Lightswords


HitFilm provides the most efficient and high quality method for creating lightsword effects, reducing the rotoscoping requirements and automating key visual elements such as the motion blur 'streak'.

Close-up

There are three lightsword effects, depending on the needs of your VFX shot.

Lightsword (2-Point Auto) provides a rapid method requiring the placing of a point on the hilt and a point on the blade tip. Once these points are rotoscoped to the movement of the lightsword blade, HitFilm will automatically calculate the appropriate motion blur.
Lightsword (4-Point Auto) allows precise positioning, with two points defining the edges of the hilt and two points defining the edges of the blade tip.
Lightsword (Glow Only) applies the effect's custom glow behavior to any layer, without providing an interface for easy lightsword generation. This is useful for creating other neon and laser effects.

All three effects share the same general properties:

Hilt & tip

The hilt and tip positions can be set inside the effect, or linked to a reference layer via the Position menu. This makes it possible to link the shape to auto-tracked points.

The width of the hilt and tip can be set separately, which can be useful for creating perspective on the blade or creating tapered shapes.

Extension

The lightsword extension can be animated to create the 'ignition' animation, whereby the lightsword blade extends out of the hilt, or contracts back in.

Core

The core is the central part of the effect which directly covers the prop blade. The width of the core can be adjusted, as can the feathered edge.

Lowering the stability causes the core shape to fluctuate in size.

Inner and outer glow

Two glows a built-in to the effect. This makes it possible to create an intense inner glow, with a low width so that it is close to the core, and a wider, diffuse, less bright outer glow.

The glow width and alpha (brightness) can be adjusted. As with the core, the inner glow's stability can be lowered to vary the size of the glow over time. The flicker setting retains the shape of the glow while adjusting its brightness.

Path interpolation

During rapid movement the hilt and tip will fan out, creating a trail. Path interpolation is used to create a natural curve along the hilt and tip ends.

Reducing the scale to zero will remove all interpolation, resulting in straight lines drawn at the hilt and tip ends of the blade. Increasing the scale will create interpolation and curved ends.

The Hilt and Tip angles can be used to further customize the interpolated curve at each end of the shape.

Motion Persistence

The 2-point Auto version automatically creates the streaking of a fast-moving lightsword based on the movement of the points. The appearance of the streaking can be customized to match the source footage.

HitFilm automatically attempts to create a natural trail shape based on the movement of the hilt and tip points, based on the expected behaviour of a blade in motion.

The duration of the trail is determined by the motion persistence. Increasing the value will cause the trail to remain visible for more frames, thus creating a larger trail. Reducing the value will create a smaller trail.

Note that motion persistence is restricted by the Auto Scale Persistence properties, if Auto Scale is activated (see below).

Persistence Shift

Persistence Shift adjusts the interpolation in time. This adjusts the trail to be either in front (1.0), behind (0.0) or in the middle (0.5) of the control point positions. At the default of 0.0 this means that on frames containing fast moving blades you should position the control points on the leading edges of the blade.

Auto Scale Persistence

Auto Scale provides additional control over the generation of the persistence trail, determining when the trail is generated. These settings can be used to match the trail to the natural motion blur found in your footage, which may vary depending on your camera settings.

The Speed and Swing thresholds can be used to restrict the activation of motion persistence. Below the thresholds, the shape will be drawn without the trail. This ensures that the blade does not look indistinct when being moved slowly. As soon as the speed and swing thresholds are exceeded, the trail will be generated according to the motion persistence setting.

The Minimum Persistence property generated a trail even if the thresholds are not met. Setting this to 0.0 ensures the blade shape is defined solely by the core, hilt and tip properties. Raising the value will generate a blur trail even during minor movements.

Disabling Auto Scale Motion switches to only using the Motion Persistence property. Therefore the trail will always be generated even during small movements. A high Motion Persistence value combined with Auto Scale turned off will create a long, unnatural trail. Increasing the motion persistence over 180 can create extreme streaking. This isn't suitable for lightsabers but can be an interesting effect in its own right.

Distortion

A noisy, irregular edge can be applied to the shape by increasing Distortion. If Distortion is reduced to 0 the edge will be regular and smooth.