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Custom LEGO phonetic heads for animators

One thing I really like about LEGO customizers is that they take the time to listen to LEGO fans and find out what are their wants and needs. Do you need special minifigures printed for a promotion, corporate event, sporting event, birthday or wedding? They can do it! Would you like to recreate a favorite character from a book or movie? They can do that too! How about if you are a brickfilmer and you want your minifigures to have realistic facial expressions when talking? Yep! That’s also possible! 🙂

Custom LEGO Minifig Heads by Minifigs.me

The LEGO customizing team at Minifigs.Me is especially good at serving a wide selection of unusual niche request. We have written about them before (see links at the end of this post), and this time I wanted to show you their newest product; a series of custom printed minifigure heads specifically meant to mimic realistic talk in LEGO films. They call them: Phonetic Heads for Animation. Below is a picture of what they look like, and the full description and details from Minifigs.Me.

Custom LEGO Minifig Heads for BrickFilmers by Minifigs.me

Creating a professional stop-motion animated film using LEGO parts is a long, rewarding process. Those that graduate out of simplistic films often struggle to capture natural speech with the faces currently available from standard LEGO minifigs. Hours are spent in post processing to create moving lips, necessarily compromising the authentic and genuine charm of stop motion in order to create a better film.

We worked with professional animators to create a set of 12 high grade heads, each with the mouth in the correct shape for a different phonetic sound. By swapping these heads during filming, the time taken in post processing is dramatically reduced. The end result is a more pure film, where it’s apparent the animator went the extra mile.

Each set comes complete with 12 professionally printed, highly durable heads and three printed display blocks to keep them organized. Each head has their corresponding sound printed discretely on the back so that you don’t get them mixed up. Time to treat yourself – get the right tools for the job.

I’m very impressed with these custom printed minifig heads. First of all just the fact that Minifigs.Me took up such an unusual project and got experts involved to create the right shapes for each sound is remarkable enough. Then they took the time to add even more useful features like corresponding letters/sounds printed on the back of the heads, and have printed stands to store the heads. They obviously knew the needs of their target audience very well and thoughtfully worked out the details.

If you are a brickfilmer, and interested in this collection of LEGO minifigure phonetic heads for animation, they are available as a set of 12 heads for £24.99. Minifigs.Me is based in the UK, however they do ship worldwide if you are in another country. Here is the direct link to the heads, and you can also browse their other custom items.

So what do you think? Are you a brickfilmer? Do you think these heads would be useful for your LEGO animations? What other products would make your job easier for making LEGO films? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • gid617 September 23, 2015, 11:18 AM

    I’m trying to imagine how much work it would be to trade out the heads for every three or four letters… 😮

    • admin September 23, 2015, 12:08 PM

      It is actually something stop motion artists are already doing; changing the pose of the minifigs for every split second. Now they can do the face too. Otherwise previously they were limited to the heads LEGO provides (which doesn’t always reflect talking properly), or photoshop the effect later. It is extremely tedious work either way. If you watch how stop-motion films are made you get real respect for the artists. They can spend days just to do a five minute video.

      • Håkan September 23, 2015, 1:47 PM

        Looks good, although one customized set won’t be enough, but to make different characters, the animators would have to buy a complete set for each character, and then recustomize it on their own…

        Or if you’d like to have one character being grumpy, sad or angry… Well, one step at a time, I guess…

        • Håkan September 23, 2015, 1:53 PM

          BTW, I can’t spot a head for H and T, although H might be the same as Hehe, and T might be the same as D …

          Or Sh …

        • admin September 23, 2015, 2:14 PM

          If this product line is successful I’m sure more can be added. People already requested a flesh-color version. And I think it would be also nice to get a female version. I think with 2-4 sets everything could be covered. I was told that a set has been sent to the BrotherhoodWorkshop as well as some other brickfilmers, so we should be seeing these little guys in action soon. 🙂

        • Minifigs.me September 23, 2015, 2:44 PM

          Hello! Yep, they’re certainly the tip of an iceburg. We’ll see how these go, but for bow we focused on a more unisex face with neutral speech. There is a lot we haven’t done – certain phonetic sounds aren’t there yet, people with glasses, beards, different skin tones, makeup, emotions… We have hundreds of heads on the site that could use this treatment.

          We needed to start small, though. It’s also heavily dependent on how much time experienced animators cab give us in developing them. These mouth shapes were created by Steve Guinness, with us converting them and consulting other animators for conformation and tips (how to organise them, their production workflow etc). So each new expression and design is a lot of work!

          We need to see if it’s worth developing more before we put so many hours into a huge range 🙂

      • gid617 September 25, 2015, 7:10 AM

        That’s certainly true; I’ve considered doing a short stop motion video myself and always ended up quite daunted by thinking about how much work it would be! The hard part I would assume about changing the heads for every second or so would be making sure that the rest of the pose didn’t change, and in my experience heads often refuse to come off unless you have a firm grip on the rest of the body, which usually means that they’d have to come off the base!

        • admin September 25, 2015, 9:30 AM

          Hm… yeah, that could be a problem. I haven’t thought of that. Maybe it would be a good idea to slightly enlarge the whole on these heads so they can go on and off easily. This can easily be done with a little piece of sand-paper.

        • Minifigs.me September 28, 2015, 12:09 PM

          The other challenge is keeping the hair in the same position relative to the eyes. It’s possible that we can create a reference line on the back of the head, so you can use a marker or something on the back of the hair, and line the two up.

          Either way, it’s a start. Feedback so far is that they tend to save a lot of time, which is good!

  • LegoUniverse Bob September 23, 2015, 11:49 AM

    That looks awesome! I wish everyone using these loads of fun! 😀

    Though it may seem like it, I don’t think it’s actually that hard to swap them out all the time… 🙂

    • Håkan September 23, 2015, 3:34 PM

      It might be easier to swap the whole character… Although you have to be sure that the pose isn’t changed…

      • Minifigs.me September 23, 2015, 3:38 PM

        We’re also considering packs of 12 identical copies of some of our most common hair types, so you don’t need to keep changing the hair. You’d need great discipline though – you’d have to make sure you put them back on their stand right away after use or you’ll be taking their hair off all the time anyway to check the phonetic on the back of the head 😉

  • Strider September 23, 2015, 3:02 PM

    Sweet! Of course the uses are limited, but if you were using a simple non-themed main character I imagine this would work quite well. As it is Aragorn and Frodo still need the power of photoshop to converse 🙂 .

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