How to create a Mandalorian light blaster effect in After Effects

Nov 19, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to create a Mandalorian light blaster effect in After Effects

Nov 19, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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The whole web seems to be buzzing with talk about The Mandalorian right now. After finally watching it, and realising it wasn’t a show about a “Half man, half Delorean“, I can see why. I’m not going to post any spoilers here, but if you haven’t seen it, and you’re at all a fan of Star Wars, you should. It’s probably the best thing they’ve done with it in a while.

One effect of Star Wars, that’s pretty much as old as the Star Wars franchise itself is the iconic blaster. They’ve been shot by everybody over the years, so it’s no surprise they show up in The Mandalorian, too. In this video, Yannick at Cinecom shows us how to easily make them in Adobe After Effects.

Their method for creating the blasters uses no plugins and is pretty straightforward. Just add a white solid on top of your footage, draw out a mask outlining the first frame of the blaster blast. And you don’t even need to worry about the timing of the start of the sequence as much as you would with a real gun, either, because light blasters don’t have any recoil.

After this, simply animate the mask off in the direction of the blast over a few frames. You’ll also want to enable mask feathering, and keyframe that increasing over the duration of the animation, too, starting with a value around 5 and ending around 30. To add some colour, simply create one or several coloured layers beneath the white one. Copy the animated mask over from the white one, and then expand the mask feathering for each of the layers so it “glows” around the outside of the white.

The CC Force Motion Blur effect creates a lot of realism to the sequence and helps it blend better with your footage. You’ll want to play around with the shutter angle, though, depending on the frame rate and shutter speed of your footage in order to get a good match. Finally, duplicating your footage, and adding some masks and a curves adjustment layer allows you to light up certain parts of the scene based on the light given off by the light blaster blast.

While not completely necessary, muzzle flashes and lens flares can also help to really sell the effect as part of the scene.

As a little bonus, Yannick also shows us how we can quickly use the free Video Copilot Saber plugin to create fantastic looking lightsabers, too.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “How to create a Mandalorian light blaster effect in After Effects”

  1. Readylight Media Avatar
    Readylight Media

    Haha! Love the caption!