How to Make Stop-Motion LEGO Animations

How to Make Stop-Motion LEGO AnimationsOliver from BTScompanies made a stop-motion LEGO animation of what a day in the life of Chris Pirillo is like (included in this post), and we asked him to clue us in about how he undertook this formidable task. Without giving away too many industry secrets, Oliver was kind enough to give us this rundown of the process involved. Oliver writes:

You asked for it, so here it is: a day in the life of Chris Pirillo made from LEGO. After the popular BrickTrix Chris Pirillo LEGO video, we asked you what you would like to see next. The clear result all over social media was a day in the life of Chris. So I accepted this daunting challenge and set to work straight away on completing what you’ll see below. Now with over 15,000 views on YouTube (wow!), I thought I would share with the LockerGnome.com readership how the whole film was made.

I started making animations a few years ago; they didn’t really have back stories, and the overall animation was poor. I then created my first YouTube account and uploaded my first ever video: a basic story based on a murder at the 2012 Olympic games. It fetched about a hundred views and then I closed the account.

Several years later I found Chris Pirillo on YouTube when I was looking for a review of the Kodak Zi8. I then browsed some of his videos and could relate to his love for LEGO bricks. At this point I watched the 2010 office tour made from LEGO bricks, and this gave me the inspiration to build it myself. So I did and posted it to my current channel.

Chris liked the video, so he shared it on all of his social media channels. In subsequent correspondence with Chris, he told me about the new YouTube channel that he was going to create that would be devoted to a community passionate about LEGO: BrickTrix. I loved the idea, so I uploaded many videos, one of which requested ideas for a Chris Pirillo animation. The overruling result was a day in the life of Chris, so I started work on a script. I sent this script to Chris, who approved the idea; he then agreed to record the narration for the final video.

Then it was time for the fun bit: building a LEGO Apple Store, a LEGO Starbucks, a LEGO Store, a LEGO version of Chris’ house, and more. Of course, researching real-life versions of these helped an awful lot. I then created logos and printed them off in miniature scale — this added to the effects and made the scenes look more realistic. Once the sets were finished, I started work on the actual animation itself.

In most cases, the film moves at 30 fps (frames per second), which means the labor required to pull this off is rather slow and stressful; I got about six seconds of footage for every hour’s worth of work. One slight, accidental knock of the tripod and I had to start the scene again (this happened many a time). Had I decided to ignore such accidents and continued filming, it is likely that the scene would suddenly have jumped to a slightly different view — quite a jarring and unprofessional result.

Another issue when making an animation is lighting. You need to film in a room with no windows or where you can shut out all light from the outside — variable conditions such as clouds and movement of the sun will play havoc on the level of control you have over the scene. I use my basement. But even though I was careful when I shot this video, sometimes you’ll notice a slight change in light — it’s not an easy thing to control. To light the models themselves, I used two ordinary desk lights: one just above the camera for main model lighting, and then one directly above the model to prevent shadows.

The final problem that I encountered was camera sea sickness. This happens when you slightly move the camera while pressing down the shutter button on your camera, and it can affect the final look of your video. Rather than making your viewer stock up on Dramamine, you should try and correct this anomaly before it makes an appearance in your finished project. Although I wasn’t 100% successful in this case, I found that stabilizing the camera on a hard floor and using a remote (or plugging the camera into the editing computer) minimizes the possibility that the camera will move during the video capture process. I chose to use the FinePix Jv200 as my camera for this animation, which doesn’t have a remote option. Live and learn.

After several hours of taking pictures, I uploaded the images to my PC and sorted them into folders for each scene. Once all the pictures were sorted, I imported them to Windows Live Movie Maker. Some say this is the worst video editing tool on the planet, but it was fine for my needs in this case. After receiving the audio narration from Chris, I inserted it into the software and cut it into chunks so that I could easily move it around and match it to its pertinent scene. For scenes where LEGO Chris is talking, I copied a single frame into PowerPoint, drew on a mouth using the ‘freeform’ tool, and saved it as a picture. I then moved the shape of the mouth slightly and saved it. I did this five or six times to give the impression that his mouth was actually moving. I then inserted them into the movie where Chris is supposed to be talking.

Finally, when the video editing was complete to my satisfaction, I encoded the video in high definition and uploaded to YouTube for the community to see. Special thanks to Chris for this as, without him, this would not have been possible.

To upload your own LEGO brick-related video to the BrickTrix YouTube community channel, go to LockerGnome.com/upload.

And to see what else Oliver does, check out BTScompanies at YouTube.com/user/btscompanies.