Brickfilms, the cool name for Lego stop-motion animations, is a raging success on YouTube and other video streaming sites. No longer are you limited to build and play with your Lego sets. You can now use apps to bring a story alive. Drag those bricks down from the attic or pull them out the kids' box, as you could have a potential goldmine in your home.
Preparation Tips for Shooting Lego Stop Motion Movies
Before you select your stop-motion movie maker, you need to secure some of the essential props to make your film-making a success. You only need a basic set of Lego bricks and your smartphone or iPad if you want to keep it simple. You could use a desk lamp for lighting or a professional camera to add some professionalism should you wish.
Start by setting up your scene. You need a flat and stable surface. It needs to be at a height where you will be comfortable working for an extended period. If you set it up on your floor, you could regret this when the aches in your knees and back kick in. Keep your set in place by using masking tape, so it doesn't move if you accidentally bump into it.
Now you are ready to start. Lego movies are painstaking. It will take a while to get into a rhythm and to get something of value to be watched by others. Don't be discouraged. You will get quicker and better with practice. You just need to get started.
With everything in place, as well as a realistic mindset, it is time to choose the stop motion app that will help you produce the best Lego movies.
Unique feature – the timeline allows for simple reordering and editing
I Can Animate is a way to produce movies quickly and with little need for that much tech knowledge. You can use your iOS device, whether tablet or phone, to create and then share your videos. This app is produced by Kudlian Software Ltd and retails on different prices on Apple Store and Google Play.
I Can Animate is unique in its simplicity. You use the camera on your iOS device, and the app will show you the differences between frames, so you can check your progress. This is called onion skinning and is essential to the success of your animation.
There are some basic editing features. These features include an ability to view the images on a timeline and duplicate or reorder these. You can also change the exposure, balance and focus settings to ensure there is a replication of conditions between photographs.
A useful option is the ability to connect a Bluetooth keyboard and capture your images without returning to your device. This means you can secure your phone or tablet and avoid knocking or changing the angle by tapping on the screen. Also helpful for streamlining the filming process is the inbuilt time-lapse feature. You can automatically capture images one after another without having to return to the camera.
You can then share these movies by exporting them to Facebook, YouTube or Dropbox.
Unique feature – the ability to add and edit audio
Stop Motion Studio, produced by Cateater, is an app offered for people age 4 and over and is available on iOS and Android – for your phone or your tablet. There is also a full-featured movie editing software that you can buy for your PC and Mac.
The app is free to download, with some free features. However, there are in-App purchases for some of the better features. You can purchase the Stop Motion Studio Pro app at the cost of $4.99 for Android devices, which then opens all the advanced features in the app.
The advanced features include a function to add and adjust audio, importing and cropping images as well as 4K Ultra HD and much more. The Green Screen function is particularly smart, as this allows you to include a background, which is preloaded onto the phone.
Reviews are positive. Most note that the product appears simple to use – and you can get high-quality Lego movies without feeling daunted. However, the intuitive nature of the app design belies the smart tools available for your movie production. You can add in text, speech bubbles and titles. You can add facial expressions to your Lego figures. The eraser tool is wonderful, as you can delete unwanted objects from your images.
3. The Lego Movie 2™ Movie Maker
For children 8+
Unique feature – a chance to be part of a Lego moviemaking community
This branded movie maker is free on iOS and Android. It is suitable for children aged 8 and above, so a little more advanced than the more basic I Can Animate – but it is designed only to be used on your phone, using the in-built camera. There is the option to add sounds and visual effects to the live footage, as well as edit material within the app. There is no save facility, which means your project needs to be sensible for the time you have before sharing to the site.
You will need to set up an account to be able to share your movies. However, for parents, this adds a reassuring level of moderation and support. Every video is moderated before it is shared. The set-up of the account is not too arduous. You are asked for your home country, your email address and your date of birth. All your videos will be anonymised as part of a stringent adherence to GDPR and safeguarding policies. The strength of this app is the infrastructure of a large brand that understands how to protect children. Be aware, your movie will become the property of the Lego group when uploaded.
Probably the most attractive selling point of this app is that there is no third-party advertising. Consequently, there are hours of uninterrupted fun offered.
For users 12+ with a focus on B2B adult target market
Unique feature – professional-level design features – with Instagram cropping guidelines
Created by Bolandia Creative Inc., Life Lapse Stop Motion Maker is designed for a more sophisticated audience. It is available on iOS and Android. It is aimed at users 12 and above, and there is a definite feel of a professional design package. The interface is a clean white with simple black icons for the function buttons. Essentially, the company is aiming the app at other businesses looking to produce marketing material.
This is not to say that the app cannot be used by Lego movie makers. The app has an intuitive interface, with simple icons that make it clear how the features can be used. There is the option to adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation and warmth of each image. You can also change the speed and size of images.
The apparent marketing leaning of this app is evident in the offer of Instagram crop guidelines, which will allow businesses to upload the stop-motion animations to the site. However, the in-app tutorials are excellent for helping younger people compose the Lego movies with a degree of sophistication that the other apps don't provide. There is the option of an exposure lock, so the conditions stay the same for each photograph. You can use the ghosted image overlay, which allows you to check the difference from one frame to another.
Particularly useful, the grids allow you to clearly map the changes from one image to the next. This stop motion maker app helps you to track your stop-motion animation with some accuracy and it’s quite popular for making Instagram Stop Motion Videos.
5. Onion Cam2
For children aged 4+
Unique feature – simplicity and the onion skin feature allowing you to easily track the stop motion effect
From the developers Yosuke Seki, this StopMotion camera is a simple tool for taking a series of images to produce your Lego movie and then play it back. You can now store the images within the app, which is new from Onion Cam1, which means you can come back to your movies and continue your work. You can also export your video with OnionCam 2.
The "onion" in the title comes from the onion-skin function which allows you to check the lapse between photographs. There is a translucent display of the picture you took last time – allowing you to gradually build up your time-lapse movie.
The guidelines are also a useful way to measure the changes you are making.
If you want an app that allows you to create a simple movie without too many bells and whistles, then this is the app for you. There are not too many advanced features, only the changing order function stands out. However, your young child should be able to use this app without much intervention from you.
Basic Tips for Improving Lego stop motion videos
The essential ingredients for the best Lego movies include creativity and patience. If you have both vital qualities, read on to understand how to maximise the effects in your film.
1. Get your timing right
If you want your characters to move quickly, then you need fewer images and movements per second. If you're going to slow the characters down, you need to take more pictures with more actions. Getting this right is a matter of trial and error, to begin with.
However, you can make this easier for yourself by planning a little. If you have a shooting rate of 15-frames per second, then you will need to plan out 15 images to fill a second of film. Each action in your movie that would last a second will need 15 pictures with gradual changes per image.
2. Making your characters' movements natural
If you are not careful, your characters will move around in a jerky fashion. In real life, we ease in and ease out of actions. We start and finish an action slowly. Therefore, when taking images, use more pictures at the start and end of a movement, giving the impression of easing in and out of actions.
3. Master the walk cycle
A great place to start your Lego movie making is in the perfection of the walk. Your characters will go through 4 movements in a walk.
One leg will step forward, heel down and toe up.
The toe on this foot then descends
The other leg passes the standing leg
The passing leg heel hits the floor
This movement will likely take about 20 frames. When moving the arms, make sure the opposite arms move with the leg – so the left arm swings as the right leg is moving forward.
4. Practice and perfect
Finally, watch how people move in real life. Notice how the heads, arms and legs move together. Then, try to recreate this with your Lego characters. Watch your material, reflect on what could be improved, and try again. The only way to become a great Lego movie maker is to practice, practice and practice some more!
Shanoon Cox is a writer and a lover of all things video.
Follow @Shanoon Cox
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