Friday, April 8, 2016

LEGO Stop Motion

LEGO. If ever there was a review that my kids immediately fell in love with and wanted to use all the time, you can be sure that there is LEGO involved. To say that our family is obsessed with LEGO may be an understatement, ha. Our newest hobby has been using the tens of thousands of tiny bricks that we own and transforming them into stop motion videos using the Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit.

My husband has always been a fan of  claymation, and in turn all kinds of stop motion films. He played around with some LEGO stop motion using a simple app a while ago and piqued the kids' interests, too. He made a couple short clips and left it at that. All it took was this kit from Stopmotion Explosion to rekindle the stop motion excitement.

The kit includes everything you need to create your own stop motion videos.

  • Camera -- 720p resolution; Windows and OS X compatible; manual focus; full control of exposure, color, and white balance; tripod or table mount; fully-rotating head. 
  • Stopmotion Explosion Animate ANYTHING and Make MOVIES Book -- This 290+ page book contains everything you need to know to make amazing stop motion films. It has detailed step-by-step directions for screen writing, video editing, and audio recording. It gives tips on lighting, set design, composition, animation, securing objects, special effects, and more. 
  • StopMotion Explosion Software Disk -- The disc contains necessary files. The StopMotion Explosion software is used for capturing the images. Audacity is where you can complete the audio editing. There are also dozens of sound effects clips and extras.
We had gotten home very late the day our kit arrived. Normally, we would have put the kids to bed and shown them the contents of the package in the morning. Since we knew they would be thrilled to get it, we let them open it that night. (Ok, maybe my husband and I were just as excited as they were, ha.) There were squeals of delight. They couldn't wait to start playing around with the program.

My husband installed the software and made a quick test video to see exactly how this one works. Jake, our 10-year-old, wanted to start immediately, but we made him read the first few chapters of the book before starting, so he understood more. Of course, he flew through the beginning of the book and got busy creating his own stop motion film.

We had planned to borrow my mom's collapsible photography studio for the videos, but we hadn't expected the kit to arrive as quickly as it did and had not gotten the studio at that point. Jake didn't care about a distraction-free film and simply set up his scene on the kitchen table. As a result, his first video was dark and had the cord from the camera across all the images. I pointed that out to him and he made sure to watch out for it the next time. His first few videos were like that; I'd mention an aspect of his video that could be better, and he'd change it for the next time. 

He made this fishing video after a couple weeks of playing with the program.

He watches that video now and can point out things he'd like to do differently. For instance, the camera wasn't straight, which made the video tilted. Also, the scenes change quickly. When he added the audio after the pictures were created into the initial film, he realized he didn't have much time to say the things he wanted to.

There is much work involved in making a stop motion film. Not only do you have to take the pictures of the characters or objects in different positions, you have to make very small movements with them, otherwise, it moves too fast. Place your object (in our case, a mini fig), take a picture, move it slightly, take a picture, move it a little more, take another picture. It can almost get tedious. Jake's first few attempts were very fast-paced. He learned to make smaller movements and ultimately, better films. His fishing video is only 1 minute and 12 seconds long, yet there are 764 individual pictures that he took to make it.

There is much more to making a stop motion video than simply taking pictures after minuscule movements.

  1. Take pictures.  
  2. Export the pictures as a video file.
  3. Open the video in Windows Movie Maker (or another video editing program. This is what it recommended it the book, though we used a more recent version.)
  4. Record audio and add effects (credits, fade in & out, text, color balance, etc..) 
  5. Process the file to save as a video.

Jake was shown how to do each step one time. After that, he was able to set up everything on his own with no issues. Making stop motion videos has been a big deal at our house the past 6 weeks or so. And it wasn't just with Jake either. Oftentimes, all the kiddos would work together to create something or just to simply watch someone else work. Each of the other kids (8 yr, 6 yr, 4 yr) has made his own videos. The younger ones haven't added audio yet, but even our 4-year-old loves setting up a scene and taking pictures. 

One of the things we told the kids is that we would do a stop motion of building a set. Of course, we couldn't just take apart a set we already owned. This was a great opportunity to purchase a new one! My husband and I picked out the corner deli, for a few reasons. For one thing, it will work perfectly with some ideas we have for future films we're planning to make.

The kids helped their dad build the set, and then he added in the sound effects by himself. He put it together one night after the kids had gone to bed. The two of us laughed at the different option that are included with the software.

This is the final video:

Another product that Stopmotion Explosion sells is ModiBot Mo. This little guy was created to pose in a variety of ways, more like a human. The mini figs are great for LEGO-lovers, but sometimes you want a more flexible leading character. ModiBot Mo is a fun option for films. You can even purchase an accessory kit that includes a sidearm, field knife, rucksack, treadsoles, headphones, and a baseball cap.

Jake read about Mo in the book and decided to build his own modibot using, LEGO, of course. I was quite impressed with his creativity and the flexibility of his guys. He used some of the techniques found in the book for his fighting sequence. See if you can spot things like an uppercut, left hook, or roundhouse kick.


While this program is fantastic, there are a few things that we have been less-than-impressed with, and they all have to do with the camera. First of all, the clip is not strong and doesn't attach well to things. It easily wobbles if there is movement near it. Secondly, it's difficult to focus the camera. Because of the design, the dial does not turn easily, which makes it hard to keep the camera steady as you focus. Once the camera moves even just a tiny bit, you have to realign it to keep your video smooth. Another thing that was disappointing is that there are no keyboard shortcuts. Many programs will let you scroll through the pictures with the arrow keys along with some other options. While you technically can grab the pictures with the space bar, if you stop to check your live view, you have to re-click with the mouse. There were many times when someone thought they were taking pictures while pressing the space bar, only to find out nothing was done. The final thing that could be improved is that even though the camera says that it defaults to 720p (the highest setting on this camera), it's actually using a much lower quality. Each time you open the program, you have to manually change it to get the 720p. All of our first videos were taken at 480p, because we didn't realize it needed to be changed.

Stopmotion Explosion does sell a higher quality camera that looks like it fixes many of the things I mentioned.

Camera issues aside, this kit is amazing. The book is a phenomenal resource for stop motion. The information in it is completely thorough and gives some fascinating tips like how to make an explosion with cotton balls, what sticky notes can be used for, when to use a flashlight, how to make a character fly, and so much more. I'm so excited to see how my kids improve by implementing more of the guides found in the book and seeing how they incorporate the sound effects.

I asked the kiddos what they thought of Stopmotion Explosion.

"It was awesome!"

"The best thing in the world!" 

"It was really fun to do it!"

I have a feeling that stop motion has become part of our lives for good. I'm so thankful we received this animation kit.

You can connect with Stopmotion Explosion on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see more reviews of this kit or watch some other fun stop motion videos, please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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  1. Jake did a great job with his videos. So proud of him.

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    Stick with it!