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Creating Lightsabers in Ulead
by Clay Kronke

This is for the Video Paint section of Ulead MediaStudio Pro (v. 5 or later). There are probably other ways to do lightsaber effects with this software, but this is the way I do it. Being the artist that I am, this is the method I prefer, but if you know of a better (or easier) way, by all means go for it (in other words, play around with the software - I'm not aware of its full capabilities).

This is just a general procedure for a lightsaber blade. I usually tweak mine a little more with more subtle layers, but this'll get you started (and when I say layers, I'm referring simply to layers of paint, not any kind of application setting - people who are used to Photoshop use an entirely different type of layer). You may already be familiar with the program (as in where all the tools and such are), but I'm going to assume you aren't, that way I don't leave out anything you might need. But first let me tell you that this method involves hand painting everything (no masks or object layers or such). In some instances (like when the blade is still), it's quicker than the Photoshop method, but for more complex frames, like with a motion blur or such, there may be a bit more work involved.

Open your clip up in Video Paint (File - Open - Video File, or the folder icon with the filmstrip in it). Pick the frame you want, maximize the window, then zoom in until the blade is large enough to see well (drawing itty bitty lightsabers is a pain).

Start with the white core of the blade. Use your brush tool (the default brush is what you want - no airbrushes or markers or anything like that), and open up the Brush Panel options box (the icon up top that looks like a folder with a paintbrush across it). On the first page is the size, shape and feather settings, and the second page has the apply method, brush type (freehand, line, etc) and transparency settings. I never use any of the stuff on the other two pages.

Make the brush really thin, and feather it about 45 - 50 (play around with the size, as it's dependent on the size of the image). Use the "Always" apply method (this is opaque), and use the straightline brush. Then just paint the blade where it needs to be. If it needs to be thicker (as in a motion blur or something)then just draw the shape you need and overlay more lines until you get it the right thickness and shape.

If you're making the blade longer than the saber you're using for reference (such as the Hasbro toys, like I used) then use the Onionskin mode, as this will allow you to see the paint layer of the previous couple of frames while you're working, so you can keep the blade length consistent. (there's an icon for it up top, or you can go to View - Display Mode - Onionskin)

Once you get the core painted (I usually do all the white first, that way I don't have to keep switching colors and apply methods), then you need to do the glow. I don't know of any glow effect, so I just paint the glow myself, that way I don't have to mess with masks or any of that other stuff.

Make your brush about three times as big as you did for the white, feather it about 70 - 75, and use the "Addition" or "Inverse of Multiple" apply methods (Addition will brighten the background color with the chosen color. This is best because it reacts like actual light would - in that when you have the blade over a really light area, if the glow is red, then it won't be darker than the background. Only problem is when the background is totally light, like an outdoor scene or in a white room, the color of the blade tends to disappear into a whitish color. Inverse of Multiple is similar to Addition, but it doesn't strictly add to the background, it changes it into the chosen color. It still won't make the glow any darker than the background, but it works a little better than Addition for really light backgrounds. Play around with both until you get something you like). When you get a good size, paint over the white blade with the color. You should get a semi decent glow (play around with the transparency depending on the color - you don't want it too bright). This is where I just start. I then go back, increase the size by twice, up the transparency about 10 or 15, then paint another layer. I do at least two layers of glow, as this feathers it out more, and makes a smoother transition from glow to background.

And if you're painting around a large shape, like in a motion blur, if it's small, one line ought to work. If it's a big triangle shape, then just draw around the edges. This usually works for me.

And once you get all the blades painted, you then need to do the contact flash. This is the only part where I wish I had Photoshop's plugins (namely, the lens flare). You can probably get by with a video filter, just brightening the frame a lot, but I prefer to paint mine freehand. Switch from line to freehand, make the size as big as it will go, feather it 75 and make the transparency about 65-75. Use the Addition apply method. I usually use the same color as I did for the red blade, as it brightens everything to a nice yellow, making it look more like light (I used white once, but that looked really fake). Then just start painting a blob around where the two blades come into contact. The more you paint, the brighter it will get, so make it really heavy around the blades, and progressively lighter towards the edges of the frame. Then do it again on the next frame, only half as much. Then do it again on the next frame, only do it really subtle so you almost can't see it.

Because you'll be working with so many separate elements (namely, all the frames), a good thing to do is to maximize your undo history. Go into File - Preferences, then under General, click "Enable Undo", and set the levels of undo/redo to 99. This will take up a little more of your memory, but it's worth it, as it allows you to go back and undo a lot if you find a mistake or an inconsistency without having to start over from your last saved project.

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