Saga Lightsaber Ignition Speeds

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by SlashMan, Oct 31, 2013.

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  1. SlashMan Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2012
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    This is something really obscure that I noticed; throughout the Saga, the lightsabers ignite at different speeds! The best example is in Empire, when Luke's blade shoots out quickly, but Vader's ignites slowly:

    This has been done since A New Hope: Anakin's lightsaber ignited quickly, while Ben's was slow.

    This a really minor detail, but it had to be done with intention. I think behind the scenes, it's simply a style choice (more of a necessity in the PT). Not sure if there is an in-universe explanation.
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  2. timmoishere Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2007
    star 6
    In ANH, it was just due to the fact that they had to pause the camera while a "lit" blade was placed in Alec's hand and then had the camera restart.

    In ESB, it was because Prowse had to rotate his blade towards the camera in order to catch the light and make it appear like it was igniting in his hand.

    In the prequels, the saber blades were done with a computer, so the ignition speeds were more consistent.

    In-universe, there's no real explanation, so all we can go with is that since each lightsaber is custom-made by the user, they have different characteristics.
    Last edited by timmoishere, Oct 31, 2013
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  3. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    Er, the Force did it?

    That makes sense - although given the fact that they had to make the ignition slow in certain cases, you'd think they'd make it consistent. Luke's (Anakin's) saber ignites like a light switch, Obi-Wan's looks like it's being winched out.
    In-universe, you'd expect Vader's to operate much the same as Anakin's, just as the hilts are extremely similar (as opposed to Obi-Wan's).

    In the PT, Maul's dual blades ignite relatively slowly, IIRC - dramatic effect, I guess.
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  4. Lars_Muul Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 2, 2000
    star 6
    The lightsaber picks up the mood of its wielder ;)





    - This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight.
    - You Jedi are far too reckless.

    /LM
    Last edited by Lars_Muul, Nov 1, 2013
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  5. Anakin's Daddy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 13, 2002
    star 4
    It just depends on how they hold the ignite button. A quick tap and it ignites fast. Hold it down hard and it ignites slowly. ...Just my explanation anyway!
  6. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    Jun 28, 2001
    star 9
    You have to remember that in the OT, ILM was still feeling its way through things. A lot of the ignitions were occurring off screen. When they were animating it on screen, the result was a slower extension of the blade. ROTJ got around that by just having the blade appear when ignited and only retract when it was being shut down. As I said in a different thread, "Spaceballs" was the first movie to feature a light blade that extended and retracted consistently and that was done by John Dykstra, who didn't have to rely on a metal rod to create the blades. By the PT, the use of computers to draw the blades made all the difference in the world.


    Indeed. That's the first time he ignites both. But when he does later to fight Qui-gon and then Obi-wan, it was pretty quick.
  7. SlashMan Jedi Grand Master

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    Feb 5, 2012
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    Even when they weren't shown onscreen there was still a difference in sound effects as well; a long sound would not be used for the immediate ignition of Luke/Anakin's lightsaber.
  8. Sarge Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 4, 1998
    star 4
    My theory: sabers can be ignited nearly instantaneously when necessary, but that's not good for them. Like most pieces of equipment, they last longer and are more reliable if they are allowed a moment to warm up before they run at full power. I hope nobody here starts up a car on a cold morning and instantly mashes the accelerator to the floor; that's a good way to make sure your engine dies before the warranty runs out. You should always give equipment a chance to warm up, let the heat work its way through and expand all the metal to its normal operating temperature before you go full blast. Take care of your equipment, and your equipment will take care of you.

    (I was an aircraft mechanic for 14 years. It really bugs me when people abuse equipment.)
  9. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2001
    star 9

    The difference between the two sounds in the OT, was to denote the one was Anakin's and one was Luke's. Vader's saber was consistent in TESB and ROTJ. In AOTC, TCW and ROTS, it was just mixed up at almost random intervals. TPM is the only one where it is consistent with the OT.
  10. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    Sep 2, 2012
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    Anakin doesn't use a saber in TPM though. Are we thinking of Obi-Wan's?
  11. timmoishere Force Ghost

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    Jun 2, 2007
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    Let's also remember that the lightsaber that Obi-Wan uses in TPM isn't the same one he uses in the other movies.
  12. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2001
    star 9

    I was talking about Obi-wan, Qui-gon and Maul's saber ignition sounds being consistent with the sounds in ANH and TESB. In ROTS, when Obi-wan ignites his saber twice on the bridge of the Invisible Hand, it is the same sound that Luke's saber made in ROTJ. Same with Anakin. AOTC and ROTS were the only films to be inconsistent with the sounds the sabers make.
  13. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    The sound of ignition varies quite a bit, too.

    I guess, in the examples you highlight, the contrasting ignition speeds show the mindset of the characters quite well:

    In ANH, Ben is very calm when facing Vader, prepared to go to his death, knowing stuff about the Force that Vader doesn't. In TESB, Vader is the calm one against Luke, having set a trap for Luke, with Luke now champing at the bit to prove his lack of fear and -- misplaced -- male heroic virtue.
  14. HevyDevy Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 13, 2011
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    Good point Cryo.
    I just wanted to add that when Anakin lights his saber in front of the younglings its a fittingly fast and harsh toned ignition. And like has been mentioned you can see Luke's impetuousness in the ignition when facing Vader in ESB.
  15. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2001
    star 9
    It's a piece of equipment. It isn't about their emotions. When Anakin ignites in the Council chambers, it is the Sith sound that was used by Burtt as an audio cue that Anakin is evil. Just as when Grievous ignites his sabers earlier, they also sound like Sith sabers, even though they're Jedi sabers. It has nothing to do with emotional states of being.
  16. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    I do like to get nitpicky with Star Wars sometimes, but oh man...lightsaber ignition speeds and inconsistent sound effects? I think that is too much for me [face_hypnotized]
  17. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    Maybe, but I think it's a relevant discussion in terms of the behind-the-scenes development of the lightsaber FX & the visual impact, as well as in-universe tech.

    It's one of the most iconic weapons in cinema history, after all.;)
  18. CommanderDrenn Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2013
    star 4
    It ignites slowly, in my opinion. for dramatic effect. The awesome villains' sabers will ignite more slowly to show off their power. Luke ignites his quickly to have a defense.
    Another notable Lightsaber thing is that Sith and Jedi make different noises upon ignition, sometime, at any rate.
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