VFX – Jedi and Magic Tricks

In class today we looked at a couple of new techniques that could potentially be incorporated into our final project for the year. There was nothing more complicated than the tools we’ve been learning for the last few weeks; we’re just proving our capabilities by applying them in a different context or two.

With that said, we were looking into some Jedi/Magic tricks, using some footage from Yoda in the prequels. I’m not AS familiar with the prequels (they pale in comparison to the originals and the recent instalments), I believe it’s when Yoda is confronting Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. Gary set up the footage for us to add in our own effect – we could choose to do a Force pulse or add a mandala a-la-Doctor Strange. I decided to do the latter, since I was interesting in the effect the second I saw the movie!

Using a pre-made mandala from Production Crate (which is such a good website for some amazing free effects and tutorials), I timed up the scene with the moment Yoda puts up his hand to do his Force push in the movie. The original footage had to be freeze-framed so Gary could extend it and we would have time to show off our effect; otherwise, the action was too quick and the camera immediately changed to Palpatine in the movie.


While the effect was already done, I did have to do a bit of work to look like it fit better in the scene. I needed to add a solid to the composition so I could include a subtle glow around the mandala. I then also added a fractal noise to that solid, so it would look like the glow was actually shimmering. I think it worked out really well and the basics are very simple to understand. If I chose to make my own mandala instead, I would just have to make/animate it beforehand, pre-compose it, then add it to the scene instead of my Production Crate one.

Meanwhile, I also wanted to try out the eye changing effect we received a tutorial on. I’d done something similar before in a previous lesson, so this felt like practice more than a new skill. I went onto Videvo and found a close-up of a normal eye:


This seemed like a very good starting point and I was going to change the eye colour to something a lot brighter and less realistic.

I tracked the movement of the eye and then attached it to a Null. This is something we’ve done repetitively up to now and I’m quite comfortable with the whole process. I also only needed a single point track, following the dark-light difference between the iris and the rest of the eye. Once I’d done that, I could then create my solid and mask out the eye I wanted to change.


It was then a matter of keying in the blinks. While there were three blinks in the full MP4 file, I shortened the time of the clip so there were only two obvious blinks.

While the first blink is a bit half-hearted and I could reduce the black solid’s path down enough to match up, the second blink has the iris completely disappear and I needed to change the opacity as well at that point.


Keying the blinking of any eye – or a very particular kind of mask depending on the effect – was a meticulous process but there is huge satisfaction in getting it right. I think I managed to pull it off to the point I couldn’t tell the solid was separate from the original footage. I could then start to change the eye’s colour by duplicating the footage and changing it to an Alpha Matte layer beneath the solid. I then added an exposure and curves effect until I got a colour I liked.

Trying to add the change as a GIF was just messing up the quality of the changes, so I’d thought to render it out, compress it, then upload the video to my Vimeo account. I think the change is subtle enough you could actually believe it was a real eye colour and I’m quite proud of this effect, even though it’s steps are rather simple.

Posted in VFX

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