Introduction: LEGO Stop Motion Stage

My son recently became interested in stop motion with the ClapMotion app on Google. A dedicated stage will ensure that the digital webcam will not move around and supply proper lighting.

Time to complete: 1-2 hours

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Materials used on this project:

  • 1/2" Plywood - salvaged from a shipping crate
  • 2-3 Corrugated Plastic Political Signs - salvaged from the last campaign
  • 2 Desk Lamps - 25 watts
  • 1 LED Array - 60 LED battery powered from Science Surplus and Supply
  • Small Tripod
  • Double Sided Carpet Tape
  • Flat Black Spray Paint
  • Roll of Artist Paper
  • LEGO Land Panels
  • Digital Camera and Computer

Tools used on this project:

  • Hand Circular Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Metal Straight Edge
  • Utility Knife

Usual Disclaimer: Use tools properly with all safety equipment. If you are not familiar with the safe use of power tools - please find someone who is.

Step 2: Cut and Prepare the Base

Decide on the size of your stage. The digital camera that I have works well with 6 inches, so I assume that 2' deep will be plenty. I chose to make this stage 3' wide which will offer long sweeping views if my son wants. I chose to leave the nicer side blank so that my children can use it as a art or a puzzle board (I may carpet tape a piece of counter top laminate to this side), the stage side does not need to be perfect.

  1. Use a hand circular saw to cut a 2'x3' piece of plywood.
  2. OPTIONAL: I cut a dado groove 1" away from the edge and 1/4" deep that will accept the thickness of the political signs. This required two passes of my table saw.
  3. Spray paint the stage side black. The only reason is that every high school theater stage I've ever seen has been black - I imagine it looks nicer on film too.

Step 3: Prepare the Background Walls

This material that yard signs are made of is wonderful stuff! It is cheap (free after political season), easy to cut, and really rigid for the weight. I know that it can be found at hobby shops as well.

  1. I decided to paint the background black as well - I don't know if this is necessary but I figured that matching walls would look better. The plastic does not take the paint easily so cover in a couple of layers so that it does not drip.
  2. Measure 1" from the edge and cut along the corrugation channels. Move a couple of channels over and cut again. Remove the material in between these cuts but flexing the board and carving plastic in between. This leaves a large groove that makes it easy to bend the board. Cut a little notch out from the bottom so the side will clear the gap.
  3. Use double sided tape to join the bent part of the side wall to the back panel.
  4. Unroll artist paper and tape to walls - kids can draw backgrounds on this paper for their movies.
  5. If grooves were cut - slip the walls into these grooves. If not a little of duct tape could be used to attach it to the base.

Step 4: Putting It All Together

  1. Use small pieces of double sided carpet tape to temporarily attach land LEGOs to the base. This becomes the floor of your movies and a place to plug your LEGOs in as you take pictures.
  2. Light the space well - this adds so much to your movies!
  3. If the webcam is placed on the stage - carpet tape it to the base so that it does not move when your kids bump it.
  4. Let your kids go nuts...

Step 5: Final Thoughts

Works very well - my son made a movie and it looked much more... (I don't want to say professional) intentional. Tim Burton probably started out this way.

I was considering building a camera dolly out of LEGO wheels and such. Of course the fact that it is stop motion means that there will not be long panning shots but it might make moving the camera easily. Wonder if bullet time from the Matrix could be done this way.

Wouldn't it be cool if there was an app that offered a green screen features! Kids could put wild backgrounds in their movies or get stuff to "fly" if you paint some LEGOs to be pillars!