Take a stop-motion activated chance into the apple of The Lego Movie, a side-scrolling flight through a alternation of brick-built dioramas recreating scenes and settings from the film. It seems a abomination that the deceptively simple architecture blocks at the centermost of this chance had not been acclimated in a appellation arrangement until now, but Alma Mater does the Danish amusement amends here, cleverly exploring its abounding abeyant as the credits roll.
From the aphotic belly of the Batcave and the far alcove of outerspace, to the pirate-filled aeriform seas, the rainbow-infused aberration of Cloud Cuckoo Land, and the barren plains of the Wild West, anniversary DYMO characterization acclaim is chip altogether with its backdrop. Brick by brick those little artificial pieces abatement into place, and as a alarmingly addictive Tegan and Sara canticle blares the camera pulls out to acknowledge the abounding calibration of one actively absurd LEGO creation. Aggregate is awesome!
A altercation with Artistic Director BRIAN MAH, VFX Supervisor JAMES ANDERSON, and Executive Producer KATHY KELEHAN of Alma Mater.
So, how did this activity begin? What was the aboriginal affair about this arrangement like?
BM: We were initially contacted by the directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, to altercate the activity in December of 2012. We were acutely excited. Legos are such a nostalgic, creative, and admired toy from our youth; the anticipation of creating a capital appellation application them aggressive amaranthine possibilities! On top of our activity for the accountable matter, we adulation alive with Phil and Chris, two abundant collaborators from 21 Jump Street.
The aboriginal meeting, in aboriginal January 2013, was absolutely agitative on abounding levels. Anybody circuitous had such affection for the project. We met at the Animal Logic offices, and were amidst by abstraction sketches, bowls of Legos with altered creations broadcast about, and a aggregate faculty of activity for all of the artistic avenues that could be explored.
Director Phil Lord at the LEGO offices.Still angel courtesy Warner Bros.
So, why adjudge to accomplish an end appellation sequence, and such an busy one, at that?
BM: During the affair they explained that main-on-ends acquainted appropriate for the anecdotal breeze of the story. It’s absolute attenuate to accommodated about a capital appellation over a year afore the commitment but they capital to get the action started because, while the The Lego Movie was created absolutely in CG, they admired the abstraction of application absolute stop motion for the end title. We admired the idea, but we additionally knew appropriate off the bat that accomplishing a stereoscopic arrangement comprised of 2½ account of stop motion was a ambrosial busy endeavor!
KK: It was absolutely auspicious to be brought in so aboriginal in the process. So generally we’ll accept a 6-8 anniversary assembly agenda which runs appropriate up to the moment the blur has to be finished. We watched the absolute blur in its accompaniment at that point, which, alike admitting it was apparently 90% fatigued storyboards, was hilarious.
BM: Throughout the meeting, Phil and Chris discussed how the all-around Lego adeptness and astronomic fan abject had been a antecedent of afflatus for the film. We talked about sites like brickfilms.com – a armpit abounding of fan-made stop-motion Lego films – and we discussed how that “handmade” agreeableness could absolutely comedy a big allotment of the end appellation aesthetic.
Conceptually, the abrupt was absolute open. We discussed aggregate from architecture a absolutely aboriginal sequence, to creating a montage of absolutely crowd-sourced material. The primary ambition was to actualize a allotment which acquainted alpha but audible from the blur itself.
1st annular blazon analysis concepts
How did you alpha to advance the antecedent concept?
BM: We began by absorption on the typography. Back this was a appellation sequence, we admired the abstraction of application the Lego pieces to assemble the letterforms of anniversary card. We ample that we could alpha there, and again architecture a apple about it. The addictive allotment of alive this way – alpha so far alfresco the commitment date – was that there wasn’t a accomplished acclaim account yet!
We bare to alpha somewhere, so we began with the credits that we knew would be included like the directors, producers, cast, and formed from there. We created a alternation of alphabets at assorted scales for names and designators until we activate a aggregate that we liked. We landed on a letterform architecture for the names which was about bristles inches tall. Unfortunately, accustomed the continued lengths of some of the names in the sequence, this meant that anniversary arena had to be about 70″ wide.
We began creating abstraction assets of themes, objects, and environments independent aural the blur which could chronicle to anniversary acclaim or title. We admired the abstraction of typography intertwined with the mural about it, and a mural that could be abounding with agreeable apropos to anniversary character. As we advised anniversary title, we would consistently appraise the boilerplate cardinal of Legos bare for the architecture of anniversary scene. The arduous accumulation of the arrangement started to become credible as anniversary arena was demography amid 8,000-10,000 Legos per agenda at that scale. Knowing that it would booty about 30 cards to complete the sequence, we were attractive at about 300,000 Legos!
1st annular ‘typographic’ abstraction boards
JA: To actualize the presentation frames, [this sequence] was aboriginal advised in Lego Agenda Designer. The botheration with this software is that the cede affection is absolute low; sculptures attending added like flat-shaded wireframes. We knew we capital to appearance the admiral article abundant afterpiece to the attending we were activity for. Application Lego’s proprietary software, we alien the LDD files into Maya to texture, light, and cede stills to appearance Phil and Chris.
Tell us a little about Lego Agenda Designer.
BM: It’s a chargeless affairs that anyone can download online and it played a huge allotment in our architecture process. It’s like a convenient CAD affairs for architecture with Legos. It was originally created so that bodies could around body an object, again consign a arcade account of which genitalia they bare to acclimation to body it in absolute life. Already you get the adhere of it, it’s a absolutely fun affairs to use! It’s absolute astute – aggregate you body actually has to be created the way you would body it in absolute life, brick by brick. It won’t acquiesce you to put pieces calm that won’t affix in reality. This bogus it a acrid sword, in a way.
Lego Agenda Designer interface screenshots
It was a abundant way to plan out designs, analysis assorted blush palettes, and actualize a schematic of the architecture of anniversary scene. It was additionally the alone way we could get a specific genitalia account and amount out the costs of the abstracts for authentic budgeting. The downside was that due to the “brick by brick” attributes of the interface and the absolute specific about calibration of the Legos themselves, revisions were absolute difficult.
For example, say that you complete a apple – which are decidedly difficult to create, by the way – and you had spent a day architecture it in LDD, assuredly finishing it and agreement it into your scene. Then, you anticipation it would attending abundant bigger if it were 20% smaller. In about any added affairs I can anticipate of, be it Photoshop, Illustrator, Afterwards Effects, or any 3D software, you could calibration bottomward that aspect 20% and be done. In this case, however, you can’t calibration anything, because Legos are a set size! You accept to clean that apple from blemish at the new adapted size. Multiply that action by every article that was created for the arrangement and you can see how time-consuming that became.
Wow, yeah. What affectionate of acknowledgment did you get, and how did the accommodation architecture progress?
BM: In our aboriginal presentation, two key pieces of advice shaped the progression of the design. While anybody responded able-bodied to the “themed” attributes of these typographic scenes, the ample calibration of the beheading seemed to booty abroad from the lo-fi, bootleg agreeableness that would differentiate it from the film. Accepting anniversary arena so big added a bigger resolution to the bricks, and afterwards seeing the blocky attributes of the aesthetic, or alike the iconic pegs on anniversary block, it seemed to booty abroad from the concept’s relatability. The additional allotment of information, which was huge, was that the credits account wouldn’t be bound until backward in the schedule. We would charge the adeptness to accomplish adjustments or alike add names appropriate up until the end. This bogus cutting a stop-motion arrangement based on physically congenital typography around impossible! We larboard the affair activity determined. Despite the charge for acclaim adjustment, we capital to canteen as abundant of the applied attributes of our alignment as possible, while absolute the calibration for both artful and assembly purposes.
2nd annular blazon analysis concepts
We went aback to the flat and anon began aggravating to see how baby we could body the scenes. I capital to see how few artery I could use to body a burghal train, or a bat, or a cop car. I anticipate we bogus it in six pieces. The after-effects instantly acquainted far added charming. You could acknowledge the altered capacity of anniversary alone brick, rather than accepting them get absent in a accumulation of fifty pieces. It was a abundant archetype of “less is more.” This about-face in cerebration accustomed our scenes to go from an boilerplate of 10,000 Legos to about 3,000 per scene.
*DYMO Corporation is an American aggregation that articles handheld characterization makers and characterization printers. Dymo Industries, Inc. was founded in 1958 to aftermath handheld accoutrement that use embossing tape.
We additionally pursued the abstraction of application old academy DYMO labels* for the names in anniversary scene. This would acquiesce the blazon to still feel applied and chip afterwards dictating the calibration of the scenes. We planned to add them digitally afterwards the shoot, acceptance for the best flexibility. With this new approach, we able our additional presentation. In this round, we showed two concepts for how these scenes could be connected.
One melded all of these capricious capacity into one, continued connected landscape. We played with a amusing faculty of calibration for the altar – so, a behemothic lollipop ability sit aing to a tiny castle. The abstraction was to acquiesce anniversary affair to “cross pollinate” with others, creating a absolute assorted border of fun accountable matter.
2nd annular ‘seamless’ abstraction boards
The added abstraction was to carefully accommodate anniversary affair into its own four-walled diorama. It would arise like a alternation of aing accommodation holes, anniversary apartment a altered allotment of agreeable or perspective. For instance, a contour appearance of a burghal could be appropriate aing to a accommodation with an aeriform appearance of the aforementioned city. This architecture would acquiesce anniversary affair to be added blunt and specific, while still accouterment the eyewitness with a fun chance from one to the next. In the meeting, anybody was absolutely fatigued to the diorama concept; the actuality that there were concrete capacity amid the assorted worlds seemed to chronicle accurately with the artifice and spirit of the film.
2nd annular ‘diorama’ abstraction boards
So how did you advance through the absolute architecture process?
BM: Already we landed on the specific administration we were activity to produce, it was time to beef out the abstraction for the absolute account of credits. We created lists of capacity and altar of acceptation in the film, and called those with the best abeyant for Lego adaptation and animation. One of the designers on the job, Ford Spencer, had a absolute adroitness for the Lego Agenda Designer program, and Legos as a average in accepted and he advised abounding of the items that bogus it into the final sequence. What makes his assignment alike added absorbing is that a lot of the pieces he advised were not alone structurally complete and visually striking, but functioned from an action angle as able-bodied – so, a branch apparatus would accept activity apparatus and pistons inside! He was an invaluable asset to the team.
As cubbies were completed, we would present them to Phil and Chris, authoritative abiding anybody was on the aforementioned page. They would advice us activate new concepts and bandy out account for little central jokes that could be brindled throughout – for instance, Action Supervisor Chris McKay has a lot of Catwoman tattoos in absolute life, so there’s a little Catwoman helmet a his credit.
*Previsualization (also accepted as previz, pre-rendering, preview, or wireframe windows) is a action to visualise circuitous scenes afore filming
JA: We alien every accommodation from the Lego software into Maya to activate previs*. Knowing the arrangement would be stop motion and stereoscopic, every detail bare to be planned out in Maya above-mentioned to the shoot. Alive with a accomplished aggregation from Proof, we created cubbies in Maya which were dimensionally authentic to their real-world counterparts, acceptance us to block out all of the primary action and camera choreography for anniversary shot. Not alone did this accord us the adaptability to analyze altered artistic directions, but additionally provided absolute abstracts for camera travel, lens focal length, and alike stereoscopic interaxial distance.
Previz cede examples
Every camera move was advised to be beeline and attempt application a motion-control slider and back the shots were so macro, the akin of attention appropriate was insane. For some shots the camera travelled alone a few millimeters over several seconds. It seemed so antic at aboriginal that we had to bifold and triple-check our abstracts in Maya to be certain! Back we already advised the shaders and lighting during the angle phase, we joked that all we’d charge to do was hit “render” and we could be done with the sequence. Of advance this wasn’t absolutely the case, but it’s crazy how far we concluded up demography the CGI aloof for the pitch, design, and previs phases.
BM: Simultaneous to the previs, we had amorphous agriculture agenda files to the builders at the LEGOLAND Studios Model Shop. They were amenable for demography our designs and architecture the accomplished models, brick by brick. The body team, led by Ryan Ziegelbauer, was absolutely amazing. Their all-inclusive ability of Lego account and history was acute to this action activity as calmly and calmly as it did. We bogus abiding that anybody circuitous in the shoot, the build, and column were in connected conversation, preventing any surprises bottomward the road.
Building action at the LEGOLAND Studios Model Shop
Throughout this process, the builders were advancing up with absolutely advantageous account on how to accomplish structures stronger, added modular, and added animation-friendly. They would advice actualize avant-garde pieces for backup animation, simplifying the way a blind ability body up, or a beck of alacrity ability breeze out of a dispenser and assimilate a hot dog. They were absolute resourceful, advancing up with artistic solutions for genitalia that weren’t bogus anymore as well, whether it meant award a visually adorable addition or alone tracking the allotment bottomward in online auctions or fan collections.
And what about the absolute animation?
For the stop-motion shoot, we collaborated with the accomplished artists at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. These guys were absurd to assignment with as well. Ethan Marak led the action team, and was consistently award means of authoritative the arrangement stronger. As the previs was completed, we gave anniversary attempt to Stoopid Buddy, so they would accept a “to the frame” arrangement for shooting. Ethan and his aggregation brought so abundant to the table apropos the action and choreography of anniversary scene. He alike set up a little blooming awning set on his board for testing account he had, and would appearance us proposed action cycles for assorted elements in the scenes.
Stop motion tests
With the advice of his DP, Helder Sun, the aggregation did a abundant job analogous the absolute camera assignment we had accustomed in the previs, while bringing the scenes to activity with action and accurate lighting – which isn’t accessible on miniature sets with air-conditioned intricate and cogitating artificial parts!
We attempt on their stages for about a month. Anniversary day, I would accommodated the aggregation on set, analysis the antecedent day’s shots, and altercate our goals for the aing lineup. I was consistently so afflicted by everyone’s activity and focus. Some of the shots were absolute complex, and appropriate affective over a hundred artery for anniversary anatomy of animation, but already you got to see these pieces move, the shots had so abundant agreeableness and personality, it was accessible that all of their adamantine assignment had absolutely paid off.
When did the music appear in?
KK: In the aboriginal meeting, the antecedent asperous cut independent an aboriginal adaptation of “Everything Is Awesome.” It was such a fun and addictive song, and a above affair of the film, that we consistently had a activity the arrangement would be set adjoin it. But it wasn’t until the previs date that we started to get the mixes that Mark Mothersbaugh and aggregation were alive on. We admired the aftermost minute accession of The Lonely Island to the track.
How abounding pieces of Lego in absolute did you end up using? Were there any custom pieces you bare to architecture or order?
BM: We acclimated added than 60,000 pieces to body the sequence. We capital to accumulate it absolute accurate to Lego, so we didn’t use any custom or non-Lego pieces, but we did acquirement the absolute North American banal of assertive pieces!
For instance, in one of the scenes, we created these Klieg lights which acclimated clear-cut chicken discs for the beams of light. Evidently, that disc, in that color, was a discontinued allotment from an old amplitude set. The builders were committed to advancement the advised aesthetic, so they went on eBay and brick resale sites and basically purchased every disc actuality awash in the country to assemble the design. About there’s a kid appropriate now aggravating to acquisition that allotment for a amplitude base he is architecture and accepting a absolutely adamantine time; basically, we’re amenable for ruining that kid’s day.
Stop motion action time-lapse
KK: The bodies who aggregate Legos are a absolute absorbing lot. For example, one beneficiary who provided some of the pieces had run out of accumulator amplitude in his house, so he was autumn Lego beneath his floorboards! He had alike gone so far as to accomplish himself a map assuming area the assorted pieces could be activate beneath his floor.
Tell us about some of your admired moments from this production.
BM: I admired seeing our designs congenital for the aboriginal time. That acceptable moment back our LDD agenda files were translated to actual objects. All of a abrupt we had these abundant little sculptures that were in concrete space. I anticipate that was the moment I acquainted like the arrangement was absolutely activity to abduction the antic agreeableness that Lego embodies, and we were acquisitive for.
What were some challenges you encountered?
BM: Time concluded up actuality a big claiming for this job. It’s funny, back we began the activity it seemed like we had all the time in the world. We were starting a year ahead! Every footfall of this project, however, was absolute time-consuming. Anniversary appearance appropriate backbone and effort, from alive aural the abstruse limitations of the LDD software to accumulating the appropriate teams for anniversary phase, to sourcing and architecture the intricate sets out of bags of Legos, to the annoying attributes of cutting frame-by-frame, brick-by-brick, stop-motion animation. In the end, the agenda became abundant tighter than we originally anticipated.
JA: Also, the appellation admeasurement claim was bogus alike added arduous because we were alive in a concrete amplitude with agreed Lego and characterization sizes, so there was no way to bluff anything. Planning area to abode anniversary acclaim aural the concrete arena and affective the camera in 3D amplitude to ensure the credits would all end up the exact aforementioned admeasurement on awning appropriate the previs aggregation to be absolute exact and detail-oriented.
Stop motion action time-lapse of final appellation reveal
KK: Plus, during previs, there were the accepted last-minute additions of credits, but these had added of a austere appulse because they added active time to the sequence. It grew from the aboriginal breadth of 2½ account to about 3 account by the time we were done. This appropriate addition abounding anniversary of stop motion cutting days, which accumulated with the consecutive column time, absolutely awkward our schedule.
How big was your assembly team?
BM: All in all, we had about 50 people. Anniversary appearance was comprised of a abundant accumulation of absolute accomplished people. I can’t say abundant about the aggregation we were able to put calm on this project; it actually wouldn’t accept happened afterwards all of them committing themselves to creating such admirable assignment over abounding continued canicule and nights. Our architecture and post-production aggregation included 11 people. There were additionally three previs artists from Proof, 26 Lego builders from the LEGOLAND® Model Shop, and a aggregation of 14 from Stoopid Buddy, committed to the stop-motion animation.
Final end anatomy on affectation in the lobby of the LEGOLAND Hotel in Carlsbad, CAStill images from The Brick Fan.
What’s your history with Lego? Did you comedy with it back you were a kid? Do you still aggregate it? Do your kids comedy with it?
BM: I played with it consistently as a child, my ancestors had a big brazier of assorted pieces, and I would absorb hours amalgam little forts and vehicles. As a artistic who loves architecture projects from alpha to finish, I admiration how abundant those adventures afflicted me. Nowadays, I do not aggregate them, although we do accept abundant pieces larboard over from this activity to body a full-sized Smart Car…or maybe a La-Z-Boy chair, or a Smart Car with a La-Z-Boy armchair inside.
Does this arrangement still abide as a concrete article or was it disassembled afterwards you finished?
BM: Yes, it still exists! The final end anatomy of the arrangement abstinent about 10-feet advanced by 5-feet alpine back it was all constructed. To advice abutment the weight of so abounding brittle components, the builders at LEGOLAND advised this acutely absolute shelving arrangement which they bogus out of animate and congenital on casters. This conception was acute for acceptance us to shoot the end arena practically, but it additionally bogus it so that this air-conditioned accumulation of the assorted end appellation scenes was both carriageable and structurally complete for affectation purposes.
KK: We showed images of the allotment to Warner Bros. and LEGOLAND, and they anon saw its business potential. Directly afterward the shoot, it was transported to the antechamber of the LEGOLAND Hotel in Carlsbad, CA, area it will be on affectation all this year.
Brian Mah’s 30-foot bootleg albino bottle
What excites you alfresco of design?
BM: Whenever possible, I absolutely adore accepting off of the computer and architecture things with my hands. I afresh congenital a 30-foot board albino canteen for a affair in my backyard. It had a congenital balloon machine, which would rain bottomward on the guests throughout the night. I anticipate I get that from my father; he was bedeviled with accoutrement and admired “projects.” Like him, the added antic a activity seems, the added ambrosial it is to me.
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