You’ll lose track of time when you’re making a LEGO stop motion, and you’ll convince yourself that your solution to creative problems are absolute genius. Your heart will dance a joyful jig. We all need more joyful heart jigs, right?
I love this century!!! Thanks to YouTube, we can learn the basics of animating LEGO without even getting out of bed. I’ve curated some of my favorites for your viewing pleasure.
Skim this introduction so you’ll know what to look for in the YouTube how-tos by some filmmakers I envy. I mean, some very talented and skilled filmmakers.
Unfortunately, most of the animation tutorials I’ve watched assume that you:
- have quite a bit of LEGO
- know how to build things with LEGO
- have a definite interest in LEGO stop motion animation
- are willing to spend a lot of time on your LEGO
In part, I think, it’s because most are taught by younger men, often children and teens. Sometimes it’s men who’ve played with LEGO since they were children and are very familiar with the building system.
I’m here to give you the perspective of:
- a middle-aged woman
- who didn’t touch any LEGO until her late forties
- who can make a short film out of next to nothing and
- is quirky.
To prove that you can make a fun LEGO stop motion with things you probably already have, I made this short adventure.
- I bought two minifigures in blind bags, so I didn’t know who would be my stars.
- I used two free apps on my phone: Splice for music and sound effects, and Stop Motion Studio for everything else, including recording my voice.
- I made a camera cradle out of LEGO for my phone.
- I used poster putty to attach our friendly witch to fruit.
- And I didn’t use a baseplate!
- Warning: removing cake and frosting from minifigures is harder than it looks!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Lego Animation Tools
- Lego Stop Motion Mindset
- Lego Animation Process
- Lego Stop Motion Tutorials on YouTube
- Stop Motion Studio App Tutorial
LEGO Animation Tools
- animation app, like Stop Motion Studio, or desktop animation software, like Frames
- something to animate, like a minifigure or a car
- poster putty or tape
- desk lamps or other lights you can move around
- stable table
If you have them:
- a baseplate. If it’s a 10-inch by 10-inch, I recommend Strictly Briks’ baseplates, not Lego’s. The Lego brand ones don’t hold things down firmly enough. Otherwise, just use one or more smaller plates.
- a neutral background, like a blank wall or a piece paper
LEGO Stop Motion Mindset
I’m a terrible cook, but I recommend:
- 1/2 cup sense of fun
- 1/2 cup sense of adventure
- 1 cup creativity
- 2 teaspoons patience
LEGO Animation Process
- wear dark clothes
- set up your animation space where there is no natural light
- make sure there’s enough light to see your subject (a minifigure, a car, etc.)
- make sure your camera can’t move (with a tripod or use tape and poster putty to attach your phone to something stable)
- make sure your set can’t move (with poster putty or tape)
- put your camera or phone at eye level with the subject
- take a picture
- move your subject a little bit
- take a picture
- repeat until the action is complete (the minifigure has finished her dance move, the car has reached the house, etc.)
if you’re using animation software on your desktop or an app on your phone—which helps you figure out how much your subject has moved—play your animation and see if anything needs to be changed. Beginner brickfilmers aim for 12 fps or frames per second.
if you’re using The Force, instead of software, like I do—and you’re flying by the seat of your pants, guesstimating how much you’ve moved your subject—import the photos into video editing software, like iMovie or Windows Moviemaker, and play your animation. Set your photo duration to 0.08 seconds or 3 frames. Change the duration as needed.
- make the duration of a photo longer or shorter as needed
- add sound effects, like wind, footsteps, and car noises
- add royalty-free music
- export your cinematographic masterpiece
- share with the world, or just your best friend, via text, or on social media
LEGO Stop Motion Tutorials on YouTube
This fabulous tutorial by RIOFORCE is short and gives you all the information you need. His lighting instructions are great, but I would just use whatever you have and move them around until you can see your subject. Don’t worry about 3-point lighting on your first try.
Notice how he’s used a green Lego baseplate, the kind I told you doesn’t hold things down very well. But he’s covered it with black plates!
I like the fact that he uses a phone, shows you how to make a phone stand, and demonstrates how to use Stop Motion Studio.
JETT WILLIAMS’ tutorial is funny, and it explains very clearly how stop motion works, what causes flicker, and why you need a baseplate. He uses a DSLR, but you can use any camera you have, including webcams and smartphones.
I disagree with one thing he says: if you’re a beginner, don’t include hordes of minifigures in your first film, because it adds a lot of time to move them all. If you don’t move them all, they look very strange, as if they were frozen while your main subject gets to do more exciting things.
Your minifigs do indeed need props, though, or something to do to help sell the idea that they are living characters rather than blobs of plastic being pushed around a screen.
ANYBRICK’s tutorial walks you through exporting your photos from Stop Motion Studio to Windows Moviemaker, including how long each photo should be initially and how to set that in the Moviemaker. The bummer is that, since the fantastic filmmaker is a German speaker, all the Stop Motion Studio text is in German. That’s okay because you can figure that out, and the video is in English.
He emphasizes that you can try making a simple animation with things you already have rather than spending money on equipment and assuming (or perhaps hoping) you’ll like the process.
“He” is Piet Wenzel, and I gushed about his medieval-themed brickfilm called “The Village” in an earlier post.
Next, here’s AnyBrick’s follow-up video giving you tips to improve the quality of your Lego stop motion. I love the fact that he emphasizes the use of royalty-free music!
For this tutorial, I love seeing KRISTIAN STENSLIE‘S animation studio, which is squeezed in next to a clothes washer. We animate where we can!
He also has some recommendations for animation software if you decide to move beyond Stop Motion Studio,
In the filmmaking world, pre-production is all the planning that happens before filming begins, including creating an interesting story. Many Lego stop motion tutorials leave out the storytelling part and focus on things like lighting or frames per second.
LORD RINGOZINGLYZONG PRODUCTIONS‘ very thorough tutorial includes pre-production. He takes time to explain why your script is so important. I agree . . . for later brickfilms, not your first one. The same is true for the cinematography tips and special effects.
Here’s another thorough tutorial that briefly explains general stop motion animation before focusing on LEGO stop motion in particular. The how-to by BRICKBROSPRODUCTIONS describes non-beginner techniques like easing in and out, which I personally ignore, and camera angles, which I don’t ignore. In your place, I would save for later brickfilms if you’re still figuring out the basics.
There’s a demonstration of using iMovie to make your brickfilm. Just note that this tutorial was uploaded to YouTube in 2016, so it might not look like what you have now. Like the Windows Moviemaker section of AnyBrick’s tutorial, the filmmaker sets the photo duration to 0.08 seconds.
I use Adobe Premiere Elements, and I start at 3 frames for the duration setting.
The BrickBros use Audacity to record voice overs. I would just use whatever’s built-in to either your animation software or your video editing software. Or not include any spoken word at all.
Stop Motion Studio Tutorial
Stop Motion Studio has a lot of instruction in the app itself, but I wanted a full tutorial, and this is the one I watched even though PAUL MCDONNELL isn’t animating LEGO in this demo.
Remember to actually start taking photos; don’t get sucked into watching too many tutorials!
If you’re old-school and like books, I highly recommend the Klutz Press/LEGO collaboration, especially since it comes with minifigures, props, and backgrounds. I’ve reviewed this book just for you! It’s called “Make Your Own Movie: 100% Official LEGO® Guide to Stop-Motion Animation.”
Learning by observing my mistakes might give you a chuckle, too. Here’s how I made all the classic animation mistakes when I entered a LEGO animation contest.
The most important thing is to play and have fun.
I’d love to see your creations. Please share links with me in the Comments section below.