Birdie is a short, fun film made on a whim. Fresh off of Alex and Derrick: Five Years Later, I was eager to continue animating, and the EASTER contest on Bricks in Motion caught my attention. I decided this was a great opportunity to try something I have never done before, and made the film with large, brick-built characters.

Credits

Directed, Animated, Written and edited by
Nathan Wells
Cast
Zach Macias as Golfer
Sound Effects
  • danieldouch
  • dav0r
  • digifishmusic
  • genhis-attenborough
  • kstein1
  • medialint
  • readeonly
  • unclesigmund
  • zolopher
Made for
EASTER 2014 Contest on BricksInMotion.com
  • Cameras: Canon T3i
  • Capture software: Dragonframe 3.5
  • Editing software: Adobe Premiere Pro CS4
  • Frames per second: 15
  • Production duration: April 1 - April 7  2014
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080

Behind the Scenes

All of the major models for the film
All of the major models for the film

When I decided to enter the EASTER contest on a whim, I knew I didn’t want to make an explicitly Easter-themed entry. Many of the entries into past EASTER contests focused on the Resurrection of Jesus and I didn’t think I could bring anything new to that story, especially within 30 seconds (the time limit of the contest). The contest did allow for non-Easter-themed entries, as long as they kept to the spirit of spring. With a 30-second time limit, I knew I had to limit myself to a single-gag film. The pun of bird and birdie (the golf term) came into my head, and I decided to structure my film around that.

The cardinal, perched on a branch, is held in place with a LEGO rig
The cardinal, perched on a branch, is held in place with a LEGO rig

I knew minifig-scale birds wouldn’t work, so I opted for life-size bird models built from LEGO. The model-making took most of the week, averaging one model a day (3 birds, egg/nest, and golf club). I chose a cardinal, bluejay and canary because their shapes are very recognizable, even in stylized LEGO form, and they were different bright colors. The egg turned out to be significantly larger than the size I was hoping for (a chicken egg), but the larger sizes was necessary to better approximate the shape of an egg in LEGO. As I continued to build the set, I added a branch for the cardinal to stand on so it could be raised higher than the canary in the foreground. Originally I intended to use a printed-out backdrop to simulate the sky, but in the end I went with a plain blue background supplemented with flat LEGO trees and clouds.

bts_birdie_03
Filming the swing of the club

Animation took place in one day, in one take. Originally, I wanted to animate the cardinal flying in and landing on the branch at the very start of the film, but I didn’t have a strong enough rig to support the bird model, and I was already pressed for time. Animation was straightforward, but the swinging club proved to be a bit of a challenge. When blocking the shot, I didn’t account for the angle of the swing, and it quickly became apparent that the shaft of the club would smack into the neck of the bluejay. There was no real way to get around the problem without completely redoing the composition of the shot, so I shrugged and just allowed the shaft to pass through the bluebird. The club is only onscreen for a few frames, so I hoped it would go unnoticed.

When I meet people for the first time and they ask me what I do for fun, I show them Birdie. It’s quick, amusing, and showcases both my stop-motion and LEGO passions succinctly.