Adobe After Effects – Light Saber using Masking

As part of the VFX section of the course, we were introduced to the Adobe After Effects software used for video editing.  Using prerecorded footage we were to learn the masking technique to enable us to produce a light saber battle sequence, with a realistic glow resonating from the blade itself.

Firstly, we imported the footage kindly recorded by a group within the other Next Gen class.  Once highlighted, we then selected Layer > New > Solid…, to apply a white solid layer upon the footage.


Once the layer was applied, we wanted to edit it to become our mask.  This was achieved by highlighting it and accessing Mask > New Mask.


I then began manipulating the white mask to match the shape of the light saber blade by transforming the points situated on each vertex.  This can be made simpler by deselecting the mini eye symbol to the left of the layer and making the layer invisible.


This mask was then adjusted to match the blade for each frame of the footage, whilst also ensuring to toggle the mask path option by highlighting the little stopwatch to the left of it.


This would save the position of the mask for each frame, displaying these points on a timeline situated at the bottom right of the screen.


Once I had completed this, I then repeated the above process for the second light saber which appears midway through the sequence.  Also, making sure the layer was situated above the previously created mask, as this would be located in the foreground of the footage and in front of the other light saber.

Next, I create a two solid black layers, making sure they were located beneath each individual white mask layer creating earlier.  An example how the scene should appear is shown below (Before and After).

I also duplicated each solid white layer three additional times by selecting it and pressing “Ctrl + D“.  I then adjusted the mask feather to 20, reducing the figure by 5 for each additional layer to create an effect of an outer glow to the blade.

From this point, I highlighted all the layers for the first light saber and selected pre-compose to combine all the elements into a new composition.  Repeating the process for the second blade, leaving us with three layers as shown below.


Also, remembering to adjust the blending mode for the “red_light” and “blue_light” to screen.

The last process was to change the colour of each light saber to blue and red, or to any colour you desired.  This was achieved by selecting the require layer and accessing Effects > Colour Correction > Colour Balance, adjusting the RGB balance alongside their highlights, mid-tones and shadows.  My final settings are displayed below:


Once all these techniques were applied, it resulted in the footage below being displayed.


The footage I achieved was created in a lesson 45 minutes to and hour long, which I feel gives evidence that the speed in which I work is increasing.  Also, this was my first time using Adobe After Effects and am proud of the sequence I have produced, especially for a first attempt.

I feel the masking is slightly too wide for the blade on certain frames throughout the scene as I was worried that the original blade would be visible and ruin the effect.  This can be corrected if need be, by returning to the frames responsible and adjusting the shape of the mask to  a more desirable shape and size.



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