How to Animate Lego with ASAP Animation

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Here at United Bricks we have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation. We have seen how it has affected people around the world, including us, and we wanted to bring our fans who are in isolation an activity that they can do in their free time. We have teamed up with ASAP Animation in order to bring you this step-by-step guide as to how you can create a stop motion animation from your own home. So without further ado, we'll hand over to ASAP Animations:

Hi! I'm Andreas from Asap Animation, and today I'm going to teach you how you can create your own Lego animations.

It all comes down to the story... When making movies, it always starts with an idea of a story. For me it always helps to write down a script. I write it with either a pen and paper, or on my computer. Then I can easily plan out the entire film before I start filming.

Creating your characters... When I have my story, I start making my characters for the film. Here you can get creative, as the characters can be whatever you want. I usually decide whether to make the figures yellow or flesh colored and not mix them. Personally, I like the flesh tones more as I used to do a lot of movie recreations, and LEGO uses flesh tones for movie characters. I’m a big history fan, and I love making movies based around World War 2. Lucky for me, United Bricks gives us the opportunity to get the war movie characters right.

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Building the set... Now it’s time to build the set. Remember that you’re building for the camera. You will only need to make the parts of the set that is visible. For example, most buildings will only need about two or three walls, as a camera will not be able to see all four walls at the same time. When I animate someone in a room, I usually just make one or two walls that the character can stand against. I also try to work with colors, to make my character stand out. For example, in this film I placed a bunch of yellow pieces in the back to add some contrast to the grey walls. It gives the set a bit more depth.

Lighting is key... One part often overlooked is lighting. Without light, there’s nothing to see. You can use whatever light source you have available as long as you have 100% control over it. We don’t have control over the sun as it’s constantly moving, so always block out your windows. I use professional studio lamps, but for beginners I recommend using desk lamps. With desk lamps, you can easily change where and how the light hits. Try to think of how your lighting will change the mood of your story. If your movie is lit with warm colors, it will give a nice feeling of comfort and love, but if you lit it cold it can feel scary and distant. Keeping characters in the dark will make them more mysterious, while giving characters nice and soft lighting you give them trust and it becomes easier to understand their intentions.

Can we start filming yet?.. Finally, we get to start animating! To me this is the part I enjoy the most. There are many ways to make Stop-Motion films. You need to have a camera. It can be pretty much whatever camera you have available. Either a webcam, a phone or a DSLR camera. I use a DSLR, as that works with my animation software. But there are plenty of good apps for your phone or tablet that works well. I recommend trying the Stop Motion Studio app which is available for free! I use a software called Dragonframe. It is quite expensive, but it gives me many advantages. A cheaper stop-motion software for your computer would be the iStopMotion app for MacBook:

When placing your camera, try to get it at eye-level with your character for most of the photos. Of course, this is difficult due to Lego characters being so tiny. But it definitely makes your film more believable. When you’re taking photos, you got to make sure that you don’t move the camera. Therefore, you need to place the camera on the desk, or use a tripod. The camera I use is a Canon 7dmk2. It’s quite expensive, but I suggest not focusing too much on the equipment. Better equipment does not equal a better film. It all comes down to how good the story is.

The animation itself is made by creating an illusion of movement. Of course, a minifigure cannot move by itself, so we take one picture and then we move the figure a tiny bit. Then we take a new photo, and repeat. When placing all the individual photos after each other, it’ll look like your character has moved. To make this look smooth and believable, all it takes is a bit of practice.

Post production... When you have finished all your animation, you can start your editing. Editing can be very technical and difficult. Therefore, I suggest doing most of the effects and such in camera, so you don’t have to rely on adding it later. I edit my films in DaVinci Resolve, which is a free editing software of great quality. If you have difficulties on how to edit the film you can look up tutorials on YouTube as there’s plenty of them.

Sound... Sound is half of the movie experience. And unfortunately, there are no sound recorded while animating, so you have to add the sounds yourself. This opens many opportunities for you to make your own sound universe. Firstly, you can start adding the most basic sound effects, like voices, cars and gun shots. But try to think of everything around you that makes sound. Like your footsteps, the wind, a door shutting, and the way your jacket scratches when you pick up something. Sometimes it’s just easiest to add a song, but that doesn’t necessary make your movie more believable. You can record your own sounds, or you can find some online. But be careful! Many songs and sound effects might be copyrighted, and you can get in trouble for using something you don’t own. But fear not, there are many free sound archives and music libraries online. Like for example freesound and incompetech. I get my sound effects from the audio library called Soundly.

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Now publish your film! It’s easy to share your video to YouTube and Instagram. I’m very excited to see what you all make. Make sure to share the film with both United Bricks and me. Good luck, and remember practice makes perfect!

We hope you enjoyed that tutorial and that you have been inspired to create your own films!! We would like to thank Andreas of ASAP Animations for taking time to be a vital part of this collaboration!! We definitely learned a lot from the tutorial!!

Quick overview:

1. Plan it out - Whether it be digitally or manually write a script, storyboard or mindmap, just visualise what you plan to do.

2. Remember that you're filming - If you build a room with four walls you won't be able to see into it, so keep that in mind when you build your set.

3. Don't rely on the Sun - If you use the sun as your light source, your film will not have consistent shadows so use lights that you can control (this means you can film at any time, day or night!!)

4. Practice (and patience) makes perfect - stop motion relies on small movements, unless your minifigure can teleport, it can't just move from one end of the scene to the other so be patient and you will be a pro in no time!!

5. If you're stuck, look it up - Editing a video can be tricky so if there is an effect you want to do but don't know how to, don't be afraid to look up a tutorial about it.

6. Give your film a voice!! Well, sound at least - Your animation will be silent so add all the sounds and music you want to but remember to abide by copyright laws and don't use sounds and music without the owners' permission!!

So if you do end up following this tutorial then why not share your animations with us on social media and YouTube. Don't forget to use #UBAnimateASAP and tag us and ASAP Animations so we can take a look at your creations! And if you are lucky, we may even share your creations on our video gallery!

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