Top 10 Tips for LEGO Stop Motion Animation Ideas

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TOP 10 TIPS FOR LEGO STOP MOTION ANIMATION IDEAS

Finally here is the definitive list of the Top 10 Tips for  LEGO Animation. Whether you are new to making stop motion animation with ©LEGO or have been practising it for some time I am sure you will find some useful hints here on how to get the most out of your creative work. 

So many beginners to Brickfilming make classic mistakes and as a result never really get the most out of their efforts. Thinks like not securing the camera so it jumps around during snapshots – disaster! Or not having enough lighting.. effectively giving a dull image which no one wants to see. So read on below and start making super lego animations now.

Star Wars LEGO Stop Motion Animation
Top Tips for Lego Stop Motion

TIP – 1 - FRAME RATE

Frame rate sometimes confuses new animators. Simply put it is the number of images ( photographs ) you take in order to make 1 second of animated footage. So if you decide to use 15 frames per second ( abbreviated to  15 FPS ) then you must take 15 snapshots ( photographs ) in order to create 1 second of animation.

My tip for those very new to animation ( and young perhaps ) is to practice at 10 fps but very quickly work up to  using 15 fps ( take 15 snaps for 1 second ). Anything below 15 fps can look jumpy or not fluid enough to impress your viewer. Also when you start a new scene allow the viewer to take in what is onscreen first by taking 30 to 40 images just of the scene..(if you are animating at 15 fps ). Remember this is only 2 to 3 seconds and is a very short time indeed.

Frame Rate LEGO Stop Motion - Top 10 Tips for LEGO Stop Motion Animation Ideas
Frame Rate LEGO Stop Motion

TIP - 2 - THE LEGO STOP MOTION SET

I come across a classic mistake that most new animators make and that is exposing what is behind a set to the viewer. For example if you have built a small set of a room with walls that are say 4 inches tall but you allow the camera to take in what is behind that wall! See the image below which best illustrates this issue. It is totally unnecessary to show what is behind your set and really spoils the scene for the viewer. It can easily be fixed by moving the camera in a little closer and putting a blank card of blue or green behind your set. Alternatively you can paint or draw a scene on a card to enhance and compliment the animation. This will keep your viewer watching your animation. The alternative is they will lose interest and move on to the next animation available on Youtube.

Messy Lego Set
Messy Lego Set

TIP -3 - THE LIGHTING

Often overlooked but vital to any animation is lighting. There are two things to watch out for here. Firstly you cannot rely on natural light to illuminate your set. Unlike recording live video animation involves taking separate snapshots with a period of a few seconds at least between each snapshot. In this short intervening few seconds the lighting levels will have changed if you are using natural light. Why ? Because shadows and changes in light levels are occurring every second in your natural environment under sunlight. It is not constant. It keeps changing. you many not notice it but it is always changing. And when you take snaps at intervals you will see the small changes in light levels exposed. The result is a flickering effect on your animation when it is played back to the viewer. So you must use artificial lights.  Use at least 2 if not 3 lamps and do not work in direct light.

Lego Lamps for Lighting
Lego Lamps for Lighting

TIP - 4 - A STOP MOtion CAMERA

This is also an important step when animating. Ensuring that you use the right camera to take you animation still photos. The broad choices are DSLR cameras , Digital Still cameras or Webcams. I would advise anyone starting out to use a Webcam.  The thing to make sure if you do choose to got the webcam root is firstly that the webcam allows control of focus. Many webcams these days say they have “autofocus”. However be careful that it allows you to override the auto focus so that you can work with images that are up closer than the webcam may have been intended to be used.  Also ensure that your webcam can take snapshots at 640×480 at a minimum. Preferably 960×720 if you want a higher quality image.

LEGO Stop Motin Camera - Top 10 Tips for LEGO Stop Motion Animation Ideas
Use the Best Camera you Can afford

TIP -5 - Storyline - LEGO Stop Motion Ideas

Any movie or animation is only as good as the story.The stop motion animation storyboard is the initial glimpse of what your finished animation is going to turn out like. Your stop motion animation storyboard will look like a series of comic book type images or frames, with rough sketches of your storyline with the various scenes and the characters and their expression.

Here is a blank template (from Anim8ed)  you can download and print out to use for you storyline.

Blank-Animate-storyboard-PDF-Format

Story board for LEGO Animation
Try to Story Board Before you Start !

TIP -6 - CHARACTERS - MINIFIGS FOR STOP MOTION

While you are limited in some respects with your characters when using LEGO there are still some things you need to keep in mind. Firstly choose appropriate characters befitting your storyline. LEGO have characters to suit almost any character type. You may need to purchase a few more minifigs to fill out your collection. Try ebay or brickshelf for individual minifigs for sale.

Their is a whole custom lego minifig community out there. Google custom lego. You can easily alter your own minifigs. And remember the heads are interchangeable. So there is no reason not to tweak your characters.

Custom Lego Minifigs
Custom Lego Minifigs

TIP -7 - LEGO Stop Motion Software

If you are using a PC or a Macintosh then you have some good choices out there. Some things worth noting before purchasing are: Firstly does your software of choice suit your level of experience. There is no point in purchasing professional stop motion apps or software  for example if you are going to be animating a hobby level and your are 12 years old! Also make sure the software suits your webcam or camera of choice.  Also try to ensure your software supports adding sound effects to the animation. All good software sites for stop motion will have a “what do I need” section which details the hardware specification requirements. Also make sure your PC or MAC has enough RAM and more especially enough video ram ( in the case of PC’s ).

PackShot all A 1 - Top 10 Tips for LEGO Stop Motion Animation Ideas
Get the right Stop Motion Software for you

TIP - 8 - Animation Technique

This is where you will need to gain some experience on how to make a stop motion lego film  before you can really start making waves on youtube with your new lego animations. There are no end to the number of video tutorials out there on how to make your Minifig walk for example. It is very worth while finding some you like and studying and practicing the moves detail in them until you have mastered the basics. Once you have master the basics you can move on to techniques such as “ease in and ease out”. These techniques while they sound daunting at first are very easy to master with just a little practice. It is worth while studying them closely as it will really help to bring your animations up to a very impressive level.

TIP - 9 - BE PATIENT

Stop Motion animation takes time. Remember to take breaks. Back up your project frequently. Don’t get distracted and stick with your story line.

No one said stop motion is quick and easy. It takes time and patience. But anything worth doing takes time. So stick with it.

See what Patience Can Achieve - LEGO Matrix

See what Patience Can Achieve

TIP - 10 -Have Fun with Stop Motion

Animation is for entertainment. If you are not enjoying what you are doing then there is no point in doing it and most likely your viewer will not enjoy it either. So have fun.

LEGO Have Fun with Stop Motion
Have Fun with LEGO Stop Motion
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