• Length: 1:04
• Year: 2012
• Production time: <24 hours
• Produced for: THAC 10
• Theme: A Grand Unveiling
• Camera: Panasonic Camcorder HDC-TM20
• Programs: Adobe Creative Suite
Behind the Scenes
THAC – Simple effects with great impact
For those of you, who don’t know THAC: It’s the Twenty-Four-Hour-Animation-Contest on Bricks in Motion, which takes place about every year, usually in December or January. Since 24 hours is not exactly what you would call a lot of time, especially not to create a CGI/VFX orgy of a blockbuster brickfilm, here are some useful tips how to maximize the potential your plastic actors have – directly on stage:
• Use different faces to show emotions. If you are telling a story, one part of the narration are the emotions: Without emotions, how could any viewer sympathize with your protagonist and cherish the illusion you are creating for him? The question consequently is, how to convey these feelings? One very simple way is this; swap faces. Of course not every facial detail is going to be 100% correct and there is only a limited range of expressions you can choose, but the effect is huge nevertheless. We rely a lot on “reading” faces in our day-to-day inter-human communication and respond very well to it, even if it is transferred to supposedly lifeless minifigures. Ideally you have a multitude of lego heads at hand with the emotions you might need for a film. That’s also something you can easily prepare in advance and save some time during the shooting.
• As few visual special effects as possible... Limit the amount of effects that need editing in programs like Photoshop or After Effects to a bare minimum. They already cost you a lot of time in a normal project, so you can be sure they will consume a good chunk of your precious 24 THAC-hours. Plus most of the time the value you get for a lot of time invested in VFX during THAC is rather small. Of course you can do these once you are really accustomed to your program and have the know-how to accomplish these tasks in a minimum amount of time. However, never underestimate the immense bully and nerve breaking potential your computer has, especially during THAC!
• …but how about some on stage special effects? Cotton wool to create an explosion, modelling clay to make the protagonist bleed to death, lego flames instead of cheap CGI! This list could go on and on, the important thing to remember is: Just try to be creative with the materials (this also includes non-lego stuff) at hand, e.g. small lego parts have a nearly infinite range of usefulness to create simple on stage effects that would take several tiring hours of post-production.
• Reuse shots. Although some consider it a crime, if done correctly and in small doses you can save a lot of time and nerves by reusing not only perspectives but also entire shots. Particularly repetitive and static scenes are very good candidates for it: In our film we did this for the breaking of the chain, since it gave the repetitive feeling needed plus it initially took us quite some time to accomplish this effect.
• If you are looking for more tips and tricks for THAC, have a look at the making-of of our other THAC brickfilms.
• Once the theme came out, we started with some brainstorming like usually in order to come up with a good idea or story. Although we spent 4 hours, so quite a long time, we were not able to find a concept that would convince all of us. We had several ideas though: some kind of (brick) strip poker, a magic show with several unveilings, somebody trying to rescue a person in a burning building where you see in the end that it’s only a TV show, a romance in which somebody finally takes courage to confess his love to his darling AND the idea we finally went with.
• For those of you sent by the plastic pieces rights league or a similar institution: Yes, we really broke the chain and maltreated the protagonist’s hat! Initially we planned some even more radical cuts: The top should have been completely cut off and stand out askew on top of the cylinder.
• We spent a considerable amount of time on two things, we stated to be a no-go for any THAC film: First, the construction of the set was quite long in proportion to the shots we had to make. Second, we did a nearly 50 min long shooting for the first long shot in which you see a crowd of minifigures. So now you have proof we don’t even follow our own advice…