Exclusive interview with Animated Brick Builders, winner of the Gold Puffin "Heroes" contest

Animated Brick Builders recently won the Gold Puffin "Heroes" stop motion contest, beating 112 other entries to claim the number one spot. I caught up with Brad, one half of the Animated Brick Builders duo, to ask him about how they got started in stop motion, how they make such incredible videos, and about that winning animation.

Gold Puffin:

What gave you the idea for the Pink Tutu Batman vs. The Corn Gang video?

Animated Brick Builders:

The idea for Pink Tutu Batman vs. The Corn Gang came from Evan, my six-year-old son. Previous to making the video, he asked me “if a dragon breathed fire on corn on the cob, would it turn into popcorn?” From there, the idea to make a LEGO stop motion video involving corn and a fire breathing dragon was born. This happened just before the Gold Puffin LEGO Animation 7,500 Subscriber Contest was announced, so the timing was just right.

We always like to include Batman in many of our videos since he’s the main character in our Animated Brick Builders logo, so the idea of having Batman turn into the dragon fit the Superhero theme for the contest. We of course wanted to include Gold Puffin in the video, so we had Batman reading the 7,500 Subscribers headline in the newspaper.

Gold Puffin:

How did you first get into doing stop motion?

Animated Brick Builders:

It all started back in May 2017, when my son and I were playing with our LEGO collection. He told me that he wanted to make a LEGO movie. So, I searched the App Store for a stop motion app and I came across an app called Stop Motion. I think I paid $5.00 to download it and after only a few hours, we shot and edited a stop motion movie we titled "Under Arrest" on my iPhone. It was a very down and dirty video just to learn the App. Here’s the link: (https://youtu.be/fNbNj3toGvM).

First stop motion animation, under arrest, with a police truck

We enjoyed making the video so much that I began researching stop motion photography. I wanted to take it to the next level especially with my background and passion for video and photo. I started with a book called The LEGO Animation Book by David Pagano and David Pickett. I learned a lot and I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in stop motion photography. From there, it’s really been a lot of trial and error and self-teaching. The more videos we make, the better we’re getting, or at least we hope so!

Gold Puffin:

What kind of videos are featured on the Animated Brick Builders YouTube channel?

Animated Brick Builders:

We feature various types of stop motion videos including LEGO brick films, how-to videos, free LEGO give-a-way contests, behind the scenes videos, LEGO games and fast builds of LEGO sets.

LEGO brick films, how-to videos, free LEGO give-a-way contests, behind the scenes videos, LEGO games and fast builds of LEGO sets.

Gold Puffin:

How did you manage to improve so quickly?

Animated Brick Builders:

The only way to improve at making stop motion videos is to keep making them and learn from your mistakes. I know that sounds super cliché, but it’s the truth. As long as you learn from those mistakes, you’ll notice an increase in your production value in each video that you make.

Gold Puffin:

Currently, what camera, lenses and sound equipment do you use?

Animated Brick Builders:

We use a Canon 5D Mark III with various Canon lenses including a 24-105mm f/4, 100mm macro f/2.8, 50mm f/1.2, 70-200mm f/2.8 and 16-35mm f/2.8. We create most of our own sound effects using a Zoom H4N recorder.

Gold Puffin:

What editing systems do you use?

Animated Brick Builders:

We capture each picture using Dragonframe, which is a stop motion capturing software. It’s very easy to use and was relatively inexpensive to purchase. This allows us to keep our hands off of the camera at all times, which is very important for stop motion photography. Dragonframe allows you to see previous frames captured, which is extremely helpful when animating the LEGO pieces and minifigs. The instant video playback is also a huge advantage as you can watch your video as you’re shooting it.

Lego T Rex and Santa stop motion animation captured using Dragonframe
Animated Brick Builders use Dragonframe to capture their photos

The touch up work or any rigging removal (used when our objects fly in a scene) is all done in Adobe Photoshop.

Animated Brick Builders use photoshop to edit photos for their brickfilms lego stop motion animation

Those files are then imported back into Dragonframe so that we can export them as video files, which then get imported into Adobe Premiere for editing. In Premiere, we add graphics and sound effects to help bring our productions to life. Here’s a how-to video we created on making LEGO objects fly. https://youtu.be/_mR-zCVdDbc

Adobe Premiere Pro is used for editing the brickfilms, bringing the Lego stop motion animation to life
Animated Brick Builders use Adobe Premiere Pro for the final edit of their brickfilms

Gold Puffin:

What do you think it the most important thing that someone should know if they are just starting out in stop motion?

Animated Brick Builders:

When shooting stop motion, it’s VERY IMPORTANT to keep lighting consistent between each frame that you capture. It might not be noticeable as you take each individual picture, but you’ll definitely notice it during playback as a video. When I look back at our first what I would call “next level” video, Batman Needs a Nap https://youtu.be/5eIGw_q9Mmg, you can clearly see where we did not step back far enough from the light source in various spots throughout the video, most notably between 0:15-0:25. You can see our shadows animating in the scene.

Lego Batman stop motion animation brickfilm
Batman Needs a Nap, the first "next level" animation by Animated Brick Builders, suffered from some lighting issues caused by shadows cast onto the set

Another piece of advice I’d share is to always shoot in a room that does not have any windows or where there’s no change in lighting that’s outside of your control. For instance, in our video LEGO Minifig builds his own Mustang GT https://youtu.be/B0vAWhAl72c, we utilized our basement, where there are no windows or outside sources of light, to capture the nearly 2,300 pictures needed with consistent lighting.

Lego Ford Mustang blue with minifigure builds his own GT

In one of our most recent videos, “LEGO in Real Life – LEGO Ice Cream Sundae” https://youtu.be/GHJmdi11LtY I wanted to shoot the video in our kitchen. However, our kitchen is surrounded by windows and a doorwall, so I had to shoot this one overnight when t was dark outside to eliminate any chance of outside light coming in the windows.

Stop motion animation lighting set up professional pro

Our stop motion videos range anywhere from 12 to 15 frames per second so we’re taking a lot of pictures. Light consistency is key! Always control the light in your scene, don’t let the light control you.

The other piece of advice I would give to someone just getting started with stop motion is to never shoot anything in auto mode. This goes for focus and exposure. The smallest adjustments in either of these two aspects is very noticeable when played back as video. And the last thing would be to be patient. Shooting stop motion is very time consuming and requires a lot of patience.

Gold Puffin:

What’s the coolest thing about making Lego videos?

Animated Brick Builders:

The father-and-son bond is the most rewarding part of making these cool videos and seeing his face light up when the LEGO minifigs move is priceless. Whether that’s after a video is edited or when he’s helping me take the photos. When he sees the process of moving each brick or minifig a little at a time and then he pushes the live play button to see the animation, it’s just the best!

Animated Brick Builders father and son Lego animation stop motion brickfilm team

Gold Puffin:

What has been the most fun moment you’ve had since starting your YouTube channel?

Animated Brick Builders:

We’ve had some really cool moments since starting our YouTube channel in May of 2017. Winning the Gold Puffin LEGO Animation 7,500 Subscriber Contest with Pink Tutu Batman vs. The Corn Gang was certainly one of them. You can view the video here: https://youtu.be/fQiYmcDX8ys

Pink Tutu Batman Lego corn minifigures Animated Brick Builders Gold Puffin contest brickfilm
Animated Brick Builders won the Gold Puffin 7500 Subscriber Special Stop Motion Contest, "Heroes", with their short brickfilm "Pink Tutu Batman v The Corn Gang"

Here’s our live reaction to watching the Gold Puffin video announcing the winner. https://youtu.be/XpI0CMx0iVY

Reaction video live to winning the Gold Puffin Heroes contest
Lots of people tuned in for the premiere of the Heroes Contest winner announcement. As the countdown from 20 got closer and closer to 1st place, Brad realised that Animated Brick Builders were in with a chance of winning, and quickly set up a camera to record their reaction!

Then a day later when we got a call from a local news station here in Detroit to share our LEGO story was another. The full interview from FOX2 WJBK Detroit can be seen here https://youtu.be/HQOR-hq8mEA

Lego animation contest winners appear on TV Animated Brick Builders Gold Puffin contest
Brad and Evan appeared on TV to talk about winning the Gold Puffin contest, and about how they got started in Lego animation

The other fun daily moments are when we see our channel gain one subscriber at a time. It’s something we truly appreciate when someone takes the time to click subscribe and be a part of our LEGO channel. The biggest surprise to us has been the awesome community of YouTube LEGO channels that are out there and the number of friends that we’ve made along the way. It’s been a blast and my advice to anyone thinking about starting their own channel is to just do it. There’s a whole friendly community of support out there on YouTube.

Gold Puffin:

Do you have any final thoughts?

Animated Brick Builders:

We hope you enjoyed our story. We’re having so much fun creating these videos. The global support we’re receiving on our social media channels has been awesome. If you’d like to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram just search for Animated Brick Builders. Or you can click on the links below.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6ufBZwV-9pd9ej7ZPhuHcA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnimatedBrickBuilders

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/animated_brick_builders_lego/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnimatedBricks

Thanks for supporting us and for supporting Gold Puffin LEGO Animation for the great work they do as ambassadors in the LEGO community.

Brad & Evan

CEO and Mini-CEO

Animated Brick Builders - LEGO Stop Motion


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