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by Tom Huffman 2/9/04
updated 8 June 2005


Before we can get started, we need a directory sequence of numbered frames that can be loaded into the Frame Manager. This tutial will assume that you already have a suitable sequence. Also, I recomend that you start out in a file format that can handle layers. I personally use tiff sequences. I have used footage I shot of myself and a wooden stick prop for the lightsaber. Many common NLE video editors can convert DV footage into a sequence of frames. For this tutorial I used Avide Xpress Pro, and understand that Apple's Final Cut, Adobe's Premiere, and Apple's Quicktime Pro all alow export as a sequence of frames. Under Linux, transcode seems to give me the best results.

Step 1:

Automatically applying actions to Frames in CinePaint is not currently possible in the current stable CinePaint release (Version 0.19-1-1 as of this writing) and all of your steps will need to be done manually if you are using a prepackaged version of CinePaint 0.19-1-1 or earlier. If you are used to or are willing to compile CinePaint yourself, then some of the burden can be eased. There is a patch to the CinePaint 0.19-1-1 source tree that will allow some layer and filter automations to be added to the Frame Manager (see the sourceforge patch page patch #828029.) Hopefully, this will be ready and added into the next CinePaint release. So if you can not recompile CinePaint yourself, help should be forthcoming.

Step 2:

Load the sequence into the flipbook. If you're lucky you can just load in the whole thing. For myself, my system and I seem to work best on 10 frames at a time. Each system will vary by processor speed, memory availablity, and user comfort. I recoment finding what works best for you and then sticking with it. It will impove life in the long run by helping you to keep your work in order.

Step 3:

Before we begin to actually rotoscope our lightsaber into our footage, we need to create a new layer to paint into. You can accomplish this task over each frame currently loaded into the flipbook by selecting the menu command "Effects->New Layer" from the flipbook dialog's menu bar. This will go through each frame in the flipbook and add a new transparent layer to the top of the layer stack and set it active. This is the layer onto which we will rotoscope our lightsaber.

Step 4:

Now for the time consuming part. Each frame must have the prop lightsaber painted out of it, and be replaced with our digital version. Using any painting technique you prefer, go through each frame in the fipbook and paint over the blade prop, on the newly added layer, in pure white. This is the most time consuming as well as artistically demanding operation. the better the "flow" of your painted in lightsaber from frame to frame the more naturalistic and plausable it will appear. The name of the game is practice. This is where your perfectionism will pay off in the end for you.

Step 5:

Now that you have rotoscoped in a new blade for each of the frames loaded into the flipbook, you should save them, if you haven't already. So, back in the flipbook dialog's menu bar, select Store->Save All to save each frame. Now, you need to advance through the rest of your frames repeating steps three to five untill each frame has had the prop lightsaber rotoscoped out of each frame and replace with a pure white blade.

Step 6:

Now you should have a completely rotoscoped sequence of images. With each image consisting of two layers. A lower one of the original frame, and an upper one containing only the white painted in blade of your new lightsaber.

Step 7:

Now you need to make your rotoscoped images look realistic. For lightsabers, we need to create the characteristic vibrant colored glow lightsabers are known for. The first step in this process is to apply a gaussian blur of radius 5.0 to the blade layer. Once you've applied this to the first frame, undo it with "Edit->Undo" from the image window's menu bar. Now we are ready to replay the last filter over all the loaded images. The menu command "Effects->Apply Last Filter" from the flipbook dialog's menu bar. (Note: If you don't undo the filter after you apply it the initial time, it will be repeated on that frame. The code works by applying the last filter to every loaded frame.)

Step 8:

Now, your blade is starting to make a little headway, but it is still missing a very important aspect of all lightsabers, it colored aurora. In order to create this, you need to create a copy of your blurred blade layer. You can accomplish this over all frames with the flipbook dialog's menu item "Effects->Copy Layer".

Step 9:

To this new layer you want to again apply a gaussian blur of 5.0, and repeat this accross all of your frames (See step 7.) This gives you a white blur that reaches out further than the original blade layer, and will become the colored halo around the white center of the blade. But it is currently still white.

Step 10:

The levels command is the simplest means for changing the color of our topmost blade layer. By setting the output levels of different channels to varying amounts, we change the color of the glow around out lightsabers blade. Right now this is done on a frame by frame basis as the "gimp-levels" PDB call is not currently functional.

Step 11:

We should now have three layers. A blured and colored blade layer on top. The white blured blade in the middle. And the original frame on the bottom. But the colored blade is covering up the white blade core. To fix this a simple composite of the three layers is done. This is done through a simple two step process. On the top layer, the colored and blured layer, we need to change the blend mode to addition. Changing the blend mode to addition over all frames in the flipbook is hard coded with the flipbook menu command "Effects->Layer Mode". Now, you should be looking pretty good, and there is only one more step left for the final composite.

Step 12:

The final step is to merge all the layers down into a single layer and save the resulting composite. The flipbook dialog's menu command "Effects->Merge Visible" will accomplish this across all the frames loaded into the flipbook. And finally make sure to save everything with the flipbook dialog menu command "Store->Save All", which will save each frame in its final state.


Now your sequence of frames can be imported back into your NLE to be converted back into a video format and you can add sound effects and other post work you are interested in. You can also load you frames into the flipbook and get a feel for how they play through the flipbook, but remember that the playback speed of the flipbook is theoretically set at 24fps and impercise with playback speed being very processor/machine dependant.


... -- Thu, 23 Jun 2005 18:54:53 -0700 reply
I really like this step by step process

... -- Wed, 13 Jul 2005 17:02:30 -0700 reply

where can i get rotoscope... -- Mon, 07 Nov 2005 20:33:58 -0800 reply
i've been looking around for the rotoscope program or whatever it is. i've been trying to imput the lightsaber blade into my video's and pics for even longer. would you mind in giving me some friendly advice as how to get rotoscope? e-mail me the answers at filipino_guy221@yahoo.com

it's would be greatly appreciated if you replyed with my answers. plz help me out, i've been looking for quite some time and finally found someone who could answer these questions.

where can i get rotoscope... -- Mon, 08 May 2006 12:53:33 -0700 reply
well im using adobe premiere and photoshop when i rotoscope. Though they are expensive, you can get their 30 day downloads. (make sure you are finished editing and all that BEFORE you get the trials, remember, you will only have them for 30 days.

what do you mean by flipbook? -- Mon, 17 Jul 2006 08:32:40 -0700 reply
please email me with this at humanoidtyphoon1@sbcglobal.net thank you