Spy101mb Tutorial

Flash Lightsabers and Rotoscoping

Anyone who's seen Star Wars has wondered what it would be like to hold a lightsaber. Hasbro toys aside, that's not going to happen for a good long while. But, Hey! They did it in the movie! Two words. Hollywood and Rotoscoping.

Rotoscoping is the process used to add those cool special effects to movies. To rotoscope a video, you go through a film clip frame by frame, editing each frame. Most people do this by using a program that divides the clip into several pictures (actually ALOT of pictures), then, using a standard image editing software, draw in their animations.

Unfortunately, things in the world cost money. Finding an inexpensive program to divy up your film is hard and puting all the frames back together is harder. However, if you've ever used the Embeded Video object in Flash, you've probably seen that you can go through the video frame by frame, without actually breaking it up. With this in mind, I'm going to show you how to rotoscope a lightsaber in Flash.

NOTE: Though the situation in Flash CS3 may be different, I know that, in Flash 8, you have to use Flash 5 to export to a .mov file. It is possible to overcome this limitation, but it takes a long time. I've found out that you can export a Flash project to many major video formats through the Export Movie option under the File menu.


Record your video clip and save it to a format that you can import into Flash. Adjust the documents width and height to match the clip's. Then, adjust the frames per second to get as close to possible as real life (mine usualy come out to about 24 fps). Also, Adjust the number of frames to account for the entire length of the clip. Now, lock that layer.


Create a new layer. Select every frame where your lightsaber is on screen. Right click and select "Convert To Blank Key Frames". You should now have one key frame for every frame you will be editing. This will enable you to edit each frame of the video.


On the first blank key frame where your lightsaber blade appears, draw a white rectangle. Drag each corner of the rectangle to the appropriate corner of the blade (fig 1).

fig 1

Repeat this step for every key frame. I know, this may seem like a lot of draging and stuff, but it's the most effective and good looking way to rotoscope.


Select all all frames in the lightsaber layer, right click, and select "Cut Frames". Create a new movie clip (ctrl + F8). Right click the firts frame of Layer 1 (automatically created) and select "Paste Frames". It's now time to position this movie clip. Create a new layer within the movie clip and draw a rectangle. Color does NOT matter. All that matters is that the size matches that of the video clip and that it is positioned in the same way as the video clip relative to the light saber blade.


Return to the main timeline. Drag the lightsaber movie clip onto the stage and set the position to 0,0. This means that the large rectangle you drew will match up with the video clip. Double click the rectangle to ente the movie clip's timeline. Delete the layer containing the rectangle. Test your movie (ctrl + enter). You should see a white blade instead of the ligtsaber blade you actually had.


Now it's time to add that well known lightsaber glow. In the main timeline, select the lightsaber movie clip. Open the filters tab. Add a "Glow" filter. Adjust the settings to the ones in Figure 2.

Fig 2

Now, add another Glow filter. Adjust the settings to match those in Figure 3.

Of course, you can change the color property to change the color of the lightsaber. Just remember to change the color in BOTH glow filters or else yourlightsaber will look weird.

That's it. If you test your movie now you should see yourself (or whoever is in your video) holding a lightsaber.

Below, you can see my example. I also added a little laser bullet being deflected. Have fun! May the force be with you!

(NOTE: If it seems like theblade above is off time with the video refresh the browser.)