In late 2015 the executive team at Blink (including myself) couldn’t resist the temptation to do a lego stop-motion story for our annual holiday card/video. December had already arrived and we literally had less than 20 days to make it happen.
So, first thing’s first…story. Had to be simple, short and straightforward. And we had to get it figured out ASAP. We went through several ideas, with most of them ending with the common response, “Too complex…don’t have time.” As badly as we wanted to build a sweet holiday narrative into this video that would tug on everyone’s heartstrings and make them ponder the deep things of life and humanity during this wonderful time of year, we finally found the sweet spot when we thought, “let’s make a simple holiday greeting card move.”
We had our little story, now it was off to pre-visualization. The extra time taken to build this video out completely digitally was necessary for a number of reasons. 1. We knew that the time to actually shoot this project was going to be extremely short, so we needed every ounce of efficiency we could get when it came time to roll camera. 2. We knew we were going to need a ton of Lego bricks of very specific colors and varieties. By building the video out digitally and applying a grid filter to it, we could get a very accurate idea of exactly which bricks we were going to need and how many. We had to do this as early as possible in the process because, despite having already dipped into my son’s expansive Lego collection, we were dramatically short of what we were going to need. We needed to get Lego on order as fast as we possibly could. 3. Stop motion is a frame by frame process. So if we knew ahead of time exactly what pieces needed to go where for every frame of this video, we could be super efficient when it came to production.
After two or three drafts, this was the pre-visualization piece that was green-lighted for production:
With this animatic finished up, we made our order to Lego on Dec. 10 and kept our fingers crossed that the pieces would arrive on time. We built out our set in the basement storage area of our office and did as many tests as we could. And after an excruciatingly stressful wait, we finally had our pieces in hand
So, on the evening of the 17th, we had all the pieces we needed, we had our plan, and our studio (the cramped storage room in the basement of our office) was all set up and ready to start shooting. Target completion date: Dec. 22 and ready for distribution by Dec. 23. Oh man.
We had a Lego canvas of 4,608 Lego studs to work with, 396 individual frames to build out and photograph and only a couple of days to do it. So we got started.
And we finished!! And just in time. Post-production was fairly simple and straightforward since all of the magic of this little film is created during production. We did some quick color correction and fixed a few camera bumps and lens distortion and called it finished. There was absolutely zero photoshopping of pieces or duplicating frames. This was a 100% genuine, frame-by-frame stop motion animation that we hope will make any AFOL or Lego film enthusiast proud.
Producer: Blink Worldwide
Director: Scott Hyldahl
Director of Photography: Markus Aedo
Pre-vis artist: Zach Youngblood
Editing and sound: Markus Aedo and Zach Youngblood
Lego Builders: Scott Hyldahl, Markus Aedo, Zach Youngblood, Jack Hyldahl
Lego bricks provided by: Steve Poulsen and Jack Hyldahl
A special thanks to Steve Poulsen of BrickSlopes – BrickSlopes.com