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Stage a Light Saber Fight a la Star Wars

We show you the step-by-step process of how to pull off the Light Saber special effect. Everything from building the Light Saber to Rotoscoping.

Video Transcript

Special effects are really common today and one of the most famous effects is known as a light saber effect. We’ll show you five simple steps and you’ll want to pull this effect off. The first thing you want to do is gather your materials, then you’ll sell the effect, build the light saber, key frame and add some final touches to really pull this one off. I’m Derek Sine and this is a light saber effect.

Step number one are the materials. You can use a broom, a light saber base or even a spray nozzle. Just remember to be creative. Tape or markers will be helpful down the road when key framing your motion of the light saber. Step number two is selling the effect. This is really crucial, you’ll want to pay attention to detail. Reactions need to look real.

Another important thing to look at is the length of swords. You’ll want your talent to react to the proper length or you’re gonna cut somebody’s head off when you don’t mean to. Now you’ll want to use those markers or tape as a reference point on your light saber to help you out when you’re key framing in post.

Step number three is building a light saber. Now what we used was After Effects but you can use any non-linear editor that gives you the option of using color masks. Now the first thing you’re gonna want to do is build your mask. Now you’re gonna want to lay your mask over where you want the beam of your light saber.

The fourth step is rotoscoping. Animators use this technique to trace frame by frame. You’re gonna want to also use this technique to get the most accurate-looking light saber effect possible. Now in After Effects what we used was the pen tool. We use the pen tool to draw a mask over the light saber frame by frame. Now the most labor-intensive part of this effect is keying frame by frame.

It’s gonna take quite a while and we find it the most effective but you also have the option of tracking your motion if your editor offers it. Play your video back, check for errors. One frame can mess this whole thing up. Don’t get discouraged because at the end of this effect it will all pay off.

Now after you’ve built your light saber and rotoscoped you can add some final touches to really sell the effect. You can have sound effects to give it an edge, add motion blur to make it feel more real, even add flashes of lightning glow to really sell it.

Don’t be afraid to use different tones. Sound effects are gonna give you a lot more options like strike through the air, blocks, and this is just gonna give you a lot more freedom when it comes time to edit. [Sound effect.]

Practice makes perfect and as you can see with the use of five simple steps you too can achieve the looks you see in the movies.

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