An increasingly popular side-branch of the LEGO hobby is creating LEGO stop-motion videos, also referred to as brickfilms. While a number of online blog posts and video tutorials are available on brickfilming, there has been a real need for a comprehensive and easily understandable guide to help people get started. Long-time brickfilmers David Pagano and David Picket set out to fulfill that need with their recently released book, titled; The LEGO Animation Book – Make Your Own LEGO Movies! I have been very eager to check out this book, so let’s take a closer look together. 🙂
The LEGO Animation Book is published by No Starch Press, the leading publisher of beautiful and high quality books by the LEGO fan community. The book is about 8 x 8 inches – the perfect size for a handy manual. The soft cover and the pages are all very high quality, with bold and brilliant color images, and nice big text. Flipping through the book the first time, you know it is going to be good.
The whole book is a bit over 200 pages, which is just the right length for a manual to give a good introduction to a topic, without being unnecessarily detailed. In other words; the book is meant to be practical. The authors write this in the introduction: “Our goal was to create a definitive reference for folks of all ages and skill levels, from the 8-year-old YouTuber to the 45-year-old AFOL (Adult-Fan-of-LEGO) and beyond. We’ve structured things so that you don’t need to read the book from cover to cover all at once – though we’d love it if you did. If you are brand-new to LEGO animation, start with Chapter 1, which introduces some key concepts to get your feet wet. If you’re already knee deep in the LEGO animation hobby, you might be looking to sharpen a specific skill. That’s cool. Feel free to skip around, skim, or read upside down. You won’t hurt our feelings. If at any point you feel compelled to stop reading and start animating, please do so. No amount of prose can take the place of practice. We’ll be here waiting when you need us again.”
In the next couple of pages, the authors introduce themselves. David Pagano is a LEGO animator and writer and the founder of Paganomation, a NY-based production studio. His work has appeared everywhere from BrickJournal to the Wall Street Journal. David Pickett is the LEGO filmmaker behind BRICK 101 and Nightly News at Nine. Together, they run the LEGO animation blog The Set Bump. In the video below, David Pickett talks a bit more about the book.
After the brief introduction, there is another page introducing LEGO animation as a medium for making stories, music videos, advertisements, tutorials and more. The book also makes it clear that computer-generated animation of LEGO bricks and characters, as well as live-action footage of LEGO models being manipulated by a human are not covered. What is covered, however, is all aspects of stop-motion animated films created with LEGO bricks and minifigures using techniques that are almost as old as motion pictures themselves.
The book is divided into nine chapters. Chapter One covers the basics for setting up a simple brickfilming studio with whatever you already have, tips for your first animation, and watching your animation. In other words, the very first chapter covers everything a beginner needs to know for making their first brickfilm. All later chapters dive deeper into a specific aspect of brickfilming, so you can perfect your skills. The chapters also include lessons and exercises to practice what you just learned. Chapter Two covers animating minifigures, Chapter Three goes deeper into animation principles, Chapter Four is about building scenes for your brickfilms, and Chapter Five addresses working in different scales.
Chapter Six covers tools of the trade like cameras, tripods, lights, microphones, computers, and stop-motion animation software available for mobile devices and desktops. While you don’t need many of these when you are just starting out, if you later choose to upgrade your equipment, this chapter can be very helpful to choose the right tools.
Chapter Seven is very interesting, as it goes deeper into the creative process of making a brickfilm, including writing a script, storyboarding, animatics, and organizing your work with spreadsheets.
Chapter eight helps you fine-tune your cinematography and production skills with covering topics like aspect-ratio, frame-rate, shot types, movement and composition, light effects, focusing, exposure and more. And finally, Chapter Nine covers post-production activities, like recording and adding music and sound, editing your brickfilm, adding digital effects, adding titles and credits, and whatever else is needed to tidy up your film.
While that’s a lot to cover, each lesson is only a page or two long and are accompanied by very helpful pictures to remain easily digestible and practical. As mentioned at the beginning, you don’t have to read the whole book to start. You only need to read the first chapter to make your own very first brickfilm, and then just dip in for more detailed lessons, whenever you feel like you wan to learn more about a particular aspect. And because of how the book is organized, it definitely fulfills the goal to be an excellent resource for both beginner and experienced brickfilmers.
The book also refers to a short companion film titled The Magic Picnic, which showcases all of the animation concepts discussed in the book. You might want to watch the film before reading the book just to enjoy the story, and to see what’s possible with LEGO animation. Later, you can come back to the movie with newfound knowledge and understanding, and see how the approaches discussed in the book look on screen. Watch the film below.
Here is the official description of The LEGO Animation Book: Have you ever wondered what your LEGO creations would look like on the big screen? The LEGO Animation Book will show you how to bring your models to life with stop-motion animation – no experience required! Follow step-by-step instructions to make your first animation, and then explore the entire filmmaking process, from storyboards to post-production. Along the way, you’ll learn how to: create special effects like explosions and flying minifigures, convey action and emotion with your minifigure actors, design sets for animation (including making three buildings look like an entire city), light, frame, and capture consistent photos, add detail and scope to your films by building in different scales, build camera dollies and rigs out of LEGO bricks, choose cameras, software, and other essential animation tools. Expert brickfilmers David Pagano an dDavid Pickett share their insight from over twenty years behind the camera, and introduce readers to the basics of animation before walking them through the creative process step-by-step. 216 pages. Recommended for ages 8+. Regular price: $19.95 – BUY ON AMAZON
If you ever had the desire to make a LEGO brickfilm – be that something simple like a LEGO-themed animated birthday wish, or something big and ambitious in the style of The LEGO Movie – The LEGO Animation Book has you covered. It is beautiful, fun, and full of practical instructions and lessons on making your very first LEGO stop-motion animation, and also helps you to improve and refine your skills if you choose to go deeper into brickfilming. I would highly recommend it.
What do you think? Have you tried making your own brickfilms before? Or do you think about giving it a try? Feel free to share in the comment section below! Also, if you have The LEGO Animation Book already, and would like to share your own review, feel free to include that as well. 😉
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