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Lightsaber Choreography Video

Discussion in 'Fan Films, Fan Audio & SciFi 3D' started by kapnkutt, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. kapnkutt

    kapnkutt Jedi Youngling

    Feb 16, 2014

    Over the chrismas holidays we made a short star wars light saber choreography.
    We train filipino stick fighting and overall a mix from classical to modern martial arts. We were interested how we would approach a star wars choreography. One character fights two handed and overall moves alot with the flow and comes in in round motions, but has a tendency to the break this pattern for a more aggressive behaviour.
    The other character uses a mostly modern stick fighting approach, single and double saber, doing more fast direct hits.

    I really like the footwork, attack patterns etc we put into it, but dont expect fancy trick jumping and things like that, thats maybe a topic for another video. :)

    Here is the Video:

    How we did it:
    I wrote a script; we made a brief backstory for the characters and decided how they would fight depending on that.
    The choreo was done in about 6 short sessions (~1 hour each), i spent a little more time at home training movements i am not used to. (I am a slow learner.)
    In our final choreo session we did a video story board in the end to figure out minor tweaks and updated the storyboard for shooting (In the end the video storyboard on a laptop would have been enough i think). Then we went filming for about 3,5 hours. Everything was pretty straight forward.
    The post-production was a gruesome process with thousands of keyframes, as you can probably figure out .. Post was ALOT of work for such a short video. :)

    And here are some outtakes, you can see how it looks without VFX and get more of a feeling how we have been working on the choreography:

    Thanks for watching and sharing :)
    Darth Maul Apprentice likes this.
  2. Darth Maul Apprentice

    Darth Maul Apprentice Jedi Knight star 4

    Jan 27, 2014
    Cool. We're you using wood for your light sabers?
  3. kapnkutt

    kapnkutt Jedi Youngling

    Feb 16, 2014
    hey thanks for your interest:

    for training we normally use rattan sticks:

    The Inside is a bit like a sponge so it absorbs alot of the hit, it makes training a little bit more safe then hardwood. it doesnt break bone that fast etc.
    people even have friendly competition fights with those things while wearing fencing masks; you can look up some "dog brothers" on youtube,

    But those mostly come in 65cm and so far i didnt got longer ones.
    I didnt do alot of research. i just guessed lightsabers at about 90 cm and went to the local hardware store, bought plastic installation pipes for water and gave it a go. ..we did one training session with those to get used to the feel and range and they worked quite well.

    At shooting day i got hit a couple of times on the hand, i swelled and bloodied up a bit, but pretty much the same would have happend with our usual rattan sticks. But we found out those pipes break down in splinters after like a random amount of hard hits. that sucked ... you can see it in the outtakes video i posted above.

    And the green color wasnt great. It reflected alot of light on everything, that sucked too in numeros occasions...espacially for masking them out (when the sabers are not extended) -> So i had to track extra masks with secondary color corrections and stuff like that.

    The saber hilt was a problem also: I had to work out masks and similar stuff in close ups, since i just tennis taped the end: In the post production I really missed having a good looking light saber hilt. i should have just spend like half a day working something out with light metal etc.

    A good hilt and either a transparent "saber" , or one of those glowing sparring sabers you can buy for ~400$ could have spared even more time in keyframing i think:
    A couple of days after I finshed the video, i was curious how else i could have done the post-production (since it took me so long), and i found a good way to extract the color of the saber on a separate layer as alpha mask -> blur it a little and put effects like glow on it.Its just a prototype but I guess that could be a more post friendly solution, but i would need one of these glowing custom light sabers to say that for sure. ... but Iwould still have to postion particels / lens flares / whatever - frame by frame ...unless it works to track the start and end postion of the saber with lets say tape; and automate a clonestamp to hide it and use those as tracking markers. (if lighting and shutter speed is good)
    I would need more time and equipment to make tests and say that for sure.

    also i found out the shutter speed suggested for after effects motion blur didnt work for me, since I sometimes twirl the saber alot faster then you usally see (i am still learning alot about weapon fighting and sparring but i am starting to get more fluid and faster) ... anyway... I had to put it the shutter speed in AFX on a very low value.

    Also our 7D DSLR Camera went accidently on auto settings during filming, so the shutter speed went from like 1000 (for very sharp frames) to a very low value. that sucked :)
    all my fast movements have been very blurry, that cost me also more time during post production.

    I would love to do it again in a project with 48fps as end product, some slow-mo scenes, a bit of stunts / trick jumping, more VFX (particels, cutting enviroment up), proper acting, sound equipment, outfits , etc. (and maybe find a way to get a good kick in, but its hard: lowkicks and frontpush kicks make sense when placed at the right moment, but anything fancy will basicly cut your leg of...but i am still thinking and trying things... )

    damn i should have posted all that in the " HOW TO MAKE LIGHTSABERS 2.0 " thread that i just realized it exists :)
    but in the end, its great to have some accidents and just give it ago without reading how other people do it, since its the greates learning process :)
  4. Darth Maul Apprentice

    Darth Maul Apprentice Jedi Knight star 4

    Jan 27, 2014
    Thanks for the info.
  5. WhiteKnight99

    WhiteKnight99 Jedi Knight

    Sep 28, 2012
    Wow. When I watched the first video, I thought it was... better than most first time lightsabers (certainly better than mine), but it didn't really make me go 'Wow'. Then I watched the behind the scenes and read the other comments. I don't think I've ever seen anyone paint out the blade of a retracted saber. The amount of work that you must have put into that is still blowing my mind. My hat is off to you sir.

    That being said...

    When it comes to props, most choreographers will tell you; if you are swinging hard enough to break them, you are swinging too hard. Way too hard. I know coming from a martial arts background, there is a tendency to want to put a realistic amount of force into your blows, but this is movie making. You aren't actually trying to harm the other person (at least I hope not). I may sound like a bit of a spoil-sport, but the last thing you want is an unpredictable bit of flying, sharp, broken off blade doing its best interpretation of Murphy's Law. Wood, PVC, and aluminium, the staples of homebrew lightsabers, all have their own ways of failing that would usually come with a "always wear eye protection" warning label. Even high quality polycarbonate or carbon fiber blades aren't indestructible.