What kind of sand do you use?

I use masonry sand for my dam breach videos.  Masonry sand is used by bricklayers in construction and it is often purchased in tons, and frequently delivered by dump trucks.  The best place to locate a supplier of masonry sand would be a local/regional masonry (brick) supplier.  On a granular level, masonry sand is physically different from beach or play sand.

As it happened, I had large masonry project at my home several years ago, and I had purchased $500 (USD) worth of masonry sand.  Not all of the sand was used for the project.  I now have a large hill of sand in my yard (several tonnes).  I thought, “why waste it.”  I now use the leftover sand for my dam breach videos.

How long does it take you to film a LEGO Dam Breach?

Filming a dam breach takes approximately 1/2 day.  

Around 8 am I begin assembling cameras, clearing memory cards, and gathering LEGO (30-60 minutes).  Moving the equipment into place (tripods, power drop cords, water hose, shovels) usually takes 60 minutes.  Shoveling the sand into place, shaping the sand, and placing LEGO may take around 30-60 minutes.  I take a few pictures before starting the water, and recently, I will film some moving elements (such as a moving car, etc).  Once the water starts to flow I’ll have to wait approximately 12-15 minutes for the dam to breach and the entire tank clear itself of water.  Afterwards, I’ll take some pictures of the destruction and begin cleaning up.  Initial clean up takes around 2 hours.  I’m usually done around 12 to 1 pm.

In the summer of 2017 I constructed a crude drying box.  In the past, air drying LEGO could take around 5-7 days.  That’s a long time.  With a large plastic storage box, window screen, and air mover, I put together a drying box.  Drying time runs around 10-12 hours.

Do you lose any LEGO?

For fire videos, that would be an obvious yes.  For dam breach videos, sometimes.  I don’t always find LEGO after filming. In one video, a female minifig in yellow (middle of the dam) went missing while filming in November 2015. Some time later I was walking around the sand hill and accidentally kicked up the lost minifig. It was missing for 9 months!

Your flash flood videos… don’t you mean tsunamis?

I filmed my first flood video in 2015.  While editing the footage, I wanted to add in a purpose for a wall of water rushing over the LEGO scene.  My first thought was tsunami.  It makes sense.

However, one of my long term goals will be to build a large wave tank for creating actual tsunami videos.  If I called my earlier videos tsunamis, then what would I call my future tsunami videos?  The video styles are different, and they should be given different titles.  So, I ended up calling my first videos Flash Floods.

I framed the story-line as an earthquake that cripples an off-screen dam.  The dam fails, and sends the gushing water downstream as a flash flood.

Some viewers will want to say I’m wrong, and maybe I am.  But from my perspective, when I build my large wave tank… I’ll be happy to show you a tsunami video that deserves the title!

What camera(s) do you use?

As of August 2017 I have 23 cameras on hand to use with my filming.  These include, from top down, the most frequently used cameras:

  • (2x) Canon Vixia HF-R400  (wide-area video shots)
  • (2x) Canon Vixia HF-R700 (wide-area video shots)
  • (1x) Canon T5 DSLR (stop-motion camera, used with 35mm and 55mm Nikon Manual Lenses)
  • (1x) Nikon D7000 DSLR (before and after pictures, action pictures, time lapse photography)
  • (4x) Lightdow D4000 (point-of-view shots)
  • (1x) Lightdow 4K (point-of-view shots)
  • (1x) Xiaomi Yi (water tank underwater)
  • (2x) Sony Bloggie (overhead views)
  • (1x) Polaroid Cube (train ride-a-long and point of view shots)
  • (8x) Canon PowerShot A1400 (currently not in use; time lapse photography)
  • (1x) Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 (wide-area video shots with 4k recording)

What software do you use?

  • Video Editing – Adobe Premiere CC
  • Special Effects – After Effects CC (very rarely used)
  • Photo Editing – Gimp
  • Stop Motion – DragonFrame