Birdie

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.

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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.

Derricking Ball

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The wrecking ball crashes through the wall

Technically, Derricking Ball is the first brickfilm I’ve released since returning from my 5-year hiatus. I was about halfway through the production of Alex and Derrick: Five Years Later, filming with a Logitech Quickcam 9000, when I decided I definitely wanted to return to the brickfilming hobby. I quickly acquired a Canon T3i DLSR, some Nikon Nikkor prime lenses and Dragonframe. Since this was all unfamiliar territory to me, I decided to make a very quick animation test to get used to the equipment and software. At the time, Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball music video was just starting to fade from internet meme culture, and so I decided to make my test into one of my most derivative videos (only topped, perhaps, by Nyan Unikitty, released later).

Derrick is ready for his close-up
Derrick is ready for his close-up

The script was a breeze and I didn’t storyboard. A single set was built, and animation took place in a single day. The wrecking ball was suspended on a simple geared LEGO Technic rig, with the chain hidden behind this transparent bar part. The transparent bar was obscured enough by the chain so that I didn’t have to remove it in post-production. During the breaking wall animation, parts of the broken wall were held in place with sticky-tack. I always secured the wall parts to either the back wall, the wrecking ball, or the rails in front, so I never had to erase any rigs in post-production. The bursting fire hydrant was a last-minute addition. I wanted to have a sound playing over the quick end credits, and decided a burst water pipe would be funny.

Though released before Five Years Later, Derricking Ball is chronologically set after Five Years Later. It was a fun little short to make, even if the entire premise was derivative and dated.