Set construction
Special Effects
Post Production

How do I shoot the Star Destroyer?

Because it's difficult to move the heavy star destroyer, I decided to shoot all the spaceships in front of a blue screen (made with a piece of velvet cloth) in a motionless position. To create the motion, I move the camera instead of the spaceships. For example for the first scene of the film, the camera is fixed under a dolly that can move along a railway line. But of course to obtain the illusion that the spaceships move forward from the top, the camera is upside down and move backward.

Sometimes when I need a very large angle of view, such as for this traveling, the blue cloth is not enough wide. So I'm oblige to edit each picture taken with a picture editor software (Photoshop), and paint the edges in blue, before creating the AVI with Premiere. I know, this is not very convenient, but I wanted to film the same destroyer's model instead of building another little destroyer and film it closer.

The Death Star

For all the wide shots with the Death Star, I made a little hemisperic model (32 cm for the diameter) that I filmed from the top. But the Death Star turn on itself in most of the shots. To reproduce this rotation I first tried a travelling of the webcam, that's why the webcam is on a bridge above the model, but the travelling didn't give good results. So I decided to let the webcam fix, and turn the model with the help of the velvet cloth (blue screen). By drawing up a side of the velvet then let it down slowly, then drawing up the other side of the velvet cloth, you can obtain a little rotation of the model without touching it.

The Millenium Falcon

For the LSW project, I need to have a Millenium Falcon at the right scale comparing to the character's scale. But the 2 official sets released by the Lego Company, are both too small. So I decided to build my own Millenium Falcon. For now, I worked on it more than 100 hours, and it's not finished yet. Here are some picture of the Millenium falcon at different stage of building. The inside of the ship is not detailed, I will build specific sets to film the shots inside because it would be easier to film.

Corvet corridor

When I took this shot I was using my numeric camera. And this camera was too big to fit inside the corridor. So I had to build the decor as I took pictures. For that, I had to design the decor in several parts easily removable. Finally I'm very proud of this shot, cause it's a long backward traveling in a U-shape corridor (as you can see in the nearby GIF-Anim).

Moss Esley

In the picture above you can see that the white landspeeder is not complete. I built only the back part of the landspeeder, cause we don't see the whole landspeeder in the shot.
You can also notice all the extra people, waiting in single file (on the right) for passing in front of the camera. The preparation of such a shot is very important. Ordering all the extra outside the frame of the camera, avoid me to forget someone during the take. It can take me half an hour to prepare such a shot (this picture was taken just before starting to take the shot).

How do I make flying a character?

Some people ask me how do I managed to make flying the rebel officer when Darth Vader threw him on the wall. I'm surprised of such a question, cause the officer doesn't really fly as everyone can see it on the film. If you look frame by frame you will be able to see that the officer stand on a round lego brick 1x1 like this one . Look under his left foot, you will see the brick. But because the brick is the same color of the floor and because the fly is fast, most of people don't see it when they watch the film at normal speed. I didn't erased the brick during post production by painting on the pictures, but I ought to was able to do it.

Before the fly, the officer is hold by Darth Vader with a lego rubber band.

During the fly, his left foot lie on a little lego brick.

How do I make flying the landspeeder?

Just like Georges Lucas, I use the same technic to make flying the Luke's landspeeder. If you have already seen a making of starwars, perhaps did you notice that the landspeeder was fixed at the end of a crane on its left. That's why in many shots of Starwars you don't see the left of the landspeeder. Just look at the pictures below to understand. The picture on the right comes from the film, the two others show how the landspeeder is fixed.
For a full-motion video scene, I fixed the landspeeder and the webcam together, and put them on a wagon. You can see that I add some wheels under the landspeeder. So when we move the webcam, the landspeeder move at the same speed and stay at the same place in the frame of the camera. But when we watch the movie, we see the decor moving fast. The wheels were hidden behind a fold of the decor. Below you can see the resulting shot.

R2D2 & C3PO

Most of the time the camera is fixed, and I just need to animate the characters frame by frame, but sometine the camera also move. In that case I must move the characters and the camera just a little for each frame. When I need to shot a travelling sequence, I usualy use railway and a wagon. Look at the little video to see the set and the camera on the wagon.

In Starwars, there's a lot of scenes where R2D2 turn his head. The lego model of R2D2 can just turn his head by quarter of turn. That's not enough precise to have a smooth motion. So I decided to modify a bit the lego model by cuting the 4 sprockets on the top of his body, and by sticking one in the center (see the picture below for more details). You can also see a video of me shooting a very simple close-up scene where R2D2 turn is head.

I also had some difficulties to shot C3PO in the desert of tatoine, cause he wasn't very steady. He often fell just when I was tooking the picture :-) That was not very nice from him.

How do I make exploding a door?

That was a funny thing to do! In fact like in some real films, the Lego Door was precut. It was built with stacked tiles. Then I used a bic pen as a blowpipe, and blow behind the door. It was difficult to find the good power of blow. At the begining I blowed too strong and the tiles stayed jamed. You can see here some failed shot.

The production line

Well the production line has evolved during the realisation of the film. At the begining all the film was made frame by frame with a photographic camera, none video camera was used. I used the Agfa ePhoto 780c camera. Here were the steps to produce the film:
  1. Build the decor with Lego parts.
  2. Take several pictures with the camera, by moving the characters, some decor elements or the camera itself.
  3. Download the pictures in the PC with Agfa Photowise (software delivered with the camera).
  4. Modify some JPG pictures if needed with Adobe Photshop.
  5. Transform the JPG sequence into an AVI file with Adobe Premiere.
  6. Assemble all the AVI, add special effects with Adobe Premiere.
  7. Produce the DivX final movie with the DivX encoder and Adobe Premiere.
But now I decided to use my webcam to produce the film, for several reasons: first the LCD screen of my photographic camera go out of order after a certain time, then it's easier to take pictures without moving the camera with a webcam (since you take them with the mouse of the computer). Also I can film in video mode for some special shots (for example the 20th century fox shot was made in video, not frame by frame). Here are now the new steps to produce the film:
  1. Build the decor with Lego parts.
  2. Take several pictures with the webcam and Anasazi software, by moving the characters, some decor elements or the webcam itself.
  3. If the pictures have to be modified, then I produce a sequence of BMP with Adobe Premiere else go to point #6.
  4. Modify the BMP pictures with Adobe Photshop.
  5. Transform the BMP sequence into an AVI file with Adobe Premiere.
  6. Assemble all the AVI, add special effects with Adobe Premiere.
  7. Produce the DivX final movie with the DivX encoder and Adobe Premiere.
There are some advantages and some disadvantages to use a webcam instead of a photographic camera :

  • Since I use the Anasazi software to capture the movie, I'm faster to produce the film, and more efficient.
  • Since I don't touch the webcam to take a picture, the resulting film is more steady (which was not the case with my photographic camera).
  • The focus of the webcam can vary in a bigger range and very easily. I wasn't able to change easily the focus of the Agfa camera.
  • Some shots where the decor and characters are motionless can be shot in full video.
  • The quality of the webcam is a bit worse than the one of the Agfa camera. To avoid loosing to much quality I must took 640x480 pictures with no compression.
  • Consequently the size of the shots are very big! (not the size of the final movie, which is the same, of course).

By chance I was filming myself when the camera go out of order. You can see here my pain to shoot with the Agfa camera.

The blue screens

The blue screen is very useful cause you can shoot several spaceships at different times and then put them together during the post-production. That's what I did for the scene where we see the star destroyer draw up the corelian corvet with its tractor beam: first I shoot the star destroyer by moving the camera closer, then I took only one shot of the corelian corvet in front of a blue screen. During the post-production I put a picture of stars in the background, then the AVI of the star destroyer becoming closer, and finaly the corelian corvet in foreground.

How do I make the smoke and blaster effects?

For the blaster fires, it's very simple even if it require much time. I just choose some images of the scene and open them in Photoshop. Then I draw some red or green lines in a layer put above the images, and export this layer with a blue background in a new image. Finaly I import this blaster image in my Premiere project and add a blue transparency on it. The lenght of each blaster image is one or two frames (I produce the film in 25 images per second), so 1/25th of second.

For the smoke, there's a little more work to do, but it's a quicker process. I created only one image of smoke with a blue background. Then in my Premiere project I add 3 effects on this smoke image: Moreover for a better rendering I used two smoke tracks with different motion and intensity effect, such as the two tracks are mixed.