I spent 13.5hrs non-stop building the LEGO Tower Bridge in front of the real Tower Bridge in London — Bridge-ception

As a part of my Year of Projects, I am spending ~20% of my time working on various creative projects that I’ve always dreamed of seeing through. Ever since finding out that LEGO released a set of Tower Bridge, I was fixated on the idea of filming a time lapse of building the set in front of the real Tower Bridge in London. Then ensued lots of scouting out the appropriate location (I was denied filming rights by two locations), finding power sockets for the camera and motion control rig, renting aforementioned rig, choosing a day that had multiple bridge openings (they’d look cool sped up), then hoping that the chosen day would also have good weather and lots of lovely fluffy cumulus clouds scudding across the sky (they also look great time lapsed). Amazingly, it all fell into place and 6:30 am one sunny Saturday I started building.

It was honestly one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever spent in London. As with many big cities, London can often be a little impersonal. That day, however, I was situated on the corner of a public park, next to the River Thames and had a constant flow of people of all genders and ages come up to me to have a chat or offer a helping hand. Children telling me stories of their most recent LEGO builds, jealous uncles wanting to build more LEGO themselves — all sorts.

Never Lose Your Inner Child

I’ve felt for a while that we lose touch with our inner child from too young an age. I’m completely aware that it’s a massive privilege to indulge in your inner child, but I think more people could do it than they might think. When I go to the birthday parties of my young niece and nephews, there’s nothing I like more than taking my shoes off, running into the garden and playing with the kids. Their viewpoint on the world around them is just so pure and… well, unadulterated. Instead of talking about mortgages, take off your shoes, drop down to their level (i.e. your knees), listen to their questions and comments, and just play. The big important adult world will still be there when you stand back up, and you’ll approach it with a much more beautiful mindset when you do.

Techie Build Details

There were a few things I definitely didn’t think about. Leaning over a lowish table for an entire day is quite hard on your lower back. Luckily as the day progressed and the towers rose from the table, I needn’t lean over quite as much. Black jeans and winter hiking socks were also a slight oversight on the hottest day of summer yet. But nothing disastrous.

Orchestrating various stages of the build to coincide with camera angle changes or the movement of the camera along the rig was tricky. I’d previously been through the three (yes, three!) LEGO building manuals page-by-page and made notes on the best angles to capture each major moment. In addition, as you can read below, I moved some parts of the build around to capture more repetition or symmetry on time lapse. For example, I put all 80 pieces of ‘glass’ in the window frames at once, not just the first 16, as instructed. I also built both towers simultaneously, unlike the instructions advise. As the build went on, I became better able to judge how long a certain section would take.

The shot list and vague build plan.
A wide shot showing the build and filming setup (left) and friend, Matthew Lawes, of Other Brother Studios having fun setting up the moco for the next shot (right).

My friend, Matthew Lawes, of Other Brothers Studios, kindly came along to orchestrate the filming/photography — set up the camera kit, move the moco rig for new angles, download the images, etc.. A huge thanks to him for keeping me company in the burning summer heat all day. If you’re interested in the gear we used, I’ve listed some info below:

  • Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
  • Lens: 24–70 Canon L-Series
  • Slider: Kessler Crane Philip Bloom Signature Pocket Dolly 1m
  • 3-Axis Head: Kessler Crane Second Shooter 3 Axis
  • Total Photos: 8,436

My LEGO History

This didn’t come completely out of nowhere. For Christmas 2010, my family kindly gifted me the LEGO Taj Mahal set — the largest LEGO set every commercially sold, weighing in at 5,922 pieces. I time lapse filmed myself building that set (much simpler setup) which you can watch below.

Links

To persuade me to do more stuff like this and other odd projects, please subscribe to my YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/TommyYouTube

Buy LEGO Tower Bridge from Amazon here: http://bit.ly/AmzTowerBridge
(and I get a tiny percentage if you do :)

If you’re from LEGO, I’ve got some more ideas — let’s chat. Get in touch: http://bit.ly/YoPContact

The music in the video is the amazing Juchu by DVA: http://www.2dva.cz/

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