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TUTORIAL: Chromanator Misc: Creating the TRON glow

Posted: Tue, 10th Aug 2004, 1:36pm

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Simon K Jones

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Chromanator Tutorials: Chromanator Misc

Creating the TRON glow

The 1982 movie TRON remains a cult favourite, not least for its highly innovative and groundbreaking visual effects, many of which are still impressive today. As one of the few 80s films to pioneer the use of CG it holds an important place in the history of special effects.

And so here is a tutorial showing how to create the unique ‘TRON glow' effects using Chromanator…

Filming
The techniques used in this tutorial will presume that you have filmed footage in the same manner that TRON was filmed. By designing sets and costumes that used only black and white, the effects technicians were able to turn the white markings into the glowing ‘circuitry' as seen in the movie. Thanks to Chromanator you are not restricted to filming in black and white or only using monochrome sets, but you will still need to design high contrast areas to represent the circuitry.

Defining the lines
The guys working on TRON had the unenviable task of having to manually mask every single frame and paint in the glow essentially by hand. With digital compositing this is no longer necessary.

The first thing to do is create a matte for the glow, based on the original clip.

In addition to the clip, we also need a simple green card to place behind the image. This can be created in any image application such as Photoshop. Be sure to make it large enough to fill the frame.

  • Place the clip and the green card onto the timeline, with the clip on top.

  • Select the clip and switch to the Object View by pressing F2.

In this example, we only want the glow to affect the black lines on the suit, not the black surroundings of the image. So we need to specify the costume's shape:

  • A garbage matte can be used to isolate the costume from the background.

  • Inverting the garbage matte will ensure that everything except the costume is removed.

This matte also needs to be applied to the green card.

  • Save the garbage matte as a preset.
  • The preset menu can be displayed by clicking to the right of the ‘Mask Inspector' heading.

  • Switch back to the Project View.
  • Select the green card and switch to Object View.
  • Load the preset.

This will apply the costume shape to the green card as well.

  • Now switch back to the main clip's Object View and go to the Key -> Key toolset.
  • Select the Luminosity Key then use the tool's pipette to select the black. This will allow the green to show through the dark areas of the costume.

You may find that using the Super Contrast tool in the Key Grade toolset enhances the blacks, enabling a better key.

By applying a Box Blur Alpha of just 1, to smooth the edges of the key, you will find that you already have a primitive TRON glow. However, there isn't much actual glow yet.

The glow
We now want to render the clip with the green showing through. This will create a new clip that we can use to create additional glow elements.

Simply set up your in and out points and render the clip, then re-import it.

Place the new glow clip above the others.

  • The next step may be easier if you turn off the two lower tracks using the green LEDs to the left of the timeline, so that you are only viewing the glow clip.

Switch to the Object View and select the Colour Difference Key from the Key -> Key toolset.

  • Select green from the tool's drop-down menu and key out the green from the costume.
  • It may help to increase the green's saturation in the Key Grade section.
  • Finally invert the key so that the green is all that remains.

Switch back to the Project View and display the glow clip's properties.

  • Change the Composite Mode to ‘Add'.

Return to the Object View and go to the Effects toolset.

  • Select the Box Blur RGBA tool and apply a blur of 40.

Go back to the Project View and copy the glow clip, then paste another two copies directly above it.

  • In the top glow clip, change the blur to 2.
  • In the second glow clip, change the blur to 15.

The combination of the three glow clips at different blur strengths will have created a nice green aura.


You can now turn on the other layers to complete the effect.

  • You can alter the colour of the circuitry and even the individual glow elements using the Hue Shift tool in the Grading toolset.
  • Lowering the brightness on the main costume clip can make the glow appear brighter.

Through careful use of masking and garbage mattes you can apply different glows to different parts of the image, building it up piece-by-piece to achieve some really beautiful effects:

All images from TRON are property of the Walt Disney Company. See http://www.tron-sector.com/ for a good source of images and TRON-related information.

Posted: Tue, 10th Aug 2004, 5:17pm

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Serpent

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Holy hell! Keep 'em up! That rules. I couldn't ever figure half of this stuff out with out you Tarn.
Posted: Tue, 10th Aug 2004, 6:39pm

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CoolKabe

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That's just really, really, awesome... eek

-Amazed,
Adam twisted
Posted: Tue, 10th Aug 2004, 11:28pm

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Waser

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im speechless.......I.uh...AAAAAAAAAAAA
Posted: Mon, 16th Aug 2004, 10:48pm

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Katsu

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Yes! Thats it! I`ll buy chromy next month ^^
Thx Tarn *hug*
Posted: Mon, 16th Aug 2004, 11:38pm

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Aculag

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Sweeeet. I'm still wanting to make a Tron film, Tarn... This is a good inspiration.
Posted: Tue, 17th Aug 2004, 8:08am

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Simon K Jones

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I hope someone does make a TRON film, because I really, really want to see this effect in motion. For the tutorial I was unable to find any motion clips to work on, and I didn't have the time to film my own stuff - I get the feeling it would look amazing, though.
Posted: Tue, 17th Aug 2004, 9:38pm

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Underdog Productions

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Amazing stuff! Just one question. Would you have to draw a garbage matte around the actor for every single frame?
Posted: Tue, 17th Aug 2004, 9:42pm

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Simon K Jones

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It depends how you film the shots. If you filmed them on actual 'sets', as in the photos in the tutorial, then you would have to, yes.

However, it would be far wiser to film the actors against a greenscreen, which would enable you to cut them out automatically. Then you could simply composite them onto the set.

It would all depend on the shot. If it were a still shot, this would be the best method and would look great - you could effectively 'paint' the set in post production; it would never need to exist in real life (for the TRON film they only actually built a couple of sets fully, including the tank cockpit seen at the top of the tutorial - the rest were all black sets, which were then drawn onto using various techniques). If you wanted a moving camera shot, however, it would be a little trickier without either a lot of effort or a motion control rig. Matching up a moving greenscreen shot with a moving shot of the set would be tough - and it would probably prove easier to film the actor on a proper set and matte him manually.

To do a TRON-style film would require quite extensive storyboarding and planning, so that you knew exactly what was required for each shot. That way you could minimise the the time required, and schedule extra time for the trickier shots.
Posted: Thu, 19th Aug 2004, 1:46pm

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Klut

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eek ............. Tarn. You're a genious.
Posted: Wed, 1st Sep 2004, 10:31pm

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Katsu

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Bought Chromy today (as promised by the way biggrin ) and this tut was the first thing I tried.




Made them in a few minutes (thx again tarn for this superb tutorial).
I guess if I would spend a little more time with it, it even would look better smile
Posted: Thu, 2nd Sep 2004, 1:51am

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Katsu

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It`s really possible biggrin
And I`m kinda proud, that I am the one who will show it to you ^^
Enjoy biggrin
http://people.freenet.de/katsuro/tron.avi <- small version
http://cpostudios.com/New.avi <- bigger version (thx to serpent again smile )

This a Tron clip from the pre-productions of the movie. I found it on Tron-Sector.com.
The clip itself was in really poor quality, so it wasn`t that easy to use the tutorial. In fact I did the same like I did with the picture but without the garbage matte part.

Last edited Sun, 5th Sep 2004, 12:29pm; edited 2 times in total.

Posted: Thu, 2nd Sep 2004, 1:56am

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Serpent

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Not bad, though a higher res. close shot, not thin screen, and on a better background would be better. smile But I'd like to see this used ina film. I will do it in my next BIG project.

EDIT: I didn't read that last part of your post, you will prbably make it better. smile
Posted: Thu, 2nd Sep 2004, 2:00am

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Katsu

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Serpent wrote:

EDIT: I didn't read that last part of your post, you will prbably make it better. smile
I hope so ^^
I guess if I shoot my footage in front of a greenscreen, I can edit it easier than this clip.
Sorry for the low rez, but i can load up only 1,5 MB at once....
Posted: Thu, 2nd Sep 2004, 2:04am

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Serpent

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I can host small files for people I don't know, like 5 megs.
Posted: Thu, 2nd Sep 2004, 9:25am

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Katsu

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Update:
This video is a little bigger. Many thx to Serpent for hosting this version biggrin

http://cpostudios.com/New.avi
Posted: Thu, 2nd Sep 2004, 9:28am

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Simon K Jones

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That's pretty cool! Obviously hampered by the low quality of the original footage, but it certainly proves the concept. Nice one. smile
Posted: Mon, 1st Nov 2004, 3:16pm

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Katsu

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Just to show you how easy it is:

http://people.freenet.de/katsuro/testing.avi

I could do it better I guess smile
Maybe I´ll try today... or tomorrow ^^°