Animation Questions

▼ What software do you use, and what would you recommend?

I use a variety of software for my films. I’ll break it down by category:

Capture Currently, I use Dragonframe 3.5 for frame capture. Dragonframe is used by many stop-motion studios, including Laika and Aardman, and features all of the controls you need for stop-motion capture. Previously, I also used an older version of Stop Motion Pro, as well as MonkeyJam. Unfortunately, MonkeyJam hasn’t been updated in years, and performs poorly on Windows 7 and newer machines.

Dragonframe is fantastic for my needs and I highly recommend it. However, if you are a new animator just starting out, you should probably try out free/cheap programs like HeliumFrog. More software suggestions can be found in this Bricks in Motion thread.

Video Editing Over the years I’ve used various versions of Adobe Premiere Pro to edit my films, the most recent being Adobe Premiere Pro Creative Cloud. I’ve also occasionally used Vegas Studio and Windows Movie Maker 2. Like Dragonframe, Premiere Pro isn’t cheap, but it’s good software.

Audio Editing Over all these years, I still continue to use Audacity for my audio recording and editing needs. It’s a neat little program with all of the features I need, and it’s free! I do some audio compiling and editing in Premiere Pro, but almost all of my direct audio recording and manipulation happen in Audacity.

Visual Effects Depending on the needs of the shot, I use either Adobe Photoshop or Adobe After Effects. After Effects in particular is useful for seamlessly blending digital effects or rig removal with stop-motion footage. Unfortunately, if you want to get good visual effects results, you need to be willing to pay for a program like After Effects.

▼ How long does it take to make an animation?

On average, it takes me 1 to 2 hours to animate a single second of animation. It greatly depends on the complexity of the shots animated and the final length of the film. Birdie was animated in about a week, but there’s less than 30 seconds of animation in it. Compare that to Alex and Derrick: Five Years Later, which took many months to make!

▼ What frame rate do you shoot at?

For nearly all of my films, I have animated at 15 FPS (frames per second), which is generally considered to be “standard” among LEGO animators. However, starting with Appetite Lost, I have transitioned to animating at 24-on-twos, which is the standard used by most professional stop-motion animation studios, like Aardman (known for Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run). 24-on-twos is a technique where most frames are shot twice (“on twos”), resulting in animation that appears to be 12 FPS, but in reality is 24 FPS. This allows for more flexibility in animating. If a quicker or smoother movement needs to be animated, animators can forgo shooting duplicate frames and animate one frame at a time, essentially seamlessly transitioning from 12 FPS to 24 FPS.

▼ What are you favorite films?

I enjoy a wide variety of films, and it is very difficult to give a ranked top 10 favorite films. However, here is a list of films, in no particular order, that I will always enjoy:

  • WALL-E
  • The Thing
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The Shining
  • Coraline
  • Back to the Future
  • ParaNorman
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • The Conversation
  • Memento
  • Children of Men
  • Jurassic Park
  • 12 Angry Men

    ▼ Are you a professional animator?

    Professional as in, “do I get paid for animating LEGO”? For the most part, no. I was commissioned in 2008 by the LEGO Company to make 30 Years: The Story of the Minifigure, but besides that I have not yet been paid to make LEGO move frame by frame. I’ve also worked with friend and director Philip Heinrich to produce and animate the documentary Bricks in Motion. If you are interested in commissioning me, please contact me here!

Workshop Questions

▼ What tools to you use?

You can find a list of all my tools here!

Misc Questions

▼ Why is there a velociraptor staring at me and where can I see her?

You can find that particular dinosaur lurking around the garden center of my favorite local hardware store, Pierson Building Center. She doesn't bite! Usually.