The first effect I added to my footage once it was all keyed out, was the light sabers. I had already practiced doing this before using a 3 second piece of footage I obtained from vimeo of two boys having a swordfight. I changed their swords into sabers and I felt that it wasn’t that bad for a first attempt.

The key to this technique was masking. I had to go frame by frame for about 10 solid seconds (24×10=240 frames) masking out the props we’d brought with us on the shoot. Initially I created a black solid and a white solid layer. I then hid both of these so that I could see the footage, and using the pen tool began painfully drawing around the prop frame by frame, A process that took about 2 hours per prop.

path tool saber

Once I had masked out the prop in every single frame, I revealed the white solid layer again so that I could physically see how much I had masked out. As it happened, I had missed quite a bit, so I went through it again making sure that every mask path was where it should be. Luckily this took far less time than the first run! Once I was happy with the result, I revealed the white later again and watched the motion of the white solid against the black background. Finally, I rounded off the edges that needed rounding off, such as any that were in shots that involved them being reasonably still compared to normal.

precomp saber

Once I was happy with that, I had to duplicate the white solid layer 3 times, giving me 4 white solid layers over all. I then pre-composed the black solid layer along with all of the white layers. It’s worth noting here that this had to be done, and had I not pre-composed, then like a lot of after effect effects, it simply would not have worked. The reason why I had to duplicate the layers was so that I could add different value feathers to each of them, giving the glowing effect seen in the picture below. Roughly, I aimed to have one at 1, one at 5, one at 15 and another at 30, although the true values once I output this as a file will probably be different.

feather mask saber

As you can see in the image below, the effect is pretty nice when seen masked out infront of the original footage, although it lacks colour.

screen layer saber

This is where the Color Balance effect on after effects comes into play. This is the main reason I had to pre-comp the layers, as this effect doesn’t work unless its a pre-composed effect. All I had to do was to drag the effect onto the saber mask composition, and simply increase the values of the colour I wished to portray. In this instance, it was blue. I checked ‘preserve luminosity’ so that it retained its glow rather than a flat outline of the main colour.





colour balance saber

I then repeated this task for every shot that contained a lightsaber, and also saved colour balance presets so that I only had to make each colour once.

tomVmike saber