Fan Feature: How to Animate A Short Stop Motion Film

Posted by Nate Eckerson on

Once you move beyond animating simple stop motion doodles, and start stringing dialog and action together, you're creating short films! The longer your film is, the more time should be taken to plan ahead, writing a script, drawing storyboards, and ensuring that the story is told well.

Brickfilmer Jared Nesbit has been posting movies to his YouTube channel for several months, and recently won the Harding University Five Minute Film Festival with his film "Darth Vader's Birthday".

I've asked him some questions about his film Super Duck, which is almost 14 minutes long. His answers will be helpful if you're attempting a longer project, and are wondering how to begin.

First, watch the film!


Q: Super Duck is a classic superhero film - ordinary guy becomes extraordinary and starts saving the world (or not). How did you come up with the idea for your movie's story?

A: I always though that it would be fun to make a film about what it would REALLY be like to become a super hero. In the movies, everything seems to work out perfectly for the hero, so I decided to do something different.

Q: How long did it take you to make the film?

A: I animate really slowly (because I'm lazy and I get distracted easily), so it took me about 8 months. One month to write the script and get voice actors, another month to animate the first scene, another month to be lazy and not do anything whatsoever, four months to finish animating, and one month to add effects and audio.

Q: Do you do any sort of planning ahead of animating? Do you write a script, or sketch out any storyboards?

A: When I first started making Brickfilms, I thought "I don't need to write a script, it's all in my head!!". But after I got the Stopmotion Explosion book, I decided to give script writing a shot. Since then, it has really impacted my films for the better. Especially for long movies like Super Duck where I easily forgot what I was going to have in a certain scene, it was really nice to be able to look at the script. I have never story boarded any of my films. Honestly, it seems like a waste of time to me. If I ever try, it will probably follow the same course as the script writing, which I don't want because I have enough work already.

Q: What order do you like to film your shots? The entire story from start to finish? Or do you film parts out of order?

A: I usually film scenes in order if interesting-nes. If there is a really action-y part of my film, I want to do that part first, just to whet my appetite for animating other scenes.

Q: Did the story change while you were making the film? If so, how?

A: A little bit. Originally, I was planning on having a villain. But If I had added one, the film would have been 30:00 long. I decided to save the villain for the sequel. I also added little bits of extra humor as I went. Several of the more random scenes were added after I had finished the script. There were just some chances for hilarity that I couldn't pass up.

Q: You worked with other "voice actors". How did you find them, get them to work with you, share the script / audio files and so on?

A: I got many of my voice actors from an online brick filming community called BrickInMotion. I made a thread on the forums requesting some people to do voices for me. I then sent everyone the script via email, and they sent me the lines I needed on a WAV file. Being able to get people from around the world to do voices for me is nice, but I don't like having them do any of the main parts. It is the internet after all. That's why my brother played the Psychiatrist. (Nate's note: If you have to share files between several people, I recommend using a service like Dropbox).

Q: If you made the film over, what would you do differently?

A: I would animate the first half better. My skill as an animator improved dramatically over the making of this film. And it shows, especially when the Psychiatrist is talking. I would also probably change the look of the hero. I think his hair and torso are too plain.

Q: What advice would you give people who wanted to make longer stop motion films with LEGO, or other materials?

  1. Write a script. You can go back and change it later but you need some things to remain constant.
  2. Add audio as you animate. Don't wait until you are done with 100% of the animation to add sound effects. When you add all of the sound effects at once, you tend to be lazy with them and they don't sound as good.
  3. Don't be lazy. Your film is only as good as the work you put into it. If you bump the set, you should probably re-do the scene, not try to put it back where it was before. I was lazy a few times in Super Duck, and it's pretty obvious.
  4. Have fun: What? You didn't see this cliche coming? If you start to get tired of animating, give it a break. Your films will seem forced if you aren't enjoying making them.

Thanks again Jared for taking time to do this interview. Looking forward to seeing your future work! You can subscribe to his channel HERE.