Rubik’s Cube Stop Motion Explosion

This week our family project was a stop motion video of an exploding Rubik’s Cube. This project has some unique challenges and it involves two of the biggest obsessions in our home today – Rubik’s cube and Minecraft.

I’ll explain this project in detail, but first watch the video below:


Exploding Rubik’s Cube – Building the Vision

When it comes to new projects with the kids, I find it really fun to throw a crazy idea out there that I have no idea how we’re going to do. This is really how most of our projects form (see our Rube Goldberg project, Dancing Robot, and Basketball Robot). I’ll throw the idea out and then we’ll wrestle together over dinner the logistics of how we can possibly make the idea happen.

One day at dinner I threw the idea out – how about we make a stop-motion video of a Rubik’s cube solving itself and then exploding and coming back together? As we brainstormed, we could see a number of problems:

  • What would make the Rubik’s cube explode? Otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense.
  • How do we solve the cube? What if we mess up? It takes several hundred pics to create the video, so it would not be fun to re-shoot repeatedly. We also need to solve it somewhat efficiently.
  • How do we create the illusion of an explosion?
  • As the cube reassembles, how do we put it together the correct way?

Working through the Challanges

The first problem of why the cube would explode was simple. My kids and I love Minecraft, so we thought a creeper would be perfect. Creepers are creatures in the Minecraft video game that often sneak up out of nowhere and explode destroying whatever creation you have been working hard on. They do not make a sound until right before they explode when you hear the sound of a burning fuse.

My kids made two creepers out of paper board – a green one and a red one to help with the illusion of the explosion.

Creeper Sneaks Up On Rubiks Cube

The next big challenge was finding a way to plan the moves ahead. We found an online puzzle scrambler to generate a mix-up algorithm for us. Here is the algorithm we used below. If you are new to Rubik’s cube and this notation looks strange to you, here is a good site to learn about the basic notation.

Mix-up Algorithm:  U2 D2 R B R’ L’ U F’ B D2 U2 B2 D2 F’ U L2 R U B2 U F’ B R F’ D

At this point, my 12 year old daughter and I both sat down to see how we could solve this with the fewest moves. We are both fairly new to cubing (read more about our adventures in cubing here), so I knew our solution would not be the most efficient, but it was a great exercise to go through the solution multiple times looking for ways to make it efficient. This is a critical skill in many engineering disciplines, especially in coding.

Here is the algorithm we came up with below. We decided to mix up 2 cubes this way while shooting the photos for the video. This would allow us to play with the 2nd cube whenever we were confused about the next move. The steps below attempt to follow the Fridrich method. During the video we highlight the different parts of the solution.

D’ R2 D’ L (White Cross)

U’ B U B’ (1st F2L pair)

U R U R’ L’ U’ L (2nd pair)

U’ R U R’ U’ R U R’ (3rd pair)

U’ L U’ L’ U B’ U B U2 B’ U’ B (4th pair)

B U L U’ L’ B’ (yellow cross)

R B L’ B’ R’ B L B’ (orient top layer)

S2 U S2 U S’ U2 S2 U2 S’ (Yellow sides)

Now that we had an algorithm that we could follow, the next step was to figure out how to create the explosion and how to put it all back together.

Making a cube fly apart in stop-motion seemed like an impossible problem with our resources and skill-set, so we decided to create the explosion with image effects, with smoke (cotton balls), and then having the screen go dark. No flying pieces, so that really simplified the problem.

The reassembly of the cube was possible because my kids take apart and reassemble their cubes all the time (for this project we were using my son’s Dayan ZhanChi stickerless cube which does reassemble rather easily. However, we decided to take an easier approach and disassemble the cube instead, and then reverse the photos in the video. This way was much easier.

The final stretch was assembling and editing the project in Windows Movie Maker. We already had some good experience with this since my daughter took a stop-motion animation class last year, and the software is pretty easy to use.

This exploding Rubik’s cube was a really fun project that took a bit of problem solving and planning. I hope you enjoyed! For more fun cube solving videos, check out our 8 Favorite Cube Solving Videos.


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