6 Replies Latest reply on Jun 23, 2011 9:25 AM by Todd_Kopriva

    Lightsaber Effect - How do you think ILM did it?

    Bushy162

      I don't think any of us would disagree that the lightsabers made by people like Ryan Wieber look anything like the ILM lightsaber (lucasfilm).

       

      Let's look at this in a bit more detail..

       

      I'm going to ignore episodes 4-6 (1970) because they weren't made using technology, and so we can hardly expect to achieve those effects since we ARE using technology.

       

      So, the prequel series, episodes 1-3 (2000) are what I'm interested in.

       

      The Phantom Menace:

       

      Screen shot 2011-06-01 at 17.48.54.png

       

      These lightsabers are very organic looking. They seem to be made up of some sort of system that uses the "Add" transfer mode, NOT "screen", which I believe was using in the next two films.

      The colour on the sabers is pretty sophisticated - much more pleasing AND realistic than any "Color Correction" used in Lightsaber Tutorials for After Effects.

        • 1. Re: Lightsaber Effect - How do you think ILM did it?
          Bushy162 Level 1

          Attack of the Clones:

           

          Screen shot 2011-06-22 at 22.10.23.png

          Any organic look that was achieved in Phantom Menace was taken away in this film, in my opinion. Nevertheless, I would still prefer these lightsabers because they're richer and basically cooler.

           

          Notice how the glow isn't so see-through as in the Phantom Menace.

          And the core of the blade is clear and not jagged, which makes me think it was made using the "Screen" transfer mode.

          • 2. Re: Lightsaber Effect - How do you think ILM did it?
            Bushy162 Level 1

            Revenge of the Sith:

             

            Screen shot 2011-06-22 at 22.19.17.png

            Screen shot 2011-06-22 at 22.21.25.png

            The glow is even more kind of CGI fake looking than Attack of the Clones. But who cares about that. In my opinion, these are the best looking.

            • 3. Re: Lightsaber Effect - How do you think ILM did it?
              Bushy162 Level 1

              And then there's Ryan Wieber's version:

               

              Screen shot 2011-06-22 at 22.29.25.png

              These are awesome in their own way, but they're clearly not the same as those used in the prequel series of Star Wars.

               

              SO, MY QUESTION IS:

               

              Do you think that ILM the common method of starting with a white rectangle applying a fast blur to it (and a colour correction)?

               

              OR, would they have used a different method?

               

              What are your thoughts?

               

               

               

               

              Thanks for reading,

              Bushy162

              • 4. Re: Lightsaber Effect - How do you think ILM did it?
                Rick Gerard Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                I don't know the exact tools used but I guarantee that they did some motion tracking, some roto work (probably automatic because they can afford it) then added some blur and used blending modes to create the effect. They may have come up with their own Glow plug-ins but all glow's are generated by a blur applied to a shape through a blending mode.

                 

                The important thing here is not how they did it, because you are probably not using the same tools, but how can you recreate the effect as simply and as easily as possible. The technique that I demoed in the short video is my version of one demonstrated years ago by Alex Lindsay who is a friend of mine (who who also worked for ILM at one time). All digital compositing traces it's roots back to John Knoll who was one of the original designers of Photoshop and who also worked at ILM. It's all math applied to pixels.

                 

                Learn how Photoshop works with channels, colors, and blend modes then you'll be able to figure out how After Effects, or any compositing app works. Simply following tutorials that use a specific plug-in won't teach you much more than a possible use of the plug-in to achieve the demonstrated effect. Do some experimenting with the basics using nothing but blur, blend modes, and channel controls (levels, curves, etc) and you'll be well on your way to being an AE Guru. Then you can refine your eye and your technique so that all of your effects will be believable.

                • 5. Re: Lightsaber Effect - How do you think ILM did it?
                  Bushy162 Level 1

                  How long would it take to become a master at using blend modes? Are we talking a couple of weeks?

                  • 6. Re: Lightsaber Effect - How do you think ILM did it?
                    Todd_Kopriva Level 8

                    There are some good resources for learning about blending modes here and here.