(Written by Jet of Beyond the Hod)
My name is Jet (short for Jethro), and I have been invited to talk a little bit about myself and my LEGO project. I grew up in the countryside just outside Reading, UK, and – like most of you here – had lots of LEGO to play with. LEGO projects in various stages of completion were always around the house, and loose pieces were piled up in boxes, or scattered across the floor to bring down barefoot parents. My dad still finds stray LEGO bits buried in the garden. However, at a certain age, I stopped building, and my boxes of bricks went into the attic, until a few years ago, when my sister bought me a new LEGO set for Christmas. 🙂
I have always liked animation, so I thought I would have a go at animating my new LEGO set as I build it, by placing a piece, taking a shot, placing a piece, taking a shot… I had no lights and only the webcam on my laptop, so the result was dark, low resolution and pretty sketchy, but people seemed to like it. I meant to follow up this first project with more animations, however I only managed to put together a few more videos of subsequent Christmas presents. But a seed had definitely been planted. Later, when I saw other LEGO-related channels on YouTube, I thought that perhaps there was room for the kind of videos I was doing.
So, I decided to set up a YouTube channel called Beyond The Hod, and started animating LEGO again. The videos were still mostly unlit, and I only worked with small LEGO sets, but they helped me to work out the style I wanted to achieve. Eventually, I borrowed a camera (Canon EOS 7D) from a friend, bought some cheap LED studio lights, and installed iStopMotion. While this is a very basic setup for LEGO animation, the results have been much better, and the feedback from the LEGO community was positive and encouraging.
People often ask how long the animations take. I’m not really sure, as I don’t track the time, but the process is definitely very time-consuming. I think animating the build of the #42038 LEGO Technic Arctic Truck (see below) took around fifty hours at least. But I find making LEGO videos strangely meditative, and the hours fly by easily. I often find myself thinking it is just getting towards midnight, only to look at the clock and realize it’s actually 2 AM! Then, I lie in bed unable to sleep, because all I can see is LEGO pieces shifting in front of my eyes.
Like with most things, there are also moments of intense frustration in this hobby. Sometimes I have to build something in a different orientation or different order to what is shown in the instructions, and these situations can easily lead to placing pieces incorrectly and not noticing until later. When this happens it can be a bit of a kick in the guts, and having to delete frames one by one until I find out where the mistake happened is usually enough to make me pack it up for the night and go to bed.
Still, I love LEGO animation, and even though I have only done a handful of videos so far, I’m happy with the results, and I definitely plan to do more. I have loads of ideas for future films, and I also want to get a bit more creative with my techniques. I’m thinking about using a green-screen, and trying out different locations rather than just using the same wooden desk. I would also love to try some motion control with the camera and getting a better lighting rig, but that would take more investment of time and money that I’m currently comfortable with.
Having said that, I won’t be posting new videos for the next couple of months, as I am setting off to cycle from my home in the UK to the east coast of Sweden. This is a trip I have been planning for over a year, but only recently have I tweaked the route slightly so that I will now pass through the town of Billund, Denmark. As I’m sure you know, Billund is the birthplace of LEGO, and where it all happens to this day. I hope to create at least a small animation with LEGOLAND or the LEGO factory as the backdrop.
If you would like to check out some of my animations, I have included a couple of them in this article, and you can see more on my YouTube channel. Thanks for watching, and feel free to like, share, and subscribe to my channel, or leave a comment below with your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas. It is a cliché but this stuff really does make all the hours of work worthwhile. 🙂
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