Heistheway's Stop-motion Films for LEGO Contest

One of Heistheway's hundreds of photos for the stop-motion LEGO contest

One of Heistheway's hundreds of photos for the stop-motion LEGO contest

As part of their brain-building activities and sometimes homeschool projects, we’ve had our young children study about photography, videography, and filming. They’ve produced their own short “films” and videos and have enjoyed applying their photography skills in many ways.

Just to show her how much we appreciated her talent as a ten-year-old, we used my daughter Pelaiah’s photo of us (Tim and myself) inside the first children’s book, Healthy ABC's, my husband and I co-wrote together. She gets delighted when she sees her name credited as a photographer in the softcover book. As a parent and mommy, that gives me great joy!

Studying stop-motion

I can’t remember how long it’s been, but we’ve been studying stop-motion films and photography for a while. We’ve seen the difference in the “stop motion” look based upon how many frames per second are in a film and how to break down parts of a photography session to make a better short film. We’ll watch samples from ads as well as simple short films and then discuss what we’ve learned --- what worked, what didn’t work, what made the video great and interesting, and what improvement could be applied to make it even better.

Interestingly, around the same time we started studying stop-motion photography, Tim was telling me about some neat stories involving brilliant minds who attributed part of their creativity and productivity success to building with LEGO bricks as a child. This discussion also happened during the rare shopping trips to discount stores that we took with our children to get a brain-building game or toy as a reward.

Wait for the good stuff

They spotted plastic brick sets that were a great deal, but Tim encouraged us to wait until we could afford to buy LEGOs. Our children didn’t complain. Though they wanted a plastic brick-building set to use that night, they were excited to wait. They’ve seen the rewards that come in trusting us as their parents.

Abraham’s birthday is in October, and, last year, he received money for some of his gifts. He was also ready to invest in LEGOs. Anyone who has seen the price of LEGOs, knows what an investment they can be. It’s like investing in “plastic bullion.” I even did a lot of research in buying used LEGOs from eBay, but they were sometimes more expensive than brand new ones! I was amazed at how much LEGO bricks, as well as their minifigures, held their value over time. Sometimes they would sell for double or triple what they were originally sold for since sets can be discontinued from time to time. I looked on Craigslist too, but buying a simple Classic set seemed like our best option.

As a side note, we used to have a small or medium-sized bin of LEGOs back when Abraham was a baby. He played with it alongside his sisters since he never put any toy in his mouth; he didn’t even put his fingers in his mouth. This all changed when Noah was born after Abraham and started crawling. Noah was our first thumb sucker and almost everything seemed like it would end up in his mouth. My motherly instincts told me to put away the LEGOs until it was safe. We haven’t touched it since and may have sold it at a garage sale.

Three more children later, I did more research after Tim mentioned his interest in LEGOs for the children. I wanted to see if it was worth buying again and plus we still have little ones who could potentially put them in their mouths. Since we have some safety rules in place, I thought it was worth trying and was excited at the thought. Tim and I spoke with great excitement as we told our children of our own fond memories making and building things like houses with LEGO bricks!

They’re pretty pricey

We called around and were hoping to find a good local deal. We’re mainly online shoppers so it didn’t occur to us to go to Toys R Us. Tim paid a visit to Toys R Us in December and found a large box of LEGO Classic bricks that was exclusive to the store. It was a lot more than Abraham had in birthday and extra chore money. We had also already bought him his birthday wish item, a good pocket knife (multi-tool), and that was a significant investment and purchase since it was also a tool he could use for years to come.

We asked Abraham how he would feel if we shared the purchase of a bigger box, but that the other half would be so his siblings would have ownership too. He was excited to have more bricks to build with his siblings. So we purchased it.

After the Christmas season, we had some gift money that we hadn’t used. I’m allergic to plated jewelry and most costume jewelry. Thankfully, I can wear real gold, sterling silver, and stainless steel. For many years, I’ve been trying to save up my gift money for a kit to do silversmithing at home to make my own jewelry. Now that I know that one of my daughters who likes to wear jewelry for special occasions is allergic to even nickel, I am motivated all the more. I had some money to use for this, but it was still far off from being able to buy the tools I needed to get started. So I held onto the money.

The Contest

Then, I stumbled across a contest LEGO was holding for stop-motion films! We were excited to give it a try. Some of the children were disappointed that they weren’t old enough to compete. The contest also required that LEGO bricks from their Creator 3-in-1 sets be used. Heistheway, our oldest child, was ecstatic about entering. Tim, Heistheway, and I were the only eligible people in the house to join. We didn’t own any creator sets though.

So we made a visit to Toys R Us praying that we would find some great deals. To our surprise, there were a few sets available and we happened to find one set with a damaged box -- it even had a hole in the box. Knowing that LEGO seals their bricks in bags, we thought it was worth buying if they gave us a discount (it looked a little rough). The store manager offered us 15%-off items with damaged packaging.

We went back and searched for more. We ended up finding a total of three damaged boxes. Tim and I discussed a little of why they would be damaged. We figured that it got a little rough in the store during Christmas shopping or something.

In addition, LEGO also has smaller sets that cost less than $5, so that was worth getting for an entry. I really wanted to help Heistheway out as much as I could, so I used my gift money to buy a damaged LEGO set of a neat camper travel trailer that can turn into a nice looking speed boat too. She was glad that we could both join.

I knew inside that the probability of me making films this time was pretty small with everything else I’ve been doing especially in this season of motherhood. I’ve also been illustrating some new books and creating wholesale products to add to our online stores. Plus we don’t have much time left before we could possibly have a significant loss in pay. But I didn’t want to tell my daughter that in the beginning since I wanted her to enjoy taking photos and filming for the contest instead of feeling any unnecessary pressure.

After over a month of work in planning, building, and photographing, Heistheway was ready to put her stop-motion films together. According to the rules, she had to do everything herself. So we taught her how to change the settings to make the still pictures into stop-motion format so that it wasn’t a slideshow in Final Cut Pro. We had her use Adobe Premiere Pro before to make a film, but we thought using Final Cut Pro would be easier to apply what she needed even if it is still pro-level application that filmmakers use.

She completed her first one, and it was really cute and vibrant! We went back to the LEGO site to look at the rules about music again. One of the online admins mentioned that only the filmmaker’s music or ones the entrant created themselves was allowed for the contest. Heistheway went back and deleted the stock music and sounds she used.

Though sound wasn’t mandatory for contest entries, she wanted to try to produce a video with sound that she created herself. She played on the piano many times trying to come up with a separate tune for each video. Her younger sister, Pelaiah, loves playing the piano and would try to help inspire her with tunes she thought her older sister could use and play herself. Heistheway created sound effects with water in containers and objects around the house as well.

We made it a goal to finish at least a few days before the deadline in case we ran into any mistakes with uploading the files to LEGO’s website. By that time, she was able to create five stop-motion contest entries -- all with sound! We were impressed!

You may view her entries below: Changing Seasons: Say Goodbye to the Cold and Hello to the New https://youtu.be/vKgBDxLlBqQ Corner Deli - I Hope You're Hungry! https://youtu.be/yjy_AcF1o5Q Race car - In the Fast Lane https://youtu.be/S9pKOkorE5s Ocean Explorer short - Brick Explorer? https://youtu.be/xcwUBuoqhMQ Vacation Getaway -- iVacation https://youtu.be/UBncKyAu_hQ

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