Monday, December 26, 2011

Lightsabers as Light Sources


Fair warning to all: This is going to get really nerdy REALLY QUICKLY.

I've been researching a lot of Star Wars art lately and an interesting question came to mind: from an artistic standpoint, should lightsabers be considered light sources?

You might automatically think, as I did, “Well of course they should! Light sabers are made of light, and therefore that light should radiate outward and affect the surrounding environment. DUH!” However, after years of watching all the movies and looking through mounds of artwork, I think the answer begins to get a little less obvious.

If you watch any of the Star Wars films, you should notice that in most cases the lightsabers DO NOT emit any sort of light onto surrounding objects. The reason for this is that the lightsaber effect from the movies is created by means of rotoscoping over the prop lightsaber rods used during filming – which emit no actual light. 

Notice the lack of any red or green ambient light on the actors despite how dark the setting is.

In fact, there are only a few instances in the entire series where a lightsaber actually casts any real light onto its wielder:

  In Episode II, when Anakin and Dooku get their close-ups in the dark...



...And in Episodes II and III, when Yoda wields a lightsaber.


(Notice that digital Yoda is the ONLY character that is ever consistently affected by the light of his weapon.)
SO, taking these examples into account as an artist, how should a lightsaber be depicted in a painted work? Should it be a lightsource or not? Take a look at some of these examples of Star Wars art. Which of them seems the most “realistically Star Wars” to you? 


Personally, I prefer the work where the lightsaber light does not interact with its surroundings. It doesn't make logical sense, but as a Star Wars fan I've become so subconsciously used to seeing it that way in the movies that the other way just looks wrong to me. Even in the prequels, I think digital Yoda might have actually blended better with the actors if they hadn't made his lightsaber a light source.

But what do you think?

Images used are ©Lucasfilm and their respective owners.

2 comments:

Salim Cortes said...

I'm assuming Yoda was just easier because he was digital to begin with, at the same time it seems lazy not to make it a light source. Anything that glows that bright in broad day light, should emit it's own light. But I guess like every fan I just stick to what I'm use to seeing on screen. Kinda how Batman can have all these gadgets in the films, but can't have a mask that allows him to turn his head with ease. Hmmm, just my opinion.

Oh Man, Homan! said...

It would actually be determined by the color of the light being emitted. Red light would naturally effect the surrounding area much less than the blue since blue light travels faster and can reach greater distances. Considering that lasers do exist and lightsabers are based on that technology, I would look more at how laser technology works. Do lasers even emit their own light or are they lit so that a person can perceive them. And to that point if they are lit at the base then they would only emit a beam of light going in direction in which the light is pointed. Too nerdy? Did I cross a line?