Hello all! At 11:59 p.m., May 16th, 2021, the Brick-A-Brack brickfilming contest Vocalflix ended. I barely got my entry through due to account problems (my fault), but even though it was crazy trying to get it done, it feels great now, and I'm so glad I made the effort, because this was a great contest. I loved the contest idea, as well as the fantastic entries submitted this year, so I decided to write an article about my brickfilm entry, the contest, and the other entries! I'll probably cover a lot of aspects of my film, talk about the other entries, and discuss the contest itself. If you're interested, go ahead and read, or, even better, check out the contest! Thanks! The Contest: I've been aware of the Brick-A-Brack website for several years, and I knew that it had some pretty cool and unique contests, such as the 8x8 and Invent A Sequel events, but I had sort of been busy with other brickfilm projects, and I rarely visited the site. It was just coming off of the LEGO Ideas Blacksmith Contest collaboration with my friend BlockHead that I discovered the contest. I was looking on the Brickfilmer's Guild brickfilming events blog, when I saw the announcement of the Vocalflix contest. It looked awesome, so I went to the website, felt excited but had a little sense of foreboding at the prospect of voicing my own voice effects, but made my account and started planning. This contest was a fantastic idea. I love how it turns something that a lot of little kids do when they're first starting out to an artistic challenge that levels the playing ground to a certain extent. Of course, the rules mean that there's almost definitely going to be a lot of cringey and wacky sound, but that's so much of the fun of it! The contest was well set up, and it's the first time I've heard of a volunteer jury in a brickfilm contest, but I really like it. It might have meant mixed results as far as judging goes, but that's part and parcel of this very cool idea. The rules were concise but clear, and the hosts answered all the questions. Also, I've just got to say, that contest video was great. Well put together and a killer introduction. One brief criticism I might have was that if there had been a loose or vague theme/prompt, it probably would have helped the brainstorming for entries, but then again, that would mean that it would be a lot harder to enter a brickfilm made previously to the Vocalflix contest, so it has its pros and cons. But all in all, this was such a fun contest, I loved the entries, the results were great, and I'm looking forward to the next contest! The Idea: As soon as I saw the post on the Brickfilmers Guild blog, I went and watched the contest video on the site's channel, then went to the website and read the rules. BlockHead and I talked, and we came up with Galactic Prince. Galactic Prince was inspied by really bad old Japanese super hero films, and we thought that the bad sound effects and obvious and weird voicing would fit a super-hero B-movie. Basically, Galactic Prince was about a nerdy high-schooler who transforms into GALACTIC PRINCE, an offensively dramatic, black-and-white superhero, who fights the devious and equally offensively dramatic Yang the Doom and his henchmen, who are threatening the city. We had a lot of pretty good ideas, and we built a jungle compound set, but eventually we had to scrap it due to time restraints (the deadline was still May 4th when we made the descision), and the fact that the Galactic Prince figure had gone missing. However, I still wanted to enter, and I had three henchmen plus the jungle base set, so I came up with a cheap but decent idea, and just went from there. I came up with the end scene when I realized that I wanted the protagonist to destroy the guards with an explosion, but it would be really hard to build a background with the explosion, as I'd have to destroy the whole structure of the compound, and it would leave a lot of empty space. I also wanted the cinematic effect of a micro compound exploding, so instead what I did was just come up with a little fun after scene that would add some humour and also take care of the problem.
The Tools: I use the popular Logitech C920 classic webcam for capture, and a Fifine USB Microphone and Audacity for audio capture. However, the laptop I usually use was out of order, so I had to use a much older computer for a while, which meant that I had to record the audio after done filming, which might excuse some of the bad audio-animation matchup. But anyway, it also meant that I had to switch animation software. For this I used a program I've had for a while called iKit Movie. It's a pretty great program, despite the new version having lost all of it's great music library. Definitely the biggest problem, and one that I forgot to my doom, was that it has a glitch where it (italic) will (end italic) export at the frame rate you set, but the playback speed is slower than the frame rate selected, which really messed me up, because it's not significant enough that you notice unless you're really paying attention to the continuity, and using your knowledge of fps. Though that did hurt my animation somewhat, and was really frustrating, you can get around it if you pay attention throughout, and the program's really good overall, so I'll probably use it again at some point. And then, finally, for my sets, characters, and effects, if you can believe it...I use LEGOS!
The Animation: There were a few set bumps off the bat, so I had to make a few small restarts, but eventually I started the animation smoothly. For talking movements, I really try to avoid the problem of having them being uninteresting, which sometimes means I stray into the other extreme of having them do exaggerated and big movements, like the old classic of having their hands spin 180 degegrees, that don't really fit well with the rest of the film. I also experimented a lot with out of socket arm animation for this film, which had mixed results, but I was glad I at least experimented. However, I'm really bad at taking off blu-tack, so you can see at lot of residue on various things throughout the film, especially the torsos and arms, as a result of the fact that I tried a lot of out of socket poses. But again, it was a lot of fun just experimenting. Another thing I did a lot of in this film was minifigures jumping when suprised. I love just having them leap up into the air, or having their heads pop up, it kind of highlights the LEGO aspect which I really like. The part where the protagonist trips and falls was difficult, and I didn't quite pull it off, but hopefully you could at leat tell what happened. I also struggled a bit with light flicker in this film as well, though a lot less than in my THAC video. Another detail I tried in this film was the brickbuilt laser effects. Before I started filming, I did a test for that, and it looked pretty good, so I went with that instead of just flashes of light. The only problem was that I put in a few pieces too many for the effect, so that the lasers were fired somewhat slowly. The last thing of note were several camera movements I did, that turned out with varying degrees of sucess. The first one happened when the protagonist takes out the activation device, and holds it out to the side in a menacing way. It was a pretty quick move, but I'm pretty proud of it, because it felt smooth, and while it adds to the film, it's not super noticeable. The second one was barely a movement, and happened when the crystal falls out of the crate. The camera goes over and focuses on the crystal, which shines for a few frames. It was very fast, and jerky, so it wasn't the best. The third is the pan between the two suprised guards. I meant for it to be a pretty wide and cool pan, but I discovered mid-shot that I didn't have the space, so it also ended up being fairly brief. Overall, my animation isn't super great, and I'm definitely going to have to work on getting the jerkiness out of the movements.
The Self-Critique: I tried a lot of things in this video, but I also started pretty late, so it isn't the best of my work by any means. I also had some difficulties, as construction work was literally being done on my room while I was brickfilming. I'm not kidding, there were guys taking apart the wall while I animated. As well as that, like I said earlier, my computer was out of action, and the only other option was a much older one, which meant that I could only record the audio once my laptop got back in order, which happened after the filming was over. So the audio was filmed all in one take the day of the deadline. Hopefully that will excuse certain things, but I still could have done a much better job on my acting and sound effects, as well as editing. I think that the thing that saved this from being a really crummy brickfilm was some of the set building and animation. I also usually use a lot of different shots in my brickfilms, as most of my films have a lot of dialogue, and the talking needs to be interesting. My animation was definitely a mix of some really lame and jerky animation, and a few pretty nicely pulled off shots. For the sets I had a good deal of help from my super talented friend BlockHead, so I'm really grateful for that, as that was one of a couple good points of this film compared with my others. The story was not the best, and was somewhat thrown together last minute in place of the Galactic Prince idea, but I liked the guard's characters, and they're just such idiots. I use Lifelites for special lighting in my films, and they're pretty good, but I'm thinking about switching to BrickStuff, because the lifelites are so crazy fragile and finicky, and they broke before I could do the laser shooting in the film, so I ended up using some power functions lights, and I hope it's not too bad. As far as in-camera effects, I was reasonably satisfied with the lasers, although they weren't the best, but I defenitely used way too much cotton wool in this film. It was just an excess, and pretty unnecessary. So, taking a step back and looking at my film overall, I'm happy with where the judges placed me. My sound effects and audio were pretty lacking, and my story was not the best, but I'm satisified with at least a good deal of the animation and sets. Also, as a side note, did you spot the two Easter eggs in the first scene? Go see if you can find them, they're not super hidden.
The Inspirations: As far as inspirations go, I was definitely really inspired by the super talented brickfilmer JO Co, and his fast but fluid animation style. I especially drew from him with my camera movement at 0:41, and with some of the other quick minifigure movements. For the after-credits scene where the guard is in the hallway, I first was inspired by the second shot in "The Icing Chamber: A LEGO Gangster Film" by Professor Pirahna (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52CxdnTsyWQ). It's a shot that I liked, and so when I had a hallway guard scene in mind, I imitated that shot a little bit. Also, that's the only scene in the brickfilm that has motivated lighting, which I wanted to have after I listened to the World Of Brickfilms Podcast Episode with Jacob Crow, in which they discuss motivated lighting a lot. Aside from that, one of the Easter eggs in my film were the classic and glorious parrots in a trashcan. (The other Easter egg is a green Mandalorian minifigure).
The Entries: Ok, that was way too much about myself and my film, let's look at the fantastic entries for this great contest. Before the results, I only watched about half of the entries, and about a fourth of the films that turned out to be in the top ten. From these films, my prediction for the top 5 were (1)Buried In The Sand by Yetgo (2)Out Of Sight by Winter Sock Productions/Arginnon (3)The End Of The World by Brickfield54 (4) LEGO Ninjago A Very Bad Dream by frosty, and (5) The Space Conundrum by AC Films. I don't usually predict the results very accurately, and this time was no exception, but the benefit of having the results turn out unexpectedly meant that I discovered other good films in addition to the ones I had already viewed. All of these films were good, along with several others that didn't make it into the ten. 10th: Knauser delivers a funny and excellent film here, that sports some great tongue-in-cheek humour for the nineties. The minifigures have a fun style to them, and though the sets are not the best built, they have some great little details, and Knausers animation is full of energy. The mouse is a really cool creation, and the blu-tack is molded exactly like the recognizable shape. Plus, when it's used, it doesn't bend or move unnaturally, making it hard to tell what exactly the material is. The voice acting isn't amazing, but the sound effects really embrace the ridicilousness, and are very exaggerated. All in all, the resolution could be better for the phone shot, but the characters are so awesome, and its a super enjoyable movie. 9th: Refer above. 8th: A tank battle would be hard for anyone to do for a contest like Vocalflix, so I'm impressed LegoBrick went for it. I've seen several other micro tank brickfilms recently, which is a fun trend, and at least some of them must be inspired off of Brickmania's Micro Brick Battle game. I've been planning to make a film similar to this, but this was really well done, and there's no way I could do better vocal tank effects. The brick-built effects were nicely made, and it was really cool seeing the individual tanks battling and wondering which ones would make it, and rooting for a certain side. The guys voice was also good, but unfortunately I don't speak French, so I couldn't understand him, but I got the general gist. Really solid overall. The set design and background could be better though, and it did eventually become a little repetetive with the tanks shooting at each other. 7th: A Space Conundrum was the first entry I watched, and it really struck me well. AC Film's medium but wide shots are nice, and it had a lot of different sets, or at least scenes, that he made super smooth and with good cuts. The end did feel a little abrupt, but according to AC Films, he was pressed for time, so that's fine, and overall I really enjoyed it. Probably my favorite thing in this movie would be the brickbuilt orange laser effect of the antenna. I'm always looking for new ideas for brick-built effects, and I'd never seen this one before, it was really creative, and I'll absolutely try to use in this in a future film! He could also have put in maybe some more effort for the set, but it's still great. 6th: Frosty really has a fun film here. Of course, one of the first things that helps it is the great resolution, and the lifelike and fast movements. The set building was also very well done, and was stylistic and distinctive, and definitely evoked ninjago's way of bulding. The wake-up shot at the end was beautifully lit as well, although the others was were not as much. The meaning of all the expressions was clear, and the emotions were simple but key parts of the story. However, this was pretty short, and with a kind of lacking plot. The storytelling itself was awesome, but there wasn't much to the story. However, it was still a great watch, and the sound effects were top notch. 5th: Zaadeh is one of the most interesting entries in this contest. It's very surprising that a brickfilm with only one shot would place high, but when you think about it, it says all the more about the skill. The rain in this is super good. It's rare to have a mix of in-camera water with the digital effect, but this is one of the only ones I've seen that's successfully pulled it off. I also love the color contrast with the yellow and red and white of the characters and the lush green of the forest. To be honest though, I have no idea what's going on in this brickfilm, or what the name means. Also, I don't believe the characters are LEGO. Hovewer, the facial expressions are really cool, and I like the brick-built dirt animation. Great job! 4th: This is another one where I'm sure I could give a much better and more constructive commentary if I could interpret the narration, but I'll try to asses it just from the technical standpoint. This had so many shots, without sacrificing quality and detail, so I'm not surprised in the least that it did so well. Also, I could really see a style, if you will, in this film. It seemed really expressive, with exaggerated and fun movements, but with what I could understand, the plot seemed pretty dark and somewhat depressing. However, something else that was super was the effects, especially the gunshot at the end. It was clear and not obscuring, and was a great ending action. There were also a lot of very vivid colors in this film, which helped making the main points of attention really distinctive. The minifigures are pretty weird, but fun, and this was a cool and action-packed stop-motion. 3rd: This was such a cool entry. Brickfield54 is a very talented brickfilmer, and this film did not disappoint. The lighting was beautiful, and added so much to the feel of it all. The set design of the inn also helped with the worn, old-timey setting, and was really well-built and interesting to boot. The voices fit well, and Brickfield54 put a lot of awesome background foley, an effort that a lot of people wouldn't think of, but makes the film so much better. I'm really glad Brickfield54 recently released an English version, because before I wasn't able to appreciate it as much from the story point, due to the fact that as I said before, I don't speak French, but to the considerable credit of Brickfield54, I could understand a lot about the film even without the dialogue, which really made it stand out for me. I'm glad he released an English version, I only wish he would do that for some of his other films, because I love his style, just some of his films I can't understand, but I really like his silent films, and the like. One thing is even though the sail animation was really cool and unique, the ocean was still, as well as the guy, and maybe that was an intended effect for "the end of the world", but moving water, or at least some moving effects would make those scenes more interesting. For me, the thing that really got me was the atmosphere. I felt like everything contributed in one degree or another to it, and it was so immersive, and such a delight to watch. 2nd: Yetgo is so good in so many ways, but one thing that's really awesome about him is he tries so many different things, and is really versatile. The brickfilm really was just incredible. Obviously the first striking thing is the scale, and anyone who can pull off a thing like that well automatically guarentees themself a high place on many brickfilmer's respect. A few of the many things that stood out were the inhale/exhale on the flat surface, the rain and miniland scale figure on a sideways background, and the snake's tongue, which was a stroke of genius for Yetgo's part to notice that it could move slightly, and to apply it to a brickfilm. There was a lot of different things happening in this brickfilm, and it ket my attention well, and I was always interested about what was going to happen next. I'm a little puzzled why he kept whistling, although I suppose it could be because he was thirsty? Also, the desert set design is somewhat lacking, but it's not bad, and you can definitely tell what it is. A small but fun detail I did notice was that when the protagonist looks up and whistles, his nose is a 2x2 brick, and at the bottom of the brick are notches for clutch power and locking, and they look a lot like nostrils! This probably wasn't intentional, but its still really cool. Fantastic job, Yetgo! 1st: Love it. Just love it. Winter Sock Productions has recently been bringing out some really eye-opening stuff, and this carries that trend perfectly. I'm really a sucker for color schemes, and to be honest, this has got to have my favorite in the contest. The dull but also bright colors really have an old Disney live-action film vibe, and its super cozy, with a great feel. Though this doesn't necessarily have the best sound effects, I would defintely say that out of the ones I watched, this one's plot embraced the theme of the contest the best, with the blind man and noise. The plot itself was also creative, and the end was just very satisfying. I also am a huge fan of the Blender concept shots video he recently posted, it was really interesting, and a new idea for me. Yeah, I don't have any big criticisms, just maybe some better set design, and involved voice acting, but such an amazing brickfilm, so congratulations Arginnon!
The Conclusion: What a contest! It's taken me a while to post this, so hopefully it doesn't detract from anything when I say that this contest was just a banger, and I had so much fun with it. Thank you so much to the judges and host, and to Brick A Brack, it was a great time, and congratulations to the winners, and here's to Vocalflix 2022! If you guys have any thoughts, criticisms, ideas, comments, or anything, post them in this thread, and we can discuss it. Thanks!
It's a pleasure to read. I love long texts! It's really interesting to understand the genesis of a project. From the idea to the final creation in the mind of a participant. I'm very happy that you liked this principle of contest.
Don't forget to copy your impressions on each of the entries described to post them directly in comments under each brickfilm, I'm sure the creators will appreciate very much the positive and constructive feedback of your comments.
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