Making a Brickfilm: Part 3

Following from my previous posts on what is a Brickfilm and how to set up for making a film, this post is how I make a video.

I will start with my top 5 tips.

1.       Lighting

Control the lighting by turning off all lights and shutting blinds. Don’t move the lights unless you are changing scene

2.       Camera

Don’t move the camera unless you have to. If something is moving you can edit it afterwards to make it feel like the camera is tracking.

3.       Focus

Make sure the camera focuses on the right object and keeps the focus there

4.       Movement

Moving pieces can be time consuming, make sure you have time available and think ahead about what order you will take the photos

5.       Audio

If you have the audio you will be using already finished it is much easier to create a video to those that music or dialogue.

My Bluesmobile, pre filming

My Bluesmobile, pre filming

So you have built your set and picked your music! You know the story you want to make and the lights are up and camera is ready. What now?

Building from your original notes about the story you first need to decide the order that shots will be taken. If a story jumps between a few locations you probably want to film all of one location first. The same goes for using the same camera angle multiple times.

Once you have decided where to start, you should position your camera to taken in the scene as you see it. Make sure you only film what you need or what is part of the scene. Keep yourself, lights or other equipment out of the shot.

Then, take a photo! You will probably want to check and adjust the focus, zoom, lighting and other features. For the video you will need to consider how many photos you will use for each second of film. I find that about 8-10 photos per second creates a smooth result. The more photos you can fit then the smoother the video but the longer it takes and the smaller the movements in your scene need to be.

The amount of photos you want to take is easily measure by the speed of a minifig walking. Take a look at this example from FancyPants.

As you progress you will want to regularly check the photos you have taken to make sure it is still correct and looks right. Once you have finished a take or angle you can move the camera for the next shot.

Picture 12850.jpg

Try to keep track of where your movements are happening. If you have a large crowd scene think about having most of the figures move a little bit so they don’t look like they are frozen in place. The same can be said for taking photos of a person standing still and talking. Some small movements of head and hand give the look of movement.

Taking all the photos for a Brickfilm can take a long time. And the more complicated the video the longer it will take. When filming The Blues Brothers I sometimes got less than 2 seconds of footage an hour, especially when I had to drive cars through glass windows and dismantle the windows between frames. Ideally I like to get 5-10 seconds an hour. But I am a bit of a perfectionist.

When it comes to saving the photos, mine are saved to a folder dedicated to each project. In that folder is a folder for photos, with each scene or shot given a number. This way you can easily find the files if you need to edit them.

Video Editing

There are a number of free to use video editing tools like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie. Some other paid programs include Sony Vegas and Adobe Premier. Each have their own quirks and some are more complicated than others.

Sony Vegas

Sony Vegas

I use Sony Vegas, but for any basic video the process should be pretty straightforward.

In the settings you need to set the amount of frames that a new photo will take up in the video. I usually work at 3 frames per photo. Most programs let you click and drag photos into the video workarea

You can then drag the photos around to put them in the right order. And press play to see how it is looking so far!

I recommend you do this after shooting your first scene. It will let you see how the video is flowing, how long it is taking and what you might need to reshoot. At this stage you might find yourself with several hours work and only a second or two of footage. Don’t give up!

Don't despair!

You can use the video editing program to add effects like colour changes, fades in and out and titles/credits. I don’t usually do any of this until I have finished all of the photography, but depending on how your scene works you may want to setup some of these details so you know how the filming is going.

Render and upload

Once you have finished all your photos, added audio and edited the video to your satisfaction you will want to render it. Aim for 1080p or HD (depending on what it is called in your program) as this will look best when uploaded to the internet.

Then create a YouTube account and upload the video! Give it a good title and some good tags so people can find it.

Don’t be disheartened if your video doesn’t get millions of views. There are thousands of videos out there and you need to stand out in the crowd. You can do this by sharing your work on Facebook, Twitter and through other sites like Reddit. I am always happy to share and give feedback on videos so please send anything you make my way.

For an in depth look at how I made the Blues Brothers video take a look at this Making Of feature that I made. It goes into more detail on some of the technical elements like set design and aligning the photos to audio.

Thank you for reading these posts and I would love your feedback and any tips you have to share.