Lesson: Creating a Brick Flick: Part 1 - Pre Production

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Professor 'SteampunkDoc' here, and welcome to “Creating a Brick Flick: Part 1 - Pre Production.”

This lesson will guide you through the very basics of making the perfect brick flick.

Required Equipment:

Patience/Time-Yeah, you’ll need a lot of both. Trust me.

Computer-Just powerful enough to run the frame-capture software and some basic video/audio programs.You don't need anything super-fancy.

Camera-Either a webcam advanced enough to enable manual controls, or a fancy digital camera/DSLR. Phone or tablet cameras are not recommended, and need software that’s $50USD just to adjust the settings and keep them on manual. (DarkDragon has done a tutorial on choosing a Camera, and you really should check it out.)

Software- Frame capture programs are highly recommended, but only come free for webcams. They aren’t needed, with digital cameras, but lacking this step makes things a lot more difficult. MonkeyJam and Helium Frog are both used a lot, but also a bit buggy.

Video software-Windows Movie Maker/iMovie, they’re super-basic, but free. And if used right, the results don’t look that bad. There are some really good and quite cheap video programs though, as long as you don’t mind sinking a bit of cash for a much better experience. (Sony Vegas Platinum 11 for one.)

Audio software- If you plan on recording/mixing audio, plan on getting Audacity. It’s free, and beats out most paid programs.

Individual frames-Photoshop or GIMP.-This isn’t usually needed unless you’re masking.

Effects software-Don’t plan on spending any money on effect programs unless you want to spend several hundred dollars.

Most everything can be done with a basic video editor and/or a photo editor. But don’t worry about the rest, you probably won’t start out with a Lego version of The Avengers complete with a CGI New York. And getting cool effects in-camera is nearly as effective, and a whole lot more fun.

A Good Shooting Setup- You want a dark, closed-off room if possible. Plus a few lamps, an open desk, a wall, and a bunch of Lego. It’s pretty much the same as a normal MOC photography setup, but without an open door or windows letting any light in.



So, you wanna make a brick flick, but you have got a problem. You don’t quite know where to start. Getting a basic idea is often one of the hardest parts. Normally these things start out as nothing more than a short thought, so if you ever get something that may be a cool idea, write it down. You may not use it for years, but you sure don’t want to forget it. And don't worry if the first thing thing pops into your head won't work. For that matter, I don't recommend going with your very first idea. Let it change, evolve and develop a bit before moving on. While I started out with a tale about a fiendish fish, that slowly evolved into a fiendish fisherman story, and that then evolved into the final tale of a frustrated fisherman. So, my final, finished idea could be stated like this: "A comedy short detailing the antics of a frustrated fisherman."


After you get an idea, you need a title. Of course, things such as titles can and often do change throughout production, but it’s a lot easier to organize the various elements if you have something to file them all under. You want your title to be catchy, not too long, and not too basic. Remember, when scrolling in a forum, people will only see two things about your film. The creator’s name, and the film title. And if you aren’t already famous and popular, you’ll have to rely solely on the title to bring viewers in.

Here are some tips:

Don’t name your film “Lego Star Wars-Clone Attack”-Why? It’s an AFOL site, so we know it’s Lego. Having the theme listed is an over-used trick to get more views and usually results in the film being written off as "N00b-ish" without it ever being seen. Lego Star Wars films are notorious for being the first thing new animators do, and are generally regarded as being on average lower quality than other shorts. Something like “The Destruction of Tatooine” sounds a lot more professional, and still gets the basic point across. It’s obviously Star Wars, and “Destruction” is a bit more ambiguous, and a lot more interesting than “Clone attack.”

Keep your title creative and matching the film’s tone- Unless you purposely want to evoke a parody/comedy tone right off of the bat, you don’t want to have a title like: “Whatshisname and the Quest for the Golden Treasure of King Whatshisface in the land of Whoreallycares Part 2: The Temple of Obnoxiousness.” It can make a great title for a fun goofy film, but not for an R-rated ‘hack ‘n’ slash’ brickflick. If you want viewers to take your film seriously, show them that with a good title like “Unprofitable” “The Profession” or “How to Not Rob a Bank.” These hint a bit about the film’s content, but also get you thinking about it even before you’ve clicked the link. They’re also at least somewhat memorable. Generally short one word titles go with serious thrillers, but most movies don’t have more than a few words unless there is a really good reason for it. (Source material’s title, part of a franchise, Ect…)

For my fisherman story, it’s going to be a comedy, so I’ll reflect that in a catchy, fun, and alliterated title: “Fred the Fed-up Frustrated Fisherman.” This gives viewers an idea behind the setting, (Cartoon-y) characters (Fred) and what the plot may be about. (Fred’s frustration)


So, you have a title, and an idea. Next, you need a script. And this starts with fleshing out those original ideas. What is the basic story you want to tell? With Fred, I want him to have a bad day, give up on fishing, and then do something spectacular to redeem himself. Make a full character circle really. Hinckley has some fantastic lessons on the subject of creating and fleshing out characters and their stories, so if you haven’t, go check those out. (Lesson #1, and #2.) Anyway, our protagonist Fred will go through an arc in this. First, happily fishing, then getting mad, then giving up, sulking, and finally somehow doing something that will redeem himself. I also need to establish the other characters, like Fred’s rival, but if you’ve taken Hinckley’s lessons you should already know how to do that.

This step is just a personal preference, but I also tend to write out, or at least think up the basic actions of the short before the actual scripting.

For example:

“Fred is fishing, gets frustrated and quits. He goes to the bait shop and mopes around. His rival hauls in a really big fish and Fred gets jealous. Fred then goes and grabs a fishing pole from his rivals boat and smacks the guy with it. When the police show up, they find out the rival stole the boat, equipment, and fish from another guy. They arrest the Rival and congratulate Fred. He becomes a hero, and everybody loves him. The End.


So, I’ve got all that established and now it’s time to write a script. There are many, many different ways of writing/formatting a script. The more official, professional way is below, but if you’re just going to keep it to yourself, it doesn’t have to be this fancy. (But in the assignment it does.)

Int. or Ext. PLACE, TIME

Here goes a short but useful description of the setting, characters or important objects in the scene. This also includes any movements.


What they say.


For example:


The lake is calm and flat, and there is a boat in the middle of it. Fred, a redneck looking character in a t-shirt and blue jeans, with an unkempt beard, is in the boat with a fishing pole. Beside him is his lunch box. He is looking angry, and is staring at the water. He finally jumps up, waves his arms and screams.



He brings the pole down onto his leg and breaks it. He then shakes his arms in the air and screams again, but doing so unbalances the boat and he falls into the water.


Raaahhhh….! *Glub glub*


There are also special dialogue markings such as “(V.O.) for a voice-over, and the little used (O.S.) for off-screen.

I also recommend numbering each scene, such as adding “Scene #1” at the top of the example. It helps to keep things organized, and keep things straight during non-chronological filming.


Once the script is done, you move on to storyboarding.

This is a bit more controversial step, and not everybody does it. Well, not everybody does it physically. Some prefer to do this step all in their head, but it’s better to do real storyboards.

Now, storyboards are somewhat similar to a comic, they are still frames/drawings that show what will be happening in that frame, where the camera will be pointing, and some basic details about that shot. They can range from simple sketches, to full-blown CGI renders. They could even be still shots of the set and characters. Their purpose is to give the animator a good idea of what will need to be in the shot, how much set needs to be built, and what movements will be performed. Here is an example of one of my hideous storyboards: (Click for larger size)


As you can see, my drawing is horrendous, but hopefully you can still recognize what it is showing.

Now, you don’t have to draw out your storyboards, you can instead render them in LDD, export the photos, and then add the text. Of course, while this looks a lot better, and is more clear and detailed, it takes a lot more time.

Some people storyboard EVERYTHING, others only do the action sequences, and others don’t do it at all and only keep basic info in their head. It’s a preference thing, but it’s also very useful.

You’re more than welcome to find what works best for you in all of this. Some storyboard, some don’t. Some can sit down and write a script without ever writing down an idea, and some don’t think up a title until the film is about to be released. You are more than welcome to experiment and find what works best for yourself. Only, you have to wait until after the test to do that.


Find and write down a basic original idea. (No Licensed short this time, sorry.) Write this idea down in two sentences or less. And remember, your very first idea may not be what you end up with. At this stage, you want the ideas to evolve along. Just post the final idea that you decided on. Expand on your idea; write a paragraph or two detailing all the actions/events that will take place in your short. I’d like it to contain at least two locations, at least two talking characters. Get a good title, again, this can evolve along later, but you need something good to file everything under. Write your script. It doesn’t have to be long, a page or two is all that is necessary. And you don't want it too long, as you'll be animating it later. And finally, storyboard the entire thing. Present the above information in a new topic with the title of “Creating a Brick Flick: Part 1 - Pre Production”(You’ll need to post the idea, script, title, and storyboards.)

The assignment will be graded on the creativity of the idea/script, naturalness of the dialogue, and overall quality of the work. Feel free to ask me any questions that you may have.

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Software- Frame capture programs are highly recommended, but only come free for webcams. They aren’t needed, with digital cameras, but lacking this step makes things a lot more difficult. MonkeyJam and Helium Frog are both used a lot, but also a bit buggy.

Can I suggest Zu3D, It may look childish and cost £45 pounds (decent camera good enough for animation included), It is a good program and can do some pretty useful tricks when you look hard enough for them.


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