EffectsLab tutorials: Lightswords
Authentic lightswords: dos and don’ts
Creating lightswords in EffectsLab is easy. The technical side of things is taken care of – all you need is some time and a steady mouse. However, there’s more to lightsword creation than technology. It also needs to look right.
There are two parts to any lightsword – the core, and the glow. Both need to be the right size and shape for the effect to be convincing. Complicating matters is that there is no ‘official’ lightsword style, as it has been endlessly tweaked over the years. Consequently, the final look is down to personal taste but there are still a few basic rules.
An important element of a convincing lightsword is the area where the core merges with the glow. You can smooth the join using the Core feather slider in EffectsLab (in Blade Glow attributes).
A value of 0 creates a hard edge:
For a lightsword this is a little harsh and draws too much attention to the core itself.
A value of 10 creates a much softer edge that blends the core and glow together:
This amount of feathering is far more convincing and subtle. The size of the lightsword will dictate how much feathering to use – a smaller lightsword will need less feathering.
The amount of glow coming off a lightsword varies with distance. Due to lightswords being inherently fictional, this does not always match what would be ‘realistic’.
EffectsLab has many glow controls, the most vital of which are the Size and Spread sliders. Size determines the overall width of the glow, while Spread alters the solidity of the glow. A careful balance of the two is needed for a convincing glow.
Below are examples of blade glow at different distances.
Perhaps the most common shot of a lightsword. A common mistake is to make the Spread too high and the Size too low, which results in a blocky and overlarge glow:
If the Size is too high and the Spread is too low, on the other hand, the glow will become washed out and difficult to see:
Instead, a good method is to adjust the Size to roughly the right width, and then slowly raise the Spread until you get the right kind of glow density. As usual, the end result is down to personal preference. Here is a viable example:
Shooting lightswords at long distance can be tricky. In reality the glow should probably become minimal, if visible at all. However, a brief glance at the arena fight in Attack of the Clones reveals that long distance lightsabers still have a surprisingly noticeable glow.
Again, you don’t want the glow too soft or too hard:
The glow needs to be relatively tight to the blade, but still be strong and clear:
For extreme close-ups, you have a little more creative freedom and can often exaggerate the glow in order to make the shot even more exciting. Mistakes can still be made, however.
The glow can get so large it overwhelms the composition of the shot, for example:
When a shot gets this close, you don’t want the Spread to get out of control, either. Even if your Size is to a suitable value, too much Spread can cause the edge of the glow to be too hard:
At this close distance the edge of the glow needs to be relatively soft, while still having a powerful glow:
A combination of a high Size value and only a low-medium Spread creates this soft-edged but strong glow.
When combined with a clash, the finished shot is extremely dramatic.