4 Replies Latest reply on Nov 18, 2016 2:38 PM by Bushy162

    ILM Phantom Menace lightsaber method

    Bushy162 Level 1

      https://tharryevans.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/article-2488502-001d3bb300000258-612_634x4 24.jpg






      https://tharryevans.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/obi-wan-vs-darth-maul-obi-wan-kenobi-20389 036-1600-1200.jpg?w=1250

      https://tharryevans.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/obi-wan-vs-darth-maul-obi-wan-kenobi-20389 038-1600-1200.jpg?w=1250





      Here are some of the best possible images I could find.

      They are all production photos, which means they're higher quality than you would get from screensnapping the film itself.


      I am trying to replicate the method used to create the lightsaber effect seen in these photos. Although some are more highly lit than others, it is my belief that they all are created from the same method.

      One of the things I notice is that the glow of the lightsaber gets narrower towards the tip of the blade. Similarly the blade itself does so.

      This would prove the opposite to that of the Rick Gerard method: https://vimeo.com/25150499


      Rick’s method is achieved by stretching the composition to fan-out the saber.

      This works great for motion (saves time rotoscoping), but doesn’t account for when the sober is motionless.

      Let me reiterate: the blade in Rick’s method gets wider towards the tip, but in the ILM version it gets narrower (except when in motion).

      Rick told me that, in all likelihood, the method he showed me IS the method used by ILM.

      How in this case can the narrowing of the blade be explained?


      Subsequent to this realisation, I experimented with the masking method used by Ryan Wieber, and easily achieved a narrowing of the blade. But the glow remained normal.

      Normal is bad. I need the glow to narrow towards the tip of the lightsaber.


      In the first link I attached, the glow of the blades is non-existent. There is an aura around the blade, and it appears to be misty in nature.

      In the other links, there is a glow.

      I infer from this that there is a two stage process: add the aura, then add the glow.


      But this is all guesswork, and when push comes to shove the blades I make look nothing like those by ILM.

      This is the problem and my question is how do I overcome it.

      Thanks for listening,




        • 1. Re: ILM Phantom Menace lightsaber method
          Rick Gerard Adobe Community Professional & MVP

          Wow, where did you find that old tutorial.


          The secret is in the compositing and the Roto more than the technique.  Magic happens with blend modes. I can guarantee you that ILM had more than two layers. About 1 million years ago when I last did a light saber the composition ended up with about 10 or 12 layers including a couple of track mattes and several copies of the light saber blade.


          If you take a full resolution screenshot of your composition and paste it or drag it to the replay field on this forum we will have a better idea of pointing you in the right direction.

          • 2. Re: ILM Phantom Menace lightsaber method
            chrisw44157881 Level 4

            well you could make your own which would take decades or buy a $10,000 plugin or just download this free plugin


            free saber plugin

            VIDEO COPILOT | After Effects Tutorials, Plug-ins and Stock Footage for Post Production Professionals

            • 3. Re: ILM Phantom Menace lightsaber method
              Bushy162 Level 1

              Hi Rick,


              I wasn’t sure where you wanted me to post the screenshot of my composition, so here’s a link to a Wordpress blog which includes images:

              For Rick | THarryEvans


              Here is the original image:


              As you can see, I’ve experimented with blend modes.

              All have Add mode for the blades in the Pre-comp.

              But the Pre-comps have different modes over the image.


              This was done using the method you showed me (the video), and as you can see the lightsaber fans out at the top.

              I can send you the AE file if it helps. It accurately follows your tutorial.


              I’m all ears for advice on what blend modes to use.


              The common method involves rotoscoping a mask, and the adjustment layers do the rest.

              Your method doesn’t.

              Your method involves rotation, re-positioning, and scaling (of an entire Pre-comp, which contains the blades).

              Your method creates the fanning effect through re-scaling.

              However, this relies on the blade always being triangular (wider at the tip). See the problem?


              Your method involves Add mode for all layers.



              Now I’m totally open minded about which method to use.

              Your method of fanning is obviously preferable since it requires no rotoscoping which is a huge bonus.

              I’m willing to use either method, but it’s the look that concerns me.


              The common method looks really bad.

              I like ILM’s look.

              I want that.

              • 4. Re: ILM Phantom Menace lightsaber method
                Bushy162 Level 1

                What I'm wondering is whether the secret lies in tricks like alternating between Add and Normal:











                And whether Screen has a function to play. For example precomposing the blade/glow, and setting that whole comp to a totally different mode from what's inside it.

                But this is all guess work and I'm getting nowhere!

                Please, could you help,