Start your Lego movie-making career these holidays

There's so much more to do with your Lego than just build and play. We asked the authors of "The Lego Animation Book" for a few tips to turn those Lego gifts into Hollywood (or YouTube) stardom.

Lego is the world's most popular building toy, and through the years it's been applied to all sorts of activities beyond the basics of the build. Few of these are more notable than Lego stop-motion animations, aka "brickfilms."

If you've just grabbed a fresh haul of new bricks to play with, or you're sitting on a gold mine in search of new horizons, we've had a chat with the authors of "The Lego Animation Book", David Pagano and David Pickett, for tips and inspiration to get creative these holidays.

Their book offers clever tips on everything from the basics of animation, lighting, camera work and even great tips on the subtleties of making your minifigs look alive through their poses. Plus clever tips on making phone stands out of Lego so you don't even need a tripod or phone mount to get started.

Lego Animation Book

The Lego Animation Book, by David Pagano and David Pickett.

No Starch Press

We've got their top starter tips here to get you up and running.

START WITH THE BASICS: "There's no need to spend money on fancy equipment," says Pagano. "Start with a smartphone, some desk lamps and a bunch of bricks."

SECURE YOUR SET: "Find a flat, stable surface that you're comfortable working at for long periods of time. Secure your set to your animation surface using masking tape, clamps or sticky tack. This will help you avoid unwanted bumps in your movie."

DON'T GET DISCOURAGED: "One thing that can be hard for a first-time Lego filmmaker is comparing your work to other Lego movies you see on the internet," says Pickett. "There are animators with decades of experience regularly producing amazing brickfilms, and you might feel like a failure if your very first animation isn't of that quality. Every expert starts out as a novice. With patience and practice, anyone can grow to become a skilled Lego animator."

USE WHAT YOU OWN: "We try to stress the fact that readers should start with whatever tools they already own. Use your creativity and imagination to work within those limitations," says Pagano. "Check out the film 'Greedy Bricks' by Mirko Horstmann. It's a lovely short made with just 10 Lego pieces."

This page on jumping and flying shows some clever tricks for going beyond what's possible with basic bricks alone.

No Starch Press

SHARE YOUR VIDEOS!: "We've seen a bunch of neat videos from first-time animators," says Pagano. "It seems like there are two main types: The child who reads our book and asks their parents to help, and the AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) who get their friends or spouses interested in the hobby by making an animation together."

"One of my favorite animations that a reader has sent to us is 'Making Friends with LEGO Magic' by Rory Bristol," says Pickett. "It's a great example of what we hope our readers will create after reading our book: short, creative, and fun! We encourage everyone to share their videos with us using the hashtag #LEGOAnimationBook."