creator, at the begining it was a simple forum that allowed some brickfilmeurs to share their creations (it was the beginnings of the brickfilm in France), year after year, Brick à Brack grew, member after member a great community ready to share and exchange around their common passion: the brickfilm! For the last few years we have multiplied competitions and exhibitions with the aim of democratizing brickfilm!

– What prompted you to create an English section to your forums instead of keeping your community exclusively French?

For almost 10 years now, our goal has been to promote brickfilm and create an active and welded community around this passion, over the last few years many English members have joined us but were unable to use the site properly or participate in our competitions due to language barriers. We have therefore taken things in hand to make our site accessible to as many people as possible! Our goal is to bring the brickfilmers together, not to divide them :smiley:

– Do you have any plans to expand Brick a Brack to other languages besides French and English?

For the time being, we would like to maintain and grow the English-speaking community that comes to our site, welcoming anglophones to our site is something that is not necessarily simple for us, we don’t speak perfectly English, we have to organize ourselves differently and spend more time maintaining and moderating the site. When everything will be in place and our English-speaking friends will be well integrated, if we think it could be beneficial for another community to translate our website, we will do the necessary.

So whether you speak French or English, Brick à Brack has something for you! Hop on over to their website and register today!

https://www.brick-a-brack.com

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Three new brickfilming contests http://setbump.com/2017/10/three-new-brickfilming-contests/ http://setbump.com/2017/10/three-new-brickfilming-contests/#respond Mon, 02 Oct 2017 18:38:12 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2853 A few new brickfilming contests were announced in the last week and one of them has an amazing prize.

First up is the 2017 Brickfilmer’s Guild Film Festival. This annual contest doesn’t have a physical prize, but does have pretty good bragging rights as it’s one of the biggest annual brickfilming contests and the past winners are all famously good films.

Second is Brickset’s Thor-related Brickfilming Contest. “The only requirement is that it features Thor in one form or another — it could be custom, brick-built, older minifig, newer minifig or anything — the rest is up to you” The prize pack is “a LEGO Super Heroes prize pack consisting of four LEGO MARVEL Super Hero sets and exclusive San Diego Comic-Con LEGO Thor poster.”

Last, but not least, Rebrick is holding a competition to celebrate the opening of the LEGO House. “Show us your idea of a day at the LEGO House in a fun stop-motion video – and your imagining could become a reality!” The animation must be betweeen 15 and 30 seconds. The grand prize is a trip for 2 to Denmark to visit the LEGO House!

Will you be entering any of these contests? let us know in the comments.

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The LEGO Movie Sequel will focus on gender http://setbump.com/2017/09/the-lego-movie-sequel-will-focus-on-gender/ http://setbump.com/2017/09/the-lego-movie-sequel-will-focus-on-gender/#respond Sat, 16 Sep 2017 16:52:28 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2836 A recent Collider interview with the producers of “The LEGO Movie Sequel” revealed some key details about the plot.

Dan Lin: Every one of our movies, so far, have been told from the point of view of one kid’s imagination. The LEGO Movie 2 will be the first one told through two kids’ imaginations – Finn and his sister. It’s going to be really interesting juxtaposing those two different visions.

Chris McKay: That’s the major thing that the movie is about. What’s different and similar about gender, when a boy plays vs. how a girl plays? What kinds of stories are there? … You can do that in a movie like this, and still have it be a great musical with fun songs, and have action and all of the other crazy things we’re gonna get into with that movie. It’s gonna be a really special movie.

Color me skeptical.

While I am very fascinated by the intersection of gender and LEGO, and the lack of female representation was one of our few criticisms of the first LEGO Movie, I feel like a movie that’s going to seriously examine the differences between male and female perspectives should probably have at least ONE female on the writing/producing/directing team (which consists of Dan Lin, Chris McKay, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and newcomer Mike Mitchell). I would love to be proven wrong and for this movie to be a subtle, insightful, and heartfelt examination of a complex, sensitive topic (with catchy songs to boot!), but right now it seems like this movie will continue to be heavily skewed to the male perspective.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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The Set Bump turns 5! http://setbump.com/2017/08/the-set-bump-turns-5/ http://setbump.com/2017/08/the-set-bump-turns-5/#respond Tue, 29 Aug 2017 20:53:51 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2812 It’s our 5-year blogiversary!

To celebrate this momentous occasion, David Pagano and David Pickett sat down and had a conversation about their past, present, and future. Below is a lightly edited transcript. Enjoy!


PICKETT: This month marks the five-year anniversary of The Set Bump! A lot has changed in those five years: in the world, in the LEGO community, in the brickfilming community, and in our lives. So I thought we could take some time to reflect on some of those things and talk about what it’s been like to be us (and not us) over the last five years.

PAGANO: I have no idea what it’s like to be not us. [deadpan pause]

A blog post like this might be the most bare-minimum celebration that we could possibly do—not because of our excitement level, but because we both have other work on our plates. We are busy people. But yes, we started this blog five years ago… and that is very insane to me.

Set Bump logo sketch

Logo sketches by Nelson Diaz.

PICKETT: You know, we’ve talked about this a few times in all the interviews and stuff we’ve done for “The LEGO Animation Book”, but I think it’s worth reiterating a little bit of our history together and how it led to us starting The Set Bump: we met at Brickworld Chicago in 2008, and then really became friends the following year. That’s when we started collaborating on stuff like the LEGO animation workshop we ran at Brickworld, as well as Brickjournal issue 14, which I think only came out in 2011.

PAGANO: Well, we were writing it for like six months prior to that, which would have been 2010. (The digital version of that issue is still available.)

PICKETT: After that issue was published, that’s when we really started having a serious conversation: “what if we expanded this content into something bigger?” And that became the earliest plan for The LEGO Animation Book.

As we worked on that first book outline, we realized, “well, if we’re gonna make a book, we should probably start collaboratively writing together more.” So we started this blog as a way to do that, and to stay engaged with the LEGO animation fan community leading up to the release of the book. That was kind of the original idea behind The Set Bump.

PAGANO: All of that sounds correct to me. I was actually I was thinking about Brickworld earlier today, because I was looking for some photos for a thing that I can’t talk about yet, haha. But I found a few old pictures from classes and screenings.

David Pagano teaches an animation workshop at Brickworld Chicago 2010.

Five guys standing on a stage smiling

The winners of the 2013 Brickworld Film Festival pose with Pickett and Pagano.

PICKETT:  I am always in favor of digging up old, weird photos. You know, I feel like, to this day, there still isn’t a great blog about LEGO animation as a topic. The thing that keeps ours from greatness is the infrequency with which we post to it. I mean, I think our blog is the best blog about LEGO animation, but I’m also 200% biased.

PAGANO: Sure. Another reason that the blog was a great idea was that it allowed us to not only start a fanbase in anticipation of the book, but to have that conversation on our terms as well. We’re always trying to stay involved with the the brickfilm community, but online forums are neither of our styles. I don’t know if that’s due to our ages, or just… I think we both have an affinity for things that are more like prose; things that are a little more academic as opposed to an endless thread of comments.

PICKETT: I mean, we’re both very verbose (as evidenced by how we’re speaking in multiple paragraphs here), but also, we both have an aversion to internet drama. In my experience, forums always attract more drama than blogs because they are more about personalities and interactions. We don’t need to get into the “Great Schism of Brickfilms.com” again in this post, but when that divide in the community happened, both of us only realized it like six months after the fact—because that was about how frequently we visited the forums. Suddenly, everyone was over at Bricks In Motion.

Which reminds me: one thing to point out, of course, is that when we launched our blog, it wasn’t called The Set Bump. It was called BrickAnimation.com, and those URLs still work to this day.

PAGANO: But the reason behind that was that our book was originally going to be called “The Brick Animation Handbook”, right?

PICKETT: Yeah, that was the working title. We spent a lot of time thinking through titles both for the blog and the book, and just thinking about brick animation in general.

PAGANO: I tell this story often: I specifically remember the moment when we came up with the name for this blog. You were sitting at the table at my old studio, and I was laying on the carpet next to the television, and we were both just like… saying words back and forth to each other, trying to come up with ideas.

PICKETT: I know once we said “set bump”, both of us were like “oh!” Because we were literally brainstorming for 24 hours non-stop.

PAGANO: And this was after we already held a contest to name our blog, which didn’t give us a name we liked, but did give us a kind of jumping-off point. I’m scrolling through our naming document now… “Bricks, Flicks and Motion Pics” was one of the winners, which we ended up using as a tagline of sorts. Also, shout-out to “The Commanders of Blokammander”, which is just a wonderful phrase.

PICKETT: I really still want fanart of the two of us, in some sort of ‘80s sci-fi movie poster called “The Commanders of Blokammander”.

PAGANO: Love it. Get Kevin Hinkle on the phone.

I’m reading through the other ideas… It’s a long document, but you can see that it ends when “set bump” came up like three times with different modifiers. “The Unfortunate Set Bump”, “The Unwanted Set Bump”, “The Inevitable Set Bump”.

That’s when we were like, “what if it was just ‘The Set Bump’?”


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It’s Bumpin’ Time! http://setbump.com/2017/08/its-bumpin-time/ http://setbump.com/2017/08/its-bumpin-time/#respond Wed, 23 Aug 2017 17:31:53 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2806 MootroidXProductions perfectly captures the frustration of a set bump (hey, that’s the name of the blog!) in this short animation.

Unlike most animations featured on this blog, “The Animator’s Anguish: A true story of animation’s trials” does not prominently feature LEGO pieces, the main characters are a Mega Bloks / Mega Construx figure, an SH Figuarts action figure, and some sweet cosplay. Mostly I blogged this so that the follow sentence would be true:

The Set Bump, a blog about animation, blogged an animation about an animator experiencing a set bump while animating an animator experiencing a set bump while animating.

My life is now complete.

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Live-action stunt choreography for the LEGO Ninjago Movie http://setbump.com/2017/08/live-action-stunt-choreography-for-the-lego-ninjago-movie/ http://setbump.com/2017/08/live-action-stunt-choreography-for-the-lego-ninjago-movie/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 16:20:21 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2796 A new clip from Warner Bros shows off how live-action stunts performed by the Jackie Chan Stunt Team were the basis for animation in The LEGO Ninjago Movie.

The video goes by pretty quickly, so I took a few screenshots so you can appreciate some of the side by side comparisons between the live-action reference footage and the final animation.

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Melting Point: Revisited http://setbump.com/2017/08/melting-point-revisited/ http://setbump.com/2017/08/melting-point-revisited/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 17:09:49 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2791 After years of silence, Jonathan Vaughan has released an update about the status of his infamously unfinished brickfilm, “Melting Point“.

As a frequent Kickstarter, I am no stranger to uncompleted projects, so I long ago wrote off my Melting Point pledge as payment for my enjoyment of all the brickfilms Jonathan produced for free. But judging by the comments on the video, there are still many who are upset about the status of this project. It’s truly unfortunate that it gained so much notoriety because it was featured in “A Lego Brickumentary”. I can certainly relate to putting a brickfilm on hold in order to write a book. But even after watching this update, the question remains “Will Melting Point ever be finished?”

What do you think?

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The lightly spoilerish “LEGO Ninjago Movie” SDCC trailer http://setbump.com/2017/07/ninjago-sdcc-trailer/ http://setbump.com/2017/07/ninjago-sdcc-trailer/#respond Tue, 25 Jul 2017 13:00:50 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2785 Meow that’s interesting…

San Diego Comic Con was this past weekend, and it gave us a look at the second trailer for “The LEGO Ninjago Movie”. Putting aside the constant LEGO Movie “parental issues” plotlines, there are some solid gags in this preview—as well as a tease at how this film will integrate the live-action world, which is something that was almost completely lacking from “The LEGO Batman Movie“. I am intrigued.

The LEGO NINJAGO Movie – Trailer 2 – YouTube

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Slice of Life http://setbump.com/2017/07/slice-of-life/ http://setbump.com/2017/07/slice-of-life/#comments Mon, 24 Jul 2017 18:31:56 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2777 Toast and Eggs” by BrickBrosProductions is a decent PES homage with nice brick-built effects.

I feel obliged to blog it because there are still so few examples of human-scale brickfilms. However, watching this film mostly just made me want to rewatch “Western Spaghetti” and “Paint“.

The most impressive parts (brick-built cracking an egg and pouring milk) go by so quickly they are hard to fully appreciate (thank goodness for the 0.25 speed setting on YouTube).

I’m curious what others think about this film. Did it feel fresh to you, or a little stale? (Bread puns intended)

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Classic Golf moments, recreated with LEGO animation http://setbump.com/2017/07/classic-golf-moments-recreated-with-lego-animation/ http://setbump.com/2017/07/classic-golf-moments-recreated-with-lego-animation/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 23:31:18 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2768 Because why not.

The Golf Channel website has a couple of brick re-creations of moments from golf history; apparently created in anticipation of/to promote the 146th Open which starts this week.

These don’t seem to be anything close to a cross-promotional tie in with The (all lower-case) lego Group, but they are officially branded with the rainbow peacock logo. (I’m picturing an NBC page animating these in a spare office.)

Anyway, here’s minifigure Jack Nicklaus beating Doug Sanders at The Open in 1970.

And here’s Henrik Stenson’s win at Royal Troon—with one of the most unusual attempts at minifig lip-sync I’ve ever seen.

As (nearly) always, the viral intent of these spots means that we get no credits and no attribution for the animators. The style here is perhaps a bit too simple to be able to recognize the animators by sight, but maybe some of you internet sleuths can figure out who was behind these.

EDIT 07/21/17: Thanks to my co-editor and some smooth simians, we now know that these spots were made by Jared Jacobs, aka Gold Yeller! Check out some more spots (as well as some behind-the-scenes) here.

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A Couch for all Dimensions http://setbump.com/2017/07/a-couch-for-all-dimensions/ http://setbump.com/2017/07/a-couch-for-all-dimensions/#comments Sat, 08 Jul 2017 16:00:53 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2756 With a few notable exceptions, I find the brickfilm genre “two people hanging out in their living room” pretty boring. “Parallel Panic” by SillyPenta is one of those exceptions.

It’s no wonder this delightful comedy won Best Film and Best Screenplay in the 2016 Brickfilmer’s Guild Film Festival. I really like how the living room set gets reimagined for each of the different dimensions they visit.

What’s your favorite example of the “two people hanging out in their living room” genre? Let us know in the comments.

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Brickfilm Contest: Spirit of Adventure http://setbump.com/2017/07/brickfilm-contest-spirit-of-adventure/ http://setbump.com/2017/07/brickfilm-contest-spirit-of-adventure/#respond Thu, 06 Jul 2017 16:00:37 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2751 Bricks In Motion’s annual summer contest has long been a source of inspiration for brickfilmers. This year looks to be no exception with a great theme: Adventure.

For the Spirit of Adventure Contest, we are looking for brickfilms that convey a sense of adventure.

This theme is intentionally broad and is open to any interpretation. An adventure could take place in any setting and any time period. It could be any film genre, and could even be based on historical events. It does not need to be a dialogue-based film. As long as something adventurous happens, the rest is up to your imagination

The deadline to enter is Sept 10, 2017. Head on over to the official contest announcement for more details.

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LEGO Arcade Robot Breakdance Battle http://setbump.com/2017/07/lego-arcade-robot-breakdance-battle/ http://setbump.com/2017/07/lego-arcade-robot-breakdance-battle/#respond Wed, 05 Jul 2017 20:21:03 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2746 This excellent brickfilm is a year old, but I was reminded of it after blogging “Sheep” the other day.

LEGO Arcade Robot Breakdance Battle” is the stunning debut brickfilm by BreakBricks (though not their first stop-motion animation). The animation, lighting, cinematography, and music are all outstanding. The use of replacement animation for the 1×1 eye tiles make the characters really come to life with emotion. Some of those tiles were custom made for this animation, but I don’t think anyone can hold that against this charming film.

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The Eyes Have It http://setbump.com/2017/07/the-eyes-have-it/ http://setbump.com/2017/07/the-eyes-have-it/#respond Mon, 03 Jul 2017 20:46:45 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2729 Brickfilmer extraordinaire Maxime Marion has graced us with another outstanding addition to the brickfilm canon.

Sheep” is a wonderful example of the possibilities for unique brickfilm characters when you look beyond minifigures. Using just a few different 1×1 round eye tiles, Maxime portrays a wide variety of expressions.

Maxime also goes the extra mile and makes all the sheep blink which not only adds life to the characters but helps hide some of the eye movements and replacements.

In addition to the fantastic character animation, the film has a nice story, excellent lighting and solid sound design.

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“The LEGO Batman Movie” (2017) [SPOILERS] http://setbump.com/2017/06/lego-batman-movie-2017/ http://setbump.com/2017/06/lego-batman-movie-2017/#respond Mon, 26 Jun 2017 21:02:24 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2617 Are you ready to follow Batman? And maybe learn a few life lessons along the way?

I was all set to write a review of “The LEGO Batman Movie” way back in February, before the film even came out. The first of 2017’s two sequels to “The LEGO Movie” focused on not only a beloved character from the first film, but on one of the most popular fictional characters of all time. Batman is a pop culture institution. So is LEGO. Combining them is a sure thing.

And for the most part, that’s accurate. The film did well; it’s got a 90% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The product line was robust and full of beautifully designed sets and characters. There was even a lovely Making-of book for the film (though it’s really more a collection of concept art book than it is a comprehensive look behind-the-scenes).

So why did I find it so hard to write anything about this film? Why didn’t I have the same vigor I had while writing my in-depth review of the first film?

I think it’s because a “LEGO Movie” is no longer the gamble it once was. This sequel was another fun, well-made film in the LEGO Movie universe, with a great cast and some wonderful designs. But unlike the original, the marketing for this film definitely had the vibe of “yeah, come on… we know you’re all gonna come see this.”

On top of that, the “Batman” of it all is nothing new, either. All of the familiar motifs are here:

  • A gang of Gotham’s worst criminals (led by The Joker, natch) is loose in the city, wreaking havoc and conspiring against our heroes,
  • The Gotham City government and police force struggle with this excessive amount of crime. And, of course,
  • Millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne dresses like a bat man to clean up the town and work through the pain of losing his parents at a young age.

On paper, this might sound like a recipe for a dull film. But as with the first LEGO Movie, what makes it all work is a wonderful dose of humor, self-awareness, and an obvious love for the property. LEGO Batman is definitely a fun watch, and if you liked the original, you’ll probably like this one, too.

But unfortunately, this all means that I don’t much else to say about The LEGO Batman Movie itself. Dave Pickett and I talked at length about it on my YouTube channel back in February (see above), if you’re interested in some further random discussion.

However, I will say this: I am curious to see what comes next, given the fact that we’ll have “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” to watch and think through a few months from now. As far as IPs go, Ninjago is certainly no Batman

You can catch The LEGO Batman Movie on DVD, Blu-ray, iTunes, and elsewhere.

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Brickworld 2017 Film Festival – Winners! http://setbump.com/2017/06/bw-2017-film-festival-winners/ http://setbump.com/2017/06/bw-2017-film-festival-winners/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 21:55:46 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2711 We are proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Brickworld Chicago Film Festival!
As previously mentioned, this is the first year that we opened it up to entrants from across the globe, and it showed—we received 34 eligible entries; a record number for our festival!

The winners were voted on by an audience of ~100 Brickworld registered attendees. Without further ado, here are the winning entries:

Best Film (by a Brickworld Chicago attendee): “Sale of a Lifetime” by Casey McCoy

Best Film (International): “The Adventures of Kentucky Jackson” by Kris Theorin

“Full Time Job” by Tyler Eyerly placed 2nd and “A Horse’s Tale” by Gregory & Garry Moore came in 3rd in the international voting.

All the eligible festival entries were screened in a continuous loop for the 8000+ attendees of the Brickworld Chicago exposition on Saturday June 17 and Sunday June 18. We also presented a special screening of “Bricks in Motion” (the North American premiere!) to registered attendees.

Congratulations to our winners, and a big thank you to everyone who submitted a film! You can check out all of the submitted films via the following playlist. Enjoy!

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Dissecting the animation style of The LEGO Movie http://setbump.com/2017/06/dissecting-the-animation-style-of-the-lego-movie/ http://setbump.com/2017/06/dissecting-the-animation-style-of-the-lego-movie/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 15:44:26 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2697 In case you haven’t seen it yet, watch this great video by Vox that examines The LEGO Movie.

Vox and Grant Freckelton from Animal Logic do a great job explaining the difference between the stop-motionesque style of The LEGO Movie and the “noodle limb” approach of the other LEGO CG movies. There are lots of great freeze frames from the movie that illustrate various points.

They also explore the influence of brickfilms (and The Magic Portal specifically) on The LEGO Movie. If you’re well versed in brickfilm history this is probably old news to you, but it’s all presented in a beautiful and easy-to-consume package.

Watch this video and share it with all your friends to make sure the world knows about influence of fans on The LEGO Movie and why respecting the limitations of the LEGO medium can result in better brickfilms!

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Submit to the 2017 Brickworld Film Festival http://setbump.com/2017/04/submit-to-the-2017-brickworld-film-festival/ http://setbump.com/2017/04/submit-to-the-2017-brickworld-film-festival/#respond Thu, 06 Apr 2017 17:16:57 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2660 We’re very excited to announce the sixth annual Brickworld Film Festival! The event theme for Brickworld Chicago 2017 is “Lights, Camera, Bricks!”, so we’re opening up the film festival to filmmakers from all over the world for the first time ever.

Brickworld Film Fest logo

We want this to be the best brickfilm festival ever, so we have very few eligibility requirements (see the official rules below). Your film doesn’t have to be recently made or contain any specific theme. We want your best work of all time. All eligible films will screen continuously in the Brickfilm Theater for the duration of Brickworld Chicago. The attendees of Brickworld Chicago will vote on the films to decide the winners. We’ve also pulled together a pretty awesome prize pack for the winner.

And while attending Brickworld Chicago isn’t required to enter the contest, we highly recommend it. In addition to the film festival, we will be running a LEGO animation workshop, screening a special film, showcasing models from our latest animations and just generally hanging out and talking about LEGO. You can register for Brickworld Chicago on their website.

Official Rules

  • Anyone can enter a film in the festival, but you must be a Full Registrant of Brickworld Chicago to be eligible for the “Best Film” Trophy.
  • Your film must be longer than 30 seconds and shorter than 5 minutes in length.
  • Your film must be uploaded to YouTube.
  • Your film should use LEGO elements to tell a story. It can be animated or live action, or a combination of the two.
  • Your film must not have been submitted to any previous Brickworld Film Festival.
  • By entering your film for consideration, you attest that you hold all rights to exhibit the given work. This includes (but is not limited to) visuals, music, and characters. Unlicensed use of copyrighted material is not allowed.
  • Limit one (1) entry per director.
  • Films should be enjoyable by all ages. Film content such as (but not limited to) curse words/swearing, excessive violence, sexual content, and drug use will be grounds for disqualification.
  • To submit, e-mail bwfilmfest@setbump.com by June 5, 2017 with the following information:
    • A link to your film on YouTube
    • A completed entry form
  • There will be two winners of the festival
    • Best of Brickworld Chicago – a Brickworld “Best Film” trophy will be awarded to the film submitted by a Brickworld Chicago Full Registrant that receives the most votes from the audience at Brickworld Chicago.
    • Best of Brickworld International – a Prize Pack (approximate retail value $250 USD) will be awarded to the film that receives the most votes from the audience at Brickworld Chicago.
  • By submitting your film, the Brickworld Film Festival is granted the right to use and/or publish clips or the full videos, screenshots, director and crew names, and any other material related to an entry in the event program, the Brickworld Film Festival screening, the Brickworld website, re-screenings at future Brickworld events, and for any and all promotional purposes.

Prize Pack Details

  • 8077: Atlantis Exploration HQ
  • 60134: Fun in the Park – City People Pack
  • 21103: The DeLorean Time Machine
  • 71238: Cyberman
  • Misc. Collectable Minifigures (x6)
  • 40021: Spiders
  • 852948: Female Minifigure Magnets
  • 6868: Hulk’s Hellicarrier Breakout
  • 852690: Designer’s Toolset
  • Medieval and WWII BrickStix packs
  • Signed copy of Brickjournal Issue #14
  • Signed copy of The LEGO Animation Book

If you have any questions, please e-mail bwfilmfest@setbump.com. We look forward to seeing your films!

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Short and Spooky http://setbump.com/2017/03/short-and-spooky/ http://setbump.com/2017/03/short-and-spooky/#comments Fri, 31 Mar 2017 20:04:25 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2638 “Bump and the Knight” by 5-K Animations is less than 2 minutes long, but it establishes a spooky mood in the first two seconds.

The opening shot of a microscale castle on a lonely island during a lightning storm immediately sets the tone for what’s to follow. What really puts it over the top for me is the tilted angle of the camera. The sound, lighting, set design, and cinematography are all working in tandem to create an atmosphere of mystery and unease.

The film is full of gorgeous shot compositions. It’s rare to see a brickfilm with such intimate and thoughtful camera placement.

The repeated use of the tilted camera angle keeps viewers on edge right up to the final moments of the film.

I also like the open-ending nature of the film. It feels very much like a classic LEGO commercial where it tells just enough of a story to hook the viewer, but let’s them decide how to continue the story when they buy the toy.

Bump and the Knight” by 5-K Animations

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LEGO House to include Story Lab for brickfilming http://setbump.com/2017/02/lego-house-to-include-story-lab-for-brickfilming/ http://setbump.com/2017/02/lego-house-to-include-story-lab-for-brickfilming/#respond Sat, 11 Feb 2017 15:36:23 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2619 LEGO has launched the website for LEGO House, a new “experience center” set to open in Fall 2017. One attraction at LEGO House is Story Lab, where visitors can make brickfilms.

Story Lab is housed in the Green Zone of LEGO House. Based on this image, it seems to include at least 18 workstations where visitors can create stop-motion animations using a touchscreen interface. Each workstation has a green screen backdrop, so participants will presumably be able to choose from pre-set backgrounds for their films. Beyond that, it’s hard to know how much control participants will have. If nothing else, Story Lab should introduce a lot of new people to the art of brickfilming and hopefully get them excited to pursue it on their own.

Another area of LEGO House I’m interested to learn more about is the Masterpiece Gallery, which will have a curated selection of works by LEGO fans from around the world. Hopefully, the curators will put brickfilms on display in addition to LEGO sculptures. And if the curators need any ideas for films to include, hopefully the archive of this blog will be useful 😉

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The LEGO Ninjago Movie Trailer analysis http://setbump.com/2017/02/the-lego-ninjago-movie-trailer-analysis/ http://setbump.com/2017/02/the-lego-ninjago-movie-trailer-analysis/#respond Wed, 08 Feb 2017 18:45:56 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2596 Warner Bros. Pictures released the first full trailer for “The LEGO Ninjago Movie Trailer” today and I went through frame by frame to analyze some of the cool animation techniques.

When Lloyd flips across a roof, check out how they added stretch and squash using brick-built motion smears.

Sensei Wu uses white windshield pieces for a motion smear on his kick.

And his staff uses a variety of pieces for motion smears in this attack (the lipstick piece doesn’t actually exist in black, but every other piece used here does).

Even though this film is CGI, the fact that they treat it like a stop-motion LEGO movie means that brickfilmers can steal lots of ideas and techniques for their own movies.

Also, I can’t wait to buy this Legshark Mech

What did you notice in the trailer?

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The LEGO Ninjago Movie Teaser http://setbump.com/2017/02/the-lego-ninjago-movie-teaser/ http://setbump.com/2017/02/the-lego-ninjago-movie-teaser/#respond Tue, 07 Feb 2017 19:24:42 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2589 Warner Brothers released the first teaser for “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” today.

The full trailer releases tomorrow; just a couple days before the wide release of “The LEGO Batman Movie.”

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LEGO Batman Movie Maker set found http://setbump.com/2017/02/lego-batman-movie-maker-set-found/ http://setbump.com/2017/02/lego-batman-movie-maker-set-found/#respond Thu, 02 Feb 2017 15:33:24 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2576 Brickfinder has found a set that harkens back to the LEGO Studios sets from the early 2000s.

Retailing for 35 Singapore dollars (roughly $25 USD), the set includes 152 pieces, most of which seem to be used to build a smartphone camera mount. The camera mount looks like it can tilt using technic connections and do a dolly move by rotating at its attachment point (mixel ball joint) to the set. The set seems to include cardboard backdrops similar to the LEGO Studio sets.

This set hasn’t been officially announced by LEGO, so we don’t have many details, but it’s safe to assume that LEGO will be offering some kind of stop motion app in conjunction with this set. Which would explain why they recently removed their two stop motion apps.

It’s nice to see LEGO returning to this type of set after 15 years. We’ll have a full review of this set once it’s more widely available.

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LEGO Life App Launches in the US http://setbump.com/2017/02/lego-life-app-launches-in-the-us/ http://setbump.com/2017/02/lego-life-app-launches-in-the-us/#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2017 16:00:50 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2556 On January 31st, LEGO officially released the LEGO Life app in the United States. LEGO Life is an Instagram-like app targeted at children under 13 where users can post photos of creations, participate in building challenges, and browse through moderated user-generated LEGO content.

LEGO Life seems to be the replacement for the LEGO Club, the former hub of online LEGO activity featuring games, challenges, videos, and of course, the LEGO Club magazine. With the introduction of LEGO Life comes the introduction of the LEGO Life magazine.

Besides user-submitted content, the app also features officially curated content, most of which comes from LEGO.com. Along with stop-motion videos that were commissioned by the LEGO Group, some of the videos in the Ninjago category are entries to the LEGO ReBrick Greatest Villain of all Time in NINJAGO contest—a few of which did not even place in the runner-up category.

As a pleasant surprise, I noticed that the the app also features the brickfilm classic The Han Solo Affair alongside the more modern animated videos.

Other than that, there unfortunately does not seem to be much stop-motion content within the app. However, now that LEGO has undergone this massive overhaul in their online presence, let us hope that they will bring back the stop-motion aspects once again.

LEGO Life is available in some countries for iPhone and iPad, with an Android version reportedly coming soon.

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Bricks In Motion Documentary Coming to Vimeo On Demand http://setbump.com/2017/01/bricks-in-motion-documentary-coming-to-vimeo-on-demand/ http://setbump.com/2017/01/bricks-in-motion-documentary-coming-to-vimeo-on-demand/#respond Tue, 31 Jan 2017 19:18:20 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2544 The ‘Bricks in Motion’ documentary will be available for download and streaming on Vimeo ‘On Demand’ starting this Friday, February 3rd at 12:00 PM ET.

Philip Heinrich directed, edited, and produced the feature length documentary that “explores the lives of individuals involved in the hobby of creating stop-motion animated films with LEGO bricks and other building toys.” Fellow producers include Zach Macias, Doug Vandegrift Jr., and Nathan Wells. (Editor’s note: and our very own David Pagano!)

The documentary film was a crowd funded Kickstarter project backed by 270 funders. They raised $12,800 to help send the producers of the documentary around the world to interview brickfilmers. Most of those Kickstarter funders have had the opportunity to see the documentary, but the general public has not… until now. Pre-order is available for $8.99!

The interviews were filmed in 17 cities on both sides of the Atlantic.  Interview filming consisted of 18 days in North America and 18 days in Europe. The film also has original animated segments along with dozens of pre-existing brickfilms. Producers Philip, Zach, and Nathan animated for three weeks “tirelessly together on a tight schedule to complete.”

Seán Willis is credited as assistant editor. His task was cataloging and organizing the interview content for Philip to edit. The editing process was extensive and many revisions were made. Different cuts were “shown to various producers and audiences in order to gauge pacing and clarity.” After about 4 months of editing, the film was completed.

“Bricks In Motion” runs 1 hour 27 minutes and has both English and French subtitles available. The filmmakers have also set up a Thunderclap campaign to promote the film’s online release.

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“Paragraph” plays the horrors of bureaucracy for laughs http://setbump.com/2017/01/paragraph-plays-the-horrors-of-bureaucracy-for-laughs/ http://setbump.com/2017/01/paragraph-plays-the-horrors-of-bureaucracy-for-laughs/#respond Sat, 28 Jan 2017 19:02:55 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2535 There’s nothing quite as frustrating as getting trapped in the red tape of a bureaucracy. “Paragraph” by golego animation & nichtgedreht illustrates that beautifully.

“Paragraph” is a great example of non-verbal communication, the story is told solely through creative visuals and a great soundtrack. One of my favorite moments is when the main character comes to a hallway of colored doors all of which are labeled with a different color.

The cinematography adds to the feeling of an endless quest through a bureaucracy because it it all one continuos shot on a giant set. The final pull back to reveal all the people endlessly lost, is a fitting ending for a film about a confusing hopeless quest. It also recalls the amazing end title sequence of “The LEGO Movie.”

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“The LEGO Batman Movie” Trailer Roundup http://setbump.com/2017/01/lego-batman-trailer-roundup/ http://setbump.com/2017/01/lego-batman-trailer-roundup/#respond Tue, 17 Jan 2017 23:47:54 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2497 What new things can we expect to see from our favorite minifig millionaire playboy?

We’re a little less than one month out from the North American release of “The LEGO Batman Movie”, the first of this year’s two (!) sequels to 2014’s “The LEGO Movie”. In the time since our last post about it, there have been a number of trailers for the film, as well as a few TV spots with additional footage. Let’s review.

Teaser Trailer #1 – The Batcave

The first teaser sees Batman introducing us to his Batcave, general solitude, and the overall concept of the film. It also features an opening prologue, which suggests (albeit jokingly) that the film was written and directed by Batman himself. I would love it if that conceit carried over to the actual film.

Teaser Trailer #2 – Wayne Manor

The second teaser followed only a few days later, and gave some insight into LEGO Batman’s parentage (spoiler alert: Batman’s parents are dead) as well as how this film fits into the overall Bat-continuity. The Wayne Manor fireplace room is a gorgeous design, and the animation of Batman flopping around the floor like some sort of fish is very entertaining and well-posed. #ABR

Comic Con 2016 Trailer

The Comic Con trailer was the first to feature Michael Cera’s Dick Grayson/Robin, as well as more looks at the Batcave and Batman’s expansive costume collection.

Trailer #4

The succinctly-titled “Trailer #4” serves as an amalgam of the previous previews, while also showcasing more of the plot and characters—including Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon, and Zack Galifianakis as The Joker.

Extended TV Spot

Finally, the Extended TV Spot confirms something that I was curious about—this film will take place in “Gotham City” (or a reasonable brick-built facsimile) and not Bricksburg (home of Emmet from the original LEGO Movie). We also get more of the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery, including The Riddler, Catwoman, Penguin, Gentleman Ghost (real), Calendar Man (very real), and the Condiment King (really really real). Of course, my favorite villain (seen here in a quick glimpse) will most likely prove to be Killer Croc, if only for the retro LEGO crocodile head he sports in this film.

What are you most looking forward to in The LEGO Batman Movie? Did we miss any of the trailers? Let us know in the comments!

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LEGO ReBrick “Build and Rebuild” Stop-motion Contest http://setbump.com/2017/01/lego-rebrick-build-and-rebuild-stop-motion-contest/ http://setbump.com/2017/01/lego-rebrick-build-and-rebuild-stop-motion-contest/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2017 16:40:52 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2519 On January 9th, a mere four days after the closure of the LEGO Batman Movie Brickfilm contest, LEGO ReBrick announced a new stop-motion contest entitled Build and Rebuild.

As a LEGO Creator themed contest, the goal is for entrants to create a 15 to 45 second stop-motion animation showing the building and rebuilding of a LEGO Creator 3-in-1 set. Films cannot feature other LEGO parts that are not included in the specific LEGO Creator 3-in-1 set used by an entrant, nor can the video feature anything besides the LEGO set (such as hands or clay). The video’s background must also be clean and uncluttered, according to the ReBrick rules. I assume this is to ensure that the completed videos correspond with the LEGO Creator branding and are similar to the building videos already featured on the LEGO Creator website.

In contrast to the previous stop-motion contests on ReBrick, this contest does not allow Creative Commons music or sound effects. Unfortunately for those who aren’t musically talented (🙋), the rules state that all sounds and music must be original and created by the entrant or from a “LEGO movie editor/music creator.” If this is referencing the LEGO Movie Maker app, then many people are out of luck due to the recent closure of the app. (If there is some other LEGO movie editor/music creator app out there, please let us know in the comments!)

The contest is now open and runs until March 22, 2017 at 10:00 am EST. As with every ReBrick contest, it is only available for entrants ages 13 and older. I look forward to seeing many of your awesome entries there!

Do you think this contest looks fun? Are you planning on entering? What do you think about the rules? Tell us down in the comments below! Also be sure to check out The Set Bump on Facebook and Twitter!

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LEGO releases (poorly-timed) tips for brickfilming http://setbump.com/2017/01/lego-releases-poorly-timed-tips-for-brickfilming/ http://setbump.com/2017/01/lego-releases-poorly-timed-tips-for-brickfilming/#respond Thu, 05 Jan 2017 18:31:43 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2496 A few weeks ago, LEGO released a series of videos with helpful tips for brickfilming. Oddly, this coincided with LEGO discontinuing their brickfilming apps.

The four Brick Tricks videos are well made; they mix live-action and stop-motion footage to clearly convey the information. I’m sure that beginning brickfilmers will find these tips helpful. In a weird coincidence, both Brick Tricks and our book illustrate the concept of deleting unnecessary shots from a movie using the example of someone walking to/from the Palace Cinema set.


The video descriptions of the Brick Tricks videos encourage viewers to “create your own stop-motion videos by downloading the Creator App.” However, the link leads to the Creator Island app (which is just a game with no stop-motion features) as opposed to the LEGO Creator app. According to the Google Play page for LEGO Creator, the app was last updated on December 12, 2016 (3 days before these videos launched on YouTube). It seems like the update was just to add a message that it is being discontinued.

I don’t mourn the loss of the LEGO Creator app; it was around for less than a year. The bigger loss—which I uncovered while researching the LEGO Creator disappearance—is that LEGO appears to have discontinued the LEGO Movie Maker app as well, after providing it for free for 4 years. The LEGO Movie Maker app wasn’t perfect (its biggest limitation was that it was only available for iOS), but it was a really good app for beginning brickfilmers and I have been recommending it to people since it was first released.

My hope is that LEGO has removed these apps in preparation for launching a new cross-platform brickfilming app in conjunction with the LEGO Batman Movie next month—but that’s pure speculation.

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360 degrees of LEGO http://setbump.com/2016/12/360-degrees-of-lego/ http://setbump.com/2016/12/360-degrees-of-lego/#respond Tue, 20 Dec 2016 18:14:00 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2481 Last week, LEGO and PENTATONIX released a 360 video of the Christmas song “Up on The Housetop.” It’s a weird, immersive experience.

360 videos present a unique challenge for the viewer. Do you just watch the default view and trust that most of the action will be there (a safe bet with this particular video)?

Do you look around at random things that are potentially not very interesting (like the floor)?

Do you watch multiple times looking at various angles trying to find hidden stuff and inadvertently get the song stuck in your head for several days? I know I did.

Ultimately, this video relies more on the gimmick of “Hey look, it’s PENTATONIX in LEGO form!” than the gimmick of “Hey look, you can spin this video around in different directions to see interesting stuff.” For an example of a 360 video using LEGO that actually rewards the viewer for looking around, check out this Simpsons / Ghostbusters crossover.

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#ShareKindness on the Today Show http://setbump.com/2016/12/sharekindness-today-show/ http://setbump.com/2016/12/sharekindness-today-show/#respond Thu, 15 Dec 2016 20:09:40 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2471 Brotherhood Workshop created this animated version of the Today Show’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb for TLG’s “Shared Kindness” campaign involvement.

There’s some nice stuff going on here, from the dogs playing fetch to the idling crowd outside the Today Show studio. It’s always interesting when TV personalities and celebrities get “LEGO-fied”; something I expect we’ll see a lot more in the coming year with “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” on the horizon for 2017. (EDIT: or right now.)

I wasn’t quite sure what this campaign was all about, but it seems like it’s an NBC News promotional drive. Not quite a charity fundraiser, and not to be confused with this non-profit. I like the sentiment of it all, but it could be a bit clearer. Maybe it’s just because I don’t watch the Today Show.

(And of course, despite the YouTube description touting “the super creative folks behind LEGO’s legendary stop-motion animations”, there is no attribution to Kevin Ulrich or his team. For TLG, “Sharing Kindness” apparently does not include giving credit where credit is due.)

NBC TODAY Show: KLG, Hoda and LEGO Get Animated About Kindness | Hulu

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A Fixed System http://setbump.com/2016/12/a-fixed-system/ http://setbump.com/2016/12/a-fixed-system/#respond Fri, 09 Dec 2016 22:09:12 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2455 I am long overdue in blogging about “A Fixed System” by Aaron Fisher, one of the finest brickfilms in recent memory.

It’s been over a year since “A Fixed System” came out, but it still manages to surprise and delight me every time I watch it. The standout feature of this film is the incredibly expressive computer-generated facial animation. While lots of brickfilms made nowadays use digital facial animation, this is one of the few instances where it feels vital to the storytelling. The incredible fast-forward montage shot from 2:17 – 2:44 is this film’s defining moment. So much information is conveyed here solely through the facial animation. It’s a defining moment not just for this film, but for brickfilming as a whole.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-3-59-55-pm

The stop-motion animation is also very expressive and delightful. I love the opening moments where the main character’s disembodied arm bangs on a side table and carefully catches a falling picture frame. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice how Aaron used backwards legs to have the main character walk down a staircase. This inventiveness continues throughout the film.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-3-58-39-pm

The film also boasts a great original score and a compelling story. It’s no wonder it took home four awards in the 2015 Brickfilmer’s Guild Film Festival. The only problem is that this amazing video currently has less than 14,000 views! Share this brickfilm with all your friends. The world needs to see it!

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Concord of Sound http://setbump.com/2016/12/sinfonia-vi/ http://setbump.com/2016/12/sinfonia-vi/#respond Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:25:01 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2290 It is always a pleasure to see my students pursuing stop-motion to such wonderful effect.

This whimsical piece came to my attention through a message from Thomas Panio, a student in a brickfilming class I taught way back in 2011. He and one of his classmates, Malibu Taetz, crafted this lovely “Fantasia”-like film (which was one of the finalists in Cine Brick 2015).

There’s a lot to like in this four-part short; from the well-timed brick-and-plate abstractions in the opening to the lush greenery of the later narrative segments. I also noticed some clever workaround techniques—using a cape to hide disconnect minifigure limbs is a pretty effective solution.

“I just wanted to let you know that I still make brickfilms and your class definitely helped me make better films,” Thomas says. I am very proud.

Sinfonia VI: A LEGO Animation – YouTube

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Happy International Animation Day! http://setbump.com/2016/10/happy-animation-day-2016/ http://setbump.com/2016/10/happy-animation-day-2016/#respond Fri, 28 Oct 2016 22:46:21 +0000 http://setbump.com/?p=2436 The perfect time for us to jump back into the brickfilm blogosphere…

Today is the 15th annual International Animation Day (as begun by ASIFA back in 2002). And what better way to commemorate the occasion than to highlight this super sweet brick-built Zoetrope by Alan Mann?

Zoetrope

For such a simple form of animation, it’s a deceptively intricate build. Of course, I especially love the brick-built run cycle of the character within. Well done!

You can check out more photos at Alan’s Flickr page.

(PS: Now that our book is on the shelves, we’ll be slowly (but surely) picking up where we left off here at The Set Bump. Thanks for waiting!)

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The Animators’ Collective Rogue One Trailer Re-creation http://setbump.com/2016/05/rogue-one-trailer-re-creation/ http://setbump.com/2016/05/rogue-one-trailer-re-creation/#respond Mon, 09 May 2016 00:16:56 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2407
A few of the world’s top brickfilmers recently pooled their efforts into an amazing, professional-quality brickfilm version of the Rogue One trailer.

The production was under the direction of Christopher Gearhart (Bricks Brought to Life) and included 8 other world-class brickfilmers. Kevin Ulrich (Brotherhood Workshop) and Spencer Katz (mobdeli) were the lead animators. The other animators included Sean Willets (theofficialfilmyguy), Zach Macias (Mindgame Studios), James Morr (Spastic Chuwawa), Tommy Williamson (BrickNerd)Forrest Whaley (forrestfire101). Kris Theorin (bionicle28) also designed some CGI scenes.

Go to the “Animators’ Collective” for more information about the dream brickfilming team…..then watch the VFX Breakdown:


And don’t forget to watch the side by side comparison:


The trailer recreation was so awesome that even Popular Mechanics wrote a blog post about the video. Gareth Edwards (the actual director of Rogue One) also wrote to the animators, commending them on their LEGO Rogue One trailer.

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Teasing The LEGO Batman Movie http://setbump.com/2016/03/teasing-the-lego-batman-movie/ http://setbump.com/2016/03/teasing-the-lego-batman-movie/#respond Wed, 23 Mar 2016 18:57:31 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2392 We haven’t spent much time in the world of “The LEGO Movie” lately—but with the next film in the series less than a year away, we finally get to talk more about it.

Warner Bros. has released some promotional images for its forthcoming, aptly-titled film: “The LEGO Batman Movie.” (Not to be confused with “LEGO Batman: The Movie”, a home video release from 2012.) The caped crusader, once again played by Will Arnett, will be swooping into theaters on February 10, 2017.

LEGOBatmanMovie-Batwing

Batman in a new version of the Batwing, flying over… Gotham? Bricksburg?

LEGOBatmanMovie-batcave

A Batcave detail, with costume variations like the “Raging Bat” boxing outfit, and “Excalibat”, which seems to be a Castle-themed suit of armor. (I also see “Bat By Gaslight”, “Glam Bat”, “Current Bat”, and “New 52” signs at the bottom.)

LEGOBatmanMovie-explosion

It appears that the brick-built explosion motif will carry over from the first film, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

LEGOBatmanMovie-kitchen

Batman in his cowl and dinner jacket, microwaving a lobster. Nothing weird about that.

LEGOBatmanMovie-stage

The man himself.

According to ComingSoon.net, a trailer for the film is supposed to drop today. No word on that so far, but we’ll update you as soon it hits the web.

How will this film tie into the established LEGO Movie continuity? We’ll just have to wait (though not quite as long as last time) and see.

Sneak peek: ‘Lego Batman’ shows his brick-made lair | USA Today

Here’s the first look at Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Lego Batman movie | Polygon

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We wrote a book! http://setbump.com/2016/02/announcing-the-lego-animation-book/ http://setbump.com/2016/02/announcing-the-lego-animation-book/#comments Fri, 19 Feb 2016 16:00:58 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2348 We’re proud to finally announce The LEGO Animation Book, available for pre-order now and releasing in September 2016.

To say this book has been a long time in the making would be an understatement. Way back in 2008, David Pagano taught an “Introduction to LEGO Animation” workshop at Brickworld Chicago. After it was over, David Pickett walked up and nervously introduced himself as “that guy that made that weird brickfilm that one time.” Ever since, we’ve been building a friendship and creative partnership using films and LEGO bricks (and awkwardly referencing ourselves in the third-person).

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One of the first things we bonded over was how frequently we were asked intensely specific questions about animating, such as:

  • “What is the exact model of camera that you use?”
  • “How many frames per second do you shoot?”
  • “How did you make your character do that cool thing at 2:17 in your last movie?”

We love seeing so many people eager to learn more about the subject we’re most passionate about, but there’s only so much you can explain in a short conversation or a YouTube comment. So in 2011, we started talking seriously about writing a book that could answer these questions in detail. Over the last five years, this book has grown from a dream in our heads to a real physical thing you will be able to hold in your hands. (It will also be available as an e-book—slightly less tangible, but still easier to access than the insides of our minds.)

In addition to answering the questions listed above, the book will also contain:

  • A step-by-step guide for making your first animation
  • Techniques for creating special effects like explosions and flying minifigures
  • Acting methods for your minifigs—learn how to convey action and emotion
  • The SECRET FORMULA for bringing inanimate objects to life
  • Tips and tricks for designing sets—make three buildings look like an entire city!
  • Advice for dealing with practical problems like lighting, framing, and capturing consistent photos
  • Building ideas for LEGO-­based camera dollies and rigs
  • Instructions and inspiration on the filming process, from storyboarding to post-production
  • Recommendations for cameras, software, and other essential animation tools

We’re excited to be working with No Starch Press as our publisher; they have a long history of publishing great books about the LEGO hobby. You can pre-order The LEGO Animation Book through their website. Our hope is that this book will inspire and educate a whole new generation of LEGO filmmakers. We can’t wait to feature their films here on The Set Bump.

P.S. – If you noticed that our blogging decreased sharply in mid-2014, you now know why. We’ll be busy wrapping up the book over the next few months, but we’ll be back to blogging with gusto afterwards.

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A few bricks can make a big impression http://setbump.com/2016/01/a-few-bricks-can-make-a-big-impression/ http://setbump.com/2016/01/a-few-bricks-can-make-a-big-impression/#respond Wed, 20 Jan 2016 04:06:58 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2326 Greedy Bricks” by Mirko Horstmann (mirkoskop) is more than a decade old, but I find myself returning to it again and again.

Using just 10 pieces and less than 2 minutes, Mirko elegantly establishes characters and conflicts. The cinematography is simple and clean. There are no distractions here, nothing extraneous. It’s just great animation.

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15 Exquisite Frames http://setbump.com/2015/08/15-exquisite-frames/ http://setbump.com/2015/08/15-exquisite-frames/#respond Mon, 31 Aug 2015 03:10:35 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2295 I have praised Jon Rolph (CheesyBricks) before for his concision. His latest animation contains even fewer frames than that 17-second gem.

“Horse in Motion” is a mere 15 frames, but oh what a 15 frames they are! Jon Rolph has recreated in LEGO one of the most famous image sequences ever. To do so, he used an unusual technique; rather than connecting a bunch of pieces together, he simply arranged unconnected pieces on a flat surface.

I’ve seen this technique before in MOCs (such as this Spider-Man mosaic), but I can’t think of anytime I’ve seen this in a brickfilm. The closest parallels I can think of are Annette Jung’s “Thriller” and the Mr. DNA scene in “LEGO Jurassic Park” by Paul and Hailee Hollingsworth.

I recommend watching “Horse in Motion” in high-resolution on a large screen in slow motion. It’s a lot of fun to look at the unexpected LEGO element Jon sprinkled into the different frames (e.g. a chicken, a hand truck, and a pirate flag).

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Tale as old as time http://setbump.com/2015/08/ellas-tale/ http://setbump.com/2015/08/ellas-tale/#respond Thu, 13 Aug 2015 18:01:39 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2274

The student has become the teacher.

It’s no secret (or is it?) that I love teaching; there’s something fun and special about sharing what you’ve learned with other people. Over the past few years, Dave and I have done just that—leading numerous workshops on LEGO Animation (we even went so far as to compile a BrickJournal issue about it).

Whenever we discuss storytelling in our classes, I caution folks against things like making a film “about the person who couldn’t come up with an idea for their film,” on the basis that “it’s been done to death.” Now, without even knowing it, Harrison Allen has proved me wrong.

Ella’s Tale” is charming and well-made, and is wholly worth your time in spite of being based around one of the more overused film school tropes. It was an entry into the recent BRAWL 2015 contest over at BricksInMotion.com—meaning that it all came together in one week. Plus, it’s got a hidden ninja.

Just goes to show: any idea can become a memorable film in the hands of the right creator. I hope you learned your lesson, past-David.

Ella’s Tale – YouTube

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We built this city http://setbump.com/2015/08/we-built-this-city/ http://setbump.com/2015/08/we-built-this-city/#respond Tue, 04 Aug 2015 23:10:16 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2281

Ok, “we” didn’t build it, but it was built by someone.

We’ve got some catching up to do here, so let’s start by drawing your eye to this “LEGO City” promo made for LEGO China a few months back. Directed by Rogier Wieland, “LEGO_Adventure in the City” is a fantastic mix of traditional miniatures, really impressive brick-built replacement animation (check out that dino!), and goofy minifig business. The live-action bits are a treat as well; all of the disparate media meshes well together into a fun story that perfectly captures a post-“The LEGO Movie” brickfilm world.

There’s even a sweet behind-the-scenes video here! Good stuff.

LEGO_ADVENTURE IN THE CITY on Vimeo

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Knock knock http://setbump.com/2015/08/knock-knock/ http://setbump.com/2015/08/knock-knock/#respond Sat, 01 Aug 2015 18:05:55 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2269 latest

We’re still alive. Things are happening. More posts coming soonish.

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BrickFlix Lite at BrickMagic 2015 http://setbump.com/2015/04/brickflix-lite-at-brickmagic-2015/ http://setbump.com/2015/04/brickflix-lite-at-brickmagic-2015/#respond Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:38:31 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2260 Got any films you’d like to screen before an audience? BrickFlix is back for 2015—albeit in a compressed form.

BrickFlix Lite logo

This year’s “BrickFlix Lite” screening will be part of BrickMagic 2015, in Concord, North Carolina. The bad news? The screening won’t be in a movie theater, as it has been in past years. The good news? The restrictions on films with licensed characters are relaxed, so you can finally submit those epic fan films you’ve been sitting on. (I’m looking at you, Dylan Woodley).

Deadline for submissions is May 1st. Send in your best! FAQ here; submit here!

BrickFlix Lite at BrickMagic 2015!

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Spared no expense http://setbump.com/2015/04/spared-no-expense/ http://setbump.com/2015/04/spared-no-expense/#respond Tue, 21 Apr 2015 00:43:02 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2254

It may be a bit too quiet here lately, but nothing stops the brickfilming community from pressing onward with impressively cool stuff. (We’re working on some cool stuff of our own, I promise.)

This Jurassic Park tribute was helmed by the father-daughter team of Paul and Hailee Hollingsworth, aka Digital Wizards. They (along with folks like Sean WilletsForrest Whaley, and Garrett Barati) spent several months on the piece, re-creating some of the most memorable scenes from the classic 1993 film. My favorite bit is the stop-motion inclusion of Mr. DNA. Gotta love brick-built animation.

It’s always a point of pride for the community as a whole when brickfilms get high-profile attention, and this one certainly made the rounds—being featured on NPR, Mashable, USA Today, and elsewhere.

What else can be said? Check it out, and be sure to watch the behind-the-scenes video as well.

LEGO JURASSIC PARK – YouTube

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Paint http://setbump.com/2015/02/paint/ http://setbump.com/2015/02/paint/#respond Tue, 03 Feb 2015 16:36:13 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2242 Why don’t more people make brickfilms like this?


The other day I was thinking to myself, “it’s been far too long since I’ve seen a brickfilm that was vital.” Then a friend shared “Paint” by CheesyBricks with me and all was right with the world.

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Bricks in Motion Documentary Teaser Trailer http://setbump.com/2015/01/bricks-in-motion-documentary-teaser-trailer/ http://setbump.com/2015/01/bricks-in-motion-documentary-teaser-trailer/#respond Sat, 03 Jan 2015 15:53:40 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2238 I can’t wait to see the finished film.

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The definitive LEGO Star Wars trailer http://setbump.com/2015/01/the-definitive-lego-star-wars-trailer/ http://setbump.com/2015/01/the-definitive-lego-star-wars-trailer/#respond Fri, 02 Jan 2015 00:52:57 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2230 Quite a few people have tried their hand at re-creating the teaser trailer for “The Force Awakens” using LEGO bricks. But one of these re-creations stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Zach Macias (MindGame Studios) and Philip Heinrich (SmeagolStudios) joined forces to create the most impressive LEGO version of the Star Wars teaser trailer.

A couple things that set this one apart from the others is the amount of effort put into LEGO-fying the trailer (note the brick-built smoke trails behind the landspeeder & X-Wings) and the careful mimicking of the camera movements (in particular in the shot in the woods with the cloaked figure). Also noteworthy is their use of digital effects to match the facial expressions. To better appreciate their work, watch this side-by-side comparison with the original.

That doesn’t mean the dozen other LEGO versions of the Star Wars trailer are without merit. One of the great pleasures in watching them is seeing the various way different builders adapted the trailer into LEGO. I particularly like seeing the various solutions that people came up with for the astromech droid with a spherical body.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 3.15.52 PMPlacid Sulfuric took the time to put 12 of these LEGO trailers side by side, which is a great way to quickly compare the techniques.

All that being said, Snooperking definitely deserves his nearly 4 million views for not only being one of the first people to do this, but also for having the most charming version. I love that he used actual LEGO pieces for the 3-way lightsaber rather than digital effects. Let this be a lesson to brickfilmers who chase pop culture trends that timeliness is paramount and that brick-built solutions can have mass appeal.

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Battle of the Brick Flicks http://setbump.com/2014/12/battle-of-the-brick-flicks/ http://setbump.com/2014/12/battle-of-the-brick-flicks/#respond Tue, 02 Dec 2014 05:05:08 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2222 It’s like March Madness, but for brickfilms… and not in March.

Have you been following Battle of the Brick Flicks by digitalwizardz? Every week he pits two well-known brickfilmers against each other and lets the audience vote which one should move on to the next round. My favorite part of this contest is the interviews he does with the brickfilmers. Always fun to get some behind-the-scenes info.

The talking dog is fun too.

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Dylan Woodley Used Scales http://setbump.com/2014/10/dylan-woodley-used-scales/ http://setbump.com/2014/10/dylan-woodley-used-scales/#respond Mon, 20 Oct 2014 03:35:29 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2191 It’s super effective!

Dylan Woodley shows us all how it’s done with Pokeballin 2. This brickfilm masterfully uses multiple scales of characters to convey a wide range of emotions and action. I count at least 5 distinct versions of the nerdy Pokemon trainer ranging from a tiny 8-bit-esque version (used to establish the geography of the scene) to a “Little Guys”-esque talking head (used to convey emotion and character).

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What’s really impressive about all the different scales is how seamlessly they flow together. It took me multiple watch-throughs to catch them all (pun totally unintended, I swear). One particularly impressive one is when Magby uses the flame attack, there are two different scales of Magby that switch place so fast it’s easy to miss.

image

There’s a lot to love about this animation beyond the scales ( the character expressions, the humor, the brick-built special effects…), but I wanted to highlight the use of scales because I can’t think of any other brickfilm that has used so many scales or blended them so effectively. I urge you to watch through this film at least 5 times paying close attention to when different scales are used and what effect they have.

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Bricks in Motion Documentary on Kickstarter http://setbump.com/2014/09/bricks-in-motion-documentary-on-kickstarter/ http://setbump.com/2014/09/bricks-in-motion-documentary-on-kickstarter/#respond Sun, 07 Sep 2014 18:06:06 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2183 Some of the biggest names in brickfilming are joining forces to make a documentary about LEGO filmmaking. Go support them on Kickstarter.

Oh, did you need more information than that?

bim

Some of the rewards on this campaign are phenomenal values:

$25 gets you a HD digital copy of the finished documentary and the Bricks in Motion Collection, which features 2 hours of brickfilms by famous LEGO animators (including several of the writers of this blog).

$100 gets you a cameo in the film as a minifigure (+ the documentary and the BiM Collection).

For $250 Philip Heinrich will compose a song about you (or or a friend or family member), set to a custom-made 30 second animated short film by producer and animator Nathan Wells. This is such an outrageous value that I feel like I’m stealing from them by backing at this level (sorry guys!).

In summary, go check out their Kickstarter page and consider donating.

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Interviews With Kevin Ulrich of Brotherhood Workshop http://setbump.com/2014/07/interviews-with-kevin-ulrich-of-brotherhood-workshop/ http://setbump.com/2014/07/interviews-with-kevin-ulrich-of-brotherhood-workshop/#respond Thu, 31 Jul 2014 03:37:29 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2170

As a brickfilmer, I get asked lots of questions about how I make my brickfilms. There are also people who ask for advice on how they should start. So, I was very happy to see that Kevin Ulrich of Brotherhood Workshop answered those questions (and more) in these two videos.

Kevin has been making brickfilms for 10 years now, which explains why he is so good. It’s been only three years for me, so I still have time to improve. 🙂 I hope you learn some tricks, and find as much motivation in Kevin’s words as I did. (Pay close attention at the “good enough” part.)

How I Became A Stop Motion Animator | Interview With Kevin Ulrich

Getting Started In Stop Motion Animation

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LEGO and Shell: the Greenpeace Campaign http://setbump.com/2014/07/lego-and-shell-the-greenpeace-campaign/ http://setbump.com/2014/07/lego-and-shell-the-greenpeace-campaign/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 21:41:58 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2142

A “Save the Arctic” campaign video from Greenpeace has been making the rounds, calling on The LEGO Group to end its partnership with multinational oil and gas company Shell.

The video features a vast arctic landscape, where humans and wildlife are swallowed up by a gigantic amount of oil released by a brick-built Shell oil rig. The piece ends with a caption that reads “Shell is polluting our kids’ imaginations”, and the whole affair is underscored by a haunting cover of “Everything is Awesome”.

In some ways, this campaign is brilliant. Between The LEGO Movie, the “Beyond the Brick” documentary, and the usual promo releases from TLG, 2014 has squarely solidified LEGO video content into the zeitgeist. This production plays right into that — not only through the music, but with some well-designed builds, artfully composed shots, and sweeping camera work. (For the moment, let’s ignore the blatant inclusion of a Mega Bloks Brickforge Halo figure, and GoT-looking figs that may or may not be the ones from Citizen Brick.)

As clean as the cinematography is, though, the actual message of the video feels a bit more muddled. I understand what the goal is: Greenpeace wants to convince LEGO to end its partnership with Shell. That’s the “what”. But the “why” of it all seems less clear; at least as far as this video and the associated website are concerned.

When I first heard about this online movement a week ago, my initial reaction was “does TLG even still make Shell-branded sets?” Apparently, the answer is yes. Here’s a bit of history on TLG’s partnership with Shell:

However, none of this information is included in the Greenpeace “Save the Arctic” website. Nor is there much information about what Shell is doing, or documented evidence as to how the environment is being affected. And for what little content there actually is on the site, there’s basically no attribution or sources. (Although some digging did turn up this PDF that goes into a bit more detail.)

What we get instead as the main hub of this campaign is a weird, heavy-handed, confusing-to-navigate site that approaches “LEGO CL!CK” levels of poor web design. Selecting the “more information” button on the site continues the mixed messages: should readers be concerned about advertising’s influence on the children, saving the Arctic, preventing global warming, or Shell’s use of licensing partners to distract from its other corporate ventures? It feels like Greenpeace wants folks to simultaneously think about all and none of these things, and instead get so riled up in a ball of knee-jerk emotion that they sign the petition without a second thought. 

Personally, I’d rather do some research and make well-informed decisions. Is Shell involved in some unsavory business practices? Seems like it. Does a partnership with Shell fly in the face of TLG’s commitment to environmental responsibility? Maybe. Should a petitioning crusade eschew sourced information and individual judgment in favor of reactionary tactics to make its voice heard? Probably not.


As a footnote: My research here is by no means exhaustive. If you’ve got thoughts or facts to contribute, or articles to reference, feel free to post them in the comments below. This campaign has already seen coverage in the International Business Times, Forbes, CBC News, and elsewhere.

This isn’t the first time LEGO video content has been utilized in the service of activism, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

EDIT 7/11/14: Looks like the video was pulled from YouTube due to a copyright claim from Warner Bros.

EDIT 7/14/14: The video is back up on YouTube, and currently has 4.2 million views.

LEGO: Everything is NOT awesome. – YouTube

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You might say that it’s exo-lent http://setbump.com/2014/07/you-might-say-that-its-exo-lent/ http://setbump.com/2014/07/you-might-say-that-its-exo-lent/#respond Sat, 05 Jul 2014 03:23:14 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2132

Something is happening in outer space…

Peter Reid’s Exo Suit is the latest release from the website-formerly-known-as-Cuusoo, LEGO Ideas. To announce the impending arrival of this set, TLG put out the above CG animated video, “co-created” (whatever that means) by Chris Salt of Oblong Pictures. I think having promotional videos for upcoming LEGO Ideas sets is a great concept on TLG’s part, but as with so many of their releases, this one suffers from being about twice as long as it needed to be.

Oddly, I don’t think the running time would have stuck out to me as much if the video had been done with stop-motion. As much as I’d love to see the real Exo Suit kit get animated (and I’m sure we will), it is a fragile-looking design. TLG tends to use CG when there are clear advantages to having a weightless wire-frame model, and that makes sense here from a production standpoint.

Except… none of those advantages are really utilized, and there’s large swaths of time where we’re basically looking at a video of a still image. It’s neat that the characters adhere to real-world minifig limitations (the influence of The LEGO Movie continues to be felt), but there is just SO MUCH DEAD TIME in this piece that it makes me wonder why they bothered making an animated video at all. When Exo Suit pilot Yve punches the keypad at 2:00, and the door starts whirring open with all the quickness of an inebriated turtle, I literally yelled at my computer screen for it to hurry up.

Anyway, I can certainly appreciate the effort that goes into making an animated video of any kind; this one just didn’t do it for me. Despite the less than stellar (space pun) execution, I’m hoping that promo videos for LEGO Ideas sets become something we see more of in the future. At the very least, it did get me excited about the set itself.

LEGO® Ideas #007 — Exo Suit – YouTube

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Brickfilm Festival at Bricks by the Bay http://setbump.com/2014/06/brickfilm-festival-at-bricks-by-the-bay/ http://setbump.com/2014/06/brickfilm-festival-at-bricks-by-the-bay/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 16:47:33 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2110 If you’ve made a cool brickfilm in the past year, you should enter it into the “Bricks by the Bay” brickfilm festival.

Bricks by the Bay

Bricks by the Bay is the latest LEGO fan event to add a brickfilming component to their schedule. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m involved with this one, too (though only as a judge).

Here’s the lowdown on the festival:

Show off your LEGO animation skills at the Bricks by the Bay Brickfilm Festival. Create a film that exemplifies the convention theme, or send us your most recent stop-motion masterpiece, and it might be part of a screening for convention attendees.

Winners in the following categories will be announced during the Bricks by the Bay Convention awards ceremony, and will receive a brick-built trophy and a LEGO set:

  • Best Film
  • Best Film in the convention theme (2104: “Fun & Games”)
  • Best Story
  • Best Technical Achievement
  • Young Filmmaker Award (12 and under)
  • Special “Sweatbox” award to the best Film by a convention attendee

All of the rules and regulations for entering the festival can be found here. The submission window closes July 1st, but it’s open to everyone (including non-attendees) and any film made in the past year is eligible. There’s literally no reason not to submit. Do it!

Brickfilm Festival » Bricks by the Bay

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Bound to be Good http://setbump.com/2014/06/bound-to-be-good/ http://setbump.com/2014/06/bound-to-be-good/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 02:18:56 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2103 The first trailer for “Bound” by Monitogo Studios is out and it’s pretty impressive. 

It’s a little hard to keep up with all the proper nouns, but the visual effects and sheer scale of the sets are mighty impressive. The soundtrack also sounds a cut above most brickfilm soundtracks. Who else is excited for this?

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LEGO Animation (Brickfilm) Resources http://setbump.com/2014/06/lego-animation-brickfilm-resources/ http://setbump.com/2014/06/lego-animation-brickfilm-resources/#respond Fri, 13 Jun 2014 06:24:37 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2088 We’re having a great time at Brickworld Chicago 2014 right now! Yesterday we led our annual “Intro to LEGO Animation” workshop. We typically hand out a resource sheet to all the attendees with some of our favorite resources for learning more about making brick animations. We thought we’d put it up online so everyone could benefit from it.

When buying a camera, here are a few features to look for:

  • Manual controls, especially for focus and white balance
  • USB, Firewire and/or HDMI connection to computer
  • Tripod connection (screw threads on bottom)
  • Plug-in power source – avoid running on battery power if at all possible.

Some stop-motion software:

Windows:

Mac:

Mobile (iOS, available via iTunes):

Recommended books:

  • Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.” Disney Editions, 1995.
  • Richard Williams. “The Animator’s Survival Kit.” Faber & Faber, 2002.
  • Allan Bedford. “The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide.” No Starch Press, 2005.

Web resources:

What are some of your favorite resources for brickfilming? Tell us in the comments!

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Dragons are Funny http://setbump.com/2014/05/dragons-are-funny/ http://setbump.com/2014/05/dragons-are-funny/#respond Sat, 17 May 2014 00:59:31 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2082 I was looking back through my Favorites playlist and rediscovered this gem from 2011.

The picture quality is not great and the animation is pretty limited (though effective), but the humor and writing are fantastic. I could watch King Arthur and the Evil Dragon banter back and forth all day. They should have their own spin-off.

Sir Clumsy Bob by Kristóf Fekete-Kovács Kristóf Fekete-Kovács

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Let’s talk about the LEGO Simpsons Episode http://setbump.com/2014/05/lets-talk-about-the-lego-simpsons-episode/ http://setbump.com/2014/05/lets-talk-about-the-lego-simpsons-episode/#comments Tue, 06 May 2014 15:08:50 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2071 The latest episode of the Simpsons, “Brick Like Me,” featured our favorite building toy. Did it live up to your expectations?

If you haven’t done so already, you can watch the episode on Hulu or Fox.com now (or in a week if you don’t have an account that can unlock it). Once you’ve watched that come back here and tell us what you thought.

legosimpsons1

Overall, I would rate the episode a “Yellow 4×2 Flat” on the Love Tester in Moe’s Tavern. There were a few hilarious bits (the scene in the church made me laugh the most, and there were some great pause-or-you’ll-miss-them puns [here’s the best round-up of those]), some mediocre bits (“The Hunger Games” parody wasn’t very inspired) and plenty of smile-worthy material in between.

legosimpsons2

Visually, this episode would have been a lot more impressive if it hadn’t come out a few months after “The LEGO Movie“. The CGI is a cut above the style used for Ninjago and Chima (or “Clutch Powers“) and it really is a perfect blend of stop-motionesque CGI and the Simpson’s existing aesthetic, but it’s hard not to compare it to the much shinier movie (especially since the episode compares itself to the movie).

legosimpsons3

What did you think? Was this episode a sell-out or just great cross-promotion? Did it tickle your funny bone or leaving you feeling flat? Does it count as a “real” LEGO movie?

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Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary (2014) http://setbump.com/2014/05/beyond-the-brick-a-lego-brickumentary-2014/ http://setbump.com/2014/05/beyond-the-brick-a-lego-brickumentary-2014/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 20:06:36 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2054 Full disclosure: I appear in this documentary. But don’t let that dissuade you.

Beyond the Brick doc

2014 is shaping up to be a great year for LEGO fans, and for fans of LEGO motion pictures in particular. April 20th saw the world premiere of “Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary” at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Not to be confused with the podcast of the same name, or the previously released short-form LEGO documentaries, “Beyond the Brick” is a charming, playful look inside the worldwide LEGO fan community. Despite being moderately involved with the film (insofar as I was interviewed for it), I found the film’s content quite surprising; going in, I was expecting a more storied history of TLG as a whole. In fact, the film turned out to be more focused on AFOLs and other folks who take this children’s toy and do interesting, creative stuff with it.

Among those highlighted in the film are:

The film’s proceedings are led by a stop-motion minifig narrator, voiced by Jason Bateman. He serves to introduce each segment, as well as bridging some gaps between events, locations, and people. Having a narrator like this in the film was paramount — the LEGO fan community is widespread and varied, and “Beyond the Brick” makes the bold attempt to cover as many facets as possible within its 95 minute running time.

The animation for the film was done by Tommy Williamson (aka BrickNerd) and James Morr (aka Spastik Chuwawa), with some help from Kevin Ulrich (of Brotherhood Workshop). I also noticed a few other familiar names in the credits, including Marc-André Caron and Zach Macias. I assume that a number of the animated clips probably came from the ReBrick “Show us an AFOL” competition. Unfortunately, the less-than-stellar ReBrick archival approach makes it difficult to find any specific information about which entries won the contest and were included in the film. (If your entry was included in the film, please let us know in the comments below.)

In addition to being featured in “Beyond the Brick” (the documentary), I was also a guest this past week on “Beyond the Brick” (the podcast) to discuss “Beyond the Brick” (the documentary).

…Yeah. For those interested, I go a bit more into detail about my thoughts on the film, as well as a little bit of behind-the-scenes info:

Overall, if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend checking out “Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary”. The next stop for the film is the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), where the film will be playing on:

After that, we’re not sure where the film will go next, but as soon as we know, you will, too!

Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary

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Henri & Edmond need your help http://setbump.com/2014/04/henri-edmond-need-your-help/ http://setbump.com/2014/04/henri-edmond-need-your-help/#respond Thu, 01 May 2014 00:28:08 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2058 Henri & Edmond – Droits d’auteur” is one of the greatest brickfilms ever made. Now the creators are doing a fundraising campaign to make a sequel.

Yes the website is in French, which is confusing to those of us who speak English, but Google Translate can tell you what the different reward levels are. I just did it and it wasn’t hard to do. Go support a great brickfilmer!

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Addicted to Egg http://setbump.com/2014/04/addicted-to-egg/ http://setbump.com/2014/04/addicted-to-egg/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 02:00:09 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2044 I wish I could switch the view counts on these two videos.

Egg,” a 17-second long brickfilm by CheesyBricks, oozes with personality. The animation is playful and inventive. It is exactly as long as it needs to be.

Avicii – Addicted To You,” a 5-minute brickfilm by Keshen8, is boring and banal. The animation is sluggish and uninspired. Since it’s a music video, the length is pre-determined, so I won’t critique for being longer than it needs to be. But I will say it outstays its welcome.

Compare this video to Keshen’s masterpiece, “Lego Black Ops.” The characters in “Lego Black Ops” move with purpose and weight, the cinematography is interesting, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. The characters in “Addicted to You” hesitate, they pause, they move like they are in molasses. I’m happy that Keshen got commissioned to make this video—the more commissioned brickfilm work out there, the better for our community—but I couldn’t help but find the final product lacking.

Keshen says, “I don’t really like the cartoony over emphasis on movement that you see in some stop motion and CG work.” This may just come down to our stylistic differences (I love cartoony over-emphasis), but I argue that “Addicted to You” goes too far in the opposite direction.

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The Dark Ages of Brickfilming http://setbump.com/2014/04/the-dark-ages-of-brickfilming/ http://setbump.com/2014/04/the-dark-ages-of-brickfilming/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 15:25:58 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1529 In the wider LEGO Fan community there’s a widely-discussed phenomenon called “The Dark Ages.” It’s time to talk about what it means for brickfilmers.

The Dark Ages are the time in a LEGO fan’s life when they stop building with LEGO (typically in their teens when they get distracted by school and hormones) before rediscovering their passion years later (usually in their mid-thirties when they have children). Not every LEGO fan has a Dark Age (I myself only had a short Slightly Dim Age), and not all of them have the same trajectory I laid out above. Enough adult fans of LEGO (AFOLs) have gone through some sort of Dark Age that the term has an entry in The Brothers Brick LEGO Glossary.

But this is not a term that is used often, if ever, in the brickfilming community; probably because the brickfilming community tends to skew a lot younger than the AFOL community (75% under 21 in the 2013 Bricks in Motion census). This makes sense. Until very recently, it was really hard to make movies at home. Kids in the ’60s and ’70s may have been able to play with LEGO, but unless they were really lucky they didn’t have the equipment to make a brickfilm. That’s why the Magic Portal and this recently discovered brickfilm from 1973 are some of the only brickfilms we know about from that era. Most brickfilmers are either: 1) too young have had their Dark Age yet, 2) just entering into their Dark Age now, or 3) immune to The Dark Ages.

For a Dark Age to really be a Dark Age, you need to leave the hobby and then rediscover it later. Until very recently, there weren’t any noteworthy examples of a brickfilmer returning to the hobby. Then this happened:

To be fair, Nathan Wells has been back on the scene for a couple months now, but this film makes his comeback official. The video cleverly addresses the reasons for his absence (I laughed very hard at the part about lost subscribers due to Minecraft videos) and is also a visual tour de force showcasing Nathan’s skills as a set designer, cinematographer, and animator. Nathan Wells is a legend among brickfilmers, and this film reminds us why.

Nathan Wells returning to the fold means that there is hope out there for all the other brickfilmers who have fallen into The Dark Ages. Which brings us to the Saga of Stonebreakers10.

Most brickfilmers entering their Dark Ages don’t have a big laborious public breakup with the hobby; they just stop posting LEGO videos on their YouTube channel. Stonebreakers10 (Matt Giudice) is different. Matt wasn’t just a brickfilmer, he was a meta-brickfilmer, and his video I am a Brickfilmer was part of his successful campaign to become a winner of YouTube NextUp. He also made a hilarious video about brickfilmer problems. But after winning NextUp as the token brickfilmer, the Stonebreakers10 channel started to become populated with more and more live-action videos and fewer brickfilms.

Then, just over a year ago, Matt released a heartfelt video explaining his decision to leave brickfilming before posting his final brickfilm.

Even his final brickfilm is about his decision to leave brickfilming. His sigfig argues with characters from his past brickfilms, who all exclaim that his decision to leave brickfilms “just doesn’t seem logical.” This is clearly a decision that Matt (who paints himself as indecisive) had a lot of trouble coming to terms with. The video ends on an ambiguous note:

“No more brickfilms for the rest of your life?”
“For the rest of my life? Well, that just doesn’t seem logical, does it?”

The final screen reads “TA TA FOR NOW.” Given the lackluster performance of his live action videos, maybe that return will come sooner rather than later. Or not. I’m certainly not trying to be a stone to his flower. The value of having the shared concept of The Dark Ages in the LEGO fan community is that we don’t judge people who leave the hobby. We know they’ll be back some day, and like the Renaissance artists or Nathan Wells, they’ll produce even better work than they did before they wandered.

What do you think about The Dark Ages for brickfilmers? Do you know brickfilmers who are struggling with a Dark Age? Did you go through a Dark Age? Tell us in the comments.

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Enter the third annual Brickworld Film Festival http://setbump.com/2014/03/enter-the-third-annual-brickworld-film-festival/ http://setbump.com/2014/03/enter-the-third-annual-brickworld-film-festival/#respond Thu, 20 Mar 2014 04:12:24 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1947 Brickworld Film Fest

We’re very excited to announce the third annual Brickworld Film Festival!

The Brickworld Film Festival is part of Brickworld Chicago, one of the largest conventions of LEGO fans in the world. Last year, we invited attendees to submit their brick animations (or live-action brick flicks) and screened the 8 entries (spanning a variety of genres and styles, from a live-action comedy sketch to a pulp-style space adventure) to an enthusiastic audience of over 160 people.

audience watching a projection screen

The event theme for Brickworld Chicago 2014 is “Candy, Sweet Escapes,” so we’re asking this year’s entrants to keep this concept in mind when creating/selecting their submissions. We expect to see some films featuring the Ice Cream Machine and Downtown Bakery. However, we’re also hoping to see other creative approaches to the theme; for instance, last year’s winning film, “From Baking to Bad Guys,” could easily fit in this year’s theme.

Like last year, David and David will carefully review all the entrants, and select the best one to declare the winner.  Additionally, an ‘Audience Favorite’ will be voted on during the festival screening.

Five guys standing on a stage smiling

For those of you on the fence about attending Brickworld Chicago, keep in mind there’s more to the event than just the film festival. On Thursday, we’ll be teaching a three-hour workshop on brick animation, which covers basic techniques and includes some hands-on animation time. There are also displays, workshops, presentations, contests, games, and a ton of LEGO bric-a-brac to keep your attention.

BW2012_theatersign

Official Rules

  • You must be a Full Registrant of Brickworld Chicago to enter.
  • Your film must be longer than 30 seconds and shorter than 5 minutes in length.
  • Your film must be uploaded to YouTube.
  • Your film should use LEGO elements to tell a story. It can be animated or live action, or a combination of the two.
  • Your film must not contain any copyrighted audio. Bricks in Motion has a great list of places you can find royalty free music and sound effects.
  • Your film should incorporate the theme “Candy, Sweet Escapes” in some way.
  • Your film must not have been submitted to any previous Brickworld Film Festival.
  • Limit one film submission per person.
  • Films should be enjoyable by all ages. Curse words, excessive violence, sexual content, and drug use will be grounds for disqualification.
  • To submit, e-mail bwfilmfest@brickanimation.com by June 1, 2014 with the following information:
    • Your Full Name
    • Your Age
    • A link to your film on YouTube
  • A prize will be awarded to the film that best exemplifies the LEGO values of creativity, fun, and technical excellence; as decided by the judges.
  • An additional prize will be awarded to the film that receives the most votes from the audience at the festival screening.

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. Also, leave a comment if you’re planning to attend Brickworld Chicago.  We look forward to seeing your films!

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“Clone Training Center” Series Seeks $40,000 on Kickstarter http://setbump.com/2014/03/clone-training-center-series-seeks-40000-on-kickstarter/ http://setbump.com/2014/03/clone-training-center-series-seeks-40000-on-kickstarter/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 23:40:17 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2021 Jordan Johnson, creator of the well known Fancy Pants Productions, has just recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for a brickfilm web series titled “Clone Training Center”.

This new comedy series is going to be set in the Star Wars universe and will be based off of Johnson’s popular brickfilm by the same name. “We truly are breaking new ground with this series,” Johnson writes, “and if successful we are confident that this series will generate awareness and respect for the many talented artists in the brick filming community.” The series is a collaboration between several other brickfilmers including Zach Macias (MindGame Studios) and Spencer Olson (Olsonstudios).

The project goal is to raise $40,000 within a month. While the project size and goal are large, this isn’t the first time a brickfilm has sought to be funded via Kickstarter. In August of 2013, Greg Tull of Monitogo Studios raised over $14,000 for his team’s feature length film, making it the most successful campaign of its kind. Will Clone Training Center beat this record? For more information on the project, visit the Kickstarter page.

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A Piece: An Alien http://setbump.com/2014/03/a-piece-an-alien/ http://setbump.com/2014/03/a-piece-an-alien/#respond Sun, 02 Mar 2014 21:17:09 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=2005 Bricktease is well-known for his frame-by-frame remake of the opening scene from James Bond’s “Casino Royale”. He also did remakes of some famous movie scenes like “The Blues Brothers” car chase. His latest re-creation is the chestburster scene from “Alien” (1979).

In this brickfilm, there is one thing I would like to share with you, one very simple thing that impressed me a lot (and made me laugh too). Watch it first, then read on.

The first time I saw “Alien,” I was very young and scared. But this remake made me laugh because it’s so simple.

Did you see it? Bricktease used a simple piece called “robot arm” to impersonate the bursting alien coming out of the poor guy’s chest. I call that brilliant. Well-animated, a single piece can make you remember a famous character, in a famous scene, in a classic sci-fi movie.

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If “The LEGO Movie” isn’t stop-motion, what is it? http://setbump.com/2014/02/if-the-lego-movie-isnt-stop-motion-what-is-it/ http://setbump.com/2014/02/if-the-lego-movie-isnt-stop-motion-what-is-it/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 04:49:50 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1989 Just how much of “The LEGO Movie” is stop-motion?

As of this writing, the most-viewed article on The Set Bump is this short-and-admittedly-more-snarky-than-helpful piece entitled “No, ‘The LEGO Movie’ isn’t stop-motion”. I posted this commentary last year, as a response to several articles that jumped the gun by describing the contents of The LEGO Movie trailer as stop-motion when it was clearly done with CG.

Now, when I say:

It was clearly done with CG.

I of course mean:

Based on my 20+ years of study; and my knowledge of the limitations of LEGO stop-motion, film scheduling, and cash money; I (and my well-trained eye) can say with 99.9% certainty that not one shot in “The LEGO Movie” trailer is pure stop-motion photography.

Of course, motion pictures are illusions by definition, but I was still confident in my assertion that The LEGO Movie wasn’t stop-motion. Further adding to the confusion were contradictory comments from the directors and filmmaking crew, which skirted the line between actual information and marketing hype soundbites. What we really needed was hard evidence in the form of behind-the-scenes featurettes and footage.

And over the past month or so, we got just that.

First up was this “Behind the Bricks” mockumentary featurette, which was basically just a promo piece and not anything about the making of The LEGO Movie itself. Funny, but not helpful. It all still looked like 100% CG.

Next was this weird footage dump from ScreenSlam of some LEGO Movie making-of clips. Still no sign of stop-motion. (They did release some fun behind-the-scenes bits of the dialogue recording session with Chris Pratt, though.)

Then came this (veeeeeery dry) episode and article from fxguide, featuring interviews with Animal Logic crew members who detail (greaaaaaat detail) the CG approach and pipeline used for The LEGO Movie. Vindication was mine!

Finally, earlier today, Art of the Title gave us a look at the creation of the end titles from The LEGO Movie, and — lo and behold — they actually are stop-motion. Annoyingly, I can’t embed the videos here, but you should definitely check out the link. There’s a ton of cool making-of goodness to pour over.

Screenshot 2014-02-25 23.36.35

On the set of the full end title reveal.

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that technically the directors weren’t kidding when they said there was some stop-motion in the film. Although it does still feel a tiny bit disingenuous to describe the entire film as “part-CGI and part actual real LEGO bricks in stop-motion”.

To be honest, having seen The LEGO Movie for a third time this past week, I still wasn’t sure myself as to whether the end titles were stop-motion or not. The animation and physical built pieces looked like stop-motion, but the structure of the “cubbyhole” layout seemed too CG-like to me. Knowing now how much CG pre-vis was done on the sequence, that assertion makes total sense.

Anyway, I guess the most important thing to take away here is that it really doesn’t matter what medium is used to make a film; as long as the story is compelling, memorable, and filled with characters who invite you to join them on their journey. Of course, I’ll still be waiting with bated breath for The LEGO Movie on home video… despite being CG, there are some amazing builds that I really want to go through one frame at a time.

I’ll also be checking the DVD featurettes veeeeery carefully for any signs of stop-motion.

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A Dozen Sports Brickfilms http://setbump.com/2014/02/a-dozen-sports-brickfilms/ http://setbump.com/2014/02/a-dozen-sports-brickfilms/#respond Tue, 18 Feb 2014 21:46:17 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1954 Sports brickfilms are a unique genre of brickfilms.  Most have no story, aside from recreating an actual sporting moment, no characters other than famous athletes with personalities, and little to no dialogue. The genre of sporting brickfilms has some popularity and the dozen on this list have over 14 million views. Many find their popularity from the brickfilming community, the general YouTube audience, the online sporting community, or just being in blogged by the countless online news groups.

I researched a bit today on the ole’ internet for some examples of sporting brickfilms and I found ten videos plus two of our own creations that we made recently.  So……I present “A Dozen Sports Brickfilms” in order based of the current number views.

Seattle Seahawks Win OYO Super Bowl XLVIII! by thefourmonkeys was released on the Sports Illustrated Kids YouTube channel and website.  It recreates the most recent Super Bowl with OYO Sportstoys minifigures.  It’s the newest of the dozen brickfilms.

LEGO Snowboarding Tricks – Brickfilm (HD) by Plastic Planet Productions is a beautiful take on snowboarding done brick style.  It has very smooth animations and is quite a fun watch.

The Red Sox World Series Victory, in OYOs! by thefourmonkeys was also released on the Sports Illustrated Kids YouTube channel and website.  It was released just shortly after the completion of the 2013 World Series and enjoyed a small viral affect due to the blogging and tweeting about it. Of the 1/2 dozen sports brickfilms that thefourmonkeys made for SIKids, this one is the most popular. The sporting fans loved the beard tug and helmet adjustment.

Lego Freeskiing: Deep Pow by Oxburger Studios.  I found this film for the first time today. Wow!! The cinematography, lighting, and scenic elements draw you into this awesome snow skiing adventure.

Lego Sport Champions: Hockey by LEGOsports The LEGOsports channel looks pretty dormant these days, but they left us with some great sports brickfilms. Although the equipment they used to make their films is fairly antiquated, their brickfilms stand the test of time and are well worth the watch.  They also used no minifigures which makes them special just for that fact.

Lego Sport Champions: F1 Racing by LEGOsports This F1 car race is a super exciting thrill ride at high speeds.

Champions League Final 2013 in LEGO (Borussia Dortmund v Bayern München) by Weevil888.  Pure football (soccer) excitement.  The stop motion is not incredibly smooth, but the use of the original announcer audio pulls you into an exciting brickfilm.

5 Greatest NBA Finals Moments Legoized by tauntrtv recreates plays from basketball championship games.  It’s a well produced video with decent stopmotion that has me remembering the old NBA days. I’m not a big fan of basketball, but you don’t have to be in order to enjoy this. Ahhhh, the days of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Lego Skater by Keshen8 brings brickfilming and skateboard half-pipes to amazing reality, with a little exception to the overly gory spill the hapless skateboard takes.  OUCH!

Bricksports.de: NFL Super Bowl XLV by Bricksports.de.  Bricksports.de recreates Super Bowl XLV in LEGO.

Brick by Brick: Running: Usain Bolt wins gold in 100m final by the Guardian.  The video was produced by the Guardian (an online news group) and they have also released a dozen or so brickfilm sports recreations. The animation is a little choppy, but the sets are really good and you get a great feel for the energy of the events recreated.  I really liked the water in the Michael Phelps video.

Lego Mini Golf by MlCHAEL HlCKOX Films is the king of sporting brickfims according to views.  It currently has over 12 million views and is one of the most popular brickfilms on YouTube.

If you know some more great sporting brickfilms, leave a comment with a link.  We would love to watch them. 🙂

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Review Roundup: The LEGO Movie http://setbump.com/2014/02/review-roundup-the-lego-movie/ http://setbump.com/2014/02/review-roundup-the-lego-movie/#respond Sat, 08 Feb 2014 05:00:11 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1937 In preparation for seeing the LEGO Movie last night (spoiler: I really enjoyed it), I’ve been reading a lot of reviews/previews of the movie and wanted to share some of the most insightful tidbits I’ve come across.

My illustrious Co-Editor has already written an excellent (though spoilery) review, I won’t add anything except to once more encourage you to go see The LEGO Movie. Once you’ve done that, come back here for even more coverage dissecting it piece by piece.

One of the few reviews I’ve seen that actually focuses on the animation style of the film is this one over at Cartoon Brew:

Many films have attempted to break the Pixar-by-way-of-Disney animation mold by suggesting a more stylized approach to animated movement, among them the Madagascar series, Wreck-It Ralph, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Lego Movie pushes further than any of those films with a consistently inventive style of movement (the key word being consistent).

This feature on io9 has some interesting quotes from the directors. Chris McKay, who was in charge of the animation, has nice things to say about brick films:

There’s a charm to those brick films. I think part of that comes with the heart and soul of the filmmaker who comes to the table and wants to create something that is probably beyond their scope… We wanted the movie to feel like that.

This NPR review reveals a scene that got nixed:

They initially penned a re-education scene for Emmet, with his eyes forcibly held open, after he strays too far from Lord Business’ way of doing things. The Stanley Kubrick reference was deemed “not perfectly appropriate for family audiences.”

(Don’t worry, someone else has got a LEGO version in of that in the works…)

The AV Club review (contains the spoiler) nicely mirrored my own sentiments and Mr Pagano’s:

The only real bone to pick with The Lego Movie is that the gender disparity of the toys themselves—a pervasive criticism of the brand—has carried over to the film’s major characters… Wyldstyle, though confident and talented, often exists to play the foil of Batman and Emmet. And the only other major female character, voiced by Alison Brie, isn’t portrayed as a mini-figure, making Wyldstyle the catchall female protagonist.

The Variety review helpfully points out how many bricks it would take to build all the stuff shown in the movie:

…if someone had orchestrated the entire experience with plastic toys painstakingly repositioned and photographed one frame at a time… that would have taken no fewer than 15,080,330 bricks

This behind-the-scenes video is a random collection of footage, but it does shed some light on the animation process:

Lest you think all the reviews of the LEGO Movie are effusively positive (though most are), there are some naysayers with some valid points. This bit from the Wrap is what resonated with me the most:

But while the film’s underlying message about creative independence and playfulness is a strong one, the movie takes a third-act turn (which won’t be spoiled here) that’s bold but ultimately wrong-headed, restating what we’ve already figured out and ruining the delicate balance of this movie’s goofy, click-and-snap universe.

I have more to say on that last bit, but I’m going to wait a couple days before writing about all my concerns with the movie’s big twist.

Which reviews have helped you in digesting the LEGO Movie?

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Is “The LEGO Movie” a “real” LEGO movie? http://setbump.com/2014/02/is-the-lego-movie-a-real-lego-movie/ http://setbump.com/2014/02/is-the-lego-movie-a-real-lego-movie/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 05:23:07 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1931

What makes a LEGO movie a “LEGO Movie”?

In response to the release of “The LEGO Movie”, Fancy Pants put together this assortment of clips from 15 popular brickfilms. It’s a great showcase of some of the best the medium has to offer (we’ve covered a few of the selections here before), but something about the sentiment behind it seems off.

Here at The Set Bump, we can certainly be somewhat snooty in terms of what makes something “true” LEGO animation. On the other hand, as I said in my spoilertastic review: The LEGO Movie is, for all intents and purposes, a brickfilm in the truest sense of the word.

What do you guys think? Are there definite criteria for what makes a “real” LEGO movie? If so, do you think The LEGO Movie qualifies?

The REAL Lego Movies – YouTube

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“The LEGO Movie” (2014) [SPOILERS] http://setbump.com/2014/02/the-lego-movie-2014/ http://setbump.com/2014/02/the-lego-movie-2014/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 03:17:04 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1870 We can all breathe easy — “The LEGO Movie” is actually pretty cool.

emmetawesome

Here at The Set Bump, we’ve been keeping tabs on the progress and development of The LEGO Movie for a while, compiling what morsels of information we could to try and satisfy our curiosity. The announcement of the film (waaay back in 2009) left many unanswered questions in our minds — what would a LEGO motion picture even be about? Would it be done in stop-motion? Could it possibly be as boring as Clutch Powers?

Fear not, dear readers, for we now have answers and so much more. Sound the spoiler alarm (I’m about to spoil pretty much everything), and let’s dive on in.

Story

The LEGO Movie tells the story of Emmet Brickowski, a construction worker minifig who lives his average life in the average LEGO city of Bricksburg. Using very familiar-looking instruction booklets, Emmet helps build skyscrapers for the Octan Corporation, under CEO President Business.

But President Business has a secret alter-ego: Lord Business, a tyrannical despot with designs to conquer the entire LEGO universe by — what else? — gluing everything together.

Fortunately, a group of minifig Master Builders (i.e. our main cast and some licensed supporting cameos) has found the key to foiling Lord Business’ plan: the fabled “Piece of Resistance”. Unfortunately, that piece just happens to be glued to Emmet’s back. And thus, the odyssey begins…

thepiece

There’s a larger story at work in The LEGO Movie, too (both figuratively and literally), but I’ll get to that.

Characters

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is the focal character of the film. Pratt plays the LEGO everyman to a T — his mastery of goofy charm (refined in his role as Andy Dwyer on “Parks & Recreation”) makes him a perfect fit to carry a LEGO film.

Emmet’s a simple fellow, but his eagerness and sincerity make his adventure a joy to watch. And in the standard “hero’s journey” manner, he picks up a variety of allies along the way…

  • Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) is the wise old sage and inveterate foe of Lord Business. Having failed to protect the LEGO universe in the past, Vitruvius foretells of a prophesied chosen one — “The Special” — who will unlock the key to Lord Business’ eventual defeat.
  • Wyldstyle, aka Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) is an ambitious and headstrong Master Builder, who’s actively trying to become The Special by finding the Piece of Resistance. You may remember my considerable dislike for the name “Wyldstyle”; fortunately, it turns out the movie agrees with me (via lots of “what are you, a DJ?” jokes at her expense). For better or worse, a lot of Wyldstyle’s character centers around a sort-of love triangle (a “like triangle”?) between her, Emmet, and her current boyfriend…
  • Batman (Will Arnett) is the Dark Knight as a hilarious parody; as if the Christopher Nolan films featured Adam West-inspired dramatics. Arnett is perfect in this role, and although much of his funniest material is in the trailer, there is one great sequence where millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne becomes integral to the plot.

Other helpful side-characters include Benny, a 1980s-era LEGO spaceman who REALLY wants to build spaceships; Unikitty, an anime-esque cat/unicorn hybrid with some serious anger issues (and some terrific brick-built alternate faces); and Metalbeard, a giant cyborg pirate who holds Lord Business responsible for his half-minifig, half robot condition.

In the villains’ corner, there’s really only President/Lord Business (Will Ferrell); his underutilized right hand man, Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson); and an endless supply of robot police, robot feds, robot swat teams, and robot skeletons as cannon fodder for our heroes.

robo

And then, there’s “The Man Upstairs”…

Design

The design of The LEGO Movie is where things really shine; it’s an amazingly gorgeous film. Every single setting has beautiful detailing and tons of NPU, almost to the point where it becomes distracting. There are dozens of visual nods to LEGO fandom, builder inside jokes, and some great micro-scale gags. Dave pointed some of these out in his review of the trailer, but that’s really only a small fraction of the insane beauty the filmmakers have packed in. That ocean! (I can’t wait to pause and frame-by-frame my way through the Blu-ray.)

bricksburg

For those of you who were worried about the use of computer graphics over stop-motion, I can honestly say that the film does not suffer one bit for it. The framing of many of the shots, as well as the overall texturing and lighting of scenes, really gives you that tactile feeling of being immersed in a brick-built LEGO world. There are one or two shots where the scope of what you’re looking at belies the film’s tiny toy-scale nature, but these are few and far between.

In many ways, the design of The LEGO Movie feels like not only a celebration of LEGO products and the hobby as a whole, but also of the craft of animation. Every major animation technique is at work here:

  • The stop-motiony quality to the cinematography and character movement really helps set this film apart from things like Clutch Powers and the other CG releases. It’s super fun, and it feels like LEGO. I’m sure this approach will inform many stop-motion brickfilms in the future, and I would also have no problem with it becoming the new paradigm for CG LEGO animation. (Please and thank you.)
  • There’s also some fantastically fluid 2D facial animation on all of the characters. The CG artists went so far as to give depth to the “paint” of the character face designs, as if the faces had been printed on like real LEGO minifigs. As someone who’s spent hours and hours staring at minifig heads through a macro lens, I truly appreciate this consummate attention to detail.
  • And then, finally, the CG polish and shine brings everything together.

There’s a fourth filmmaking medium in the film as well — live-action photography. This was another detail made public by the filmmakers early on, though no one really knew what the implementation of it would be. As it turns out, the live-action sections are where the real story of the film lives.

Themes

In a broad sense, The LEGO Movie is built around a few overall motifs:

  1. LEGO creations are not meant to be glued together, but to be continuously rebuilt into whatever cool models a creator can imagine.
  2. You don’t have to build the greatest creation ever, as long as you’re building together with the people you care about.
  3. Embrace the things that make you unique.

These are the main themes as depicted in Emmet’s character arc; though, as we find out, Emmet is not really the main character of this story.

About 2/3 of the way through the movie, Emmet sacrifices himself by tumbling out of Lord Business’ tower and down into a swirling vortex. Having blacked out, Emmet wakes up to find that he’s a toy LEGO minifigure in the human world, being played with by a young boy named Finn.

As the live-action scenes unfold, we come to understand that the events of the film up to this point have basically been a dramatization of Finn’s LEGO playtime scenarios. This makes sense as, earlier in the film, Emmet has a vision of “The Man Upstairs”, as illustrated by his mental construction of a distinctly humanoid hand. Additionally, Lord Business’ collection of non-LEGO human-scale artifacts (erasers, band-aids, highlighters, etc.) tells us that the LEGO universe must be somehow tied to our world.

Finn, however, is not “The Man Upstairs”. In a further twist (one which I found really enjoyable), it turns out that “The Man Upstairs” is actually Finn’s father, the real owner of the tables full of LEGO displays that make up the worlds of the LEGO universe. Finn’s father is quite unhappy, as those LEGO displays are part of his very adult hobby, and are NOT meant to be played with by Finn. When you consider the fact that Finn’s father — a businessman in a suit and tie — is also played by Will Ferrell, the central conflict and meaning of the story becomes unmistakably straightforward. Lord Business’ super-tall legs aren’t just for show.

LordBusiness

(I’ve heard some comments from fans who question this portion of the film; saying that it’s a little insulting to AFOLs to be portrayed in such a way. Personally, I thought it was really funny.)

It’s at this point that The LEGO Movie becomes not only a action movie for kids, or a toy advertisement, but a fable about the relationship between AFOL and KFOL, parent and child. The film is fundamentally a feature-length “Build Together” spot — a series of LEGO TV ads that, perhaps coincidentally, began right around the time this film was announced.

A Few Gripes

I’ve already mentioned the somewhat distracting and complex artistry of the LEGO universe itself. The story, by contrast, is rather simplistic. To be fair, the way that story plays out doesn’t have a lot of padding or unnecessary scenes — everything is aptly cut — but it does feel slightly too fast-paced at times.

Which is crazy, considering the film runs for about 100 minutes in total. (Maybe I’m just getting old.) Plus, the notion that the entire tale comes from the imagination of a young boy really helps to lampshade a lot of the less satisfying story elements.

Another thing that made me a bit uneasy was the idea of “The Special”. I’m all for empowering kids to use their imaginations, but the word “special” is immensely overused in our cultural consciousness. As a concept, it just made me think of that line from “The Incredibles”:

When everyone’s super… no one will be.

However, given that the intent here is to embrace those things that make us individually special (and the fact that the prophecy is all but thrown out as malarkey in the third act), I’m willing to give The Special a pass, too.

The only thing in The LEGO Movie that I couldn’t find any rationalization for was the utter dearth of female characters. Seriously. Where are all the women?

  • We’ve got Wyldstyle as the the only lady character with any real agency, though her role is not much more than that of Action Girlfriend.
  • Unikitty (Alison Brie) is female, but is technically an animal and not a minifigure. Plus, she doesn’t come into the film until around halfway through, and even then, her presence is not terribly significant.
  • Wonder Woman is on the poster, and they went through the trouble of casting Cobie Smulders in the role, but the only thing she does in the film was already shown in the trailer. I honestly can’t remember if she had more than one line of dialogue in the whole film. (EDIT 2/16/14: She speaks literally eight words in the entire film.)

If you ask me, an easy solution would have been to cast a woman in the role of Vitruvius. There’s honestly not much you would have had to change about the character. It’s great that we now have a recording of Morgan Freeman saying the words “Taco Tuesday”, but I would have gladly given that up to have this film pass the Bechdel test. Wyldstyle is essentially Vitruvius’ apprentice, and it could have been interesting to have a female-female relationship stand in contrast to the live-action father-son relationship.

wyldstyle-vitruvius

Given the recent furor over LEGO Friends, and the fact that a lot of the film’s tie-in sets include female minifigures, I expected a lot more from The LEGO Movie in that regard. (EDIT: I feel like this girl might agree with me.) I think I might have cheered aloud when, towards the end, Will Ferrell tells his son that he’s going to have to let his sister play, too.

(Hilarious Duplo payoff notwithstanding, I don’t think it would have been too much to ask to actually see the sister on screen, though, even if just for a second. You can’t be what you can’t see.)

Putting it all together

One of the inside jokes of the LEGO fan community is that of the “Rainbow Warrior,” a name fondly given to those weird-looking multi-colored models we all built as children.

In some ways, The LEGO Movie is a bit of a Rainbow Warrior itself. For one thing, it ably tackles the unique problem of tying all the disparate LEGO worlds together; presenting the various play themes as parallel dimensions (and eschewing the nonsensical “play themes as planets” approach that Clutch Powers attempted to put forth).

But more than that, it manages to capture the fun, ubiquitous crossover vibe of every child’s playroom. Batman shooting his grappling hook at the Millennium Falcon in order to steal some spaceship parts from Han Solo and Lando Calrissian? That scene definitely happened in my backyard when I was a kid — and it happened in this movie, too.

batmangrapple

Similarly, I couldn’t help but react to every pop culture reference and film allusion —

  • Terminator (“Come with me if you want to not die”)
  • The Matrix (Real/dream world analogies, The One, and the “Think Tank” room)
  • Total Recall (The “Think Tank” again)
  • Robocop (“Where are my pants?” is this film’s “I’d buy that for a dollar”)
  • Super Mario Brothers: The Movie (Random dancing as a way to disable enemy forces, “cause everybody loves to dance, that’s why.”)
  • Star Trek (“The Kragle” might as well be “V’Ger“)
  • Clash of the Titans (“Release the Kragle!”)
  • They Live (The subtle “Conform!” propaganda posters, and a few of the skeletal robot feds)
  • Hot Rod (I kept waiting for Batman to do this towards the end)

And that’s not even including the official LEGO licenses. In a normal film, such an overabundance of seemingly random references might have felt lazy or unwarranted; but here, they somehow felt justified. I’ve already referenced “The Hero’s Journey” in this review, and maybe that’s all too appropriate — the minifigure might be the most literal encapsulation of The Hero with a Thousand Faces ever.

Overall

If I haven’t made it clear already, I thought The LEGO Movie was really fun, well-made, and an absolute delight to watch. The stunning visuals alone make it worth the price of admission, but the story is efficiently told and has some legitimate stakes, too. It’s not a perfect film, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Those of us who do LEGO stop-motion (myself included) can admittedly be a bit snobby when it comes to the relationship between CG and “true” Brick Animation. When discussing brickfilms in interviews and at workshops, I tend to describe them thusly:

Brickfilms are a way for LEGO fans to tell their stories through the use of film and animation techniques. They can use any style, and can be about anything, but they all have one thing in common — the use of LEGO bricks and elements!

If that’s true, then I think it’s fair to say that The LEGO Movie qualifies as a brickfilm. Given the nature of the film’s story — a child whose imagined LEGO worlds are directly translated into on-screen action — The LEGO Movie might be the most ambitious, high-concept brickfilm ever. A meta-brickfilm, perhaps.

At the same time, The LEGO Movie also feels like a love letter to the entire brickfilming community. The directors have stated these intentions in interviews, but there was one other fun touch I noticed in the film’s live-action sequence: the aforementioned swirling vortex that Emmet tumbles down is, in the human world, an over-sized kaleidoscope with the words “Magic Portal” written on the side. Kind of reminds me of another Magic Portal

But that’s not so important. What IS important is that this film is going to get a lot of people building. And animating. Heck, I left the theater and immediately went to the LEGO store to pick up one of the sets.

Go see The LEGO Movie.

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The Simpsons and LEGO: more than a house http://setbump.com/2014/02/the-simpsons-and-lego-more-than-a-house/ http://setbump.com/2014/02/the-simpsons-and-lego-more-than-a-house/#respond Tue, 04 Feb 2014 02:58:52 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1876 Forget the big screen for one moment; let’s get back to the small screen. Did you know that The LEGO Group has made The Simpsons house into an official LEGO set? (Of course you did.)


The Simpsons House 71006

LEGO-71006-The-Simpsons-House-High-Resolution

Yes, you can now build Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Marge and Homer’s house out of LEGO bricks. And we even have the minifigs to go with it.

But this is not the first time that those yellow fellows were made out of LEGO. Nope.


The couch gag in LEGO

Here is a compilation of Simpsons couch gags, with the LEGO version starting at 1:24. You can check out the many other versions, too.


Fan-made LEGO Simpsons opening credits

Made by a 13 year old boy, this brickfilm now has more than 10 million views.


And a LEGO ad with The Simpsons

jungvonmattllegothesimpsons

Just WOW! You can check out a whole gallery of others like that one here.


LEGO-The-Simpsons-Minifigures-from-LEGO-71006-Simpsons-House-e1389241304309

I don’t know if you were planning on doing a brickfilm with the new Simpsons minifigs, but I know I am.

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It’s official: We inspired The LEGO Movie http://setbump.com/2014/01/its-official-we-inspired-the-lego-movie/ http://setbump.com/2014/01/its-official-we-inspired-the-lego-movie/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 03:01:34 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1863 If you are a brickfilmer, and I know there are a lot of you out there, your work might have inspired Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in creating the LEGO Movie.

Check out this interview with the directors and listen carefully, right at the beginning, when they talk about “pouring over all the crazy movies people are making.” That’s us, gentlemen. 🙂

Indeed, everything is awesome!

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This LEGO music video is super charming http://setbump.com/2014/01/this-lego-music-video-is-super-charming/ http://setbump.com/2014/01/this-lego-music-video-is-super-charming/#comments Sun, 26 Jan 2014 01:31:49 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1857 This music video by Tasha R for the song “FOH” by Superchunk isn’t as technically impressive as other music videos we’ve featured, but it has charm out the wazoo.

This is the kind of video that reminds me why I make animations with LEGO bricks: because it’s fun! The camera movement adds a great momentum to the visuals that matches the momentum of the song and the paper backdrops are a lot more appealing than the monochromatic LEGO walls (or baseplates) that often appear in the background of amateur brickfilms.

Here’s hoping we’ll see more from Tasha R!

[via The AV Club]

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The Adventures of Clutch Powers (2010) http://setbump.com/2014/01/the-adventures-of-clutch-powers-2010/ http://setbump.com/2014/01/the-adventures-of-clutch-powers-2010/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 20:58:19 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1771 With the U.S. opening of “The LEGO Movie” just two weeks away, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the “other” LEGO movie from a few years ago.

LEGOteam

The Adventures of Clutch Powers” is like so many LEGO CG releases — a lumbering mass of basic tropes, non-jokes, and now-retired LEGO products (none of which feature the actual main characters of this film). In essence, nothing more than one giant commercial.

At least, that’s how I remembered it. I hadn’t seen the film since it was released direct-to-DVD in 2010, after which I immediately retired it to my bookcase for some dust-collecting action. Four years later, the trailers for The LEGO Movie seem to imply a similar storyline and vibeso I though I’d take a second look at Clutch Powers.

(Spoiler alert: my memory did not fail me.)

Story

The story of Clutch Powers somehow manages to be extremely simplistic and extremely confusing at the same time. Clutch, our main character, is “the greatest LEGO explorer ever” (think a blander Indiana Jones/James Bond) and works for LEGO — which, in this film, is not a toy company but an interplanetary organization that does, um, something.

Peg: “Well… it’s about helping others!”
Brick: “Fighting the good fight!”
Bernie: “Engineering better solutions!”
Clutch: “Doing whatever it takes, wherever it takes us.”

Delightfully vague.

After a throwaway cold open, the LEGO Organization sends Clutch and his team to investigate an incident on a space-prison planet. Finding that the most dangerous only three inmates have escaped, the LEGO crew then heads to a Castle… planet… to capture a wizard who had been one of those prisoners. There, Clutch attempts to instill confidence in a young prince, while also learning to work together with the members of his own team, so that they can all stop the wizard from doing… something. 

If it seems like I’m having trouble summarizing what happens in this film, it’s because I genuinely am. The whole thing plays out like an “And then…” screenplay written by a 6-year-old — not in a good way, like Axe Cop, but just the type of scenario a child might come up with while playing with some assorted LEGO kits. “And then MALLOCK THE WIZARD escapes from SPACE PRISON and they have to go to the CASTLE PLANET OF ASHLAR to catch him before he gets the GOLDEN SWORD OF KING REVET and takes over the whole world etc.” Insert spaceship swooshing noises here.

At the same time, the thinness of the plot is undermined further by some pretty obvious plot holes and contradictions. For example:

  • When the LEGO Organization gets a distress call from the prison planet, the video footage shows Space Police officers who literally exclaim, “the prisoners are escaping!” Clutch and his team then proceed to wonder what happened… “it’s a bit of a mystery!” It’s really not; the prisoners escaped.
  • The team arrives at the prison, where the Space Police watch commander says that the escaped prisoners can’t leave the planet, since he removed key parts from all the Space Police vehicles. That being the case, the prisoners end up stealing Clutch’s ship. It seems as though the LEGO team is stranded, since all the other Space Police ships are disabled. Except… they’re not stranded, since the watch commander could literally just replace the parts (which we see him carrying) and all of the ships would work.
  • On the Castle planet of Ashlar, the Troll in charge of guarding the kingdom has built a giant wall to hide the castle so that Mallock (the wizard) can’t find it. I’m not sure why the Troll would need to do this, since Mallock has been locked up in space-jail for years, up until like an hour ago.

Characters

Clutch’s big character trait is that he always works alone; a habit he adopted after the loss of his father (Rock Powers, natch) a few years earlier. He even has a song about it.

At the start of the film, Clutch is put in charge of a team for the first time; and yet, none of the other team members are surprised to be partnered with him, even though EVERYONE knows Clutch (and the fact that he works alone) since he is also THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON IN THE LEGO UNIVERSE FOR REASONS WE’RE NEVER TOLD. Clutch’s arc seems like it should be that he learns to work with his team, which is sort of what happens — though out of narrative convenience, rather than character interaction and development. At a certain point, it’s as if they all just randomly decided, “ok, let’s work together now.”

Speaking of the team, I should probably introduce them:

  • Brick Masterson is a Fireman, Weapons Specialist, and Demolitions Expert. He’s the muscle of the group, and kind of looks like Ron Swanson. Brick tends to destroy more things than he actually builds; the best weapon he makes is a glorified battering ram.
  • Peg Mooring is a Biologist and a woman (FYI, this film does not pass the Bechdel test in any way, shape, or form). She uses her biology know-how to recognize footprints and tame a dragon off-screen. She also has extra hair that she brings with her, because girl. There are no other named female characters in this film, although we do catch a glimpse of a few extras from the Medieval Market Village who say nothing and do nothing.
  • Bernie von Beam is an Engineer who does wacky things and wears a gear on his head for a significant portion of the film. He has an accent.
Jokes.

Jokes.

The teams’ terrestrial backup includes Kjeld Playwell (hah), head of the LEGO Organziation, and his in-house scientist Artie Fol (hah), who also does wacky things and is Clutch’s biggest fan (we know this because he tells us).

On Ashlar, there are some skeleton flunkies (one of whom is Chris Hardwick), a good-guy Troll who loves Monty Python references, and Prince Varen, heir to the planetary throne. Mallock the Malign is the main villain of the film, even though some other evil guy named “Omega” gets name-dropped and then immediately forgotten.

Design

The design of the film is pretty bare-bones. Like many of the LEGO video games, the locations and vehicles that are not official LEGO sets are rendered as generically textured 3D backdrops; lots of grass, trees, rocks, cement, and solid colors.

CHECK OUT THOSE GRAPHICS

CHECK OUT THOSE GRAPHICS

There are a few things here and there that appear to have had actual thought put into them — Mallock’s stronghold comes to mind — but most of these are designed as a kind of weird kludge between brick-built and CG creations.

For the most part, though, the brick-built sets shown are actual LEGO products that were available in the time leading up to this film’s release. The same thing goes for the majority of the characters — the skeletons, the Troll, and Mallock (who was merely an ‘evil wizard’ in the 2007 Castle line) all appeared in official LEGO kits, as did the Space Police officers and all of the extras.

Ironically, none of the main cast were ever created as minifigures. In fact, Clutch himself cannot even be built out of existing parts, as his torso and pants have custom printing, and his hairpiece has never been made in black. Peg and Bernie’s wigs have never been made, either, and all of the faces are custom.

So, if you were a kid who watched this movie and wanted to build and play with the characters: not only could you not buy them in stores, you couldn’t even make them out of parts from your own collection. Even LEGO Universe wasn’t that bad.

If there were such a thing as un-synergy, I think this would be it.

Animation

The animation is fine; nothing to write home about. There’s some wonky mouth shapes and one or two floaty walks, but in general, the animation is effective and does the job it needs to do.

Acting

The voice acting in this film is decent, but it’s brought down by the poor writing and terribly stock dialogue. The biggest names involved are Ryan McPartlin (as Clutch) and Yvonne Strahovski (as Peg), both of whom are from the TV series Chuck. I’m not sure how they got involved with this film, since the target audience doesn’t exactly overlap. Maybe someone in casting was like “Chuck is about a secret agent. Clutch is kind of a secret agent. Let’s get some of those actors.”

Even stranger is the fact that, on Chuck, Ryan McPartlin’s character is not a secret agent or an explorer, or even a main character. He’s got a deep man voice with a nice sound to it, but it felt kind of wrong for the character of Clutch, who doesn’t really behave like a grown adult.

Again, part of that might be the writing. It’s obvious that the filmmakers wanted Clutch to be a cool Indiana Jones/James Bond type, but the way he’s written feels both immature and amateur. While watching the film, I wondered why they didn’t have the guy playing Prince Varen voice Clutch instead. Their story arcs are basically parallel, and even though the movie keeps TELLING us Clutch is famous and amazing, he feels just as young and inexperienced as the prince.

Overall

Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, Clutch Powers isn’t an offensive disaster, but it somehow manages to capture that rare combination of complexity and boredom. It unsuccessfully tries to be a movie by hitting those beats that other movies hit, and ultimately fails to be memorable, charming, or fun.

I did not laugh once.

Clutch himself is neither engaging nor lovable, and actually comes off as kind of a jerk for a significant portion of the movie. We never see or hear about any of his other missions, and most of what we do know about Clutch is merely what other characters tell us about him — even if that information contradicts the things we see him do on screen.

"I'm ambiguously mad at my father. It's his fault for going missing under suspicious circumstances!"

“I’m ambiguously mad at my father. It’s his fault for going missing under suspicious circumstances!”

The script is weak, and the majority of the dialogue has no subtext. When the characters aren’t spewing tired clichés (“Lock and load — we’re going in”), they’re either saying exactly how they feel or just giving mindless exposition. There are one or two attempts to tie in some LEGOish values (“We build on each other!”, “Time to get creative!”), but these are few and far between, and feel like an afterthought.

One of the strangest recurring subjects is the notion of a “creation spark”. This is apparently the equivalent of a minifigure soul, although nothing about it is ever explored or explained. In a practical sense, it seems to be a way for the writers to talk about characters being killed or dying without having to say “killed or dying”. But in a storytelling sense, I find it baffling — are these characters alive or not? Is the creation spark a physical thing? Are minifigures kind of like Transformers? We’re never told.

Other plot lines that lead nowhere include the fate of Clutch’s father, and the identities of the two other escaped prisoners. This film is very obviously trying to be the first part of a franchise, but in doing so, it fails to tell a coherent stand-alone story.

As with LEGO toys, I want the LEGO videos and movies that I watch to be of the highest quality; the kind of material I can return to and enjoy no matter how old I am. TLG’s target market of 5-to-12-year-olds may hold water in terms of toy sales, but there’s no denying the universal timelessness of LEGO products. A big deal is made of the fact that bricks and elements from the ’70s, ’80s, and so forth will all fit together with parts from modern sets. LEGO cinematic releases should follow the same long-range principle — films with something for everyone.

That’s not the case with Clutch Powers, which is just a plodding, meaningless exercise where we see some sets that you could have bought in 2010, and then it’s over. I bring up the irony of “Only The Best Is Good Enough” far too often when talking about LEGO home video releases, but TLG has set the bar really high for themselves with that motto, and as far as I’m concerned, has yet to reach it.

Fingers crossed for The LEGO Movie.

Where to watch this film

If you really must see this film, it’s available to stream on Netflix for free. You can also rent it on Amazon for $2.99, or buy the DVD for three bucks more. But I really don’t recommend spending any money on this.

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Live Action Brickfilm? http://setbump.com/2014/01/live-action-brickfilm/ http://setbump.com/2014/01/live-action-brickfilm/#comments Sat, 18 Jan 2014 22:40:48 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1813

Can a live action short film be a “brickfilm” too?  AndrewMFilms must think so. His new film called LEGO Invasion! mixes live action and CGI brickfiming together for a wild ride that is a mix between the LEGO Movie, Aliens, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Pulp Fiction.  Okay, maybe the last one is a stretch. The short film does showcase real plastic LEGO bricks which are used as the protagonist’s weapons.  All of the brick animating is CGI which is layered over the live action sequences quite seamlessly.  It is a really fun watch, unless you don’t seeing like your favorite super heroes getting blasted to bits by the protagonist.

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Canadian LEGO Bike PSAs http://setbump.com/2014/01/canadian-lego-bike-psas/ http://setbump.com/2014/01/canadian-lego-bike-psas/#comments Mon, 13 Jan 2014 03:21:25 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1798

The city of Edmonton, Alberta has been promoting bike safety and awareness with a LEGO stop-motion video campaign.

(A brick-animated biking PSA… what a novel idea!)

Anyway, they’re not the most technically proficient brickfilms ever, but they’re pretty neat and worth checking out. It’s always cool when organizations use brick animation for promotions like this.

You can check out all of the videos in the campaign on The City of Edmonton’s website.

Bike Attitude & Awareness – YouTube

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THAC11 report http://setbump.com/2014/01/thac11-report/ http://setbump.com/2014/01/thac11-report/#comments Sat, 04 Jan 2014 01:34:52 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1773 The eleventh Twenty four Hour Animation Contest (or THAC11) is now behind us. This is the second year I participated (Battle of Smallville) and, while waiting for the results, I want to share with you some of the best entries.

This year’s theme was “A Mistaken Identity.” You know, when you see someone and think they are someone else. In THAC, the theme can be interpreted however the participants like (and they did so in very creative ways).

If you like to play the game, you can try to spot the mod element. In every frame of the movie, there must be a red brick connected to a grey brick or the there must be the letter T visible in any way (printed, built, or anything creative that looks like a T). That is a way to make sure the participants produced their brickfilms within the 24 hour time frame of the contest.

It would take you over 2 hours to watch all 76 brickfilms made for THAC11, but I picked out the best ones for you. Just for the fun of it, here’s my favorites in categories I just made up.

Best overall performance

The Does” by A&M Studios

“The Does” takes us into a classic family sitcom with a nice setup and good animation. As the director says… well, you’ll see. I only want to point out that it is a very good use of different minifig’s heads.

Con” by AquaMorph Productions

Based on a good narration, the animation is well done and really helps to tell the story.
Very good lightning… I love all those back lights.

The Code’s Game” by AniMax

I don’t know the show they are referring to, but I catch the gist. What I like is the way there is a helicopter in the movie… without ever seeing it.

Best Space Themed movie (aka MonsieurCaron’s favorite)

Sector Se7en” by Spencer Olson Films

Wow, the best short in my opinon. And it’s in Space, what can I ask more? The use of SFX for the holograph and the flying is very well done.

The Supervisor” by Legoander

WOW. This is a simple yet effective little story. And well animated robots and humans.

Planet of the Sneeuwpop” by Annoying Noises Productions

You gotta love the way those spacemen teleport.

Best use of microscale

Expectation” by Loïc F-B

Loïc F-B made good use of lightning in his film. I love his city landscape in forced perspective. I’m taking notes here for my own movies.

The Key” by Binding Brick

Making the spaceship in microscale was a great idea. A nice montage that goes well with the music.

Most amazing integration of the mod element

Mental” by Chris Wynn

The way the MOD element (the letter T) is hidden is just awesome. Check the white walls.

Best use of Chima

AX 2” by PritchardStudios

Good use of Chima minifig and Chi bricks. I like the way we switch between worlds.

Best dream sequence

No Crawme Steals Christmas” by Brickhead Productions

You must see that cop sleeveless ! And… is that a song or what ? It’s a great movie!

How I survived” by Sean Willets

I could have put this one into the “Best use of microscale” too.

Best plot twist

The Liberator” by Bluper8

There’s a good twist in this story.

The Police Delivery” by ForlornCreature

Another well animated good short story.

Magnus Lapsus” by Mighty Wanderer

Nice smooth animation and good voice acting… except for the end. NOOoooo

Best non-English language

Fish tale” by soppenjim

Very funny use of the theme. The spoken language is Norwegian. Don’t worry, there’s subtitles.

You can wath all 76 brickfilms on this playlist.

As you know, the C in THAC is for Contest, but I prefer to look a this event as a Challenge. If you can make a good brickfilm within 24 hours, you’re a winner, you made the challenge. 🙂 Tell us which one is your favorite brickfilm in this year’s THAC and why… because there are so many ways a brickfilm can be great!

 

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“The Spot” http://setbump.com/2013/12/the-spot/ http://setbump.com/2013/12/the-spot/#comments Mon, 30 Dec 2013 01:54:15 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1761 There’s an annoying spot plaguing a man’s window, and it won’t go away. This new brickfilm from Legoander is nothing less than intriguing.


It’s one of those videos that, by the time it was over, had me sitting and thinking. The animation, simple white set, and that truly bizarre red dot carried me through this three-minute short, but it didn’t stop there. Some of my favorite movies and animations are the ones that don’t have a conclusion. Sure, the video definitely had an ending, but it didn’t conclude. It doesn’t spoon feed the answer but begs for questions to be asked and things to be thought over.

What do you think it means?

“The Spot” on YouTube

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Chestnuts roasting on an open fire http://setbump.com/2013/12/chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire/ http://setbump.com/2013/12/chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire/#comments Thu, 26 Dec 2013 01:56:09 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1754

As the holiday season draws to a close, enjoy this brick-built Yule Log from Kooberz Studios. Merry Christmas, everyone.

LEGO Yule Log – YouTube

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Under the Wire http://setbump.com/2013/12/under-the-wire/ http://setbump.com/2013/12/under-the-wire/#respond Wed, 25 Dec 2013 04:07:41 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1746 I’ve been meaning to blog about Mr. Sir and The Unexpected Encounter by Walter Benson for almost a year now. With THAC 11 around the corner, I thought it might be a nice reminder of the great stuff that gets made in a single day every year.

What makes this short stand out is the character design and brick-built mouth animation. I also find his screaming really amusing. So much so that it inspired me to finally start a Vine account so I could make it loop forever:

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5 End of the Year Brickfilming Contests http://setbump.com/2013/12/5-end-of-the-year-brickfilming-contests/ http://setbump.com/2013/12/5-end-of-the-year-brickfilming-contests/#comments Mon, 16 Dec 2013 00:11:58 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1723 The year 2013 is nearing an end and many of the world’s brickfilmers will have some time off from school or work and hopefully be making a few brickfilms during their holiday break.  If there are any brickfilmers looking to enter some contests, we have a great selection below.

One can choose between five notable brickfilming contests with deadlines between Christmas morning and the end of year.  Two of the competitions do not even require that the brickfilm be made special for that particular contest, just as long as it was made in 2013.  All of the contests have prizes. 🙂

BricksInMotion.com will be holding their annual Twenty-four Hour Animation Contest just a few days before the end of the year.  THAC11 will start at 12pm GMT on Saturday December 28th, 2013. Brickfilmers that enter a THAC do all the idea-making, writing, recording, animating, editing and submitting in just one twenty-four hour period.  It can be quite a grueling process.  At the start time of the contest, details about THAC will be announced on BIM that will include the theme and mod elements.  Although BIM has a few other official contests, I tend to view THAC as their most prestigious contest.  Some notable past winners are Sméagol, Legoander, ForlornCreature, and SpastikChuwawa. The contest does have prizes from its sponsor BrickworldHazzat (Zoot Productions) is administering the contest announcement thread on BIM.  Let’s hope for an on time start this year as there has been issues with that in the past.

A Repelling Spider is hosting another installment of Christmas in a Minute.  The goal of the contest is to make a 20-60 second Christmas themed brickfilm that “can stand out and claim a victory”.  There are prizes for the winners which were provided by contest sponsors Firestar Toys and Mighty Wanderer. The deadline is Christmas Eve, Tuesday December 24, 2013 at 11:59pm EST.  For more information about this great contest, watch the announcement video here.

Members of the French brickfiming website Brick-à-Brack can enter Brickstars.  Brick-à-Brack hosts their big annual brickfilm contest at the end of the year.  Any film released in the year 2013 is eligible for this contest.  Entries will be judged in several different categories such as Best Soundtrack, Best Production Design, Best Special Effects, Best Screenplay, Best Animation, and Best Brickfilmer. Other awards will also be given out for “Most Promising Video” and “Audience Award” that is voted on by Brick-à-Brack members.  Past winners have included great brickfilmers such as France & Alex, Legoander, Aiwha, and Loïc F-B.

 A sports themed brickfilming contest called OYO Video Challege II is being hosted and judged by thefourmonkeysOYO Sportstoys is sponsoring the contest and providing prizes. OYO Sportstoys make LEGO compatible minfigures for NFL and Major League Baseball teams. The deadline is  December 31st at 9pm EST.  The rules are posted on a blog by thefourmonkeys on the Brickfilmer’s Guild. You can also checkout the announcement video here. The main directive for the contest is to show an OYO Sportstoys minifigure(s) in action.  The deadline has passed for the free OYO minifigure, but prizes will be awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners.  BigBudLego and PritchardStudios placed 1st and 2nd last year.


The Brickfilmer’s Guild is also back with the 2013 Brickfilmer’s Guild Animation Festival.  The Brickfilmer’s Guild Animation Festival is the annual animation festival hosted on the Brickfilmer’s Guild and judged by thefourmonkeys and members of the Brickfilmer’s Guild (Member’s Choice). The festival is in its sophomore year and has slightly tweaked rules from last year. Only one brickfilm per person is allowed and there is a 10 minute time limit for the brickfilms. The festival is open to any brickfilmer including non-Brickfilmer’s Guild members. Honors will be mentioned for many categories and there will be a prize for Best Brickfilm.  Last year, the Best Brickfilm went to the amazing brickfilmer namchild for his outstanding brickfilm entitled The Duel (LEGO).

I was hoping to report about a sixth brickfilming contest, but it appears that Megabloks Toymation will not have a 2013 edition.  That’s too bad as the past winners have had some really great entries.

Happy competing!

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The 2013 LEGO Club Entertainment Guide http://setbump.com/2013/12/the-2013-lego-club-entertainment-guide/ http://setbump.com/2013/12/the-2013-lego-club-entertainment-guide/#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 16:56:45 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1698 2013 LEGO Entertainment Guide cover

I was intrigued to find this pamphlet tucked away inside the November-December 2013 issue of the LEGO Club Magazine. Billed as the “Special LEGO Video Guide”, it purports to feature the “top 2013 LEGO videos, free online games, apps, and more!”

In reality, it’s just one big advertisement for LEGO multimedia content (much like what the Club Magazine itself is for LEGO toys). But it definitely points towards increased coverage/awareness of LEGO films and animated content, most likely in preparation for the release of The LEGO Movie next February.

And since “increased coverage/awareness of LEGO films and animated content” is our middle name here, I figured I’d take a second to walk you guys through this “Entertainment Guide” brochure…

The Cover

  • The cover is made up to look like an “Entertainment Weekly” magazine, both in terms of layout and font choice for the title. In fact, I’m kind of surprised they were able to get away with that. Parody… I guess?
  • Chase McCain is holding a LEGO Clapboard tile, which says “Awards!” on it. I’m not sure what that’s referring to, since there are no awards given or listed on the pages within. It almost feels like a movie industry word association game. “What are some other Hollywood-related words… how about ‘Awards’?”

Pages 1-2

  • The first spread is titled “Top 2013 LEGO Videos!”, though based on the content being presented, that’s a pretty arbitrary label. All the videos in this pamphlet are official LEGO releases, which means they’re somewhat limited in scope. How or why these particular videos were chosen to be the “top” videos, it doesn’t say, but there was basically nothing noteworthy I hadn’t seen before.
  • Seeing the Paganomation-produced LEGO Superman and Iron Man videos listed in there was a nice touch, though.
  • The only new content to catch my eye was not a video at all, but a notice for a “NEW FREE LEGO TV APP” available on iTunes. This was the first I had ever heard of such an app existing; though, thanks to similar notices on subsequent pages, it was not the last.

Pages 3-4

  • More of the “Top 2013 LEGO Videos”, including the “first trailer” for The LEGO Movie. Didn’t the second trailer already come out?
  • I can appreciate how repetitive it must be to write short blurbs about so many conceptually similar LEGO videos, but some of the grammar/sentence structure in this brochure is kinda wonky. “How did it go from idea to finished LEGO Specials?” How indeed.

Pages 5-6

  • These pages focus on LEGO City video/game media from 2013. Page 6 is solely devoted to advertising a new LEGO City game for mobile devices.
  • Page 5 does focus on videos; though oddly, they’re all CGI entries. What’s weirder are the “milestone”-type captions on a few of the thumbnail images: “First Appearance of Dalmatian Firedog”! Oh… okay. “Most Minifigures in a Single Video!” Well, that’s not really true; it’s CG, so technically there are no minifigures in that video.

Pages 7-8

  • Pages 7 and 8 feature an ad for the Cartoon Network “Legends of Chima” CG series, which I have yet to check out in any capacity.

Pages 9-10

  • The spread on pages 9 and 10 is entitled, “Mini Movies… Big Creativity!”
  • Rather than focusing on specific video entries, these blurbs talk more generally about a few LEGO video genres — Microsquare (a series of Master Builder how-to videos), LEGO CGI Animation (technically a medium, not a genre), and Seasonal Shorts (Adventures of Max, the Brick-a-Brack Bunch, etc.).
  • More strange sentences: “Featuring the Brick-a-Brack Bunch™  on zany adventures, look for these videos during holidays and when the seasons change.” “A Club Member favorite, ‘Adventures of Max,’ from the LEGO Club TV Show have been an online mainstay for a few years, following the LEGO Club mascot on adventures that take him under the sea, into outer space, and follow him through almost every LEGO line.”
  • And another ad touting “2 ways to watch: catch them all at LEGO.com/clubvideos OR Ask your parents to download the FREE LEGO TV APP on your iPhone or tablet.”

Back Cover

  • Yet another ad for Legends of Chima.

Overall thoughts

  • The biggest takeaway from this brochure is the existence of the LEGO TV mobile app, which I think is pretty cool. Anything that gets LEGO videos further out into the public eye can only be a good thing, I think.
  • However, there are some inconsistencies. For example, our aforementioned LEGO Iron Man short is nowhere to be found on the LEGO TV app, despite the claim that all videos shown in the guide are available to watch on the app. I wonder how many other videos might have been lost in the void.
  • The other interesting thing I discovered via this brochure is the existence of yet another outlet for LEGO Video content. When the blurb mentioned checking out club videos on the LEGO website, I assumed it was talking about the LEGO Club Videos page. In fact, it’s talking about something else entirely: a Videos page on LEGO.com itself.
  • This newer videos page does seem to be more thorough than the Club Videos page ever was; though, on this new page, there is again a subcategory for Club Videos, effectively rendering the separate Club Videos page outmoded and redundant.
  • I am again baffled by the ways in which The LEGO Group continues the fracturing of their video releases; especially when it’s clear from this brochure that they want more people to check out said videos. Now we’ve got the official LEGO YouTube channel, the old (dead) LEGO Club TV channel, the Club Videos page, the LEGO.com Videos page, the LEGO Movie Maker App “Movie Gallery” section, the LEGO TV app, ReBrick.com… sheesh.
  • Why not just have ONE central location and drive all the traffic there? I get wanting to have as many people as possible see the video content itself, but this just feels like a big mess. I want to be able to come back to the same place every time and see all the video content there is; not have to figure out which videos were uploaded where, when, and then try to keep tabs on all of them.

Anyway, what did you guys think of the The 2013 LEGO Club Entertainment Guide? Are you going to check out the LEGO TV app?

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The best minute of “BULB” (2013) http://setbump.com/2013/12/the-best-minute-of-bulb-2013/ http://setbump.com/2013/12/the-best-minute-of-bulb-2013/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 02:48:56 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1702 You know how trailers for movies often spoil the best parts? That’s how I feel about “BULB” by animationIssac.

I saw the trailer for BULB this summer and was intrigued. I can’t think of any other brickfilm that legitimately qualifies as a horror movie (but feel free to disabuse me of this notion in the comments). Most of the times that monsters show up in brickfilms, it ends up being a comedy or an action film (or a little bit of both).

Today, I finally got around to watching all twelve minutes of BULB and was disappointed. I’ve embedded the one minute of the animation I feel is noteworthy, but if you’ve watched the trailer you’ve already seen it. This scene is creepy and mysterious and features some nice cinematography, sound design, and editing. I particularly like the rapid pacing of the normal life shots immediately following the dream.

The other eleven minutes of BULB are boring and repetitive and don’t really explain or justify the  awesome minute in the middle. The intertitles and one-dimensional love interest are more intrusive than useful. If this had stayed focus on the bizarre occurrences in the Underground and how they affected the protagonist, it might have been an interesting film. If you feel compelled to watch the rest, I recommend opting into the YouTube HTML5 test so you can watch it at double speed.

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“The Day Aliens Finally Invaded,” “Indus,” and “Neighborly” http://setbump.com/2013/11/the-day-aliens-finally-invaded-indus-and-neighborly/ http://setbump.com/2013/11/the-day-aliens-finally-invaded-indus-and-neighborly/#comments Sun, 24 Nov 2013 16:10:22 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1684 Three brickfilms recent caught my attention for their overlapping themes of alien invasions and minifigs being built by assembly line robots.

I don’t know how “The Day Aliens Finally Invaded” by Pushover Productions only came in 10th place in BRAWL 2013. Sure, there’s no fancy cinematography and the sets and animation are pretty simple, but it’s absolutely hilarious! All the characters, from the bumbling aliens, to the inane citizens, to the sadistic general are exactly the right level of wacky. Of course, it’s pretty clear that the director and I share a sense of humor, considering I awarded his previous video “Block Ball” first place in one of my animation contests. I guess there are other legitimate criteria for judging a brickfilm than how much it makes me laugh. But as far as I’m concerned, this animation wins.

Indus” by Aiwha Bruno Lefevre opens with a impressive 30 second moving shot that shows off a factory where robots assemble minifigures. That shot alone makes this animation worth watching. Bruno manages to give a pretty basic robot some personality through a well done head tilt, but the animation is over before the story goes anywhere.  A robot falls in love with a human woman and shows affection the only way it can. That’s a interesting setup for a story, but it it would have been nice to see the conflict explored more. Does the woman reciprocate the feelings? Does the robot get deactivated and replaced by one without emotions? Does the army of clone women take over the galaxy?

Neighborly Part 1” by TopSecretSpyGuy combines the alien invasion and minifig assembly robots in an auspicious debut film. This really deserves 10 times the views it has. The set and lighting of the alien spaceship are detailed and atmospheric. The squabbling of the aliens is amusing (though not as laugh-out-loud funny as the alien banter from “The Day Aliens Finally Invaded”) and the ending leaves me excited to future episodes. But the real highlights are the aforementioned minifig assembly machines, which are delightfully greebly and smoothly animated.

Has anyone else encountered serendipitous venn diagrams of brickfilms?

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Help us find every brickfilmer on social media http://setbump.com/2013/11/help-us-find-every-brickfilmer-on-social-media/ http://setbump.com/2013/11/help-us-find-every-brickfilmer-on-social-media/#comments Sat, 23 Nov 2013 22:30:27 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1533 In order to better keep up with all the new brickfilms, we are trying to compile lists of all the brickfilmers. We need your help to make the lists better.

Brickfilmers on YouTube

I started by going through the Brickfilmer’s Guild directory and clicking through on all the profiles with social media links. Our Twitter list of brickfilmers has almost 350 LEGO animators (whether past, present, or occasional) on it. The equivalent Facebook interest list has close to 100. We’ve also subscribed to 400 brickfilmers on YouTube using our channel. (Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t have a way to share a list of channels, the About page is the best we can do.)

We hope that these lists will help you to discover new brickfilms (as they have for us). We make a point of adding new brickfilmers as we come across them, but we need you do let us know who we’re missing. Did we include you and your favorite brickfilmers? While you’re at it, subscribe to us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest updates.

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Make fun of the LEGO Movie trailer and win $12,000 http://setbump.com/2013/11/make-fun-of-the-lego-movie-trailer-and-win-12000/ http://setbump.com/2013/11/make-fun-of-the-lego-movie-trailer-and-win-12000/#respond Sat, 23 Nov 2013 05:32:49 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1687 Holy syzygy, Batman! It’s two of our most frequently recurring topics in a single news item: a Tongal contest for the LEGO Movie.

Everything you need to know is right here, but allow me to make fun of the executional mandatories and highlight other silly tidbits from the rules:

The world of LEGO® is large, but you are free to use any of the characters that appear in the trailer as part of your creation.

Don’t let the fact that all the characters shown in the trailer are only available in sets that don’t come out until a week before this contest is over hamper your creativity!

If submitting a live action entry, do not reenact life threatening or potentially dangerous situations.  For example, do not stand in the middle of traffic, do not swing a dolphin, do not try to fight crime like Batman.

Do not glue a LEGO brick to your back, do not name a character Wyldstyle, do not spoil all of Batman’s funny lines by putting them in the trailer…

For this project only, all entries will become the property of the Sponsor upon submission.  However, Sponsor agrees not to exploit a submission without compensation to the submitter.

Phew! For a minute there, I was worried about being exploited!

As thefourmonkeys pointed out, there’s a long tradition of recreating movie trailers in LEGO, so I would not be surprised to see this trailer recreated in stop-motion. I would take the Honest Trailers approach myself.

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Analyzing the new LEGO Movie trailer http://setbump.com/2013/11/analyzing-the-new-lego-movie-trailer/ http://setbump.com/2013/11/analyzing-the-new-lego-movie-trailer/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 04:05:59 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1670 Now that we’ve all watched the new trailer for the LEGO Movie, let’s take a detailed look at some high-resolution screen shots of it and see what cool tidbits we can find.

Let’s start with Emmet’s apartment

Emmet's house

First of all, NPU on the ceiling lamps and the couch arms. Clearly they have some expert LEGO model designers on staff. Second, nice reference to your previous movies with those posters, Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who apparently get a joint Wikipedia entry, I guess neither has accomplished anything significant outside of their partnership?).

downtown

There’s a lot of fun Octan propaganda in this city scene, but what I really appreciate that is that the LED board is covered in actual 1×1 round plates and that the highway road sign references locales from LEGO themes new and old.

batwing

Why is “The Batwing” in quotations marks?

master builder's lair

I love the use of arches in the windows of the Master Builders’ forum. Also love the rainbow color scheme. Very appropriate for a band of rebels who are building without instructions.

explosion 1

You really have to admire the brick-built explosions. They even used the ice cream scoops piece for the smoke trails like AFOLs do.  (Again, this is slightly less impressive since this is is CGI, but still).

lord business

I can’t wait to get Lord Business’s cool helmet in a set.

vitruvius

Based on that recess on the inside of Vitruvius’s arm, he was manufactured at a Chinese plant. Of course, that makes sense since it has already been announced that there will be a line of Collectible Minifigures based on the LEGO Movie. But still, talk about attention to detail.

explosion 2

Another awesome brick-built explosion. I also admire the care that has gone into the landscape. Those slopes on the hills are pretty accurate to what can be done with real bricks. Even where they deviate from the LEGO palette (look closely at some of the rounded corners), they are mimicking the shape of curvy LEGO pieces.

What details did you pick up on?

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Still a better love story http://setbump.com/2013/10/still-a-better-love-story/ http://setbump.com/2013/10/still-a-better-love-story/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 16:01:12 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1659

Garrett Barati gets us in the Halloween spirit (pun) in this new animation with a very familiar scenario. Lou’s not like other guys… I mean, he’s different.

a Lego Halloween Secret! – YouTube

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Preview the preview of The LEGO Movie http://setbump.com/2013/10/preview-the-preview-of-the-lego-movie/ http://setbump.com/2013/10/preview-the-preview-of-the-lego-movie/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 02:42:53 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1654

The LEGO YouTube channel has some new trailers for, uh… the upcoming new trailer… for The LEGO Movie.

There are “Meet” previews for both Emmet and Wyldstyle (a character I really, really wish had a different name), but not a ton of footage that’s terribly different from what we’ve seen before. I’m as excited for the movie as the next LEGO fan, but I feel like we’re in danger of being caught in an infinite hype loop.

EDIT 10/29/13: There’s a “Meet” preview up for President Business now, which is actually my favorite of the three so far. It’s a nice little bit of insight into a character we know next to nothing about; plus, shameless LEGO fandom in the form of Octan shout-outs.

The LEGO® Movie – Meet Emmet – YouTube

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Animation Tips Series from Mega Bloks http://setbump.com/2013/10/animation-tips-series-from-mega-bloks/ http://setbump.com/2013/10/animation-tips-series-from-mega-bloks/#comments Tue, 08 Oct 2013 16:00:36 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1642 I  discovered a well done and funny “Animation Tips” video series the other day while looking around sites for brickfilming news. The “Animation Tips” series was made for the HALO Toymation Mega Bloks website and is very educational for both novices and experts of brickfilming. Tyler Gregory, the creator of the animation tips video series, delivers five great short tutorials about stop-motion animation using Mega Bloks bricks as his brick of choice. Tyler’s use of humor and illustrations keep the viewer entertained and informed about the subject.

Tyler’s Tips:

Tyler’s Tips #1 Introduction

Tyler’s Tips #2 Planning

Tyler’s Tips #3 Lighting

Tyler’s Tips #4 Movement

Tyler’s Tips #5 Final Techniques

Tyler Gregory produced the winning entry of the Halo Toymation 2011 contest with his action-thriller The Rookie.

He was also a judge for the Halo Toymation Fest 2012. Most of Tyler’s  video productions on his YouTube Channel are machinima videos.

Another animation tips videos series can be found on Halo Toymation website produced by stop-motion expert Erik Goulet. Erik  teaches stop-motion animation at Concordia University and also founded the Montreal Stop-Motion Film Festival. His series is educational as well.

Even if you brickfilm only with LEGO products, you can still get something out of this series. Check it out. 

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The World’s Smallest Stop-Motion Animation http://setbump.com/2013/09/the-worlds-smallest-stop-motion-animation/ http://setbump.com/2013/09/the-worlds-smallest-stop-motion-animation/#comments Sun, 22 Sep 2013 19:05:41 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1612 Okay, it’s not LEGO. But it’s stop-motion and it’s amazing.


Scientists at IBM made a stop-motion movie by moving atoms and taking picture with a microscope. Now, if you think you have big clumsy fingers when you move your minifigure, think of those scientists who had move carbon monoxide molecules (two atoms stacked on top of each other) to animate their movie.

I’m a teacher and I’m very proud when one of my students show me their very first brickfilm. LEGO bricks open them to the world of movie-making and computers. I think that this “small” movie can make some kids start loving science (as well as movie-making) and maybe change the world. LEGO bricks can make kids start loving sciences and arts… and science and arts have the power to make people better.

Enjoy !

A Boy And His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie – YouTube

Moving Atoms: Making The World’s Smallest Movie – YouTube

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The History of Hollywood told in LEGO http://setbump.com/2013/09/the-history-of-hollywood-told-in-lego/ http://setbump.com/2013/09/the-history-of-hollywood-told-in-lego/#comments Wed, 18 Sep 2013 19:59:35 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1609 Alex Eylar (a.k.a. Profound Whatever) is creating a series of LEGO recreations of important moments from the history of cinema and Hollywood. They are both fun and educational, which are two of our favorite adjectives.

 Lumière brothers by Alex Eylar

Lumière brothers by Alex Eylar

You may recognize Alex’s style from 2011 when he recreated scenes from all the Oscar nominees for Best Film. He has also illustrated Pixar’s rules of storytelling. With Alex’s clear affinity for moviemaking and excellent photography skills, we can only hope that he some day tries his hand at brickfilming.

We’ll be watching his Flickr feed and MOCPages for the next installment!

A Brief History of Hollywood, Part I – MOCPages

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Annette Jung Strikes Again http://setbump.com/2013/09/annette-jung-strikes-again/ http://setbump.com/2013/09/annette-jung-strikes-again/#respond Mon, 09 Sep 2013 16:10:36 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1603 I’d be remiss if I didn’t feature this brick recreation of a small part of the “Thriller” music video.

You may remember when we featured Annette’s last Michael Jackson brick animation back in March. “LEGO Thriller” is a step-up in terms of complexity and technique. Not only is it at a larger scale and resolution than her previous work, but her use of layering at key moments adds depth to the otherwise flat animation. It’s a powerful effect. I’m also quite fond of her use of upside down bricks to add a different texture to the girl’s shirt.
Keep ’em coming Annette!

(via The Brothers Brick)

Lego Thriller by Annette Jung – Vimeo

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Conan the LEGO Man http://setbump.com/2013/09/conan-the-lego-man/ http://setbump.com/2013/09/conan-the-lego-man/#comments Sat, 07 Sep 2013 16:03:44 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1581 Conan O’Brien must have a connection with LEGO. Perhaps he has a passion for his favorite childhood toy that still burns.  We have noticed on quite a few occasions over the last few years that LEGO has been mentioned or showcased in comedy bits or interviews.  Conan was born in 1963 and young enough to have played with LEGO sets growing up, but probably ones without minifigures.

Late night talk show host Conan O’Brien got the LEGO treatment by the folks over at LucasArts as part of a promotion for LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues.

Recently on his show, the actor Simon Pegg showed off his Shaun Of The Dead Action Figures.  On another occasion, the actor Paul Rudd presented Conan with a picture of a custom mini-figure made by is his son during his interview with Conan.  Brick artist Nathan Sawaya has built a couple of life-size sculptures of Conan. (The time lapse video of Nathan working on one of the statues is amazing!)

But…what we are most excited about is the connection Conan has with brickfilmers.

Last year, Conan had a brush with brickfilming fame in a Halloween store in Los Angeles.  Sean Willets, aka filmyguy1, appears with Conan in the sexy outfit section of the costume shop.  (It’s near the 2 minute mark).  Sean’s mom also makes an appearance.

Unfortunately no brickfilming was discussed.

Atticus Shaffer, star of TV show The Middle, discussed his love for making LEGO stop motion films during his interview with Conan.

Donald Faison, star of The Exes and Scrubs, discussed his passion for making LEGO stop motion with Conan.  Donald Faison is the man behind Black Storm Trooper.

The mouth movements are done with stop motion.  Respect, man! Check out his interview on the Team Coco site (part 1, part 2).

Conan played a few brickfilms on his television show.  One brickfilm that aired on Conan was by Grayson MacLean, the childhood inventor.  Grayson MacLean invented BrickStix and was interviewed by Conan a few years ago.

Here’s the extended version of Grayson’s brickfilm:

Conan played yet another brickfilm on his television show called Cheer Up, Legos!  It was apparently produced by Conan’s team in response to news stories about LEGO not having as many smiles as they once did.  It’s quite funny.  Warning: it has some mature content, so view at your own discretion.

So Conan, when are you going to interview another brickfilmer or play another brickfilm on your show? We love it!

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Watch this brickfilm right now http://setbump.com/2013/09/watch-this-brickfilm-right-now/ http://setbump.com/2013/09/watch-this-brickfilm-right-now/#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2013 03:40:56 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1576 If you haven’t seen “Major Malfunction” by MisterMulluc, you are missing out on a fantastic five minute miracle of animation.

Okay, now that you’ve watched that, let’s talk about what makes it superlatively awesome. Amazing animation, creative character design, non-stop comedy, and great camera work, it’s got everything.. My only tiny criticism would be that there’s no real story (i.e. I don’t know why a robot is chasing two well-dressed chaps through a jungle), but then again it’s got about as much story as “Tom and Jerry” and most “Looney Tunes” cartoons. Also, that tiny complaint is buried under a mountain of adoration. I love the way the palm tree gets “bent” at 1:09, the way the guy with the hat keeps putting his hat back on, the absurdist touches like a sign with legs, the cartoonish back and forth starting at 3:20, and did I mention the piano-playing robot!?! Every action is well-motivated and fluidly animated. It doesn’t get much better than this.

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“CL!CK” and “The Brick Thief” by MJZ (2010) http://setbump.com/2013/09/clck-and-the-brick-thief-by-mjz-2010/ http://setbump.com/2013/09/clck-and-the-brick-thief-by-mjz-2010/#comments Mon, 02 Sep 2013 01:00:10 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1543 One of the most unique advertisements LEGO has done in recent years was for the launch of LEGO CL!CK—a website highlighting LEGO bricks as part of the creative process. “CL!CK” and its semi-sequel “The Brick Thief” are highly stylized stop-motion films that follow the adventures of a wacky inventor always in need of inspiration.


Story

LEGO CL!CKIn “CL!CK”, our wacky inventor (let’s call him Dr. Zacharias Playwell) is trying to invent a way for humans to fly, he gets inspired after a visit to the Idea Factory. In “The Brick Thief” Dr. Playwell steals LEGO bricks from children so he can build a toy rock band and dance.

Both videos serve as charming parables about the creative process. “CL!CK” focuses on the frustration that comes from butting your head up against a problem repeatedly without knowing how to solve it, and the ensuing euphoria when you finally arrive at a solution. In short, it is a story about overcoming writer’s/inventor’s/creator’s block. The concept of the Idea Factory as the place to go to be inspired is a little half-baked (especially when you remember it is also a metaphor for the LEGO CL!CK website), but it serves its purpose.

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 11.02.49 PMIf “CL!CK” is a story about writer’s block, then “The Brick Thief” is a story about how borrowing/stealing/remixing other people’s ideas is an essential part of the creative process. There’s less of a story arc here; Dr. Playwell doesn’t have what he needs, but then he gets it with little resistance. The stakes may be low, but the message is clear: LEGO is reaffirming it’s core principles as a toy of endless possibilities. It also works as a “so that’s where all the missing socks go” tale.

Design

LEGO CL!CK

There is no dialogue in either film aside from Dr. Playwell’s frustrated grunts and jubilant “AHA!”s, so the storytelling is almost entirely visual. Question mark boxes float above Dr. Playwell’s head when he’s stumped, his ideas come to life on paper and in bricks, and his face says all we need to know.

The Brick ThiefThe set design of the laboratory evokes the stop-motion films of Jan Švankmejer. In particular, Dr. Playwell’s wall of tiny doors recalls Svankmejer’s “Alice“. The controlled playfulness of the Ideas Factory brings to the Google campus or the building where LEGO set designers work. Creativity is portrayed simultaneously as messy and personal and as clean and corporate.

The dim, flickery lighting and vignetting makes the films feel like early silent films. This is an appropriate stylistic choice given the lack of dialogue. Makes me wish some one would do a Méliès homage brickfilm.

Animation

The first time I watched “CL!CK” and “The Brick Thief” I was blown away by the animation. I couldn’t believe that they had managed to do such intricate stop-motion of the LEGO models while also stop-animating the human actor. I was right not to believe.

LEGO CL!CK

Though it’s not immediately obvious to the untrained eye (or, at least, wasn’t to mine), the animated LEGO bricks in these two films are photo-realistic CGI rather than physical LEGO bricks. The telltale sign is the unnatural sheen of the bricks; they are just a tad too luminous to be real. The CGI was done by a52, which specializes in photo-real visual effects.

The Brick ThiefI wanted to highlight these films in light of the recent revelations that “The LEGO Movie” will employ a similar style of photo-realistic stop-motionesque CGI (though on a much grander scale). It is an interesting compromise that retains the stop-motion aesthetic while significantly reducing the cost/complexity. It is certainly preferable to the animation style of the Ninjago TV series which gives characters un-LEGO-like flexibility.

All that being said, the animation in “CL!CK” and “The Brick Thief” is inventive and well-executed. Highlights include a rocket turning into shoe then into an exclamation point, a windmill that lets off musical notes, and the puffs of smoke coming out of the Idea factory.

Marius Begai also deserves mention here as the actor behind Dr. Playwell. His animated expressions are delightful and his stop-motion dance moves are enviable. Stop-motion acting is a unique skill, much like being a puppeteer and a puppet at the same time.

Conclusion

“CL!CK” and “The Brick Thief” are different than the average LEGO commercial. They have a unique visual style and rather than selling the latest LEGO set, they have timeless messages about creativity. In this way, they are reminiscent of vintage LEGO commercials.  I would love to see more LEGO commercials in this vein. “Build Together” is the only comparable one I can think of from recent years.

However, it’s also important to evaluate these videos in the context of LEGO CL!CK writ large. The LEGO CL!CK website and social media channels are now dormant, only a few years after they launched. They have become more cruft floating in the LEGO digital ocean. My guess is that they were either abandoned so LEGO could focus efforts on ReBrick, or because they were being run by an ad agency and never intended to be long-term. There’s a parallel here to the many YouTubers who used to brickfilm and have either disappeared or turned into video game focused channels.

Even when it was actively updated, the CL!CK website was hard to use. Its Flash-based design means it won’t load on mobile devices. Pieces of content appear as giant teetering stack of LEGO bricks. It looks cool, but it is confusing to navigate. If you know how to find them, there are a few awesome micro-blogs by my illustrious co-editor, but it’s impossible for me to link directly to them. Given the emphasis placed these days on mobile-friendliness and content sharability, the LEGO CL!CK website serves as a stark reminder of how much web design standards have changed over the last few years.

In this sense, the LEGO CL!CK website becomes a parable for another part of the creative process: the idea that didn’t work. Despite winning a bunch of advertising awards, LEGO CL!CK has clearly not been a long-term success for LEGO. One of the things the LEGO Group does well is try out a wide variety of ideas and then focus their resources behind the ones that are successful. This means they have a lot of themes and products that are swiftly abandoned after only a year or two. LEGO CL!CK is another crumpled piece of paper in the great LEGO trash bin next to Galidor, LEGO Universe, and Clikits.

LEGO CL!CK

 

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New LEGO titles on Netflix http://setbump.com/2013/08/new-lego-titles-on-netflix/ http://setbump.com/2013/08/new-lego-titles-on-netflix/#comments Sun, 01 Sep 2013 01:43:59 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1538 50354-netflix-logo

A host of new LEGO film and TV content has been added to Netflix. It’s all CG stuff, but cool nonetheless.

Among the new titles are:

Of these, I’ve only managed to watch the Friends and Atlantis shorts. “New Girl In Town” has about as bland of a story as you’d imagine; though what really bothered me about it was the design of the thing. Every character has the same build and appearance, and can pretty much only be told apart by their hair and clothing. The men all look like 12-year-olds with beards (watch especially for the creepy mayor and his smooth dance moves), and everyone’s got bizarro mouth shapes that match their dialogue almost as often as they match the characters’ emotion.

Meanwhile, “Atlantis” plays out like a feature-length script that someone condensed into 22 minutes. It’s got no payoff, but it’s harmless fun with some neat characters and energetic voice acting. I’d say it’s worth checking out, especially for kids who dig the sets.

Atlantis actually reminded me of a more successful version of “The Adventures of Clutch Powers”, particularly in the structure and characterization. “Old Guy, Meathead, Nerd, and The Girl all go off on an adventure where they use building skills to do… something.” Clutch Powers is also on Netflix, but I’ll have to save my extended thoughts on that yawn-fest for another time.

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This Kickstarter Project is Doomed http://setbump.com/2013/08/this-kickstarter-project-is-doomed/ http://setbump.com/2013/08/this-kickstarter-project-is-doomed/#comments Thu, 15 Aug 2013 23:15:23 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1509 The End of Magic” by Virgeo Studios is the most expensive brickfilm Kickstarter project to date, with a lofty goal of $20,000. If successful, it would greatly expand the poseability of minifigure arms by adding 7 additional sets of arm shapes, essentially turning the minifig elbow into a functional joint. However, there’s almost no chance it will be successful. arm_large

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to get my hands on some high-quality custom minifig arms. I snatched up Guy Himber’s Crazy Arms and I have made a habit of removing minifig arms from their sockets and holding them in with putty to increase their poseability. And, as with every other brickfilm Kickstarter project I’ve come across, I backed “The End of Magic” almost immediately after seeing it. That being said, let me explain why I think this project is doomed to fail. I hope this can serve as an example to others about how not to structure a Kickstarter project.

The goal is too high

$20,000 is a lot of money. That’s more than double the amount raised by the most-funded brickfilm Kickstarter project to date. It’s also more than was raised by Guy Himber’s successful Pigs vs. Cows custom minifig parts project. There are only three LEGO-related Kickstarter projects that have raised over $20,000 (1, 2, 3), and only about 10% of successful Kickstarter projects have passed that bar. Greg Tull will be very lucky if he manages to raise $11,000 for Bound (which we highlighted previously), Emiliano Acevedo will be a miracle worker if he gets to $20,000.

The marketing is wrong

Is “The End of Magic” primarily a project that appeals to LEGO fans who want new custom parts, or LEGO fans who want to support independent LEGO animation? The goal puts it in the range of custom parts projects, but the rewards offered line up with those of brickfilm projects (custom minifigs, DVDs, etc.). In a project like Pigs vs. Cows, higher reward levels offer different amounts of parts packs, in “The End of Magic,” the custom arms are only available in a few low-price rewards and there’s no clear way to get multiple kits. This is two projects smushed into one and the result is muddled.

In addition to muddling two distinct markets, Virgeo Studios doesn’t seem to have a large existing base of fans to market “The End of Magic” to. The reason BrickMania was able to raise over $50,000 for custom LEGO tracks is that BrickMania is an institution in the LEGO fan community. Their booth is always packed at LEGO fan conventions and they have dedicated marketing channels with significant followings. Guy Himber was able to raise over $18,000 because he is a well-known builder, tied his project into the theme of a major LEGO convention, and got covered multiple times by the premier LEGO blog. As Kickstarter says “Kickstarter is not a magical source of money.”

Conclusion

Emiliano has put a lot of work into designing these custom pieces. This video makes that clear (while also providing an unfortunate example of male gaze):

I’d like these arm pieces to become a reality, but given how the project is structured, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I hope that my critical analysis of this project will help those of you who plan to do Kickstarter projects in the future think about how to make your project successful. Research other successful projects as well as your market to set a realistic goal.

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The Making-Of “Bestia” is Truly Inspiring http://setbump.com/2013/08/the-making-of-bestia-is-truly-inspiring/ http://setbump.com/2013/08/the-making-of-bestia-is-truly-inspiring/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 15:30:47 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1498 A couple of months ago, France & Alex released a 22-minute long historical brickfilm that is impressive to say the least. They spent a considerable amount of time producing the film, and have just recently released a video that gives a close up, behind-the-scenes look at what went into making “Bestia“.

A few of the things that impressed me the most about the film were the intricate camera movements and character motions. They’re some of the best I’ve seen in a brickfilm in a long time. Their behind-the-scenes video is truly inspiring and enlightening. From the very practical lighting set-ups, to the complex camera and motion rigs made from LEGO, France & Alex take the “limitations” of a webcam and push them as far as they can. In fact, after watching this video, I’m even more convinced that webcams are one of the best cameras to use for brickfilming. Set some time aside to watch “Bestia” and then be sure to watch the incredible making-of video.

Bestia (making-of) – YouTube

Bestia – YouTube

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9 Movie Trailers Recreated in LEGO http://setbump.com/2013/08/9-movie-trailers-recreated-in-lego/ http://setbump.com/2013/08/9-movie-trailers-recreated-in-lego/#comments Wed, 07 Aug 2013 16:00:44 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1481 As writers of the Brickfilmer’s Guild Brickfilming News and Events Blog, we are constantly searching the internet for brickfilming news. We discovered that a few types of brickfilms get more online news coverage than others. There doesn’t seem to be much online news coverage about the average typical brickfilm.  There’s also not much coverage about fan made superhero or Star Wars brickfilms. Online news coverage, along with the views, generally goes to brickfilms that are: 1) recreations of movie trailers, 2) video game inspired, 3) sports re-enactments, 4) music videos of songs from popular artists, 5) marriage proposals, and 6) all the PR stuff about LEGO sponsored/produced CGI animations like Batman, Star Wars, and the upcoming LEGO Movie.

To narrow things down, let’s just look at the genre of brickfilm movie trailers. Movie trailers done as brickfilms are typically animated frame for frame to the existing original trailer’s soundtrack. I found nine movie trailers recreated in LEGO to examine and showcase.

1) “The Heat” by Garrett Barati

I am a huge fan of Garrett Barati and I love this brickfilm movie trailer. The animation is very realistic and true to the original trailer. All of the props and scenery in the backgrounds give such depth to each scene. I especially like the floor patten in the police jail scene, simple with a nice addition. The real movie Heat had decent success at the box office, but the recreated version doesn’t have many views. It surely deserves more than it has right now. Perhaps the R rating hurts the potential audience that appreciates brickfilms.

2) “Wolverine” by Antonio Toscano

Antonio Toscano has his niche in brickfilming. It’s making brickfilm movie trailers. He has found success in his brickfilm movie trailers as he has over a million views between his four trailers. “Wolverine” is Toscano’s most recent brickfilm movie trailer and is the first of four on this list of nine brickfilm trailers.  It currently has just over 10,000 views on YouTube. The sets and the lighting are all good and the energy of the animation totally works for the brickfilm trailer. The animation is a bit little choppy at times, but doesn’t distract or take away from this great brickfilm.

3) “Star Trek Into Darkness” by Antonio Toscano

This one is my favorite of Antonio Toscano’s brickfilm movie trailers. Maybe I just have a fondness for Star Trek. The micro-scale that was used in some of the scenes worked well. The trailer had a great selection of the minifigures. An article about Toscano’s trailer was written by ITWORLD.

4) “Lego Man of Steel Trailer #2” by Antonio Toscano

This video has over a quarter million plus views on YouTube. It stays very true to the original trailer. There are a few issues with the animation here and there, but like some of the other Toscano’s brickfilms, it doesn’t hurt the energy of the recreation. EntertainmentFIX and Unleash the Fan Boy wrote blogs about this video.

5) “Iron Man 3 Trailer #2” by Antonio Toscano

This brickfilm recreation is closing in on one million views. It’s loaded with extensive chroma keying that’s well achieved. The scene with the helicopters attacking Tony Stark’s home was the scene that worked best for me. Toscano had fun with this one. There are a few easter eggs that are hidden in the film. I also like Toscano’s style of making explosions with special effects. The explosions have a realness to them as they are not just keyed in explosions from Detonation Films, the explosions use real bricks in the effects.

6) “The Dark Knight Rises TRAILER#1 in LEGO!“by forrestfire101

This is the first of the movie trailer recreations that have earned over one million views. It’s brilliantly done with great animation, lighting, special effects, and incredible CGI scenes. My complaint with this trailer has everything to with the original trailer, not Forrest Whaley’s recreation. There’s not enough Batman, I think he’s in only one scene. I want to see BATMAN! You can always count on Forrest for top notch brickfilms.

7) “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 TRAILER” in LEGO by forrestfire101

This is a first class professional grade recreation and my favorite of the two Forrestfire101 trailers on this list. It has great special effects, great lighting effects, and is also incredibly well animated. Forrest did not rely on CGI like his Dark Knight Rises Trailer. Forrest might be the king of college age humor using LEGO animation, but he can also make top notch movie trailers in LEGO. Kudos Forrest! It’s also great to be able to share a few of his brickfilms with our young daughter.

8) “Dark Knight Rises Trailer 3: IN LEGO” by ParanickFilmz

This is a very well done recreation, and must have taken ages to make. Some of the scenes rely on CGI and have a less of an authentic feel compared to the stop motion scenes. The mouth movements and facial animation are also well done. The lighting and special effects were superb. Comic Book Creation posted an article about this trailer.

9) “Cars 2” by Patrick Boivin

Patrick Boivin is a professional stop motion artist and it shows. Although he doesn’t work with LEGO for most of his animations, the Cars 2 Trailer that he created is one of the most impressive brickfilms that I have ever seen. This jaw dropping trailer was released back in 2011 and now has over ten million views. It was a paid commission work from LEGO, Disney, and Pixar. Mr. Boivin was not completely alone on this project. He had the benefit of getting help from a “builders team at LEGO” on the scenic elements. I wish I had a team like that for my brickfilms. The “facial” animations are top notch and don’t seem like some painted on effect done in post production. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this.

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Come on, grab your friends! http://setbump.com/2013/08/come-on-grab-your-friends/ http://setbump.com/2013/08/come-on-grab-your-friends/#comments Wed, 07 Aug 2013 04:29:21 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1492 Spastik Chuwawa clued us in to this sweet LEGO stop-motion version of the Adventure Time intro!

Things to keep an eye out for:

All in all, nothing less than what you’d expect from a Screen Novelties stop-motion piece. Fantastic.

EDIT: For those of you outside the USA, you can check out the video here. They’ve also posted a cool (albeit short) behind-the-scenes write up here.

Adventure Time LEGO Main Title | Geek Week | Cartoon Network – YouTube

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“Henri & Edmond – Droits d’auteur” (“Copyright”) (2011) http://setbump.com/2013/08/henri-edmond-droits-dauteur-copyright-2011/ http://setbump.com/2013/08/henri-edmond-droits-dauteur-copyright-2011/#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 16:00:12 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1438 Henri & Edmond – Droits d’auteur” (“Copyright” in English) is the second brickfilm by Maxime Marion (StudioEpsilon) featuring Henri, the hero, and Edmond, his firefighter friend who always helps him out of trouble… with style.  “Henri & Edmond – Le Nouveau Voisin” (The New Neighbour) was the first brickfilm and was 7 minutes long. The second chapter is an amazing 32 minutes of pure fun.

Plot

Henri is pursued by SACOM ( a fictional music protection agency possibly based on SACEM) for illegally downloading the song “Brick Lady,” from the Internet. He calls his friend Edmond for help and together they try to escape SACOM and its obsessed boss Vince Stub. And they do it with “style” (according to Edmond, “style” can’t be described, sorry.)

Henri and Edmond get away on a small fire truckI must first point out the excellent script. Everything helps the story, there is nothing to cut. What happens in the beginning is referred to later (even if it’s only for a joke). Everything has a meaning. When the story concludes, you’ll know what I mean.

There’s a lot of great metafictional humor too. Henri and Edmond are plastic minifigures, and they know it. Yes. When Edmond want to cheer up his friend, he tell him this story (no spoilers here).

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an acrobat. But someday, I realized that I was only a plastic figure, and that I don’t have neither elbow nor knee joint. But one day, my uncle came to me and told me that I must never give up though I’m only a figure… Where there’s a will, there’s a way and I could be much more than a piece of plastic. 

Vince Stub looking at hi-tch screen tracking Henri & EdmondNot only do they know they are made of plastic, but they also know that they are in a movie. “We’re in the middle of a dynamic montage.”  says Edmond to Henri right in the middle of… a montage! And sometime they refer to the script writer or the film’s direction.  If you like these kind of jokes, see their first adventure, “The New Neighbor,” for even more.

Technique and Animation

Henri and Edmond sit silhouetted in front of a sunset

Maxime Morin’s work on lightning is amazing, it changes a lot, going from day light to sunset to night. The camera angles too must be mentioned, they are various and creative for a brickfilm, and gives you the feeling your watching a Hollywood movie. And speaking of camera angles, there’s a scene where Henri is hiding himself behind other minifigs by moving exactly as they do (Edmond calls that “the axis trick”). Look carefully and you’ll see that he’s there. That scene is not only funny, it’s a chef d’œuvre (masterpiece) of brickfilm animation.

Two minfigures do the same actions while standing behind one another“Copyright” is Maxime Morin’s personal project. It took him around 9 to 10 months of work in a three years period. He did all the animation and asked his friends to help with voices and post-production. As Maxime Morin works in the video business, it was easy for him to find friends who were passionate about his project, pro or not. I must mention that the French voices are very professional, as is the sound design… and everything else.

Oh! Did I mention that Henri & Edmond is in French? Don’t worry, there’s English subtitles.

But the song is in English. “Brick Lady” performed by “The Dragonflies” is not only the music of this brickfilm, it’s also part of the story.  In fact, the movie’s official Original Soundtrack is available on Bandcamp.

There is more to say, but I will stop here. On the other hand, Henri & Edmond won’t stop here because there is a third movie coming out soon. The title is “Plastic Love.” See their Facebook page for the poster.

“Henri & Edmond – Droit d’auteur” – YouTube

Behind the scenes – YouTube

Storyboard – YouTube

Recording Sessions – Youtube

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Homefront http://setbump.com/2013/08/homefront-2/ http://setbump.com/2013/08/homefront-2/#respond Tue, 06 Aug 2013 02:18:19 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1461

Last week marked one of the major brickfilming competitions that are held almost every year within the community. BRAWL challenges animators to create an entire short animation in only week or less. These events always bring about some really quality entries. One of my favorite this year was this clever and powerful animation about a soldier. The video is rather short, the audio isn’t the greatest, but it is an excellent example of what a great brickfilm is. The pacing and structure of the short lends to its powerful conclusion. It also uses the contest’s theme, “Outlook,” quite well. Take a moment and watch “Homefront” by Chris Wynn.

[BRAWL 2013] Homefront – YouTube

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AFOL is an Awful Acronym http://setbump.com/2013/08/afol-is-an-awful-acronym/ http://setbump.com/2013/08/afol-is-an-awful-acronym/#comments Sun, 04 Aug 2013 16:30:47 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1433 I’ve never been a fan of the acronym AFOL (Adult Fan Of LEGO), it lacks the poetry of Whovian or Trekkie (though, apparently, those terms are similarly disliked), but it seems like we’re stuck with it. Next year it will be further canonized in “Brickumentary,” an upcoming feature-length documentary about LEGO. The latest ReBrick contest gives brickfilmers another opportunity to have an animation on the big screen.

Golden minifig trophy "Show us an AFOL"

(If you are scratching your head thinking, “Brickumentary? Didn’t I already see that, and wasn’t the name better?” — you are thinking of “Blocumentary” from 2010, and the sequel webseries. Jess Gibson and her team did an excellent job with these, so I highly recommend them. And since the official LEGO YouTube channel is a morass of bizarre playlists, I pulled them together in a playlist on the Set Bump channel.)

Back to the matter at hand, “Brickumentary” is a feature-length documentary about LEGO being made by Futuristic Films. (Perhaps they’ll take a cue from the other feature-length LEGO movie coming out next year and switch to a simpler title like “The LEGO Documentary”). We saw them filming at Brickworld Chicago 2013, so production is definitely underway.

The tie-in ReBrick contest challenges users to make a stop motion animation that explains what an AFOL is in under 2 minutes. The grand prize winner will potentially be used in the film and potentially be commissioned to create additional brickfilms for “Brickumentary” and definitely for sure gets a signed Sydney Opera House set. Perusing the official rules pulls up some other interesting details (my emphasis added for humorous and editorial effect):

  • The video must be uploaded to YouTube (videos submitted from other sources, such as Vimeo or Flickr might not play on ReBrick and will inhibit voting)
  • You must capture your film using these specifications: 1920 x 1080 H.264 MPEG @ 24fps (23.98)
  • Entries with military vehicles or vehicles featuring weapons will not be eligible for the Challenge
  • Entry movies should not show recognizable features of any person or any commercial product
  • Entrants may not use LEGO Bricks in their Entries that can be clearly identified as part of a third party branded LEGO set…  Entrants may not use Minifigures from these sets or any decorated pieces that would identify one of these properties if used in an original creation
  • …all intellectual property rights to your Entry and any materials submitted by you are automatically awarded and completely transferred to LEGO

In line with our increasing concerns over the exploitative nature of the LEGO Tongal contests, we urge you to consider the possible costs and benefits before entering this contest. Getting officially commissioned to do a brickfilm is a pretty cool opportunity, but considering that you are essentially doing spec work to get that opportunity, it might not be worth it.

Show Us an AFOL Competition – ReBrick

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Happy Birthday, The Set Bump! http://setbump.com/2013/08/happy-birthday-the-set-bump/ http://setbump.com/2013/08/happy-birthday-the-set-bump/#comments Fri, 02 Aug 2013 02:38:46 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1423 LEGO Cake

The Set Bump turns one year old today!

It was not so long ago (last August, in fact) that we said “Hello World” with our first post; kicking off a great year of news, reviews, editorials, and other animation-y brick-a-brack. In the coming year, we plan to continue upping the ante with all kinds of new content. You might have already seen the first result of our foray into the world of guest contributors — A Repelling Spider’s post about how, when it comes to animating with LEGO bricks, there is no time like the present.

Anyway, we’d like to extend a big thank-you to all our readers, commenters, and supporters for your continued interest in and feedback on our little corner of the internet. If all goes according to plan, year two should be even more interesting.

They’re making a LEGO Movie, after all!

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It’s a Great Time to Brickfilm (and Here’s Why) http://setbump.com/2013/07/its-a-great-time-to-brickfilm-and-heres-why/ http://setbump.com/2013/07/its-a-great-time-to-brickfilm-and-heres-why/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2013 18:06:25 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1381 [A Repelling Spider was kind enough to be the first of our guest contributors here on The Set Bump. Stay tuned for more guest posts in the future.]

Quite recently there have been some discussions about whether brickfilming is on the decline. People have said that the “golden age” of brickfilms is over (whenever that was). They support this opinion by pointing to the surplus of mediocre and sub-mediocre animations that are coming out each and every day. It seems to many that truly “great” brickfilms are produced less and less often. I, however, do not see this as being true. Even if it were the case, it does not change one simple fact: it’s a great time to brickfilm. At no other time in the short history of the art has there been so much opportunity, so many resources, and an abundance of encouragement. Allow me to explain.

end_of_an_era

Inexpensive, Abundant Tech

With the rise of webcams, smartphones, and DSLRs, gone are the days when not every Tom, Dick, or Jane could pick up a camera, a box of LEGO bricks, and begin animating. Rapid advances in technology have put brickfilming in the hands of almost anyone who wants to try it. It is easier to do than ever before, especially in comparison to when Lindsay Fleay first created “The Magic Portal” on a film camera back in the 1980s. Combine this with the software options filmmakers have today and it is relatively easy to get started. The upfront cost could be as little as $40-$100. Compare this to the $11,745 budget for “The Magic Portal,” the bulk of which was probably spent on things like film stock, processing & transferring, and simply getting access to studios with sound editing equipment.

Perhaps herein lies the real problem. When brickfilming was harder and required a greater investment, people were less apt to begin unless they were serious about it. Today, there are still plenty of people who are serious about making quality animations. It is simply harder to find them and become noticed in the sea of mediocrity.

Distribution on a Global Scale

Let’s consider Lindsay Fleay again. When he finished “The Magic Portal,” the internet was still in its infancy. There was no YouTube, Vimeo, or DailyMotion. Getting a brickfilm to an audience was not as quick and easy as rendering, uploading, tagging, and then tweeting. Lindsay’s only option for distribution was to work with a film distributor and apply to film festivals, a time-consuming process that doesn’t always yield results.

I won’t even begin to take the time to intimately describe the ways in which the World Wide Web has impacted this art. That’s a topic that would require a post of its own.

Encouragement from the LEGO Group

Over the short history of brickfilming, copyright issues have constantly plagued animators. For quite some time, it was apparent that the LEGO Group did not condone or even support a group of fans that wanted to make movies with their product, and then distribute them. Lindsay Fleay came against this very issue when he wanted to get his film out to the world, or at least a greater portion of it. Basically, LEGO told Fleay to stop all of his actions and turn over all of the content. Thankfully, Fleay was able to resist and retain his creation, but he was never able to distribute it like he dreamed.

As the internet began to grow and mature, companies began to change their policies on how they would allow people to use their products. Over the past two decades it seems that the LEGO Group has slowly changed their stance on the issue of brickfilming. They have switched from actively discouraging brickfilming to actively encouraging it.

For instance, over the past few years, LEGO has sponsored a number of brickfilming contests. Just recently, there was one such competition that was held to accompany the production of the upcoming LEGO Movie. This contest even offered the opportunity of featuring one of the winners in the movie itself! Also, the Tongal video challenges hosted by LEGO must be considered. LEGO was and still is paying animators young and old to produce brickfilms that they end up using for advertising and promotional purposes. Twenty years ago, the chances of a teenage, amateur animator to be paid $10,000 by LEGO were slim to none.

Oh, and I must not forget to mention the smartphone and tablet application that the LEGO Group recently released. It allows users to create and then share stop-motion brickfilms using the camera on their devices! Clearly, LEGO has become a supporter of sorts.

Doorway to a Broader Future

Ever heard of Christopher Nolan? You know, the man who made a few Batman films that a couple of people like? Did you know that he once made videos with LEGO? Or take Lindsay Fleay—he went on to do 3D animation work on major films like “The Matrix,” “Moulin Rouge,” and “Happy Feet.”

I say this to make a point that has become very real in my own life. What started as a simple hobby turned into a doorway for greater opportunities. I’ve been interviewed by LEGO more than once, helped on a larger film project, and more recently have been asked to create some small animations to be used at the end of a feature-length documentary. All because I started to brickfilm. None of these opportunities would have been possible without my hobby.

These things did not happen to me overnight of course. It’s taken me several years to get to this point, but it goes to show that brickfilming can eventually be a door to greater projects. I’m sure if you ask other talented brickfilmers, they could say the same thing. Just look at Dylan Woodley, the teenager who was commissioned to create an official LEGO version of Ed Sheeran’s LEGO House music video. Now that’s impressive!

Conclusion

Sure, there are a lot of bad brickfilms being created today. But does this mean brickfilming is on the decline? Of course not! Just like any art, there is plenty of junk to sort through. Finding the quality work can be hard at times, but that does not mean it is not out there. Trust me, it is. [If only there were some sort of blog that highlighted great brickfilms… –Ed.]

Here’s a quick call-to-action to the animators out there: don’t get stuck looking at all the negative aspects of the art. If you’re sick and tired of seeing cliche shoot-em-up action videos, work extra hard and create something truly unique and amazing. The opportunities, resources, and encouragement have never been so available.

Now is a great time to start brickfilming; more so than ever before. Get up, grab some LEGO, find a camera, and get animating!

“The Magic Portal” – YouTube

Behind the scenes of “The Magic Portal”

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More Tongal, Kickstarter, & LEGO Movie News http://setbump.com/2013/07/more-tongal-kickstarter-lego-movie-news/ http://setbump.com/2013/07/more-tongal-kickstarter-lego-movie-news/#respond Thu, 25 Jul 2013 12:30:14 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1368 In a roundup that makes me think I need to start diversifying our coverage here a little bit, I have three new things that sound very much like three other things we’ve covered recently.

Iron Man flying | $20,000 video

1) In addition to the DC Universe Tongal Contest, LEGO also launched a Marvel one. Since I already made fun of the “executional mandatories” in the last post, I’m all out of jokes on this one.

Bound movie poster

2) I don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Monitogo Studios or Greg Tull. Even though he’s been making brick animations since 2008, none have been released online. Unless you were at SAICFF 2009, you probably missed their last animation.

David and I first met Greg Tull during our “Intro to LEGO Animation” workshop at Brickworld a few years ago. The workshop is three hours long, so we let the audience interrupt frequently with questions and comments. In addition to the usual questions about how to make characters fly and what frame rate we use, one audience member kept raising his hand to discuss the finer points of DragonFrame and advanced lighting techniques. My co-author joked “maybe you should be the one up here teaching the class.”

The very next year, Greg was leading his own workshop on brick animation which gave participants hands-on experience animating and taught them how to think about lighting and camera angles the way a Hollywood director would. It was a great compliment to our workshop and it was a nice opportunity for us to be students again. This year, Greg had a last-minute commitment that prevented him from attending most of Brickworld, but he still drove 8 hours (each way) just so he could give the “Advanced Animation Workshop” again.

I say all of this to give you a sense of who Greg is and show how dedicated he is not only to making brick animations, but to teaching and inspiring others. He follows through on his promises, even if it means putting in some extra hours of tedium on very little sleep. If that’s not the mark of a true animator, I don’t know what is.

The few glimpses of “Bound” on display on the Kickstarter page are promising, the animation is fluid and the facial animation is good (if you’re into that). There are some epic wide shots in the video (starting at about 1:21) and I really want to see the parts of the film set in the mine. I talked at length in my last post on this subject about why I think it’s important to support artists, so it should come as no surprise to you that I’m supporting this one.

Will “Bound” be a success like “Melting Point” or will it join “Ghost Town” among the ranks of brick animation projects on Kickstarter that didn’t quite make it? Only you can decide! Go check out the project on Kickstarter!

3) Here’s a really great interview with the directors and co-director of “The LEGO® Movie.” More interesting tidbits about how the film is animated:

…with stop motion there’s no motion blur because every frame is its own little thing.  We found out if a character is moving really fast across the screen, it was going to get a little bit jumpy.  And so, we developed this brick-built motion blur of the characters when they’re moving really fast, and we have these special clever solves for things like that.

See!? Even fancy Hollywood people with budgets of millions of dollars prefer brick-built special effects! Or at least brick-built-and-then-cleverly-replicated-in-a-photo-realistic-CG-environment special effects. I really can’t wait to watch every behind-the-scenes feature on this movie.

Miller: It was inspired a lot by brick films that people make online.  There are a ton of these on YouTube where these people very creatively make funny, funny LEGO movies and the limitations of the characters is kind of funny.  Also, there are some photographers that photograph the little LEGO people and try to make it look really epic, just from the lighting.  And we thought that was pretty cool when they tried to marry a cinematic lighting style with a brick film aesthetic.

Lord: I think it was a choice we made the instant that Dan Lin pitched us the project.  We were like, “Well, if you did it like this, we would be interested.  But if you don’t, if no one will commit to that, then there’s no way we’ll do it.”

This commitment to the visual aesthetic gives me a lot of hope for this movie and what it could mean for other LEGO movies and TV shows in the future. If this is a runaway success, maybe the goofy CGI of the Cartoon Network shows and Traveler’s Tales games will give way to more “realistic” stop-motionesque CGI or maybe even honest-to-goodness stop-motion? I can dream at least 🙂

The interview goes into a lot more about the voice actors, some classic LEGO themes they are including, and so on, so definitely check it out if you are interested in every little scrap of information about this movie (and if you aren’t please let me know before I write 10 more blog posts on the subject).

There is also some shaky handheld footage of the Comic-Con panel available: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. I haven’t watched these all the way through yet, but the kid who asks a question at the beginning of Part 4 is awesome.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes Video Project on Tongal

“Bound” – Fun. Animated. Brickfilm on Kickstarter

Comic-Con: Directors Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and Chris McKay Talk THE LEGO MOVIE on Collider

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Set aside a week to animate with BRAWL 2013 http://setbump.com/2013/07/set-aside-a-week-to-animate-with-brawl-2013/ http://setbump.com/2013/07/set-aside-a-week-to-animate-with-brawl-2013/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 16:18:54 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1359 One of the hardest things about making an animation is finding the time to do it. The great thing about a contest like THAC is it forces you to get down to the business of animating ASAP, because of the sever time limits. BRAWL is like THAC, but on a slightly longer time-frame.

BRAWL 2013

BRAWL logo made by Bricks in Motion user RealBrick

BRickfilm All Week Long (BRAWL) challenges participants to make a 30-second (or longer) animation in the space of a week. In order to make sure no one does any animation beforehand the theme and “mod element” aren’t announced until the contest starts at 12:00 am GMT on July 28, 2013.

The mod elements are visual elements that must be included in every shot of your film to ensure that nothing is animated before the beginning of the one week time period; they are different for every BRAWL and will be announced at the start time.  There will be two kinds of “mod” elements, and entrants only need to ensure that one of the two elements is present in every shot of footage for their film.

I myself have never participated in BRAWL before (maybe this year will be the year?). I always look forward to it though, as there are a lot of animations produced in a short space of time. What about you, are you going to be BRAWLing next week?

BRAWL 2013

on Bricks in Motion

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More details about “The LEGO Movie” from Comic-Con http://setbump.com/2013/07/more-details-about-the-lego-movie-from-comic-con/ http://setbump.com/2013/07/more-details-about-the-lego-movie-from-comic-con/#comments Sun, 21 Jul 2013 17:51:35 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1327 thelegomovie_poster

Continuing our on-going coverage of “The LEGO® Movie,” here are some new details that came out in the media frenzy surrounding Comic-Con.

Unsurprisingly, the LEGO Group released the first image of one of the 17 tie-in sets, and announced the other inevitable tie-ins—a videogame (guess what it’s called?) and truckloads of merchandise. If you missed this news, I don’t blame you since it was announced within days of two new Minecraft sets, a Batman set, a Hobbit set, a Star Wars set, and the Back to the Future set went on sale.

On Saturday of Comic-Con the directors of “The LEGO Movie,” Phillip Lord and Chris Miller, were on a panel and had some interesting things to say:

The LEGO Movie is part-CGI and part actual real LEGO bricks in stop-motion, and Lord and Miller told the audience they absolutely do not want you to be able to tell which is which.

To further add to the confusion, Phillip Lord tweeted out this picture. Animation experts can see that it quite obviously staged—the camera’s not connected to anything, the lighting’s all wrong for animating,  etc.— but I’m sure there are some people who will take it at face value.

Producer Dan Lin said they had a fan contest and invited people to make short LEGO films, and some of that stuff made it into the film.

Hey, that’s good news for the three winners of the contest! It wasn’t clear if they would actually put those bits in or not. They also revealed some casting news:

Channing Tatum is Superman, Jonah Hill is Green Lantern — and Cobie Smulders is “the first film incarnation of Wonder Woman.”

Stay tuned for more details as they come out!

Is “The LEGO Movie”really the best film ever? Signs point to yes! on i09

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LEGO DC Universe Super Heroes Tongal Contest http://setbump.com/2013/07/lego-dc-universe-super-heroes-tongal-contest/ http://setbump.com/2013/07/lego-dc-universe-super-heroes-tongal-contest/#comments Sat, 20 Jul 2013 15:56:19 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1276 LEGO Superman and villains pose dramatically

Here’s another chance to win some money for making a brick animation. As always, we urge you read the “Executional Mandatories:”

• No mixing of the DC Comics Super Hero characters with any Marvel characters

• DC Super Heroes should always appear heroic and their actions should reflect their identity

• DC Super Heroes can be placed in humorous situations but they should not appear dumb, stupid or silly.

• Content should be family friendly – no foul language, sexual situations, blood or extreme violence

• DC Super Hero characters should not be portrayed using alcohol, tobacco or drugs

• Do not use any crude body humor with the DC Super Heroes

• Do not use the DC Super Heroes in any religious or political situations

In other words, this is not the contest for ForrestFire Films.

The many LEGO Tongal contests have been a good source of new brick animations (awesome!), constraints and money are always big drivers of creativity, but we are still wary of this trend as it is very easy for these kinds of competitions to cross into exploitation of artists (not awesome). As always, we urge you to think critically about the costs and benefits of participating.

LEGO DC Universe Super Heroes Video Project

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You May Also Like: http://setbump.com/2013/07/you-may-also-like/ http://setbump.com/2013/07/you-may-also-like/#comments Tue, 16 Jul 2013 20:05:21 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1270

I usually shy away from clicking “related videos” links — there are about 14.2 million LEGO videos on YouTube, and it’s way too easy to fall down an internet hole and never come out/get any work done.

This time my curiosity got the better of me, and I was delighted to find “Late for Work Again!” by Brick a Brack Studios. It’s your standard “Spider-Man on patrol” tale, but it’s got some neat touches. The dialogue and pacing are strong, there are some neat cameos (love the custom LEGO Marvel characters), and there’s a nice fourth wall break in the middle that leads to some interesting scale work. I think what really impressed me was how much it felt like a Spider-Man animated short — moreso than the last live-action movie, I’d say.

It may not be the most technically impressive short, but it’s definitely worth checking out. I guess Dave was right to be curious about the many hidden gems of brick animation waiting for us out there…

Late for Work Again! – YouTube

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BrickFlix 2013 http://setbump.com/2013/07/brickflix-2013/ http://setbump.com/2013/07/brickflix-2013/#comments Sat, 06 Jul 2013 16:00:34 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=174

I can’t believe I’ve never mentioned The BrickFlix Film Festival before! It’s not like I co-run it or anything.

BrickFlix is a yearly screening held in Durham, NC at The Carolina Theatre. It started in 2010 as part of the BrickMagic LEGO fan festival, but has since branched off into it’s own event. As far as I know, it’s the only yearly screening in North America that showcases brick animation and other LEGO fan films in a real theater. And after each screening, there’s a Q&A session where directors are invited to answer questions and talk about their films.

BrickFlix 2013 Panel

BrickFlix 2013 took place last week and, in addition to the 122 audience attendees, also saw our largest Q&A panel ever! Directors from Aquamorph Productions, Animato Studios, Sonjira Central, Annoying Noises Productions, and Lucasetak J were all on hand to explain their inspirations, accomplishments, and techniques.

We’re still waiting on confirmation for BrickFlix 2014, but as soon as we have a date, we’ll open it up for submissions. Rest assured that when the date is confirmed, I’ll let you know here. In the meantime, enjoy this year’s playlist!

BrickFlix – The Annual, Unofficial LEGO® Film Festival

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Results of the 2013 Brickworld Film Festival http://setbump.com/2013/06/results-of-the-2013-brickworld-film-festival/ http://setbump.com/2013/06/results-of-the-2013-brickworld-film-festival/#respond Tue, 25 Jun 2013 04:58:38 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1228 Earlier this month we had the privilege of running the 2nd Annual Brickworld Film Festival. We had eight great entries spanning a variety of genres and styles, from a live-action comedy sketch to a pulp-style space adventure. Over 160 people showed up to watch and vote on the films.

audience watching a projection screen

We’re grateful to all the Lego filmmakers who dedicated hours to making these films. We know how much work and courage it takes to make a film and show it to a crowd of strangers. Without them, there wouldn’t have been a festival.

This year we gave out two trophies. The “Most Popular Film” trophy went to Paul Vermeesch (and friends) for “Nottingham Tower.”

Nottingham Tower” was easily the most technically impressive and ambitious film in the festival. It features smooth animation, fast-paced fight choreography, and impressive camera movements. We were quite pleased to see it win the popular vote; it was richly deserved.

Five guys standing on a stage smiling

The second trophy went to the film that David and I agreed on as being the most well-rounded. We looked for a film that balanced story-telling, creativity, humor, and technical skill while also fitting into the Brickworld 2013 theme of Heroes and Villains. The winner of “Best Film” was “From Baking to Bad Guys” by Caleb Schilling.

We felt that of all the films submitted, this one did the best job of giving the audience an understanding of the protagonist’s motivations. The protagonist has a clear goal (become a real fire fighter), faces challenges along the way (he is better at cooking than fighting fires), but ultimately triumphs. The film also did an excellent job of setting a mood through the lighting and music, and it featured interesting animation throughout (the opening city shot and the cake baking sequence are my favorites).

Three guys standing on a stage smiling

After we finished the main festival screening, we showed some of our favorite brick animations that we’ve highlighted on this blog in the past year. You can see the playlist we screened here. Thanks to every one who came out for the festival! We hope to see even more people there next year.

P.S. On Thursday of Brickworld we taught a 3-hour workshop on LEGO Animation. We took that opportunity to publicly unveil the Set Bump Logo for the first time. Here’s a photo of that which is 100% candid and not at all staged:

Two guys being silly in front of a projector screen

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Some like it hot http://setbump.com/2013/06/some-like-it-hot/ http://setbump.com/2013/06/some-like-it-hot/#respond Thu, 20 Jun 2013 16:48:11 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1218

Garrett Barati brings us this LEGO version of the trailer for the new Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy comedy “The Heat”.

What does this film have to do with LEGO? I have no idea, but there’s some cool stuff happening in here. I particularly like the brick-built 20th Centruy Fox and Chernin Entertainment logos, as well as the end title. I can’t find a 30-second edit of this trailer for comparison, but here’s the brick-free full version. 

The Heat – LEGO Trailer – YouTube

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No, “The LEGO Movie” isn’t stop-motion http://setbump.com/2013/06/no-the-lego-movie-isnt-stop-motion/ http://setbump.com/2013/06/no-the-lego-movie-isnt-stop-motion/#comments Wed, 19 Jun 2013 16:49:27 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1212 …despite the fact that the CG animation style clearly and intentionally resembles stop-motion. You might want to do a tiny bit of research before you post articles about it, guys.

The first trailer to The Lego Movie is here. Shows fun, stop motion and Batman – Columbus Film | Examiner.com.

Lego Movie trailer shows off all-star cast, stop-motion goodness – SlashGear

‘The LEGO Movie’ Trailer: Lego Action, Lego Jokes & Lego Batman [Updated]

EDIT: Check out all our ongoing Lego Movie coverage.

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The LEGO Movie gets its first teaser trailer http://setbump.com/2013/06/the-lego-movie-gets-its-first-teaser-trailer/ http://setbump.com/2013/06/the-lego-movie-gets-its-first-teaser-trailer/#comments Wed, 19 Jun 2013 00:35:03 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1201

The first teaser trailer for the much-anticipated “The LEGO® Movie” is out, and I have to say… it looks pretty great.

Many of us (myself included) were dubious of the choice to go with computer graphics over stop-motion, but it seems like the filmmakers have embraced a kind of stop-motion style — minifigure characters with appropriately limited animation and ranges of motion. It reminds me a lot of the animation approach taken with the “Nicelander” characters in Wreck-It Ralph, which were given intentionally jerky movements to approximate a kind of 8-bit sensibility.

Anyway, between the fun animation, character designs, voice and fig choices, and overall vibe of the trailer, I am definitely sold. Might be time to go watch “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” again…

What do you guys think?

The LEGO® Movie – Official Teaser Trailer [HD] – YouTube

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A blog by any other name http://setbump.com/2013/06/a-blog-by-any-other-name/ http://setbump.com/2013/06/a-blog-by-any-other-name/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 15:43:41 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1187 Those of you who were at Brickworld Chicago this weekend already know, but for the rest of you… BrickAnimation.com is now The Set Bump.

The Set Bump logo 2013

Big thanks to Nelson Diaz for the excellent logo. You can check out more of his work at http://www.nelsart.com.

An equally big thanks to everyone who submitted name ideas to our site naming contest last year. “The Set Bump” was not actually one of the entries, but rather a name that we came up with — one that we felt best evoked stop-motion, LEGO, and shared animation experiences. (How many times have you bumped YOUR animation set in the middle of a shot?)

We’ll be slowly-but-surely updating the site in the coming weeks to reflect this change. In the meantime, you can follow The Set Bump on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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Shut up and take my money http://setbump.com/2013/06/shut-up-and-take-my-money/ http://setbump.com/2013/06/shut-up-and-take-my-money/#comments Sat, 01 Jun 2013 08:35:37 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1169 I’m a big fan of Kickstarter. If I had a million dollars to spare, I would probably spend it all on getting cool rewards for helping artists make their dreams come true. As it is, I probably spend more money than I should backing Kickstarter projects. The past few years I’ve been lucky that awesome LEGO-related Kickstarter projects have overlapped with my birthday, thus I was able to justify jumping up to a higher reward tiers on Pigs vs. Cows and Little Guys… In Space! as birthday presents to myself (and two years ago I was on the receiving end of Kickstarter generosity).

So I speak from experience when I say that there is nothing quite like the feeling of contributing to a successful Kickstarter campaign. We are at a wonderful historical moment where it is possible for a relatively wide range of people to become direct patrons of the arts for a relatively small amount of money (i.e. these days you don’t need to be a Medici to help support working artists).

One thing that has become quite clear to me in the past few years is that we all end up paying for the culture we consume (i.e. animations we watch) one way or another. Sometimes we pay by watching ads before YouTube videos, sometimes we pay by spending a few dollars on the iTunes store, sometimes we pay by buying a movie ticket or a DVD, sometimes we pay with a subscription to NetFlix. However, those are all examples of paying to watch something that’s already been produced. It’s a rare an wonderful thing to get to pay to help make something which does not exist become a reality.

Which brings us to:

Movie poster for Melting Point

You should all be familiar with the work of Nick Durron (whose real-life name is Jonathan Vaughan, but I am incapable of thinking of brick animators other than by their usernames on YouTube/Bricks in Motion), if for no other reason than we’ve featured it here twice. With “Melting Point,” he is setting his sights higher than ever before and attempting to make a 30-minute brick animation.

The story follows a cop, Tony, as he tries to protect the city from a ruthless villain intent on melting the entire plastic world.

By this point, you should already have enough information to want to go donate , but if you need further convincing, don’t miss his clever promotional video which has lots of call backs to his previous works. The part of his pitch that really convinced me to donate is his ambitious desire to build an entire LEGO city as the set for the film rather than using CGI. We here at the very-soon-to-be-officially-renamed BrickAnimation.com are big believers in using physical, brick-built effects instead of CGI. I’m proud to be able to say that I am helping support another brick animator stay true to his vision by doing something the slow, costly way. If you look carefully at the project management triangle, you’ll notice that the majority of good projects are neither cheap nor fast.

On that note, I really ought to get back to putting the final touches on my Kickstarter project (I finished animating it earlier this week!), so I can finally get my backers their richly-deserved rewards.

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Brain Attack! http://setbump.com/2013/05/brain-attack/ http://setbump.com/2013/05/brain-attack/#respond Thu, 30 May 2013 00:56:27 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1165 LEGO Hero Factory: The Next Saga
It’s been a while since we blogged about a Tongal Contest, but this one was just too ridiculous to pass up.

You may be familiar with Akiyama Makuro and the robotic heroes from Tongal’s first LEGO Hero Factory project but this time the heroes are battling an army of evil brains that ruthlessly inhabit the bodies of innocent beasts, turning them into powerful and destructive villains. Although the heroes defeat the villains’ host bodies, the evil brains simply move to another host relentlessly applying pressure.

What are you waiting for? Go enter an idea! Or are you too busy mindlessly destroying stuff because you’re being controlled by an evil brain? That’s my excuse >:)

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Brickfilming is Just Awesome [2012] http://setbump.com/2013/05/brickfilming-is-just-awesome/ http://setbump.com/2013/05/brickfilming-is-just-awesome/#respond Fri, 17 May 2013 06:06:45 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1159
Enough said. (If you have trouble understanding the lyrics, read the description on the YouTube video.)

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Bricking Bad http://setbump.com/2013/05/bricking-bad/ http://setbump.com/2013/05/bricking-bad/#respond Wed, 01 May 2013 17:28:50 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1138

LEGO would never, ever make this as a real game. And yet, here we are.

LEGO Breaking Bad The Video Game parody – YouTube

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A hidden gem http://setbump.com/2013/04/a-hidden-gem/ http://setbump.com/2013/04/a-hidden-gem/#respond Wed, 01 May 2013 03:48:05 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1133

There’s a virus in your computer! But don’t worry, it’s adorable, and very-well animated. How has a great brick animation like “VIRUS” by Fred Mangan gone virtually unnoticed on YouTube for two years? You’d think that it would be a little more… viral (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Seriously though, this is a high-caliber brick animation that you need to watch. The large-scale characters are expressive in their movements and the sets have just enough detail to be interesting. The sound design is perfectly matched to the action and the story is unusual enough to be interesting. Makes you wonder what else is waiting out there undiscovered in the depths of YouTube…

VIRUS – YouTube

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Time and time again http://setbump.com/2013/04/time-and-time-again/ http://setbump.com/2013/04/time-and-time-again/#comments Tue, 23 Apr 2013 04:08:22 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1128

For a first attempt at brick animation, “LEGO: The Time Machine” by FlyingMinifig shows a considerable amount of promise. While the animation is shaky (set bumps ahoy!) and the light flickers throughout, there is some interesting camerawork, good use of replacement animation for the flickering time travel effect, and some superb sets. It’s a heck of a lot better than my first brick animation.

Watching it, I couldn’t help but think of “GO MINIMAN GO – 30 Years: The Story of the Minifigure” by Nathan Wells. It’s a very similar concept (brief snippets of history played out over a single piece of music with interesting cinematography) executed at a much higher level. It’s too bad Nathan has seemingly abandoned brick animation to focus on Minecraft machinima, he was one of the greats. (It’s never too late to rediscover the joys of brick animation, Nathan!)

LEGO: The Time Machine – YouTube

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♪ I’m gonna build you a shot-for-shot LEGO replica of a music video ♪ http://setbump.com/2013/04/im-gonna-build-you-a-shot-for-shot-lego-replica-of-a-music-video/ http://setbump.com/2013/04/im-gonna-build-you-a-shot-for-shot-lego-replica-of-a-music-video/#comments Tue, 16 Apr 2013 03:08:45 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1123

Insomniac Animations has done it again with another painstaking music video that uses facial animation to great effect. His use of camera movements throughout really take this up a notch. My favorite moments include the microscale barge/waterfront at 0:39, the lighting at 1:11, and the slow pull of the curtain at 1:50. The sets are also quite well done.

UPDATE: Enjoy a full-screen version of the LEGO half.

ED SHEERAN – “LEGO HOUSE (LEGO VERSION)” – YouTube

Ed Sheeran – Lego House (Full-frame LEGO Version) – Vimeo

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LEGO Batman: The Movie http://setbump.com/2013/03/lego-batman-the-movie/ http://setbump.com/2013/03/lego-batman-the-movie/#comments Sun, 31 Mar 2013 01:08:06 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1000

Last month I got to attend the world premiere of the new LEGO direct-to-video film, “LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite”. It’s a CG animated feature from TT Animation; an offshoot of Traveller’s Tales, creators of the LEGO video games.

The “LEGO Batman” screening was held at The Paley Center for Media in Manhattan, and featured a panel of guests including voice actors Troy Baker (Batman), Travis Willingham (Superman), and Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor), as well as director/producer Jon Burton and director of photography Jeremy Pardon.

Yes, you still need a DP on a production with no real cameras.

When this film was first announced, I heard many LEGO fans cry foul; wondering, “are they just going to edit the cut-scenes from the LEGO Batman 2 video game together and call it a ‘film’?” You can all rest easy; “LEGO Batman” is more than that. The TT Animation team has put together a solid film that ranks up there with TLG’s previous home video releases, even surpassing them in some cases (I’m looking at you, Clutch Powers).

Which is not to say it’s a perfect film. “LEGO Batman” is TT Animation’s first venture into film-making, and there are some artifacts from that crossover. You might think I’m referring to the visuals — the entire film was made using TT’s game engine, making it essentially a feature-length machinima piece. But “LEGO Batman” was rendered as a film and not as a real-time video game, so there are noticeable improvements in lighting, staging, animation, and picture quality. The director also called out a few set pieces that had been upgraded to CG LEGO brick-built status, having been simpler CG backgrounds in the game.

(One detail I found particularly amusing was that the production team added dust and scratches to the character textures, to make them seem more like real LEGO minifigs. While we’re constantly working at Paganomation to remove imperfections from real minifigs, the CG artists on this film spent time putting them in.)

In fact, it was actually the pacing of the film that felt the most like a video game. The story is entertaining and well-told, but it’s laid out in a strange, level-based way: action scene, story scene, action scene, story scene. This would work well in a video game, but it was a bit distracting at times to feel like I had to “complete” the action scenes in order to continue following the story. When the creators brought up the fact that they started working on this film before the LEGO Batman 2 video game, I was not terribly surprised.

Another thing that stuck out as a video game holdover was an unusual amount of violence in the film. Of course, it’s “LEGO Batman”, so it’s all very cartoony violence between super-powered heroes and villains, but it still struck me as odd. Nothing you’d need to shield your kids from, but kind of unnecessary at the same time.

All of this said, I really did enjoy “LEGO Batman”. It has a solid, funny, attention-keeping story, and some great voice acting. I think the voice actors were my favorite part of the film; probably helped in part by the Q&A panel after the film (which also confirmed my belief that Clancy Brown is awesome).

The film had a nice balance between familiar voices, like Clancy Brown and Rob Paulsen, and folks I’d never heard of, like Troy Baker and Travis Willingham (although they both have super-long IMDb credits lists, so what do I know).

Stealing the show in the voice department, though, was Charlie Schlatter as Robin. The Robin subplot got a bit uncomfortable at times; he’s not treated very well by some of the characters. But his performance was really funny, and his story has a satisfying arc that has him holding his own with the other heroes by the end of the film.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend checking out “LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite”. It’s one of the better entries in the LEGO home video pantheon — probably helped by the decades of development all of these DC characters have had. The Blu-ray/DVD drops May 21st, and you get a nifty Clark Kent minifigure with your purchase, so it’s win-win.

LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite (pre-order via Amazon.com)

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The LEGO Movie – ReBrick Film competition http://setbump.com/2013/03/the-lego-movie-rebrick-film-competition/ http://setbump.com/2013/03/the-lego-movie-rebrick-film-competition/#respond Mon, 25 Mar 2013 20:43:38 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1086 The LEGO Movie logo

You’ve heard us talk before about “The LEGO Movie”, the forthcoming motion picture from the LEGO Group and Warner Brothers. You’ve also seen our posts regarding various animation contests hosted by Rebrick.com. Well, now the two have become one…

Starting today, brick animators will have the opportunity to submit a video of their own for the chance to be featured in “The LEGO Movie”. From ReBrick.com:

Between March 25th and May 6th, submit your video on ReBrick. The top 25 films with the most community votes will enter a final round of judging, and the winning video will be included in the upcoming movie!

The setup is that the evil Lord Business (played by nice guy Will Ferrell) is going to destroy the entire LEGO world. Emmet, the hero of our movie, inspires all of the citizens of the LEGO world to go out and create cool stuff that will stop him.

We need YOU to help make that cool stuff in LEGO bricks and then shoot your character creating that cool stuff on camera to use in our movie.

To be honest, I found the contest summary a bit confusing, although the mods on ReBrick are answering questions in the comments section. Essentially, the entries for this contest are “video clips” and not “films” — that is, the point is not to tell a story, but to showcase some cool MOC quick-build action in a silent 15-30 second clip.  Here’s the rest of the guidelines as I understand them:

  • The running time of your clip should be between 15 and 30 seconds long.
  • The final frame rate of your clip should be 24 frames per second. You can shoot on “ones” (24 unique frames per second) or “twos” (12 unique frames per second) or anything you want (probably a good idea to stick to factors of 24), as long as the final render is 24 fps.
  • Your clip should feature one “hero” character and one “prop” (the prop can be a vehicle, a piece of equipment, or some part of the hero’s environment).
  • Your clip must be uploaded to YouTube, and then bookmarked on ReBrick.com.
  • Don’t add any sound or music, and don’t have any dialogue. If your clip wins the contest and gets featured in The LEGO Movie, they’ll add the sound design later.
  • Don’t use any LEGO characters, sets, or pieces from licensed products, i.e. Disney, Marvel, DC, Lucasfilm, Nickelodeon, etc.
  • Keep your set together after you complete your animation — if you win, they might need to recreate it for additional scenes.
  • The full rules can be found on the ReBrick.com post.

The contest is open for entries between now and May 6th — but, as with the previous ReBrick contests, the longer you wait, the less time you’ll have for people to vote for your entry. So get building!

ReBrick | Blog | The LEGO Movie Competition with ReBrick

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Michael Jackson’s Moves http://setbump.com/2013/03/michael-jacksons-moves/ http://setbump.com/2013/03/michael-jacksons-moves/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 16:30:33 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1077

Annette Jung of Talking Animals animation studio has done the impossible and perfectly captured the King of Pop’s dance moves in LEGO. She side-skirts the limited articulation of the minifigure by using a top-down perspective on some basic bricks. This method essentially turns LEGO bricks into pixels. It’s a great technique to keep in mind when looking for creative approaches to brick animation.

Watching this makes me thinks of two things:

  1. Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for the Sega Genesis (the sprites in this animation are smaller, but more limber than those in the game).
  2. The “Fell in Love with a Girl” music video by Michel Gondry, one of the finest brick animations of all time. If you haven’t seen it, drop what you’re doing and watch it now. If you have seen it, go watch it again, because it’s just that good. Also, watch the making-of video.
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Happy Birthday, Minilife TV! http://setbump.com/2013/03/happy-birthday-minilife-tv/ http://setbump.com/2013/03/happy-birthday-minilife-tv/#comments Sun, 03 Mar 2013 01:14:26 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1072
A year ago today, the very first episode of Minilife TV was released on YouTube. Since then, they have released an episode every Friday (with some breaks between seasons) for a total of 39 episodes. It would take over 3 hours to watch them all back to back (which I highly recommend if you haven’t already done so). That’s a staggering amount of animated content, made even more impressive by the fact that it’s well done.

Their anniversary episode serves as a great entry point for those of you who have never seen an episode before. It introduces the main recurring characters, features a few moments of creative animation (Chris putting himself back together is a highlight, as is everything Archie does), and it ends a sequence of choreographed explosions. It’s fun and silly and relatively low-stakes, which is a pretty good summary of Minilife TV as a whole. I’d like to do a more detailed breakdown of the show for this blog at some point in the future, but for now, I just urge you to sit down and watch it. Have some fun, get it done, it’s time for Minilife TV.

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Short but sweet http://setbump.com/2013/02/short-but-sweet/ http://setbump.com/2013/02/short-but-sweet/#comments Sat, 23 Feb 2013 03:49:29 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1068
Moo-ack! Productions blends live action with stop-motion animation almost seamlessly in “Stop meets Live.” Well done! Now how about a behind the scenes video on how you did it?

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Flawless Lip Sync http://setbump.com/2013/02/flawless-lip-sync/ http://setbump.com/2013/02/flawless-lip-sync/#respond Tue, 19 Feb 2013 06:24:10 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=953
My French is très rusty, but even without understanding the language (thankfully, there are English captions) I was impressed by the lip-synced characters in “Tout le bloc en parle” by MonsieurCaron. While there are an abundance of brick animations that add digital mouths to minifigs, and a few that swap out physical minifig heads, it is very rare to see brick-built mouth animation. In fact, the only other examples I can think of are “Country Buildin’” and “Little Guys” by the illustrious co-author of this blog.

The influence of “Country Buildin'” on “Tout le bloc en parle” is clear not only in the brick-built characters, but also in the use of forced perspective sets for the background. That doesn’t take anything away from MonsieurCaron’s considerable accomplishments here. The characters are well-designed and fluidly animated and I found the use of miniland scale (see chapter 4 of The Unofficial Lego Builder’s Guide) characters for the audience particularly inspired. I mention the clear heritage of “Country Buildin'” mostly because it’s a good excuse to promote the two excellent behind-the-scenes videos which show all that goes into to making an animation at this scale.

Also, vive les enseignants!

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Enter the Second Annual Brickworld Film Festival! http://setbump.com/2013/02/enter-the-second-annual-brickworld-film-festival/ http://setbump.com/2013/02/enter-the-second-annual-brickworld-film-festival/#comments Wed, 06 Feb 2013 03:59:04 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=937 Brickworld Film Fest

We’re very excited to announce the second annual Brickworld Film Festival!

The Brickworld Film Festival is part of Brickworld Chicago, one of the largest conventions of LEGO fans in the world. Last year, we invited attendees to submit their brick animations (or live-action brick flicks) and screened the 14 entries to an enthusiastic audience of over 100 people. This year, we’re bringing the contest back… with a vengeance.

BW12_NNN

The event theme for Brickworld Chicago 2013 is “Heroes and Villains,” so we’re asking this year’s entrants to keep this concept in mind when creating/selecting their submissions. We expect to see many films featuring LEGO Super Heroes sets, Hero Factory characters, and the many action themes that LEGO has produced over the past 35+ years. However, we’re also hoping to see other creative approaches to the theme; for instance, this film from last year’s festival could easily be re-titled “My Mom: The Hero” to fit into this year’s theme.

Like last year, David and David will carefully review all the entrants, and select the best one to declare the winner. Last year’s winning film was “Battery Troubles” by L&H, and you should definitely check it out; both because it’s a great example of what we’re looking for in this festival, and because it’s hilarious. This year’s screening will also feature a new, additional category — the ‘Audience Favorite’ — which will be voted on during the festival screening.

BW2012_attendees

For those of you on the fence about attending Brickworld Chicago, keep in mind there’s more to the event than just the film festival. On Thursday, we’ll be teaching a three-hour workshop on brick animation, which covers basic techniques and includes some hands-on animation time. There are also displays, workshops, presentations, contests, games, and a ton of LEGO bric-a-brac to keep your attention.

Plus, it’s also a rare opportunity to connect with other brick animators in person… previous attendees have included Shatterpoint Entertainment, Whistleworks Pictures, CarrollFilms, SteveFrog8,  TLFScarheart, and DarkDragon.

Anyway, we’ve changed the film festival entry rules a little bit since last year, so be sure to read them carefully:

BW2012_theatersign

Official Rules

  • You must be a Full Registrant of Brickworld Chicago to enter.
  • Your film must be longer than 30 seconds and shorter than 5 minutes in length.
  • Your film must be uploaded to YouTube.
  • Your film should use LEGO elements to tell a story. It can be animated or live action, or a combination of the two.
  • Your film must not contain any copyrighted audio. Bricks in Motion has a great list of places you can find royalty free music and sound effects.
  • Your film should incorporate the theme “Heroes and Villains” in some way.
  • Your film must not have been submitted to any previous Brickworld Film Festival.
  • Limit one film submission per person.
  • If you would like your film considered for inclusion on the Brickworld 2013 DVD, you will need to complete an additional release form. (We’re working on this; more info to come.)
  • Entries that feature actual LEGO themes or licensed characters will not be eligible for inclusion on the Brickworld 2013 DVD.
  • Films should be enjoyable by all ages. Curse words, excessive violence, sexual content, and drug use will be grounds for disqualification.
  • To submit, e-mail bwfilmfest@brickanimation.com by June 1, 2013 with the following information:
    • Your Full Name
    • Your Age
    • A link to your film on YouTube
  • A prize will be awarded to the film that best exemplifies the LEGO values of creativity, fun, and technical excellence; as decided by the judges.
  • An additional prize will be awarded to the film that receives the most votes from the audience at the festival screening.

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. Also, leave a comment if you’re planning to attend Brickworld Chicago.  We look forward to seeing your films!

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“Mouthstache” by SpastikChuwawa (2009) http://setbump.com/2013/01/mouthstache-by-spastikchuwawa-2009/ http://setbump.com/2013/01/mouthstache-by-spastikchuwawa-2009/#respond Mon, 28 Jan 2013 03:44:18 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=941
I was sorting some minifigures this week when I came across one with this head. I immediately had an uncanny moment of disorienting déjà vu. Much like an optical illusion that has been revealed, I could not unsee the unsettling image that SpastikChuwawa so succinctly evokes in the classic brick animation, “Mouthstache.

There is very little animation in this video, but what is there is crisp and character-driven. I highlight it to remind readers that a compelling concept that is well executed can make a lasting impression. I also had a similar problem with this minifig head, which i initially saw as having a nose above a moustache, but I now see as having an evil smirk above a goatee. Have you even encountered an ambiguous minifig head?

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The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide, Second Edition (2012) http://setbump.com/2013/01/unofficial-lego-builders-guide-2012/ http://setbump.com/2013/01/unofficial-lego-builders-guide-2012/#respond Mon, 21 Jan 2013 16:00:53 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=841 Got some leftover Christmas gift cards that you’re looking to put to good use? Then might I recommend the recently-released second edition of the Unofficial LEGO Builders’ Guide, written by Allan Bedford and published by No Starch Press.

I’ve had the first edition as an indispensable part of my library for years now. Without it, there might not have ever been a “Little Guys!” film, and who knows if I would be here talking to you guys right now! It was with this book that I first learned how to consider the different scales of my LEGO creations, to build curves, and to organize my collection in an efficient manner.

The sample sphere from the ULBG was used as a basis for the character designs in "Little Guys!"

The sample sphere from the ULBG was used as a basis for the character designs in “Little Guys!”


 

What’s in the Book

The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide is written as both an introduction to the hobby for new LEGO fans and as a reference guide for expert builders and AFOLs. The ten chapters of the book cover the various scales of building, different artistic media (sculptures, mosaics, etc.), and the planning, setup, and execution of whatever MOCs you decide to build.

Skull Island design grid

The Skull Island design, from Red Brick Saga Pirates of the Caribbean — design grid and final version

There’s also the “Brickopedia”, an abridged listing of some of the more common LEGO parts and elements, sorted by category. This can be useful if you need a quick reference for a part name or number, or if you’re just looking for some inspiration for your own brick sorting approach. Granted, a lot of this information is also online, but there’s something to be said for the condensed economy of having a book in front of you.

Finally, the latter part of the book also showcases LEGO-scaled design grids, with an explanation of how they work as well as links to download and print them yourself. These can be extremely helpful if you’re trying to design something to fit within a certain space, or if you just want to sketch out an idea before committing it to brick. (We use these all the time over at Paganomation.)

 


 

Differences in the Second Edition

Having poured over the original book back when it first came out, I was curious to see what changes would be in the new edition. The most obvious one is plastered right on the cover: the second edition does have color photos and instructions. But I was a bit surprised when physically comparing both books…  the second edition is way thinner!

First edition: approx. 7/8". Second edition: approx. 1/2"

First edition: approx. 7/8″. Second edition: approx. 1/2″

The new book has 10 chapters, down from 13 in the original. Gone are the sections on sorting and storage, tools for building (a bit on brick separation has been rolled into chapter 2), and Technic building (probably because there’s a whole other new book devoted to it now).

The other differences are a bit more subtle:

  • The Brickopedia has been whittled down, from 55 pages in edition 1 to 41 pages in edition 2.
  • Some brief, potentially redundant bits on scale have been removed from the Microscale chapter.
  • A section on writing reviews in the “Beyond Just Bricks” chapter is gone.
  • Other assorted edits and minor rearrangements.

Overall, I wouldn’t say these changes hurt the book in any way. The ULBG has just become a more streamlined version of itself… which is the whole point of putting out a new edition of a book!


 

How this relates to Brick Animation

I came to the ULBG from the perspective of both a LEGO fan and an animator. Just like with any form of artistry, there are many tips, tricks and lessons that crossover from one medium to another. Here are a few that I took note of…

  • Page 70 talks about Miniland scale facades, and how it can be advantageous to only concentrate on perfecting the parts of your model that will be seen by your audience. Hmm… sounds familiar.
  • A section of the Jumbo Elements chapter (p. 78) mentions the importance of testing, tinkering, and trial-and-error to get the results you want.
  • The chapter on Sculpture talks about using reference material when designing and planning your work (p. 109).
  • Page 82 has probably the most helpful, universal advice any artist can use: “Make things only as complicated as they need to be and no more.” The bottom line? Simple is good.

 

The number of LEGO reference books has been steadily increasing in recent years, which makes sense given the flourishing LEGO fan community. Despite being one of the earlier entries in this catalog, I recommend The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s guide as essential reference material for any brick animator or LEGO fan; young or old, novice or veteran.

(Plus, it’s now also available as an ebook… hello, iPad.)

The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide, 2nd Edition by Allan Bedford

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Wibbly Wobbly http://setbump.com/2013/01/wibbly-wobbly/ http://setbump.com/2013/01/wibbly-wobbly/#respond Sun, 20 Jan 2013 22:18:45 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=896

Blink” is widely regarded as one of the best episodes of Doctor Who. I highly recommend it, it’s a great self-contained horror story that’s accesible even if you’ve never seen any other episodes of Doctor Who. If you haven’t seen it, you should stop reading this, go watch it on Netflix, and then come back.

Now that you’re back, let’s talk about “Don’t Blink” by Repelling Spider. While it probably won’t make much sense to someone who hasn’t seen “Blink,” this brick animation does an excellent job using lighting to convey a mood. The shadowy hallway is the perfect place for an encounter with one of the weeping angels. The short dolly shot of the main character walking in front of back-lit windows is particular noteworthy. The sets are well designed and the animation is crisp. My one criticism would by that the push-in shot on the wedding altar is bumpy. Still, Repelling Spider is to be commended for even attempting such a complex camera move.

“Don’t Blink” by Repelling Spider on YouTube

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Minifig Reflection http://setbump.com/2013/01/minifig-reflection/ http://setbump.com/2013/01/minifig-reflection/#comments Fri, 11 Jan 2013 00:43:24 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=884

Here’s a neat video wherein a minifigure waxes poetic about the potential and possibilities of LEGO bricks. While I think it could have benefited from being about 30-60 seconds shorter, it’s definitely worth checking out — it’s got lots of great animation bits, and some clever dialogue and gags.

I caught it on the official LEGO YouTube channel, which we’ve mentioned before. There’s still no sign of comments or consistent descriptions on these *official* videos… and therefore, I have no clue who made this video, when, or for what. Any ideas, dear readers?

Notes From The LEGO® Tub – YouTube

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THAC X http://setbump.com/2013/01/thac-x/ http://setbump.com/2013/01/thac-x/#respond Sun, 06 Jan 2013 22:56:56 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=871 Last weekend, Bricks in Motion hosted the tenth annual(ish) Twenty-four Hour Animation Contest (THAC). Making a brick animation in any amount of time is an impressive accomplishment, doing so in a 24 hour period is a super-human feat. There were over 70 entries, here are a few that stood out from the bunch for me:

The Grand Stratagem” by The Builder Brothers

No Crawme’s Sing Along” by SpiderSock

Red Eye” by Nick Durron

What are your favorite THAC X films?

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Man vs. Inanimate Object (or is it?) http://setbump.com/2012/12/man-vs-inanimate-object-or-is-it/ http://setbump.com/2012/12/man-vs-inanimate-object-or-is-it/#comments Tue, 25 Dec 2012 02:38:05 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=865
Parker W Young puts a nice twist on the classic brick animation trope of one character struggling against a stubborn inanimate object (e.g. The Dandelion) with “A Lego Christmas.” This is an entry in RepellingSpider‘s Christmas in a Minute Contest. You can see the other entries here.

Wishing everyone a tiny construction worker minifig to fix their electrical problems!

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Annoying characters doing trendy dances and then getting shot http://setbump.com/2012/12/annoying-characters-doing-trendy-dances-and-then-getting-shot/ http://setbump.com/2012/12/annoying-characters-doing-trendy-dances-and-then-getting-shot/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2012 06:16:29 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=845 WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS VIOLENT BRICK ANIMATIONS


I saw “Gollum does Gangnam Style in LEGO” by Hampster Productions earlier today and had several thoughts:

  1. Gollum’s arm animation is impressive.
  2. Excessive violence is not an appropriate response to something that annoys you.
  3. Oh wait, didn’t I do this same concept back in 2003?

This bizarre moment of déjà vu caused me to reflect on how frequently disturbing violence is causally included in brick animations. Some times it’s there for comedic effect.  The “Dane Cook Gets _______” meme was all about making a central act of violence funny through clever presentation. TV Tropes calls our ability to selectively turn off our empathy so we can laugh at the pain of another comedic sociopathy, which is both apt and chilling.

Far more frequent are the violent brick animations without a punchline (or story). Custard Production‘s “Lego Street Shootout” is perhaps the best known of this type, but it’s hard to turn over a rock without finding a dozen of similar animations on YouTube. What is the appeal of all this stylized violence? I’m really curious to hear what people think.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Machinima Interactive Film Festival http://setbump.com/2012/12/the-machinima-interactive-film-festival/ http://setbump.com/2012/12/the-machinima-interactive-film-festival/#comments Fri, 14 Dec 2012 04:39:50 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=796 The Machinima Interactive Film Festival hosted a video contest recently; and, as with many online video contests, there were a few LEGO-animated entries amongst the ranks…


First up, in the ACTION/DRAMA ANIMATION category, is “LEGO Portal 2 Part 1/2” by Kooberz Studios. Director Alex Kobbs has made a name for himself creating LEGO versions of popular video game properties (you can check out more on his YouTube channel), so in many ways, this contest was tailor-made for his work. There are a few neat animation techniques in the video, but what I was most impressed with was the sets — some really cool, detailed renditions of Portal 2 environments and backgrounds, and a ball-jointed GLaDOS that works really well.

(Full disclosure: I’ve only played through Portal 1, though 2 is sitting on my shelf, waiting for a day when I actually have some free time.)

Of course, like many LEGO-animated video game adaptations, there’s not much in the way of story here. This video is billed as a part 1 of 2, and I honestly can’t imagine what part 2 would be apart from more of the same. The video plays out like a clips show of game scenes, presented in a sort of Robot Chicken-esque channel surfing format. If you’ve never played any of the Portal games (or Half-Life, which I am assuming is where those characters who show up at the end are from), there may not be as much for you here, apart from some cool MOCs and animation bits. There’s also a behind-the-scenes video, which is something I always love seeing from other artists.


Next we have an entry from The Four Monkeys: a pretty faithful recreation of the Grand Theft Auto 5 trailer. The audio in their video comes directly from the real trailer; and with it, a storyline for the game told in voice over. Again, we have some really great set pieces that are pretty well matched to the trailer they come from.

I was also really impressed by a few particular moments — the shot of the guy on the jetski, the microscale city shot at 0:49, and the driving scene at 1:00. There’s a surprising amount of chroma keying, but it works and isn’t distracting. This is a solid piece, with as solid of a storyline as the source material allows. (I know I keep bringing up storylines; more on that in a moment.)


Finally, there’s “LEGO The Battle of Helm’s Deep”, a Lord of the Rings-themed sketch from Brotherhood Workshop (whom we’ve mentioned once or twice before). The film has some really nice lighting and shot composition, sweet battle scenes (check out those crowds of warriors!), and consistently well-animated minifigs. Again, I’m not terribly familiar with the source material, but I know enough to say that Legolas is the star here, and his skidding-into-frame and “I’ve got the boooooox” animation are my favorite parts of this short. I assume the “get you a box to stand on” bit comes from one of the movies, and while I’m not sure it’s enough for 2-and-a-half minutes of story, it is a great excuse for some LotR homage action.


Overall, the entries here are heavy on visuals and light on story; perhaps appropriate for what I’m assuming was a video game themed contest (admittedly I’m still a bit confused as to how LotR fits into that). It looks like voting took place on Twitter and ended December 8th, so we should be seeing the winners soon!

If you’re a fan of these properties, I definitely recommend giving these entries a watch. If not, there’s at least some cool brick animation to check out!

Lego Portal 2 Part 1/2

LEGO Grand Theft Auto 5

LEGO The Battle of Helm’s Deep

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Simple Gifts http://setbump.com/2012/12/simple-gifts/ http://setbump.com/2012/12/simple-gifts/#comments Thu, 13 Dec 2012 06:13:23 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=814

Michael Hickox is something of a phenomenon. With nearly 60,000 YouTube subscribers he is certainly one of the most popular brick animators out there today. (The only two I can think of with more subscribers are Keshen8 and ForrestFire101.) His fame is well earned, his animations are always well done. He animates simple scenes from everyday life and infuses them with LEGO charm and humor. With straightforward titles such as “Lego School,” “Lego Mini Golf,” “Lego Birthday Party” and, of course, his break-out hit “Lego Pizza Delivery,” his animations lay their cards on the table before you even click play. You always know what you’re going to get with a Michael Hickox production.

LEGO Shopping” focuses on frustrating minutia that can accompany a simple trip to the store: not finding a good parking space, getting the shopping cart with funky wheels, etc. The most entertaining bits come when a LEGO twist is put on these activities. For instance the frustrated minifig simply rebuilds his car when he can’t find a parking spot, minifigs partially disassemble themselves to try on different clothes, etc.

Michael Hickox is a great animator with a great command of visual language, his ability to tell a story without any words is enviable. Most of his films are entirely silent save for well placed music and sound effects. So I found it very jarring when the main character turned to the camera at 3:54 to make a comment about LEGO fashion that had already been adequately made visually. The voices continue after that, but I don’t think they add anything essential to the animation. The old adage “show, don’t tell” applies here, especially since Michael does such a great job showing.

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Automation is not animation (but it’s still pretty cool) http://setbump.com/2012/12/automation-is-not-animation-but-its-still-pretty-cool/ http://setbump.com/2012/12/automation-is-not-animation-but-its-still-pretty-cool/#comments Sat, 08 Dec 2012 17:30:23 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=804

Seeing this Nyan Cat creation by Mr.Attacki that incorporates motors and other technical bits to bring it to life reminded me of another impressive creation in this vein by NeXTSTORM:

While this doesn’t fit the traditional definition of what we’d consider a brick animation (there’s no stop motion involved), it’s too cool not to share here. While there are a lot of fan creations that include motorized elements, this is the first I’ve seen that tells a complete story (albeit a short one). I’m sure the programming and design of this creation was just as complicated and time-consuming as any animation.

What other LEGO fan creations have you seen that incorporate motorized elements like this?

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Split screen secrets http://setbump.com/2012/12/split-screen-secrets/ http://setbump.com/2012/12/split-screen-secrets/#comments Fri, 07 Dec 2012 14:52:58 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=800
This 4-way split screen video shows the different layers that went into Insomniac’s “Houdini” music video that we featured previously. That’s a lot of work on display. Do you like seeing this kind of breakdown of the components of a video, or does it ruin the magic for you?

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Go vote in the EB Superhero Video Contest http://setbump.com/2012/12/go-vote-in-the-eb-superhero-video-contest/ http://setbump.com/2012/12/go-vote-in-the-eb-superhero-video-contest/#respond Sun, 02 Dec 2012 21:24:26 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=791 In stark contrast to my recent rant about problems with online video contests, I am very pleased with the voting system over at Eurobricks. The rules make it very clear that votes should be based on the quality of the animations (which means the judges actually need to watch all of them):

2. You may not vote for yourself…
7. An entry should win based on it’s own merits. This isn’t a popularity contest.

So if you were a EB member before November 3, 2012, go watch the films and vote!

Some noteworthy moments from my viewing: the parallax effect when Superman flies in Super Heroes Daily Life, the frantic energy and general zaniness of Thor’s Day Off, and the grappling hook animation in Life on Gotham Street.

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Indiana Jones and the LEGO MacGuffin http://setbump.com/2012/11/indiana-jones-and-the-lego-macguffin/ http://setbump.com/2012/11/indiana-jones-and-the-lego-macguffin/#comments Tue, 27 Nov 2012 03:41:28 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=783

LEGO Indiana Jones and the Mystical Gemstone” by kd2apoof came out of nowhere for me. One of the best things about the brick animation community is when a total stranger from another continent uploads an amazing video that they spent years making and you stumble upon it by chance. It just reinforces the fact that it’s possible for anyone to make a great animation if they put the work in.

This animation starts off with an homage to the opening scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark (not to be confused with this shot-for-shot recreation) and then gets into a sequences of fights and chases that are entertaining, if unmotivated. The cinematography and sound design are the most impressive aspects, but the use of facial animation is under. I also like the use of actual rocks and dirt in the sets. Totally lacking in story, this brick animation is on the impressive-solely-for-its-technical-achievements end of the spectrum, but still well worth a watch.

P.S. For a brick animation that came out of the blue (for me) from France that is impressive for its story as well as technical achievements, make sure you check out “Henri & Edmond – Droits d’auteur” by studiosepsilon if you haven’t already. It’s one of my all-time favorites and I’ve been meaning to do a full review here for a while.

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Lovecraftian Pastiche http://setbump.com/2012/11/lovecraftian-pastiche/ http://setbump.com/2012/11/lovecraftian-pastiche/#comments Sun, 25 Nov 2012 21:18:09 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=778

Thanks to Websitecommissie for drawing my attention to “The Call of Farqunglu” by Bionicle28. It’s a clever short that weaves together Lovecraftian tropes and a courtroom drama, providing some good laughs along the way. The most impressive aspects from a technical standpoint are the fluid animation of Farqunglu and the massive scale of the church set. I also appreciated the funny henchmen and the use of the neutral and sad faces by Citizen Brick.

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Choose your own adventure http://setbump.com/2012/11/choose-your-own-adventure/ http://setbump.com/2012/11/choose-your-own-adventure/#comments Tue, 20 Nov 2012 06:38:45 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=769

I watched/played “Lego Adventures” by MySnailEatsPizza1 back when it first came out and really enjoyed it, but I was waiting for the results in the Bricks in Motion Kitchen Sink Contest to be announced before I did shared it here. Now that they’ve been announced I can say that this interactive film deserves its first place finish.

Like any good interactive branching narrative, there are lots of different paths you can take in “Lego Adventures.” Some are dead ends, some are infinite loops, and all of them are a lot of fun (SPOILER: you haven’t really won until you have a pet dragon). The animation and sets in “Lego Adventures” are decent and serve their purpose. The story is a bit convoluted (like any good interactive branching narrative), and seems mostly to exist to tie together some disparate set pieces (superhero fight, escaping a military base, a day at the zoo)  the animator envisioned, but in a contest called Kitchen Sink, you can’t really fault the winner for taking a grab-bag approach. Take some time and play through it, you won’t regret it.

Also, if you haven’t seen it before, don’t miss the archetypical interactive brick animation, “Ronald has a Spider on His Head,” by SpastikChuwawa.

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Hulk no like http://setbump.com/2012/11/hulk-no-like/ http://setbump.com/2012/11/hulk-no-like/#respond Sat, 17 Nov 2012 00:15:50 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=761 David Boddy cemented himself as one of my favorite animators with his masterful short “Crime Stories.” While this Avengers short is not as mind-blowing as “Crime Stories,” it is noteworthy for the large scale of its sets and the fluid character animation.


This is a great example of how Hero Factory characters lend themselves to more subtle expressions than their minifig counterparts. It also reminds me of Justice Friends, and anything that reminds me of Dexter’s Laboratory is a good thing.

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Keep it secret, keep it safe http://setbump.com/2012/11/keep-it-secret-keep-it-safe/ http://setbump.com/2012/11/keep-it-secret-keep-it-safe/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2012 04:42:57 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=757

Kevin Ulrich of Brotherhood Workshop shares some of the secrets to his incredibly well animated Lord of the Rings brick animations in an equally well produced behind-the-scenes video. I particularly liked his discussion of how he builds his sets using sticks and rocks and why he prefers animating on clay to LEGO surfaces. He does a mean Gollum impression too.

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Quirks of online video contests http://setbump.com/2012/11/quirks-of-online-video-contests/ http://setbump.com/2012/11/quirks-of-online-video-contests/#comments Tue, 13 Nov 2012 06:05:43 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=750 Having participated in (and hosted) my fair share of online video contests, I have strong opinions about how to best run one. I’m going to use the recent ReBrick Halloween Contest as an opportunity to discuss some of those opinions.

Let me preface this by saying how great it is to see the LEGO Group supporting the brick animation fan community with a stop motion app and numerous video contests with substantial prizes. Additionally, I know how much hard work goes into every brick animation released on YouTube, so all the entrants to the ReBrick contest should be very proud of their accomplishments.

That being said, the results of this contest highlight the problems inherent in video competitions that involve a public voting component. Opening a contest to public voting seems like a great way to ensure a fair result, right? (Yay democracy!) However, unless people are incentivized to watch multiple entries, voting will always favor entrants with large, established audiences. One might as well just compare the number of YouTube subscribers each entrant has and declare the winners that way. Additionally, if the voting period overlaps with the entry period, entries finished early will tend to accumulate a disproportionate number of votes. These means that great videos entered by up and comers close to the deadline are basically doomed. (Yay democracy?)

Public voting doesn’t always ruin video contests. Sometimes, public voting will be used in conjunction with judging so that there is a “People’s Choice” winner/finalist in addition to a winner selected. Other times, judges will whittle down the field of entries to a few finalists and let the public vote to determine the winner (as opposed to the reverse, as ReBrick did). I have also seen really elaborate voting systems (i.e. the annual IAWTV nominations) where voters don’t necessarily have to watch every video, but a back-end system ensures that every video is viewed and voted upon by an equal number of voters. In this situations like this, voters are been treated like judges, so it’s more of a crowd-sourced judging than a random popularity contest. So, if you are creating an online video contest, please be thoughtful about how voting is implemented. Judging is almost always better than voting.

Having watched all the entries to the ReBrick contest, here’s the video that I think should have won because it best fits the theme of “spooky fun” and is well made:

And here’s one that was legitimately scary (to me at least):

One final note, the ReBrick contest has lessons for those who seek to enter online video contest too. Read the rules carefully, lest you be disqualified like two films were that would have otherwise been semifinalists were in this contest.

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Three New Animation Contests http://setbump.com/2012/11/three-new-animation-contests/ http://setbump.com/2012/11/three-new-animation-contests/#respond Sun, 04 Nov 2012 12:00:15 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=726 There are so many brick animation contests these days that it can be hard to keep track of them all. Here are three that caught my attention this week.

Promotional image for LEGO Tognal contest

“What Does LEGO Mean To You?” on Tongal

The goal of this project is to produce a 2-3 minute video that is emotionally resonant and explores what LEGO means to you or your family, or what LEGO means to the world.

This contest is actually open to videos other than stop-motion animation, but given that the winning video(s) will be featured on a relaunched BuildTogether website, mimicking the hybrid live action/stop-motion style of the previous commercials might be the best way to go. I really hope the Four Monkeys enter this contest (nudge nudge), I can’t think of a better poster family for the power of building together. As with other Tongal contests, there are multiple phases, so be sure to read the details.

2012 Brickfilmer’s Guild Animation Festival

Speaking of the Four Monkeys, they are currently accepting submissions for a contest that will highlight the best brick animations made in 2012. All you need to do to submit a video response to their YouTube video. You can enter up to three videos and there are very few restrictions (read the description of their YouTube video for details). You’d be silly not to submit. They are also looking for sponsors to donate prizes, so those with LEGO-related businesses should consider what they can donate. Also, have you been to the Brickfilmers Guild yet? It’s like MOCpages for brick animators.

Superhero Moviemaker Video Contest on Eurobricks

This won’t be the same old superhero movie we’ve seen a hundred times. We want to see a superhero or villian in daily life, not fighting the bad guys (or causing trouble for the hero).

This contest is a great excuse to use the LEGO Super Heroes Movie Maker iOS app and there are exclusive minifigs on the line. The theme has the typical cheeky Eurobricks humor and I look forward to seeing what the community produces. As always, you should go read the details.

Are there other animation contest out there right now that you are excited about? Let us know in the comments.

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Brick Flicks & Comics Academy on Eurobricks http://setbump.com/2012/11/brick-flicks-comics-academy-on-eurobricks/ http://setbump.com/2012/11/brick-flicks-comics-academy-on-eurobricks/#comments Sat, 03 Nov 2012 05:23:12 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=712 Eurobricks Brick Flicks & Comics Academy (Illustration by Mark Larson)

The fine folks over at Eurobricks have launched a new subforum devoted to developing the skills of brick animators (and comic creators). Building off the success of the long-running Reviewers Academy which trains forum members in the art of making detailed photo reviews of new LEGO sets (random example), the Brick Flicks & Comics Academy not only offers detailed tutorials, but also a cadre of teachers who will review works in progress, assign you lessons to complete, and grade your progress.

While the majority of the current content is focused on the comic creation side, I know that more brick animation focused content is coming soon (I am still on hook to create a lesson ¬_¬ ). I encourage you all to visit the Academy Index to browse the existing content and/or submit requests for tutorials & lessons that you’d like to see in the future.  While anyone can browse Eurobricks, please note that members are required to be 18 years or older.

The BF&CA was originally created by Hinckley (who also made the awesome illustration above), but the forum moderator Darkdragon is responsible for the hard work of organizing it and getting teachers to contribute. Unlike the perpetual beta status of the Bricks in Motion Resources page, I think that Darkdragon’s leadership will make the academy a vibrant destination for brick animators who want to take their craft to a new level. I encourage the more experienced animators among us to think about contributing a tutorial or lesson (and I will take my own advice to heart and finally get to work on my own long-overdue contribution).

P.S. Check out Darkdragon’s animation “Code Monkey Music Video,” which features a Fabuland character, a Friends minidoll, and an awesome color scheme!

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Do not wubba me, or I will wubba you http://setbump.com/2012/10/do-not-wubba-me-or-i-will-wubba-you/ http://setbump.com/2012/10/do-not-wubba-me-or-i-will-wubba-you/#comments Thu, 25 Oct 2012 03:57:58 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=699

Spastik Chuwawa is known for his bizarre, humorous, less-than-1-minute shorts.

“Monster in the Closet” keeps with that tradition, featuring voice work by The Four Monkeys and some great lighting.

Monster In The Closet – YouTube

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Animation Workshop at the Logan Launch Festival http://setbump.com/2012/10/animation-workshop-at-the-logan-launch-festival/ http://setbump.com/2012/10/animation-workshop-at-the-logan-launch-festival/#comments Mon, 15 Oct 2012 02:20:01 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=648

Yesterday, I led two stop-motion animation workshops geared towards children and families as part of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts’ Launch Festival. Over the course of two hours, there were over thirty kids who worked in small groups to make twelve short animations. The most epic of these is “Monkey Kill” which was made by two boys who stayed for the second session since they weren’t able to complete their grand vision during the first one:

In the weeks leading up to the workshop, the amazing staff of the Logan Media Center purchased multiple licenses of Dragonframe to install on their computers and I helped them test the software using their digital cameras. Combined with my own animation set-up that I transported to campus, we were able to set-up five animation stations in the Logan Digital Media Lab. While the animation workshop was the impetus for purchasing and installing the software, the long-term benefit is that students and faculty at UChicago now have access to professional stop-motion animation software at the Logan Media Center.

At the beginning of each session I gave a 10-minute talk about what stop-motion animation is, the basic tools involved in creating it, and how to use Dragonframe. Then each group had about 30 minutes plan and create their animation. Some people brought their favorite LEGO models to animate with and others used a selection of toys that I provided. At the end of the workshop we played the finished animations back on the big screen for everyone to appreciate.

It was a whirlwind two hours yesterday, but it was a lot of fun. I had two volunteers from Fire Escape Films who helped out during the workshop by assisting individual groups, troubleshooting technical issues, and helping clean up at the end. Many thanks to Alejandro and Anurag for their vital support. It’s always great to see kids getting their first taste of animation and talking enthusiastic about their creations; it reminds me why I make animations. Last night, I was inspired to finally jump back in to to my own work in progress.

The format was very different than the 3-hour workshop David and I give at Brickworld Chicago every year, which is usually heavier on the presentation and lighter on the hands-on animation. David and I are always looking for ways to improve our workshops. What have your experiences with introductory stop-motion workshops been? What have you liked and what has been missing?

P.S. One kid who showed up was more interested in building than animation and spent about an hour and half making this cool circular creation:

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On Frames Per Second, Hyperreality, and the Dangers of Perfectionism http://setbump.com/2012/10/on-frames-per-second-hyperreality-and-the-dangers-of-perfectionism/ http://setbump.com/2012/10/on-frames-per-second-hyperreality-and-the-dangers-of-perfectionism/#comments Sun, 07 Oct 2012 06:40:05 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=640

“The Machine” is the latest of a handful of brick animations that blur the line between stop-motion and live action. According to the animator, it was filmed at 25 frames per second (FPS), and had motion blur added in post-production to make it ever smoother. The short is worth a quick watch for the great cinematography and the inspired animation of the eponymous machine, but I’m mostly using it to launch into a larger discussion of FPS.

Choosing an FPS is an important part of making an animation, there is a constant balancing act between the smoothness of the animation and time required to make it. An animation set at 5 FPS is bound to look jumpy, but it can still be engaging (this is the frame rate I recommend for beginners). As the FPS increases (10, 12, 15, 20, 24, 30), the animation gets smoother, but the time investment to create it rises steeply. Many brick animators settle at 15 FPS as a good balance between smoothness and amount of time invested, but there are a few that venture into those high ranges.

The best cautionary tale in this respect is “Dr. Jobs and his Scary Laboratory.” While the single completed episode of this series features some of the smoothest animation I’ve ever seen in a brick animation, the incompleteness of the remaining segments stands as a testament to the dangers of independent animators pursuing hyper-real frame rates. But let’s pretend for a minute that time is not an obstacle, what would the optimal frame rate for brick animations be? Is super-smooth, life-like animation the end-all be-all?

Personally, I think very high frame rate animations can feel sterile, and I find attempts to perfectly simulate real motion in animation to be uncanny. I am reminded of Jean Baudrillard’s essay on Simulacra and Science Fiction:

There is no more fiction… it is the real which has become our true utopia… presented with transparent precision, but totally lacking substance, having been derealized and hyperrealized.

What do you think? The more frames per second the better? Or is the charm and art of animation precisely in the frames an animator chooses to include (and which to exclude)?

“The Machine” on Youtube

“Dr. Jobs and his Scary Laboratory” on YouTube

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ReBrick Flick Halloween Competition Update http://setbump.com/2012/10/rebrick-flick-halloween-competition-update/ http://setbump.com/2012/10/rebrick-flick-halloween-competition-update/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2012 16:52:03 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=630 The details on the aforementioned ReBrick Halloween video contest have surfaced…

  • The building contest is open to all users 16 years and older holding a ReBrick account. The voting process is open to all users holding a Rebrick account.
  • To submit an entry:  Upload your video on YouTube (we do not host content on ReBrick) and add a bookmark to the video in the special themed category: Building Challenge on ReBrick.
  • Video must not exceed 3 minutes.
  • Entries must incorporate the theme of spooky fun.
  • The contest begins October 1st at 9:00 A.M. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Entries submitted to ReBrick before this date and time will not be accepted into the contest. Competition are open for submissions until October 29th 2012 at 8:59 A.M. EST.
  • A panel of judges will review the five (5) bookmarks with most likes and select one (1) grand prize winner. The five semi-finalist videos will be reviewed based on creativity, originality and theme.
  • Judging will begin at 9:00 A.M.  EST on October 29th 2012 and will end at 9:00 A.M. EST on October 31st 2012.
  • Entries must only contain elements from the LEGO® collection.
  • All entries and entrants must follow the ReBrick House Rules.
  • We reserve the right to disqualify any entry that does not follow the official rules. Any form of cheating will result in a banning of user profile from ReBrick.

Grand Prize is a LEGO® Monster Fighters Haunted House signed by LEGO designer Adam Grabowski and a LEGO® Monster Fighters Exclusive Grab Bag — so that’s pretty cool!

I also asked ReBrick editor-in-chief Signe for a bit of clarification on the “Entries must only contain elements from the LEGO® collection” caveat, and here’s what she had to say:

  • Q: Do the films have to contain things specifically from the “Monster Fighters” play theme?
  • A: No, we just think the Monster Fighters theme is great for Halloween, and that’s why we chose to highlight that theme.
  • Q: Or does it mean that the films in general must use only LEGO parts (and nothing from competing brands)?
  • A: Yes, exactly. No competing brands. And don’t dress up in homemade Halloween Minifigure costumes, it’s only LEGO products you can use in the film ;o)
  • Q: Can people make films using any LEGO sets or parts they want, as long as the topic is appropriately spooky?
  • A: You can use any part/set from the LEGO collection you want. We want a Halloween film, so spooky with a twist of fun.

So there you go, guys and gals! Better get building… the contest is only open until October 29th!

ReBrick | Blog | ReBrick Flick Halloween Competition

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Mortal Enemies http://setbump.com/2012/10/mortal-enemies/ http://setbump.com/2012/10/mortal-enemies/#comments Wed, 03 Oct 2012 17:50:08 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=623
In the magical land of Riigo-Faloo, sharks and clowns hate each other like pirates and ninjas do in Internet lore. Many thanks to Harrison Allen for his informative docudrama about this tragic feud.

What makes “Sharks and Clowns” memorable is a creative story told in an interesting way. I love the way elements pop into existence as they are described by the narrator. The animation of the giant squid and cackling Clown King are also highlights. The voices are difficult to understand at certain points and there is some distracting light flicker on the close-up shots, but overall this is a well-done animation with lots of clever moments. Be sure to check out the discussion on Bricks in Motion to see photos of Harrison’s lighting set-up for the flames.

EDIT: Also don’t miss this behind-the-scenes post on the Annoying Noises Facebook page.

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It caught on in a flash http://setbump.com/2012/09/it-caught-on-in-a-flash/ http://setbump.com/2012/09/it-caught-on-in-a-flash/#comments Wed, 26 Sep 2012 14:17:02 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=610 Signe, editor-in-chief of ReBrick.com, has just shared the lowdown on a new contest. LEGO fans are being tasked to create a Halloween-themed video using LEGO Monster Fighters parts and elements. As an example of what they’re looking for, the blog post references this recent, relevant vid from Marc-André Caron

The contest *officially* starts next week — and we’ll update you guys with the rules and prizes at that time — but if you’ve been toying with the idea of doing some mysterious and spooky brick animations, you might want to act on that impulse…

ReBrick | Blog | It’s Time for Some Spooky Fun…

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ABS meets AMC http://setbump.com/2012/09/abs-meets-amc/ http://setbump.com/2012/09/abs-meets-amc/#respond Sun, 16 Sep 2012 12:20:47 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=586

Zach Macias (Mindgame Studios) brings us this minfig-styled Mad Men parody, made for a recent AMC video contest.

I know very little about the shows involved, so any humorous aside or snarky wordplay you might imagine will be better than what I would have come up with here. Cool sets and some NPU, though.

Mad Minifigs: The Dish Situation – YouTube

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The Second Coming http://setbump.com/2012/09/the-second-coming/ http://setbump.com/2012/09/the-second-coming/#comments Sat, 15 Sep 2012 15:37:27 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=577 brickfilmsdotcomSome of you may be familiar with the website Brickfilms.com. Once upon a time, it was the center of the brick animation community. Then there was internet drama, and a big chunk of the community moved to BricksinMotion.com; though there are all sorts of splinter groups these days. To borrow the words of Yeats:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

After the pillars of the community left, the Brickfilms.com forums became a desolate wasteland; filled primarily with spambots, questions about what had happened to the once great site, and a trickle of sub-par animations.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Brickfilms.com has continued to sputter on, undergoing several redesigns in the hands of subsequent webmasters. The latest of these launched in the last month. On the plus side, some of the old content (the film directory) from a previous incarnation of the site — which was hidden in the last redesign — is once again accessible. On the down side, the film directory is an absolute nightmare to navigate.

On the humorous side, the site is riddled with bizarre errors. My favorite of these is that the “contact us” links on the site currently link to an old forum discussion about contact with alien lifeforms.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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“Insomniac” is right http://setbump.com/2012/09/insomniac-is-right/ http://setbump.com/2012/09/insomniac-is-right/#comments Fri, 14 Sep 2012 21:14:23 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=571

17-year-old Dylan Woodley of Insomniac Animations made this really sweet music video for the song “Houdini” by Foster the People. There’s nothing terribly noteworthy about the animation or story — the video does drag in a few parts — but the real triumph here is in the staging and lighting of the piece. There’s some really amazing camera moves and transitions, and the whole thing feels like a true live-action concert video. My only wish is that he’d secure permission to use the song — I’d love to screen this video at BrickFlix!

Foster the People – Houdini in LEGO – YouTube

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“Red Brick Saga” by Paganomation (2011) http://setbump.com/2012/09/red-brick-saga-by-paganomation-2011/ http://setbump.com/2012/09/red-brick-saga-by-paganomation-2011/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2012 04:22:05 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=560
A few days ago, my co-author uploaded the fourth of five behind-the-scenes videos for four commercials his company produced for the LEGO Group last year, collectively referred to as the “Red Brick Saga.” As an animator, these “making of” videos are, in some ways, more enjoyable that the four branded shorts. Not only does David explain many of the cool tricks and techniques used in each short, but we get to see his team at work, which helps remind us of the countless painstaking hours that went in to each of these 30-second short videos.

But since this is a review, I should probably talk about the actual videos rather than the behind-the-scenes features. Each 30-second short features a different product line that was on shelves in summer 2011: Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Alien Conquest, and Star Wars. The connecting thread is a red 2×4 brick that flies through each setting indiscriminately wreaking havoc, much like a mischievous pixie. Each video has a madcap pace, rushing from scene to scene with little explanation or closure. Did Jack Sparrow escape safely? Did the humans fight off the alien invasion? No time for answers, the red brick is off on another adventure!

While the shorts may not provide much narrative substance, there is plenty of spectacle to enjoy over repeat viewings. The animation is so fast and buttery smooth, you may not appreciate how good it is until you see some of it slowed down in the behind-the-scenes videos (e.g. the brick-built explosions). The Alien Conquest short is full of great “blink and you’ll miss it” moments like the screaming crowd running away from the tripod walker. The design of each short is clean, professional, and suited to the subject matter. The Star Wars short does an excellent job recreating the iconic Death Star hanger (the lighting of the walls is particularly impressive), and you have to love the tiny bricks circling around the dazed Darth Vader’s head. Fans of the licensed properties will notice cameos from popular characters. The hallway scene in the Harry Potter short is particularly notable for this, but careful viewers will also notice a white Boba Fett in the Death Star hanger. As always, the Paganomation team uses LEGO bricks in inventive ways, such as a simple hinge brick to represent birds flying in the distance in the Pirates of the Caribbean short.

All told, there’s a lot of detail packed into a short amount of time. Which is another reason it’s best to mull over them while watching the behind-the-scenes videos 😉

“Red Brick Saga” playlist on YouTube

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Help us blog readers, you’re our only hope! http://setbump.com/2012/09/help-us-blog-readers-youre-our-only-hope/ http://setbump.com/2012/09/help-us-blog-readers-youre-our-only-hope/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2012 21:30:08 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=284

It’s been just about a month since BrickAnimation.com launched, and now that we have some substantial content, we thought it would be a good time to address a glaring issue with our site: it has a boring name.

BrickAnimation.com was a logical domain for us, but it lacks the poetry of titles like The Brothers Brick, Boing Boing, or Gizmodo. We’re hoping you can help us come up with something better.

Here are some ideas we came up with, to give you a sense of what we’re looking for (of course, your name will be much more clever):

  • The Brick Animation Handbook
  • Moving Bricktures
  • 8 Stud Theatre
  • Blocks Office
  • Studs and Sprockets

The Contest
Post a comment below with your idea(s) for a new name for this site. The ideal name is related to brick animation, easy to say and to remember, and no more than three syllables long. The name cannot contain the word LEGO, “brickfilms”, or any other registered trademark. For consideration, please submit your comment no later than October 24th. And keep in mind, by submitting a name, you are giving us permission to trademark it (and signifying that you agree to our Official Naming Contest Rules). You can enter as many times as you like, but you can only win one prize.

Prizes

  • Grand Prize: David and David will create a minifig in your likeness (we promise not to use it in any voodoo rituals) and feature it as the star of a short (< 30 seconds) brick animation.  After we’re done animating, we’ll send you the minifig!
  • 2nd – 4th place: An honest-to-goodness Little Guys!™ figure from Paganomation
  • 5th – 10th place: A tiny-but-evil Pinchbot from NNN

That’s all there is to it; so get a-brainstormin’!

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Attack of the 50-foot Sibling http://setbump.com/2012/09/attack-of-the-50-foot-sibling/ http://setbump.com/2012/09/attack-of-the-50-foot-sibling/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2012 00:43:31 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=493

Eric J. Nelson of Heavy Visuals brings us this cute LEGO City promo, which I assume was for one of the Tongal LEGO contests.

It’s a neat short, with some nice animation and cool music (which for some reason reminds me of Super Metroid). The use of a LEGO train to transition from live-action to stop-motion is particularly inspired — though Heavy Visuals’ work always seems to exist in some interesting middle ground between live-action and stop-motion. Apart from some minor technical failings (mostly color keying artifacts), it’s pretty solid.

Plus, it’s got graham crackers. Check it out, before the whole city is destroyed!

Siszilla — Lego Animation – YouTube

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Another week, another webseries contest on Tongal http://setbump.com/2012/08/another-week-another-webseries-contest-on-tongal/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/another-week-another-webseries-contest-on-tongal/#comments Fri, 31 Aug 2012 00:14:05 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=480

In a move that comes completely out of left field, LEGO and Fox Sports have joined forces to align Cleatus, the Fox Sports robotic football mascot, with LEGO Hero Factory. Now, I’m all for wacky mash-ups:

Remember when the Jetsons traveled back to Bedrock in Elroy’s time machine as uninvited guests to the big Flintsone/Rubbel family camping trip?  How about when Josie and the Pussycats linked up with the Scooby Doobies in the Laff-A-Lympics?

But, what’s really interesting about this contest is that they’re going long with the concept:

 The Pilot that LEGO and Fox like the best will be ordered to a mini series of an additional 3 episodes (4 in total) which you’ll be required to delivered as laid out under the Project Details.  If Sponsor orders your Pilot to series, they will retain the option to order an additional 4 episode, 120 second per episode “Season 2 by July 1, 2013” at the pre-negotiated rate of $30,000. Or, they may elect to order single episodes at the rate of $10,000 per episode.

Let’s just hope whoever wins this really knocks it out of the park. The Hero Factory characters have enormous potential for expressive animation because of their ball joints (for the best example of what is possible, see the Bionicle fan-film “The Legend of Ignaqua“), but the budget is kind of low-balled for a stop-motion animation series. Was that enough sports puns for you?

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Wi-fi Uruk-Hai http://setbump.com/2012/08/wi-fi-uruk-hai/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/wi-fi-uruk-hai/#respond Wed, 29 Aug 2012 16:57:03 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=474

YouTube user Brotherhood Workshop brings us this short stop-motion LotR parody. Not too much LEGO (apart from minifigs), but good stuff nonetheless.

LEGO Lord of the Rings: Orcs – YouTube [via BoingBoing]

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The “LEGO Movie” (What we know so far) http://setbump.com/2012/08/the-lego-movie-what-we-know-so-far/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/the-lego-movie-what-we-know-so-far/#comments Mon, 27 Aug 2012 14:18:49 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=386 LEGO: The Motion PictureIt’s been three years since we first got word that a “LEGO movie” was in development over at Warner Brothers. Since that initial announcement, they’ve released some tidbits about the film here and there, but it’s been piecemeal at best. And in this weird, modern, publicity-driven movie making landscape, I can’t tell whether that’s a good or a bad thing.

Technically, this won’t be the first official LEGO feature — there are the four Bionicle films, as well as The Adventures of Clutch Powers; though these are all direct-to-DVD releases. (Also, did you know they’re planning a live-action Hero Factory movie?) I’m sure we’ll cover all of these films on this site at some point, despite the fact that they’re CG animated and not what we classify as true “LEGO Animation”.

Anyway, from what we know, “LEGO: The Motion Picture” won’t fall into that category, either, as it will be mostly CGI with some live-action photography. Other information about the film that has been released thus far (some of it just rumors, I’m sure):

What do you guys think? Does the “LEGO Movie” sound like something you’d go see?

UPDATE [08/29/12 11:00am EDT]

Apparently production folks’ ears must have been burning as I wrote this post, because just as it went live, some new casting and plot information started floating around:

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“Life of George” webseries contest on Tongal http://setbump.com/2012/08/life-of-george-webseries-contest-on-tongal/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/life-of-george-webseries-contest-on-tongal/#comments Mon, 27 Aug 2012 02:34:57 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=372 The LEGO Group has just been going to town with these Tongal contests. The latest one is for their “interactive game” Life of George, and it’s a bit different than previous contests. Rather than a single video, the contest is for a webseries of three 1-2 minute videos. Additionally, only the four people selected in the pitch phase will be able to compete in the video phase (no “wild card” entries). If the winning videos are anything like the viral marketing campaign for the game, they should be a lot of fun.

It’s awesome to see TLG running so many paying contests, and even more awesome that well-known people from the brick animation community like The Four Monkeys and Builder Brothers are winning. But I’m curious as to why TLG hasn’t been promoting the Tongal contests very much (the Superhero ones being the only exception). I discovered the LEGO CITY one only by chance, and have been watching Tongal closely ever since, but I’m sure there are lots of brick animators out there who have no clue these contests are happening. What do you think about all these Tongal contests?

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Your entertainment must be more severe http://setbump.com/2012/08/zach-mg-rise/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/zach-mg-rise/#respond Thu, 23 Aug 2012 13:39:07 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=376

Zach Macias (Mindgame Studios) has created this mildly spoilerish TDKR parody. When it is done, and Gotham is in ashes, then you have my permission to chuckle to yourself.

R I S E  [YouTube]

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7 Increasingly Weird Fabuland Animations http://setbump.com/2012/08/7-increasingly-weird-fabuland-animations/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/7-increasingly-weird-fabuland-animations/#comments Wed, 22 Aug 2012 19:20:09 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=316 After seeing “Barney’s cherry” in the Eurobricks Brick Flicks and Comics forum last weekend, I started wondering why animations starring Fabuland characters are so frequently Lynchian. Considering Fabuland was originally marketed at children ages 4-8, there is an alarmingly high occurrence of hallucinatory imagery, adult language, and graphic violence in these animations. There aren’t many Fabuland animations to begin with, so this list could also be called “The 7 Best Fabuland Animations,” but ranking them in order of weirdness is a lot more fun.

1) “Mein Herz [My Heart]” by Pawnshop Orchestra (2006)

This music video is probably the most straightforward Fabuland animation out there. A cat and a goat are in love, but far apart. The goat overcomes distance and an octopus to be reunited with his true love. Short, sweet, and barely weird.

2) “Edward and Friends” by FilmFair (1987)

“Edward and Friends” was an officially licensed series to promote the Fabuland sets. However, rather than using actual Fabuland products, the characters are made of clay, allowing for a much greater range of expression. This series is standard kid show fare; each episode presents a small challenge that is overcome in a friendly manner. The only weirdness here is intrinsic to the Fabuland product line: it takes place in a Scarreyesque village of anthropomorphic animals. But as we all know, overly-cheerful facades often harbor horrible secrets. (There are plenty more episodes for those who want more.)

3) Nestlé Orzoro Commercial (1985)

In this frenetic 15-second commercial, a pig and a panda pull back a curtain to reveal a forest. In the forest, six Fabulanders pop out of a tree and wave before disappearing again. But the forest was just another curtain! Some characters fly through the air to place logos! Another curtain! Oh look, it’s the product! How did the pig get trapped inside? No time to worry about that, he’s saved by a parrot on a trapeze! Another curtain, everybody bows! What was that commercial about?

4) “Barney’s Cherry” by Thauka Kuki Team Entertainment (2012)

Even after watching this film half a dozen times, I’m not sure I’ve quite “solved” it. This animation is very clearly a riddle on multiple levels. Firstly, there is the riddle presented via intertitles, which the viewer is given time to ponder before being presented with an answer. However, that answer doesn’t really satisfy, and it’s clear that there are visual clues throughout that point to the real solution (the very first titlescreen makes sure we know this).

But even after I figured out that (highlight to reveal spoilers) Bonnie is cheating on Ed with Barney and actually wanted to free Barney, but was tricked by the statues watering the flowers, I still don’t understand why the horses on the side of the screen turn into different animals at 0:47, why the characters spend so much time looking at the sword and cherry, or what random flashes of light are all about. But because the film is well animated and has a good score, I don’t mind revisiting it again and again.

Warning: the following films contain objectionable content

5) “A day in the life of…” by Complesso Gasparo (2007)

Following the advice of a real-life chihuahua, a Fabuland monkey breaks the shackles of his buttoned-down life. He then proceeds to break-dance everywhere, deface a wall with obscene graffiti, take off his head, and attack a pig on a motorcycle.

6) “The Franky Job” by David M Pickett (2007)

Rather than review my own film, I’m going to quote Zach Macias‘ Bricks in Motion review:

It’s essentially a noir private-eye film, but at its core is laced with hidden subtexts of racism and bigotry. The film is at times humorous, thought-provoking, and disturbing, mixed together in a blend that would seem abstract (and is for the most part), but seems to come together somehow at the end.

7) “Fabuland” by Grégory Métay et Olivier Couëllant (2000)

This is the quintessential Fabuland animation and deserves 10 times as many views as it has. It features the most fully realized busy Fabuland town, and music and voice acting that perfectly fit the style of the characters. There’s a lot to admire here from  an animation perspective; the swaying palm trees are my personal favorite. Despite not knowing French, I felt like I understood the story perfectly thanks to the great visual storytelling. But why did I put this as the weirdest animation? Let’s just say it takes some very surprising turns.

Honorable Mention: “The Fabuland Housewives” by Mark Larson

Though not animated, this hilarious webcomic by Mark Larson is an impressive feat that must have taken countless hours to script, design, photograph, and code. Like the ABC show that inspired it, it is chock full of scandal, gruesome murders, and shocking twists. However, it’s also uproariously funny and well worth a read if you’ve got a few hours to kill.

So what do you think? Why are Fabuland animations so weird (or did I exaggerate how weird they are)? Are there any major works I missed?

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He made a film with zombies in it!!!1 http://setbump.com/2012/08/nick-durron-zombie-exodus/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/nick-durron-zombie-exodus/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2012 15:17:53 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=318

LEGO Animation mainstay Jonathan Vaughan (aka Nick Durron) has released a sequel to his 2010 film “Zombie: Genesis“. Check it out!

Zombie: Exodus – YouTube

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How do LEGO Friends mini-dolls walk? http://setbump.com/2012/08/how-do-lego-friends-minidolls-walk/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/how-do-lego-friends-minidolls-walk/#comments Sat, 18 Aug 2012 17:55:35 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=261 Two minifigs and two minidolls posed

LEGO has just launched a Tongal contest for LEGO Friends videos with $20,000 at stake. This is the latest of several contests TLG has run through Tongal this year (a few are still open for submissions, so be sure to check them out). The winning entries of the past contests can be viewed on the Fan Creations tab on the new LEGO YouTube page.

While the current phase of the Tongal contest is just for submitting the story ideas that will guide the later video entries, I’m already thinking ahead to the problems that animators will run into in the video phase. Unlike minfigures, which have 7 points of articulation (2 at the hip, 2 shoulders, 2 wrists, 1 at the neck + a bonus 1 with hat/hair), the Friends mini-dolls only have 4 points of articulation (1 at the hip, 2 shoulders, 1 at the neck + bonus one with hat/hair). Because their legs are fused together, mini-dolls can’t perform the standard walk cycle (or the many variants) of their minifig cousins.

So how are the LEGO Friends figures going to get around when it comes time to animate them? Submit a video or image of a mini-doll walk cycle in the comments of this post before September 20th, and I’ll feature the best ones in a follow-up post.

LEGO Friends Video Project [Tongal.com]

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The Neverending “LEGO® Story” http://setbump.com/2012/08/the-neverending-lego-story/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/the-neverending-lego-story/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2012 12:26:08 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=151

I think most LEGO fans are familiar with the story of Ole Kirk Christiansen, and how The LEGO Group originally developed from his small woodworking company in the early-mid 20th century. It’s been well-documented in a number of official books, like this one, this one, and this one.

But now this history is available in a new format — last Friday marked the 80th anniversary of The LEGO Group, and to honor the occasion, they released a short film detailing the company’s evolution. While it is an animated film, it’s neither stop-motion nor LEGO animation, so I won’t be approaching it with all of the review aspects we’d normally cover on this site. But I did want to talk about it, because… it’s a long, drawn-out mess.

From the get-go, there’s something oddly disorienting about the way “The LEGO® Story” is told. We start by fading from a (CGI) LEGO-brick-built edifice to a real (CGI) building, as we move back in time to Billund, Denmark in 1932. The pleasant voice-over narration tells us that we are following Ole Kirk Christiansen’s story; and, as a man exits the building on-screen, we assume this must be Ole himself.

Except… it isn’t. It’s one of his workers, and about 15 seconds pass before we realize this and meet the real Ole. Huh?

"The LEGO® Story" Ole

The story continues, and there’s a match cut between the worker exiting and Ole sitting down with his wife, further confusing the two characters (and the audience). Ole laments his work situation, and his wife tries to cheer him up with some dialogue that adds absolutely nothing to the story:

“I know. It’s hard to understand. But at least now… it can’t get much worse.”

Time passes with another dissolve, and the lighthearted narrator informs us “it did get worse!” — Ole’s wife, a character who had a total screen time of 15 seconds, is now dead. The above quote is her only dialogue in the film. So much for Chekhov’s Gun.

(Admittedly, I can’t really summarize it better than YouTube commenter Evan Buchholz: “Jesus, that was the most cheery ‘but it did get worse’ I ever heard.”)

Thus, in the first one-and-a-half minutes, we’re already introduced to the three major issues with the entire film:

  1. Narration that doesn’t match the tone of the story
  2. Confusing shot composition and blocking
  3. Dialogue that restates information we’ve already gotten from the picture and narration

And we still have around 14 minutes left to sit through.

For a moment, I thought maybe this film had been translated into English from another language. LEGO is a Danish company, after all, and a multinational brand. But the lip sync here seems to match the dialogue, and the credits list the “Original Voice Cast”; so I’ll assume “The LEGO® Story” was created in English first.

The majority of TLG’s animated releases — save for the direct-to-DVD films — are either silent or have voice-over, which I believe serves to make them more universal. (Out of all the work we’ve done for TLG at Paganomation, not one film has been dialogue-based.) Strangely enough, the next minute or so of the film follows this approach pretty well. There’s some nice animation motion capture of Ole interacting with his sons, and the development of the classic LEGO duck.

But as soon as the “Wholesaler” character arrives, we’re back to clunky dialogue. “Now there’s finally someone who can see the opportunities in what we’re doing!” Thank you, we know; we just saw that.

"The LEGO® Story" Wholesaler

These bizarre inconsistencies continue throughout the film; again, most prominently in the voice-over. Even though we see the company’s ups and downs as the years pass, the narrator never wavers from his chipper delivery of exposition. I attribute this to what’s sometimes known as “LEGO humor” — the sense given through TLG’s cinematic releases that everything is whimsical and fun, even when the information being presented clearly contradicts this idea.

The most bewildering moment of narration comes at around the 10 minute mark; when, out of nowhere, the narrator says:

“Everyone thought that was a good idea, and we were placed on the sofa, with all the presents and flowers around us!”

Wait… “we”?! Who’s “we”? Up until this point, the narrative style has been third-person omniscient; with the voice-over recounting the story, in retrospect, from outside the world the film takes place in. Now, all of a sudden, we’re hearing a first-person account? Who is talking? I literally rewound to the beginning of the film, just to make sure I hadn’t missed some important introduction. I hadn’t.

And then, once again, this left-field change is immediately disregarded, and it’s another minute of run-time before we hear the narrator refer to himself as “I” again. Eventually, the ending of the film suggests the narrator is Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen — I say “suggests” because we never hear his name, and he never introduces himself to the audience.

This is the overall problem with “The LEGO® Story” — it pays no attention to the language of film; the rules that have developed over time so that audiences can clearly follow a story. You can twist and bend these rules to do some interesting things, but when you blatantly ignore them, your film starts to get weird.

If you’re going to tell a story from a first-person perspective, introduce the storyteller from the beginning, so that we know who’s talking to us. If you’re going to have dialogue, make sure that it serves a purpose; otherwise, cut it out entirely. Make sure you’re clear on the tone of your film — tone, as Plinkett reminds us, is how a film feels. Either make a film that’s entirely upbeat, and excise the depressing historical bits; or, tell a story that flows naturally from happy to sad, and have the rest of the film’s elements match and support that.

"The LEGO® Story" guy

Finally, have an idea of who your audience is — who you’re making your film for. The “LEGO humor” concept I mentioned above is a way to have films appeal directly to KFOLs; the target LEGO demographic. The confusing, slipshod way this film is made negates that idea; culminating with the narrator discussing “children” at the film’s finale, as if no children were watching.

Which, after 15+ minutes, I can’t say I really blame them. This film could have been half the running time and told the same story more effectively. “Only the Best is Good Enough”? Eh, maybe next time.

The LEGO® Story – YouTube

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Olympic LEGO Animations: Then and Now http://setbump.com/2012/08/olympic-lego-then-and-now/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/olympic-lego-then-and-now/#respond Thu, 16 Aug 2012 15:30:18 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=177

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London may have ended last weekend, but you can relive the highlights in LEGO form, thanks to the Guardian’s “Brick by Brick” series of animations. While I am not a sports buff myself, even I can appreciate the amount of work that went into creating these videos.

What’s really interesting to me about “Brick by Brick” are the constraints under which it was produced. As outlined in the above behind-the-scenes video, nine animations were created by a small team in the span of two weeks. Because of broadcasting restrictions, news organizations can’t in many cases show video footage of Olympics events, so these brick animations stand in for the video. Considered as a form of sports journalism, “Brick by Brick” is a delightful, creative solution to a frustrating problem. It’s also cool that brick animation has become so widely embraced that it gets casually integrated into the operations of a major news outlet.

However, when judged as examples of the brick animation form, these videos are less remarkable. The low frame rate (about 5 FPS by my eye) makes the animation look choppy, and a lot of time is killed showing still images. Again, this is understandable given the constraints, but still leaves little to recommend. Those interested in these animations only for the animation should stick to the highlights video or the gymnastics video.

In stark contrast to “Brick by Brick” is “LEGO Sport Champions,” one of the earliest examples of brick animation.

Whereas “Brick by Brick” is a series of play-by-play recreations of real-life sports events, “Sport Champions” presents whimsical takes on traditional sports that frequently break the laws of physics. For example, in the hockey short, one of the players briefly turns into a snake, and the “winner” of the match is a dog from the audience. Rather than using minifigures, “Sport Champions” favors expressive, brick-built characters. While “Brick by Brick” features English narration to explain the action, “Sport Champions” is voiceless, and features a strong score that responds to the action.

As an official series of animations commissioned by the LEGO group, “Sport Champions” is one of the few brick animations that can safely be said to take place in LEGOLAND*. It’s a place where animals and inanimate objects have as much agency as people do (the scoreboard wins the gymnastics competition), and where everything can be easily taken apart and recombined (when two F1 racers collide, their cars combine into a giant striped race car which they decide to co-pilot). I want to live there.

The “Sports Champions” weightlifting video above is probably the one that comes closest to having a story. It follows a gorilla as it escapes from the circus and heads across town to investigate (and then compete in) a weight-lifting competition. In addition to giving a brief glimpse of some wonderful large scale town buildings, this video is chock-full of creative moments. For instance, when the two circus workers realize the gorilla has escaped, one of them turns into a dog to track its scent. The scenes in the massage room where the gorilla and masseur take turns molding each other into strange shapes are prime examples of “exaggeration“.

All seven of the “Sport Champion” videos are must-sees (and it will only take about half an hour to watch them all). Like the best brick animations, there is so much going on that you will want to watch them multiple times. Enjoy!

*I’m using LEGOLAND here in an anachronistic sense to refer to the fictional universe that LEGO characters exist in, as opposed to the real-life theme parks with the same name.

Brick by Brick – The Guardian [YouTube]

LEGO Sport Champions [YouTube]

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LEGO launches an official YouTube channel http://setbump.com/2012/08/official-lego-youtube-channel/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/official-lego-youtube-channel/#comments Tue, 14 Aug 2012 19:43:36 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=159

Though they’ve had a presence there for several years now, TLG has finally created a central hub on YouTube for all of their video content. I’ve found myself puzzled about the bizarre fracturing of LEGO YouTube channels in the past (I don’t know about you, but when I think of LEGO, the first thing I think to search for is “Dzine123”).

But yes, this is a great step in the right direction, even though right now there are a lot of duplicate videos from elsewhere, and comments seem to be universally closed. I’m sure as new shorts are produced, we can expect to see their releases on the official LEGO channel first. Good luck with it, guys!

The Official LEGO® Channel – YouTube

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You want I should give him the clamps, boss? http://setbump.com/2012/08/irwin-quick-grip/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/irwin-quick-grip/#comments Tue, 14 Aug 2012 13:56:13 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=117 Irwin 6" Mini Quick Grip

When it comes to LEGO stop-motion sets, keeping them firmly attached to your table or desktop is a must. Some folks use tape or blue tack, but I like the versatility that clamps provide. I started with regular spring clamps (like these) from a hardware store, before Sean Kenney introduced me to the Mini Quick Grip clamps made by Irwin.

Despite being the 6″ size, the clamps I have here actually open up to about 6 3/4″. This extra space can useful if the floor of your set is more than a few bricks high, or if you need to support a large backdrop. The trigger-looking handle allows you to adjust the amount of pressure you’re applying, and the rubber pads prevent damage to your precious LEGO baseplates (in fact, I usually end up with stud impressions in the pads after removing them).

Hogwarts interior

If you’re looking for a way to solidify your set and tabletop without harming your LEGO, I highly recommend giving these clamps a try. They’re a bit on the pricier side ($13 at Home Depot, or $20 for a 2-pack), but well worth it.

Quick-Grip 6 in. Mini Bar Clamp-1826442 at The Home Depot

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“Spider-Man: The Peril of Doc Ock” by Spite Your Face Productions (2004) http://setbump.com/2012/08/doc-ock-2004/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/doc-ock-2004/#comments Mon, 13 Aug 2012 16:05:36 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=87

“Would you rather be Spider-Man or a Jedi Knight?”

This impossible question was once posed to me by a friend who knew that my geeky obsession with LEGO was rivaled only by similar obsessions with Star Wars and Spider-Man. So you can imagine the kind of loop-de-loops my brain did in 2003, when LEGO Spider-Man sets first appeared on the shelves next to LEGO Star Wars sets. While I treasure the few Spider-Man sets I was able to buy then, my favorite thing to come out of the LEGO Spider-Man license is “Spider-Man: The Peril of Doc Ock” by Spite Your Face Productions.

For those of you who can’t remember the internet before YouTube, brick animations used to be something of a rarity. Spite Your Face Productions was one of the early pioneers in this respect, and their work helped inspire a generation of aspiring young animators. In the summer of 2004, I had just finished my first major brick animation (an incoherent, 45-minute, pop culture mash-up), and was starting production on a longer, slightly more coherent sequel. With its buttery-smooth character animation, “Doc Ock” became the ideal to which I still aspire.

Story

Doctor Octopus holds an elephant in the air

Doctor Octopus is terrorizing New York City until Spider-Man arrives to save the day. Somewhere in the middle, an elephant shows up. The “two characters fight” plot is, sadly, a very common one in brick animations. With no narrative arc to speak of, these films tend to live or die on the quality of their technical aspects and the popularity of the characters fighting. “Doc Ock” not only excels in both of these categories, but also manages to fit a good deal of humor in, making it enjoyable for a broad audience.

Design

Various screenshots from "Spider-Man: The Peril of Doc Ock"

Since “Doc Ock” was commissioned by LEGO and Sony to promote the release of “Spider-Man 2” and the associated LEGO product line, it incorporates both the perpetual sunset of the movie posters and characters, vehicles, and buildings from the official LEGO sets.

After a few detailed establishing shots of New York City, the animation progresses to more simplistic sets that keep the focus on the action. By the final showdown, all traces of the skyline have vanished.

The orange and purple lighting schemes bring out some really nice hues in the tan and bley buildings, and are very flattering to Doctor Octopus. The lighting is not so kind to Spider-Man, who occasionally looks jaundiced. Occasional lens flares reinforce the connection to the movie poster.

Animation

Doctor Octopus’s tentacles are the real stars of this short, and four of the reasons I can watch it again and again. They are in near-constant motion and move with amazing speed and fluidity. Repeated viewings are necessary to appreciate the nuances of their movement (and to see all the humorous objects they grab).

Spider-Man is also well animated; his web-slinging in particular is as fluid as possible given the constraints of the minifigure’s joints. One of my favorite moments is when he scrambles behind the speeding train car.

There are a fair deal of special effects used in the short; many of the wide shots of the city are composites of multiple shots. Now that I have a keener eye, these shots look flatter and less impressive to me than they did eight years ago. However, they serve their purpose, and given the constraints this short was produced under, it is understandable why SYFP went this route as opposed to building a massive New York City set.

Sound

Since there is no dialogue, the music and sound effects do a lot of heavy lifting in this short. The score by Jason Graves responds perfectly to every action on screen, switching quickly and effortlessly between epic, antic, and frantic. The sound effects are similarly well-matched to the animation. This is a perfect example of what sound design should do — punctuate the animation without distracting from it.

Overall

Nearly a decade after it was released, “Doc Ock” is still one of the finest examples of the brick animation form. What it lacks in story, it makes up for in animation prowess. It blends action and humor in a way that has become characteristic of official LEGO animations, and remains popular in LEGO fan animations. It is also notable for its place in the history of brick animation, and well worth your viewing time.

And for those who would rather be a Jedi Knight than Spider-Man, don’t miss “Star Wars: The Han Solo Affair,” also by Spite Your Face Productions.

Spider-Man holding two lightsabers

Spider-Man: The Peril of Doc Ock [SpiteYourFace.com]

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“ROBOTA” by Marc Beurteaux (2005) http://setbump.com/2012/08/robota-2005/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/robota-2005/#comments Thu, 09 Aug 2012 15:44:03 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=28

I’ve been experimenting with animation and film making for a long time now. As a kid, I was first inspired by things like The Muppets, Wallace and Gromit, Star Wars, and anything from Will Vinton Studios. These classic creations piqued my interest in stop-motion, sculpture, character animation, and general weirdness. I started pursuing these interests using the medium I knew best — LEGO bricks.

As my study of these things continued into college, I struggled with whether or not to make my thesis film a LEGO film. Was it practical? Would audiences see it as a gimmick? Could it even be done? Fortunately, I was able to find a few prior examples of fantastic, minifig-free brick animation, which solidified my decision and helped inspire me further. One of these films was “ROBOTA” by Marc Beurteaux.

Story

(Spoilers to follow.)

"ROBOTA"

ROBOTA tells the story of, well, Robota; a wheelchair-bound automaton wandering through a futuristic, grey-scale city. Robota dreams of having her legs repaired, but can’t afford to; so she bets her panhandled cash on a robot cockfight. Eventually, Robota makes her way to a somewhat eccentric robot hospital, where her dream of getting new legs comes true… sort of.

Design

The world of ROBOTA is well-defined from the get-go, starting with some great establishing shots of the bleak, mechanical city. The lighting is stark and moody, adding to the atmosphere, and a few of the vehicles and sets have some neat built-in lighting.

The character designs in ROBOTA are really clever. "ROBOTA" bartenderEven though 95% of the ‘bots are built completely in grey, they each have a uniqueness, and feature plenty of NPU. Look for the guy with a boxing bell for a head, the one-legged droid on crutches, and the bartender’s SNOT noggin. (Also, who knew robots could have nipples?)

In fact, the grey color scheme of the robot characters is used to great advantage at many points in the film, particularly when color comes into play at the cockfight. Each of the robot birds has a distinct color scheme, and since there is no dialogue in the film, the betting on the fights is conveyed through the use of colored tickets used by the characters. A fight between blue and yellow robot birds stands out all the more when contrasted with a grey robot audience.

Animation

The animation in ROBOTA is impressive. There’s lots of great subtlety from each of the characters, especially Robota herself. Her arms are Classic Space arm pieces, giving her gestures flexibility and variety.

The secondary robot characters are well-animated, too. What’s nice is that, for the most part, these background ‘bots are rigged only to be able to accomplish what’s needed for the shot — whether it’s reacting, fighting, or just subtle head turns. On the film’s commentary track, director Marc Beurteaux talks about how the characters were rigged with the intent of solving every animation problem in the simplest way possible, and it shows.

"ROBOTA" robot birdThe robot birds are pretty sweet, and despite having click-jointed legs, they seem to move with a great fluidity and style. The flying shots of them are well done, with supports being hidden as opposed to masked out in post-production (impressive!).

There are a couple of post-production visual effects in the film, but none of them really stand out or feel poorly integrated (except maybe for one breaking bottle). The film is primarily a stop-motion piece, and there are some great in-camera panning and trucking shots, which are simple but well-executed.

Sound

The sound design for ROBOTA works in much the same way — it’s simple, effective, and serves the film well. There’s enough of a variety of robot droning, buzzing, and beeping to make Ben Burtt proud.

For the most part, the music is also electronic sounding, save for the finale song “Hooray, Hooray!” by Pat Bowman. It’s a more melodic, almost musical theater sounding piece (apparently, at one point, this film was supposed to end with a dance number). While tonally different, it still somehow fits the mood of the overall film, and ends things on a lighthearted note.

Overall

ROBOTA has one of the traits that I believe any LEGO animated film should have — that it would have been a great film whether it was made using LEGO bricks or not. ROBOTA creates an immersive world, tells an engaging story, and is totally worth repeated viewings to catch all the creative details.

Plus, it’s got robots. I can’t recommend it enough.

Where to watch this film

ROBOTA made the festival rounds in the mid-2000s, winning a few awards in the process:

  • Best Canadian Film, Resfest 2005
  • Outstanding Achievement Award, New Haven Underground Film Festival, 2006
  • Best Art Direction, Chicago Short Film Festival, 2006

ROBOTA used to be available on DVD via robotafilm.com, but it appears that website is no longer in existence. It is available to view on YouTube.

Marc Beurteaux’s website also seems to have disappeared, though you can still view a few of his blog entries on the WILDsound Film Festival website.

Robota: An award winning Lego animation [YouTube]

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Welcome to the Set Bump! http://setbump.com/2012/08/hello-world/ http://setbump.com/2012/08/hello-world/#comments Wed, 01 Aug 2012 16:00:59 +0000 http://brickanimation.com/?p=1 The Set Bump

Hi there! Welcome to The Set Bump [formerly BrickAnimation.com] — a LEGO fan blog that focuses on stop-motion animation and filmmaking, featuring our favorite plastic building toy.

The Set Bump is run by two guys named David:

This blog feature posts about all aspects of the brick animation hobby:

  • Highlighting the best animations made using LEGO bricks (“brick animations” for short)
  • Hardware and software packages, and other useful items for the brick animators’ toolkit
  • News, previews, and reviews of LEGO sets, fan-made accessories, and (of course) films
  • Interviews with the foremost filmmakers in the LEGO fan community
  • Tutorials covering animation techniques, tips, and tricks
  • Contests
  • “And much more!”

If there’s something specific you’d like us to talk about, please let us know in the comments below! Thanks, and… ACTION

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