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A Brickfilm is a film made using LEGO bricks, 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.
1980s - Early Brickfilms
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, though later, The LEGO Group would eventually back down on these charges.
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.
1990s - Brickfilming 'Golden' Years
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. 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.
These actions both significantly increased brickfilming's popularity through to the mid 2000s.
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 2007, the brickfilm Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World was accepted to over 80 film festivals, including Sundance.
In 2008, the Brickfilms.com administrator, Schlaeps, started developing another brickfilming site which would later become bricksinmotion.com. As he was doing this using Brickfilms.com servers, Schlaeps was demoted from the site.
Today almost all brickfilming is performed with digital cameras and webcams, which makes the art more accessible to everyone.
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.
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 Brickfilms.com, some of which have been covered in mainstream media outlets.
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