How To Shoot a Lego Time-Lapse Video

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Lego Time-lapse is a fun area of videography that combines two of my favourite things. Time-lapse photography and, of course, LEGO!

Actually, before we begin I just want to clarify something. If you’re looking to create an animation using LEGO, moving the characters to tell a story or adventure, then you actually want to shoot a stop-frame animation. Here’s a great article on shooting LEGO stop-frame.

Aren’t time-lapse photography and stop-frame animation the same thing?

Technically, pretty much. Both require a camera and tripod and involve capturing photos and stitching them together to form a video.
The main difference being that time-lapse captures something slow like the construction of a LEGO set, by taking photos at a specific timed interval, whereas stop-motion or stop-frame animation creates the illusion of motion where there was none. Also with stop-motion, the interval between photos doesn’t matter.

For a full answer to this question, check out our full Time-Lapse vs Stop Motion, What’s the Difference? article.

Why would you shoot a LEGO time-lapse?

If you’ve ever constructed a medium to large LEGO set, you’ll know the challenge it faces you with, along with the growing sense of accomplishment you get from completing it. A LEGO set can easily take 3 hours to put together. Some can even take as much as 10 hours or more!
Imagine capturing the whole process, as the model you’re working on slowly comes to life over the course of 60 seconds or so. It’s great to see and is the perfect way of keeping a little memento of your achievement which you can show off to friends.

What equipment do I need?

A Camera

If you own a DSLR camera and you’d like to use it, then great, go for it.
For everyone else, if you’ve got a fairly decent smartphone then I’d recommend using that instead. Modern smartphone cameras are more than capable of shooting great quality photos and are really convenient to use. You might also like to read our guide on shooting time-lapse on a smartphone

A Tripod

You don’t need anything special. Even a cheap tripod should be fine as it’s indoors and not subject to wind etc.

An Intervalometer

If you’re using a DSLR camera, then you’ll probably want an external intervalometer. Check out our intervalometer guide if you don’t already have one.

For smartphone users, you can just use an intervalometer app. I’m using an app called Lapse-It for Android which is also available on IOS if you happen to be an iPhone user.

Artificial Lighting

To ensure that the resulting video is consistently well lit, it is a good idea to film in a room with good lighting and no windows (or with curtains closed at least). This is especially important if your recording session is likely to span a few hours – you don’t want the level of daylight changing through the video. Even passing clouds can cause flickering in the final video. This can ruin an otherwise professional-looking video.

The lighting you choose isn’t hugely important as long as the subject area is well lit. I recommend a couple of soft boxes for this. You don’t need anything fancy, you can pick up a pair including bulbs for less than you might think.

LEGO Time Lapse Equipment

A LEGO Set

This one is obvious. I recommend getting a brand new set and unboxing it as part of the video. Not only does this add an interesting start to the video, but it also guarantees against any missing pieces. Imagine being midway through a 3hr build session, only to discover missing pieces!

The type of set you choose isn’t too important, just make sure the set is big enough to be a challenge – and to produce an interesting video that isn’t over as soon as it starts.

Preperation

Before you turn on the camera, you need to have everything in place. The last thing you want is to shoot a full time-lapse sequence only to find out you missed something – potentially ruining all your hard work.

Charge your batteries

Make sure the battery in your camera is fully charged. If you have a DC power supply for your camera, even better. Then you don’t have to worry about a dead battery if your shoot runs on too long

If your intervalometer has a battery, make sure that has plenty of power too.

Set up your equipment

Position your camera on the tripod, in front of your desk or table. Typically you’ll want to shoot from the opposite side than the side where you’re sat. Looking down slightly is a good bet, whatever achieves the look you’re after. Adjust the zoom (if your lens has one) so that not only is the build area in shot, but also the area where the pile of new LEGO pieces will be tipped each time you open a bag.

Set up your lighting on either side of the camera, covering the work area as evenly as possible. Again, it’s a matter of personal preference, but I like to ensure the whole area is bright and well-lit.

Set up your camera

Make sure your camera is configured ready for the shoot. Some key settings I like to adjust are:

  • File Format – I recommend shooting in RAW so that you have full control of exposure in post-production, but this isn’t strictly necessary if you’re just getting started
  • White Balance – Make sure it’s set to anything other than Auto, otherwise it could change between shots
  • Focus – I recommend setting your camera to Manual focus and then manually adjusting the focus ring to get the centre of your work area in focus.
  • Auto Review – disable this to save power.

Make sure you have an SD card in your camera and that it has sufficient storage space to capture your photos.

Set up the intervalometer

Next you’ll want to configure the intervalometer to capture shots at the right rate.

First, you need to answer these questions:

  1. How long is your video shoot likely to last? (how long will it take to build the set?)
  2. How long would you like the final time-lapse video to be? (I recommend 30 or 60 seconds)
  3. What frame rate would you like your final video to be? (Usually 25 or 30fps)

Armed with that information, head over to our time-lapse calculator and select ‘Shutter Interval’. Then enter your desired recording time and output video options. Click the ‘Calculate’ button to find out the shot interval you need to plug into your intervalometer.

Test, test, test

Take a couple of test shots to make sure everything is configured correctly and the pictures are correctly exposed and in focus. It’s worth even running the intervalometer and capturing a sequence of shots with you in position and moving your hands around in frame. Turn on your camera’s preview screen to get a feel for what’s in shot or out of shot. Better to find out now while you have chance to correct issues.

Start shooting!

Turn on your intervalometer to start the shoot and pull out your LEGO set. It’s time to build!
Now, try not to think about the time-lapse footage. LEGO is about having fun and getting creative. Enjoy the process.

Top Tips

Take a break

You can stop for a break if you like and come back to it. Just turn off your intervalometer before you start your break and back on when you’re ready to get cracking again. Be careful not to disturb the set during your break!

Watch out for disruptions

Children love playing with LEGO and can’t resist having a go. It would make sense to get your children involved in the build process, as long as they keep away from the recording equipment. Alternatively, shoot when there are no children around.

Have fun!

When you’ve placed your final piece, why not gradually rotate the completed set and zoom it around, really show it off. You can basically do some stop-frame animation as part of your video!

Post Production

When you have captured your shots, it’s time to get out the laptop and produce your video using your favourite post-production software.
We’re working on a guide to post-production, watch this space!

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