As all our friends know, James and I love legos. We have a few sets, and thoroughly enjoy spending our free time playing with legos. A couple of months ago, James started thinking of making our own stop-motion lego brickfilm, and decided that it would be based off the classic Lego Pirates theme from 1989-1993. Luckily, we already had a lot of the pieces we needed and found the other pieces on ebay to bring the project to fruition.
The entire ‘set’ was created on our coffee table, and we shot the whole project right in our living room. The base of the island was created using an array of random pieces we already had, and covered with gray and tan pieces we purchased on the lego website. Working primarily weeknights, after work, and weekends when time allowed, we were able to complete the shooting process over the course of three weeks.
We used most of the official ‘Sabre Island’ set for the soldier’s watch tower, and created another structure that was based on sets that James and his brother used to own when they were children.
This second structure was a prison that also provided lodging for the Governor.
Once we had our base for the entire set, we had fun covering it with rocky terrain for the one main angle it was to be seen from.
Here you can see the completed model, including the pieces we used to create the effect of distant land masses, and moving water. The digital cloning and morphing of this one water piece would prove to be the most difficult part of the entire process.
The actual shooting was much more tedious than the construction. In most cases, the different moving elements were shot separately. Those passes were then composited, and in some cases frames were re-ordered to alter the animation.
We used tweezers to place several pieces. Here, the tweezers would be digitally painted out to make the sword spin in mid-air.
Sheets of blue and green poster-board served as our green/blue screens and sky backdrops.
For some elements, we shot realtime video and then adjusted the speed, or chose certain frames to use.
The construction and shooting only comprised a small percentage of the production. Most of the time was spent with James using every trick in the book to digitally stabilize the footage during the compositing process. Nudging the pieces so much as one millimeter led to many hours of tracking and rotoscoping, not to mention painting out the occasional kitty cat hair.
Even after dealing with difficult pieces and pained fingers, the results made it all well worth it. Watch our short film ‘Escape from Sabre Island,’ below: