A long strange trip began a few months back, around the time the first trailer for “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” premiered. My office-mate, and former stop-motion collaborator, Brian Jacks, suggested that this would be the perfect opportunity to bust out our Lego bricks and camera gear one more time. After we’d done the “Prince of Persia” Lego trailer last year, I knew how much work goes into a project like this, and I was hesitant. But after a week of pressure from Mr. Jacks, and the enticing prospect of having a giant Lego pirate ship in our office, I relented.
So here’s what goes into making a faithful Lego stop-motion re-creation of a trailer:
Step 1: First, you need your actors and locations. Brian set to work obtaining all the Lego sets we would need. And although the “Stranger Tides” trailer is short, we would have to recreate everything from tropical forests to giant pirate ships, from Victorian London to underwater lagoons. And although many of the scenes take place in similar looking locations, there were over 80 unique shots that made up the trailer. At this point, it helped to have a small army of amazing interns and our Lego-enthusiast equipment manager Brian Phares, who were willing to devote their time to painstakingly re-create the scenes.
Step 2: Next comes the technical side. When you shoot stop-motion, your final product is a video, but you build it frame-by-frame by taking photographs. Traditionally, film is 24 frames per second, so if you want to stay accurate, you need to shoot 24 photos for every second of the trailer. In this case, the trailer we were working with was about 75 seconds of footage, which comes out to 1,800 individual photos. I used my Canon EOS 7D with two different lenses (a 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 for wider shots, and a 50mm f/1.4 with an extension tube for extreme close-ups). We also used a Kessler Pocket Dolly as a track and a Giga T Pro Wireless Remote, so that we could make small adjustments to framing without moving the camera too much.
Step 3: Start shooting! Over 80 scenes, 1,800 individual photos, and more Lego pieces than we could keep track of. It all comes down to a steady hand and a fair amount of patience. I didn’t keep track of exactly how long it took to put together and shoot this Lego recreation, but rest assured, it involved many late nights and a lot of frustration.
It was a lot of work, but it was all worth it. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t thank our super interns, Brian Phares and editor Sujit Agrawal for the support. We hope you enjoy this re-creation of the “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” trailer, and please let us know if there are any other Lego reenactments you’d like to see done in the future!
Check out everything we’ve got on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”
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