I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do something Star Wars themed.


I decided I would do Rey and Kylo Ren fighting. I wanted to have lots of cool elements to my design. I wanted to show them fighting each other on Starkiller Base, with X-Wings and Tie-Fighters having a battle in the distance. I wanted it to look like a continuous battle, so that when it looped, you wouldn’t know when it looped. After a while you would get the idea that is was battle continuing on forever. 

As I began drawing the sketches, I realized that I could not quite visualize it on paper, and if I could not visualize it on paper how could I visualize it on screen? So I decided I would go with an idea that was a little easier. Since I struggled to draw my characters from the side, I decided I would draw them form the front. I decided I would draw Luke Skywalker from “A New Hope” practicing his lightsaber training with a remote droid. Soon I began to realize this would bring with it new challenges, such as: limb movement, and both hands on the lightsaber. I decided I would do my best then a new idea dawned on me: combine the new with the old. So I took that concept of Luke–with the same movements and everything–and chanhged the character to Rey. This complicated the design somewhat–now I’d have to add hair, a different tunic, and a different body shape. As I began to design Rey on Illustrator, I was happy with the helmet and face, but I was not happy with the arms and body. I took a step back and realized a few things: the arms were took skinny and short, the body was too skinny and long, and I was trying to create the whole body using shapes. I soon decided that I needed to go back to one of the earlier tools we learned in Illustrator: the pen tool.  The pen tool made a world of difference. I began drawing the shape of her body the way I intended it. Once I got to this point below, I was very happy and I knew this would turn out good. As you can see, I designed the draping tunics pieces from a striped square. I then used a warp mesh to give the illusion the tunic was draping over her body. Later, I would add a belt over the top.You can see in the image above that began designing the remote droid. I tried to mimic the look of all the shapes and the pattern found on the droid. At this stage I knew I would use the CC Sphere effect on this layer, inside of After Effects. I also knew that I would finish creating the blade in After Effects. 

In the image below, I finished the look of Rey. You can see that her left hand is fixed on the lightsaber. I also added a grunge effect to her helmet, and details to the hilt, as well as a laser bolt and clash. 

I then brought all the layers into After Effects. I hid (using the shy guy) all the layers I would not be using, and even some of the layers I wasn’t currently focusing on. I parented the saber blade to the hilt, the hilt to the hand, the hand to the forearm, and the forearm to the upper arm. I made sure the anchor point was at the joint of each layer, and where the hilt meets the hand. It is important to note that I focused only on her right arm. I keyframed all the positions on the timeline. I had her blocking three laser bolts, then a pose, then returning to the start position. After I had everything where I wanted, I began focusing on the left arm. The forearm was again parented to the upper arm, and the anchor points were at the joints. This one was harder, because I had to rescale her upper arm. Most of the time, I only altered the rotation, but with her left forearm I had to alter the position, rotation, and scale.

Once I had done all this to my liking, and everything returns to the start position (howbeit at different times), the I added some puppet tool points on her tunic that is lower than her mid section. I added three to each piece, just under the belt, and then one at the bottom of each separate peice. In total I had 8 points. Then I moved only the lone ones at the bottom–to give it a wind effect, or an independent movement. I then decided to make her helmet wobble a little by adding a slight rotation back and forth. 

I removed the remote layer from the composition and then added it separately from my project into a new composition, containing the composition of all the word I had previously done that was heretofore mentioned. I used an effect called CC Sphere, to turn the layer into a ball that I could rotate to give the illusion it was a 3D object. I adjusted the parameters until I liked it. I had it move back and forth in a position that I liked. I used the Easy Ease on the position, but I used normal keyframes on the rotation. I rescaled the laser, and the clash to look like the lightsaber was blocking it. 

I then copied the composition that contained all the movement, and inside that composition I hid every layer from visibility except the lightsaber blade–just the blade. I then copied the blade 3 additional times and added a Gaussian Blur to each. Each layer I increased the Gaussian Blur until it had the right look I was looking for for a lightsaber. I then added a black solid underneath all the layers. I brought this layer into the main comp, and I changed the blending mode to add. Then I used a free plugin called VC Vibrance (from Video Copilot.net). I could have achieved a similar effect with Color Balance and Curves. I changed the layer to blue. Now the lightsaber looked complete! Upon review, I decided I wanted more flicker from the blade. So I went to the second blurred blade, and added a wiggle to the Gaussian blur amount. When you look at the final GIF, see if yo can notice all these elements.

In retrospect, I would have done the elbows differently, they do look a little funny, but overall, I am very happy with the way it turned out. 

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