Creating Lightsabers in Motion

By Conor O'Sullivan

Step 1: Starting the Effect

Hello, hello, hello. I am here to bring you my first Apple Motion tutorial, and my first tutorial ever, so bare with me. I am going to instruct you on how to make your very own lightsaber effect in Motion.

Before I begin, you will need some kind of clip to work with. I suggest you head to Target and buy one of those cheap toy lightsabers or you could easily just use a rod. The indication of a handle is key when you are rotoscoping (working frame-by-frame.) If you have a handle, you will know where to start the blade each time. Hopefully, if you do everything correctly as instructed from the tutorial, you will get something along these lines.

As you can see, this closely replicate the lightsabers ILM (Industrial Light and Magic, the effects team that worked on Star Wars.) Though mine are not perfeect replicas, I like them better and you can easily replicate ILM's sabers if you mess around with the settng more and play with tip curves and whatnot. I do not cover this, but if you look up masks in your Motion manual, I assure you you will figure out how to make a curved line in between two points on a mask.

If you do not have any footage I have provided some footage located here (control click, save link as/download linked file) for you to start working with. It is a little compressed, but still just as easy to work with.

The first thing you want to do is obviously import a clip, select the "File Browser" tab and in the viewer, browse your hard drive until you find your clip. Once that is done, drag the clip into the main frame and use the yellow guides to center your clip.

Now set your project up so that the layers and the timeline both show. Some parts of the tutorial use the timeline where you can deal with the layers window.This is only possible if the effect doesn't involve time, such as applying the glows.

Now, go to View>Overlays>And uncheck dynamic guides. These are the yellow lines you saw when importing your clip that align everything. These guides make rotoscoping impossible because each corner of the saber snaps to certain points when you are traying to rotoscope them to your physical lightsaber.

Next, go to the top-left corner of your screen and select the library tag. Select the content folder and drag the file: White Square.psd into the viewer just like you did to your first clip, but this time it doesn't fit.(Left) So, all you need to do is drag all of the corners so the white box fills the screen completely. Your viewing area should now be all white.

Next, at the top of the screen, select the drop down looking like this and choose the mask type selected or "Bezier."

Next you need to simply click 4 points in the viewer, and once you get to the last point, you need to click the point you started with to complete the mask.

After clicking the point on the mask to complete it, it should look like this. Later, this, or a copy of this, will be the core of the lightsaber. Drag the corners around to fit your saber, and even if fanned like this one is, roto to those points because when it is in motion it will look motion blurred. If you watch the Star Wars films as carefully as I do, you will notice that they do this as well.

Now you will be rotoscoping. This is the long and boring part. If you do not do it frame-by-frame, it wont be accurate at all. If you want results worth looking at, you will have to go through this painstaking process. Luckily I provided you with a short clip so it should not take too long. You have to rotoscope as well as you think you can because once you decide to apply the glow, you can not go back unless you choose to delete the glow, so it would be a waste of time applying it in the first place.First, to start rotoscoping, go to your first frame and click record. Click on the corners and drag them to their places. If it is already in the correct spot, still click a corner to set the first keyframe.

Now, as you frame over one by selecting the timeline and hitting your right arrow key once, the saber obviously moves. So, adjust the points so they fit as perfectly as you can. If it isn't exact though, you will not be able to see it in motion, but if all of your frames are inaccurate, you will, so do it as correctly as you can while still making good speed. Sometimes if you do plop the points just past the corners and do it quickly, your rotoscoping time will be cut down significantly and it will still look decent. Just find a rythm and stick with it.

Another way to make rotoscoping more accurate is to uncheck the white square in the timeline.Once that is done all you will see is the mask and you will be able to see the physical lightsaber through it so you can make sure it is fully covered, thus making it more accurate. It should now look like this:

Finish up your rotoscoping and then continue onto step 2. This is where you will complete the rotoscoped core and it will look like the final product.


Step 2: Completing the Effect

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