Making a Star Wars movie, and Luke and Vader are just about to have an epic stop-motion duel? Vader turns on his lightsaber ominously…but wait! The blade is a piece of red plastic! How to make it glow? You could use flashlights, but it would be inconsistent, and everything would glow. You could use AlamDV, but the hilt wouldn’t match up, and the program is about $80! My solution? Axogon Composer. You can download this great free program at bricksinmotion.com. On the site there is a detailed tutorial for making lightsabers, but the ones on the site are very simple, and don’t always look the most…realistic. They are great for beginners though, and that is the idea. But for Attack of the Drones, I wanted the most accurate sabers possible. I have carefully tweaked my saber effect a lot to the point where it looks almost like the ones in the movies. Instead of making you follow a long, drawn out tutorial with step by step instructions on how to make the saber, I’m making it simple; just download a single file, and follow a few simple instructions.
1. First, you need to download one of two files. File one has settings that make the lightsaber show best on dark backgrounds. File two shows up best on light backgrounds and medium backgrounds. If you aren’t sure, use file two. In Attack of the Drones, the duel was in a dimly lit room, with very dark backgrounds, so I used file two. File two won’t work on light backgrounds, because it has a special “lighten” filter on it that makes it less visible in lightened areas of the video. This is very useful for lightsaber clashes done with a flash light, because the dark colors of the saber automatically fade in the presence of the bright light. Download them here: FILE 1 FILE 2 Both are axogon composer project files. Open axogon, and open the file of your choie with it using file>load…
2.Once the file is loaded, click on the blue square that says “source” on it. This should bring up a window with a “browse” option. Load the video file that you want to add a lightsaber to.
Once you have opened the video file, click ok on both windows.
3.On the farthest down track, (track 6 for file one, track 9 for file two.) click the bluish-grey rectangle that says the track number on it. A small preview window of a blue saber floating over the video you loaded should pop up. On the small window, set it for full screen. It may look a bit stretched, that is OK. This is just preview mode. On the left side of the window, click on the button. This should make a visible white outline of the saber, with small points on it. Use the mouse to drag the INDIVIDUAL points to the corresponding edges of the saber in your video. If the angle does not match up, right click, and options should come up. Click on refine, and you will have better control over the curvature of the saber. Once the first frame is complete, use the RIGHT arrow button to move on to the next frame. Match the saber up again, point by point. Eventually, you will have the whole shot done. If your clip of video is over four seconds, you need to go to time > set active segment… and set the length to the number of seconds long the clip is. Then, stretch all the video tracks the full length of the clip. One the saber is matched up in every frame, you need to choose the color. To do this, click on the grey square that says “Aureole” on it. A window should pop up with a light blue rectangle. Click on the rectangle, and a color picker will come up. Choose the color you want the saber to be using the picker, then click ok on both windows. The effect is complete. Go to rendering>render options and get the settings and output location you want.
Note that the output file cannot save over the original, non-rotoscoped version, or you will get an error, and lose the original file. If you want the video to play once the rendering is complete, check the “Start External Viewer” box. Once you have the right settings, click render, and wait for it to complete the rendering. Happy rotoscoping!