Overlapping lightsabers

I've been having great fun experimenting with Express over the last two weeks and have now moved on to experimenting with lightabers. I've watched the tutorial and I'm happy with the results I'm getting on a single lightsaber, but I'm now working on some fight footage which has 2 sabers in it, where both sabers cross over each other i.e. each saber appears on front of and behind the other saber within the same shot. I aim to do so work on it tonight, but before I start I wondered if anyone can suggest a simple/obvious way to make them appear in front and behind each other like that before I spend hours finding the least efficient way to do it?  8-|
Many thanks in advance for any help!


  • Make sure the lightsaber in front is above the other lightsaber on the timeline.  That's really about all there is to it.  If that doesn't seem to do it, please explain further what is going on (with pictures if you can), and we should be able to offer more suggestions.
  • Hi Axel, thanks for the response. My problem is that the "front" lightsaber becomes the "behind" lightsaber later in the shot. I've worked round it by just having one plane for when it's in front, switching to a new plane lower in the timeline for when it's behind. Seems to work OK.
    Thanks again.
  • Andrew, my guess is you're layering you elements a bit like this:
    and you are using opacity keyframes to switch between A UPPER and LOWER as needed. This actually is probably the best way to do it. However, for sake of completeness, there's another way to do it:
    You could start with one copy of SABER A and use the razor tool to split it whenever you need A behind B, then split again when A is back in front of B. This will split A into short segments you can drag up and down the layer stack as needed.
    The advantage to how I think you set up your tracks is that you keep your sabers on three layers. The disadvantage is that you don't have a clear "at a glance" indication of what layer if A is active without twirling open track properties to see keyframes.
    The advantage of splitting A into segments is that you can see at a glance which segment is active. The disadvantage is that, especially if it's a long shot with a fast flurry of blows, you can end up with a lot of segments, and a long layer stack.
    But, whichever works best for you. :-)
    Another note: I haven't tried this myself yet, but, I think for scenes without a lot of fast saber moves, you can use two single point trackers to track each end of the saber, add a grade layer with the lightning effect, assign your tracked points to the start and end points of the lightning, then adjust lightning settings till you have a straight bar. This can work if, say, you have a dialog scene where the sabers are not moving much. For faster moves (combat) you'll have to roto your plane, but this lightning trick might save you time on some shots.
    On the Support section of this site there is a tutorial by Tooshka Training titled "Procedural Audio Waveforms." In that tutorial, Tooshka goes over the settings you need to change to turn lightning into a straight bar (except turning "number of branches" to 0), and to change lightning color for different sabers.
  • Thanks Michael, that's really helpful! I actually went for your alternate approach as I hadn't realised you can keyframe on opacity. Fortunately there aren't too many overlaps in the footage and so the segmentation approach hasn't been too unwieldy, but I think I'll definitely try the former approach in the future (at the moment I'm just playing/experimenting with a 20 second clip of my 2 boys sword-fighting, but I'm hoping to expand into something longer and more complex once I'm more comfortable with the software)
    On a vaguely related note, I've seen examples from others where there's a burst of light when 2 sabers make contact with each other. Is there a particular effect which can be used to accomplish this, or is it best just to create an additional small (probably circular) mask between the saber layers and apply neon glow?
    Thanks again!
  • There are several Lightsword Clash presets in the Light Flare effect.  Alternately you could build your own using the same technique as for lightsaber blades, with a more circular spiky shape.
  • I am brand spanking to this and reading this is making my head swim. Any hope of a tutorial video on this?


  • @iJediEditor ; This may be the tutorial you are searching for.


    There should be several more that pop up to the side as well but I think this is closer to what you asked about.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @iJediEditor this thread predates Hitfilm's Lightsword effect and is referring to an older method of lightsaber creation involving hand animated planes.

    That said, Lightsword is a 2D effect, and to alternate which saber is in front you'll need to do a little extra work.

    First, just set up your lightswords and finish the basic animation. Each lightsword needs to be its own layer. Once you've animated both layers, you'll need to go back to the bottom of the two (the saber that starts behind) and use the slice tool to split the layer when the back saber crosses to the front. You'll move the sliced bit a couple layers up (so it becomes the top layer). When this saber moves back behind, slice it again and move the layer back down. Continue till done.

    Tedious and a bit repetitive, but it shouldn't take too long. 

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