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A Brickfilm is a film made using LEGO, or other similar plastic construction toys. They are usually created with stop motion animation, though CGI, traditional animation, and live action films featuring plastic construction toys (or representations of them) are also usually considered brickfilms. The term 'brickfilm' was coined by Jason Rowoldt, founder of Brickfilms.com.
The first known brickfilm, En rejse til månen (Journey to the Moon), was created in 1973 by Lars C. Hassing and Henrik Hassing. The six minute video featured both stop motion animation and live action, and was recorded on Super 8 film. The film was later shown to Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, who had a personal copy made, though the film was not released to the public until May 2013, when the creator uploaded it to YouTube.
The third known brickfilm was made between 1985 and 1989 in Perth, Western Australia by Lindsay Fleay, and called The Magic Portal, a film shot on a bolex 19mm camera. It was captured on 16 mm film and features animated LEGO, plasticine, and cardboard characters and objects, mixing both stop motion animation and live action.[unreliable source?] Portal had high production values for a brickfilm, with a five-figure budget granted by the Australian Film Commission. However, due to legal issues with The LEGO Group, it did not see a wide release.
More early brickfilms were produced in the Lego Sport Champions series, officially commissioned by The LEGO Group in 1987. During this time, Dave Lennie and Andrew Boyer started making "Legomation" using a VHS camera and professional video equipment.
In the late 1990s, the age of film and video brickfilms ended as digital cameras became more and more commonplace. Also, the Internet allowed brickfilmers to produce and distribute their work more easily. The founding of Brickfilms.com in 2000 brought together the brickfilming community, and was the premier brickfilming site until late December 2008, when the far majority of its members migrated to Bricksinmotion.com (which continues to be the main brickfilming site today) in response to being unhappy with changes made to Brickfilms.com after it was sold to Cynthia Price. The sites did not directly host the films, but rather linked to pages where they could be downloaded or streamed. Simultaneously, The LEGO Group officially encouraged the creation of brickfilms with the release of Lego Studios. Since then, brickfilms have been used to help The LEGO Group advertise new themes and sets.
Throughout the 2000s, brickfilms increased in sophistication and garnered some occasional media attention. Higher-end films would often feature digital effects, created frame-by-frame with image editors or inserted via video compositing software.
The Deluxe Edition DVD of Monty Python and the Holy Grail contained an extra in the form of a brickfilm of the "Camelot Song", produced by Spite Your Face Productions. Since then, several brickfilms have been placed on DVDs along with the films which they emulate, such when Lego Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick was featured on the second DVD volume of Star Wars: Clone Wars TV series.
Brickfilms have also been released commercially on their own, such as Jericho: The Promise Fulfilled, a 30-minute-long film made by Shatter Point Entertainment, and Wars Of Humanity episode I and II. The film was awarded Best Animation by the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival 2009. In 2000, the brickfilm Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World was accepted to over 80 film festivals, including Sundance.
In 2008, due to controversial decisions by the new owner of Brickfilms.com, then-administrator Schlaeps started developing an other brickfilming site which would later become bricksinmotion.com. As he was doing this using Brickfilms.com servers, Schlaeps was demoted from the site. The new site quickly overshadowed Brickfilms as the community migrated to it. Most films on BiM are streamed on YouTube.
Today almost all brickfilming is performed with digital cameras and webcams, which makes the art more accessible to everyone. There are many rising stars in the brickfilming world, today. Some popular animators are ForrestFire101, Keshen8, FancyPants, FilmGuy1, and Brotherhood Workshop.
All modern brickfilms are captured with digital still cameras (sometimes in the form of webcams, DSLRs or camcorders with still image capability). The standard framerate for a quality film is 15 FPS, as a compromise between minimum production time and smoothest motion. There is also a standard 4-frame minifigure walk cycle for this framerate. A skilled brickfilmer can use only 12 FPS to good effect, but lower framerates are considered amateurish. Note that some modern brickfilms, notably the work of Custard Productions, have much higher framerates than films of the Brickfilms.com heyday.
Before the film is edited, the images themselves may be altered to create special effects frame-by-frame. Editing can be accomplished with almost any digital video program. However, most seasoned brickfilmers prefer to use dedicated stop motion software, such as the free MonkeyJam and Helium Frog Animator, or paid software such as Dragon Stop Motion. Afterwards, compositing software such as Adobe After Effects can be used to add visual effects and a video editor can be used to tie together the stop motion clips and also for adding the soundtrack.
Brickfilming festivals and communities
Some film festivals are dedicated entirely to brickfilms. The brickfilming hobby has led to several online communities, including BricksInMotion.com and the now mostly deserted Brickfilms.com, some of which have been covered in mainstream media outlets. These festivals serve many contests, with many real prizes to win.
Within the brickfilming community, there is a certain consensus over which of the classic-era brickfilms are the best. The following films from the time period are notable for their perceived quality:
- Out of Time
- Special Deliverance
- The Letter
- Citizen of the Year
- Fred's Day
- Triumph of the Empire
- The Gauntlet
- The White Ninja
- America Outlawed
- The Hand of Faith
- Good Company
- Star Wars Episode III : Rise of the Empire
The longest known brickfilm is the two-part epic fantasy film The Wars of Darkness by A.J. Belongia, known as Selavast on Brickfilms.com. The 2005 first cut was 3-3.5 hours long, and the 2006 final cut ran for just over four hours. The film originally saw a very limited release on DVD, and was not publicly available until the director uploaded it to YouTube in 2012.
Certain brickfilmers have acquired a large following, whether in the "classic" Brickfilms.com days or in the current YouTube/Bricks in Motion era.
- Custard Production
- Smeagol Studios
- Sean Willets
- Michael Hickox
- Nick Durron
- Nightly News at Nine
- Brotherhood Workshop
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