How-To Process

Backstage!
  1. Write your script! Even if it’s a non-talking script like the Lego video. By story-boarding your video BEFORE you start, you get a gist of how long it will be, have a better understanding of camera angles, the set resources you need, and things will go much smoother. Think = Comic Book.
  1. If using music: Find your music before you start filming anything. Find music that fits your script the best. The Creative Commons has a ton of music to choose from. I personally like this free music site: http://freemusicarchive.org/
  2. Edit the music down to your desired time (I used the free software, Audacity). Check out this tutorial on Editing using Audacity.
  3. Listen to the music a thousand times and adjust your script to the highs and lows of the music. Some music is fairly even the whole song which makes it a bit easier. However, I recommend finding music that adds more life to your characters with dramatic points and low points.
  4. Plot out how many seconds each scene will take. A lot of this will be determined by the music timing. (***I adjusted the times as I went, cut scenes, extended others- so don’t worry about making this perfect yet. Just make a rough timeline.) You can see my VERY rough timeline laid out in the picture below: 
Lights!
  1. Collect your equipment (see Equipment page for recommendations).
  2. Set your lighting: Whatever you do, try NOT to use natural light. Yes, it looks pretty, but you can’t control the clouds or shadows well enough. You want to set up a stable light source- like lamps- so that the picture’s lighting doesn’t change in-between pictures.
  3. Set your stage: If possible, tape or putty down your environmental surroundings. This will keep them from moving around while taking pictures. You don’t want a mug in the background and then have it disappear half-way through the scene!
  4. Prep your characters: For my lego people, I had multiple heads with varying expressions I switched out for certain scenes.

Camera!

Adjust your camera settings:

  1. White Balance is KEY: even if everything else is set to auto, always use manual white balance. If this is set to auto, the camera will adjust the lighting of each picture in different ways. I made the mistake of not doing this and many of the lego shots have varying lighting which is very noticeable. I did my best to equalize the lighting in Photoshop but there was only so much that could be done. Here’s a webpage on how to adjust the white balance: http://digital-photography-school.com/introduction-to-white-balance
  2. Exposure: This is also important to know about. I shot a lot of the pictures in a very dark setting (it was supposed to be 3am, remember!) so I had to increase my exposure time. Here’s a webpage introducing exposure: http://www.beginner-photography-guide.com/slr-photography-tips.html
  3. Focus: I used both auto and manual focus for different scenes. The auto setting is perfectly fine for most shots, however, I used a lot of close-ups to make the lego men seem more believable. For the close-ups, I set the focus on a “spot manual” option and zoomed in/out till I was in focus.

Action!

  1. You can film/take pictures in whatever sequence you’d like as these can be put in order later.
  2. You will take ~8-10 pictures per second for an ultra-smooth stop-motion second. I fudged this and did about half that which is why my lego scenes are a little more jarring. Please note that this is a VERY long process.
  3. For each picture, move your objects very slightly. Imagine you are making a digital “flip-book” like you did when you were a kid.
  4. This will be a trial and error process. Just note that you’d much rather have extra pictures you can delete than try to add more later.
  5. After you finish a scene and upload the pictures into iMovie, always note how long that scene actually took versus what you thought it was going to take in your timeline script. I found a lot of my scenes were much longer than I originally thought they would be and had to cut some out.
  6. Don’t be afraid to change camera angles or add/subtract scenes as you go. Sometimes great inspiration comes from just playing with your characters.
  7. Add transitions between scenes, perfect timing, and polish up your project in iMovie. Click here for iMovie Tutorials.
  8. When you have everything the way you want it- music, timing, scene transitions, etc- upload it to youtube or embed it on your organization’s server for easy access.

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