Lord of the RIngs – Stop Motion

As well as taking photos of the Lord of the Rings Rivendell set, we were challenged to make some stop motion animations using the set!

A few blog posts back, we spoke with Chris and Natasja about their experience of building and photographing the new Rivendell LEGO set. Another friend of ours, Alberto, got his hands of the set to create a stop motion animation!

We sat down with Alberto to find out some more about stop motion and his experience building the set. But first, lets find out a little more about him!

My name is Alberto, I am from Tlaxcala in Mexico and I’ve been a stop-motion animator for almost 8 years. But I have been putting together LEGO bricks for so much longer than that! I grew playing with the Aquazone line :D I loved those shark shape submarines! I am currently a big fan of all the medieval, space and some of the Speed Champions themes.

Next up, a few questions all about the Lord of the Rings set and creating a stop motion animation!

Q – How did you get into toy photography/stop motion? What drew you too it?

Well, I always loved films. Whether is live action or animation, the fact that you can create worlds and stories, is something that always drew me in. I wanted to be a film director when I was a teenager :D But animation felt more for me. I can’t draw very well, so handmade animation is a no go, but building a character with paper, fabric, or any other material fits better to me. So stop-motion was a good choice.

The first time I set up lights, put the camera in front of my character, that’s when I realized I had a mini film set right in front of me, and that is a feeling that is just goes into your core. And toy photography is also like this. As like many reading this blog, who grew up building Lego, imagining the world where our builds and mini figures live. But now as adults, we can actually create those worlds, we can see it with our eyes and share with the world. Isn’t this amazing?!?

Q – What were your first impressions of the set? Before you started to build or create the animation.

It was intimidating :D I was delivered a huge cardboard box, that on the outside had a sticker saying “Can’t be placed on shelves” until after it’s released date. Also the address was surprising, it came directly from Billund! I have never received anything like this before, it was such a great experience and very exciting. At this point I didn’t know what the set would be. Once I open the box and saw it, and I have to say I am not a fan of LOTR, it just blew my mind! The set looked so big, so beautiful. I immediately googled it :D and at that point it was a only a rumor. So that also added to the fact that I really felt intimidated by the task.

So the task ahead – make a great animation, that will reach thousands, maybe even millions of people worldwide, using a set from a beloved franchise…. no pressure!

Q – At 6167 pieces, it’s quite a large set! Did you build it in one go or spread the build over a few sessions?

I do stop-motion as a freelance and it is my full time job. So I have other projects going at the same time. So I had to squeeze the building in between a project I was doing at the time. Then finish the project and after that, start the animation of the set. So I planned to build in one go, as fast as possible, thought that one afternoon and evening will be enough. Then I opened the box, took out all the bags. I think there are more that 40 bags… so I did on a go, but over 3 days! First time my fingers felt numb for putting together a Lego set :)

Q – What is your favourite part/detail of the set? Was there any clever building tricks hidden in there?

The whole set is a masterclass in building! I enjoyed all of it. What I like the most is that there are very few modified pieces made specifically for the set, most of the build consists of classic and well known pieces.

Still there are 2 parts that I really loved, one is the big tower section. The roundness of it was accomplished by very cleaver techniques. Second is the gazebo, the base!!!! It is crazy how they put together and how solid it is. I had to take a picture of it :D

Also have to mention how organic the shape of the set is. Is not straight but there is a curve in it. The rocks and the stairs blend perfectly with the nature.

Q – Did you recreate scenes from the film?

Hahaha I also don’t know anything about LOTR. I had to re-watch that part of the film in order to understand the set bit more. So I initially thought about it, but after some chat with Boris and Jennifer, it was clear that it shouldn’t be about recreating scenes but rather tell a story within the set. Still I did recreate a scene :D The opening scene, where you can see the council and then Frodo is ask to place the ring on the “table”. That scene is almost exactly as in the film, only difference is I add a view top of the council.

Q – Did you know what you wanted to create for a stop motion animation?

No! :D No I idea. Initial thoughts were to recreate a scene from the film but then I changed the idea like I mentioned earlier. So my first idea, in order to show the whole set, was to make Frodo lose the ring. The opening scene was the same as in the film, and then when putting the ring, Frodo realizes he doesn’t have it, and starts to look everywhere. I animated the scene but it didn’t felt right. Didn’t looked that fun. Then had this idea of the ring falling and he has to chase it. That looked more interesting!

Because Frodo’s legs can’t bend, I also had to find a way to make him look like running. This lead to a crazy run which then gave me the idea of make the jumping of the ring go crazy, and change the whole feel of the animation. Now is a crazy run trying to catch the ring. While the council waits and gets bored :)

Q – How long did it take to create the animation and did you have any challenges with such a big set?

I think it took me 5 days to animate, but another 3 days to do all the post production work, plus the days of putting together the set!

Being a big set, actually it was a relief. There was plenty space for the camera to be set, also space to move the figures without many things being in the way. The set can be separated in 3 sections which was also very helpful. I could play around to have some trees or building in the background.

Q – Do you have any tips or tricks for someone who would like to try to make a stop motion animation?

That is a big question :) I always get the comment that I must be very patience in order to do such detailed work. I am not a patience person at all :D But I do think you need to have the right mindset when making stop motion, that is to know that it will take time. That this is not a fast paced task and you need to know that it will take as much time as needed. But the reward of that challenge… that’s the best part, to see how all comes together, how you are making something lifeless be alive, that is something you enjoyed so much and can’t wait to have a go again.

We wanted to say a massive thank you to Alberto for taking the time to answer some questions and share his experience with us. If you haven´t seen some of Alberto´s animations, then you can find him on social media as @Albertomerida_animation

You can see the full stop motion animation below

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