Force Jump (Super Jump) Tutorial in Adobe After Effects

     
 

Ever wonder how the wizards at ILM make Luke Skywalker force jump his way out of the freeze pit during his light saber battle with Darth Vader in Episide V? Or how Obi-Wan Kenobi so easily scales a few hundred foot deficit during the Darth Maul Episode I fight?

For all those star wars home movie fanatics who've tried to create an effective looking star wars style froce jump (also known as super jump), look no further. I've created a step by step tutorial including several example movies, explanation of the concept, things you will need to gather for your video shoot, after effects step insutructions and a complete after effets project file for download. Enjoy!

 
     
 
     
     

Simple 1

     
 
 

Simple 2

     
 
 

Med 1

     
 
 

Med 2

     
 
 

Advanced 1

     
 
 

Advanced 2

     
 
 
 
 
 
 
Step 1: Watch a movie
 

View all the example movies (click on the tabs) and see what you can do with the force jumping effect.

 

 
     
 
     
 
     
 
Step 2: The concept
 
The "Force Jump" effect is created using two or more video shots of the same background with your actor jumping in one take and having just your background (no actor present) in the second take (using a tripod so the camera doesn't shift the background from take to take, this is the key). Along with a little rotoscoping and patience, the force jump can be achieved.
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
Step 3: what you will need
 
  • You will need a tripod OR some stable surface to place your camera so that between your two takes (with and without the actor jumping) the camera does NOT move. It is very important that the camera NOT move at all or your clones shot will be ruined.
    • Take 1: Film your actor jumping up like he/she would normally jump
    • Take 2: Film the same shot again but WITHOUT the actor (DO NOT move the camera at all between your first an second take or else your shot will be ruined. I recommend not even stopping the recording between the two takes).
  • You will also need a camera, of course, and an actor that is willing to jump ;)
  • Adobe After Effects (computer program windows or mac)
  • Download the working example of a force jump (16.2 MB) if you need an example right now on your computer. This will illustrate the video "Simple 1" as shown in the video player above.
 
     
 
   
 
     
 

 

Step 4: Create the force jump!
 

Getting your timeline setup:

  • OK, I went ahead and put together a working example of the force jump as an After Effects project file in a zip file format that you can download. The zip file contains 2 video files and an after effects project file. If you open the project file, assuming you have After Effects installed, there is a composition already setup with everything we will go through in this tutorial. I know, you probably can't contain yourself ;)
  • That said, open the "super-jump-example-1" project file and create a new composition so you can learn to do this yourself by going to Composition -> New Composition, and name it "tutorial"
  • Make sure the composition size is at NTSC 720x480 (width of 720 and height of 480) and press OK
  • Now your "tutorial" composition appears on the timeline
  • Drag the video file, "jump up" into the composition's time line
  • Drag the time line meter to the frame where the actor's feet FIRST come off the ground, which would be at 2:06 according to this example (to find where it says 2:06 in After Effects, which is the particular point in time on the time line, look at your video preview window, it should be near the bottom left hand corner of the window)
  • Without moving the time line meter, drag the END of the "jump up" video layer such that the end is now at 2:06 (the same frame that the time line meter is on, right where the actor's feet come off the ground)
  • Drag the video file, "blank space", onto the timeline just UNDERNEATH the "jump up" video layer
  • Now make sure and drag the entire "blank space" video layer such that the start of the "blank space" layer begins at the same frame that the "jump up" layer ends, so the "blank space" will now start at 2:06
  • Copy the "jump up" layer by first selecting the layer and pressing Control-C (to copy) and then Control-C (to paste) and the new copied layer should appear ABOVE the original "jump up" video layer, if it's not ABOVE the other two layers then make it so.
  • Drag the START of the new "jump up" layer such that the start is now at 2:06 and the end is at 2:12, this will make the video layer seem small in comparison to the other two layers, which is fine - this layer will serve as the layer that holds the actor's body as he/she jumps up and out of the camera view.

Rotoscoping your actor's body:

  • Drag your time line meter to 2:06 (right where the actor's feet come off the ground)
  • Make sure and SELECT the new "jump up" layer (again it should still be the top most layer of the 3 layers on your time line).
  • Now, select the pen tool in the tool box. If you can't find the tool box, go to: Window -> Tools
  • You will now need to create a "cut-out" polygon around the actor's jumping body on all the frames of the new "jump up" video layer. This new cut-out will be referred to as a "Mask".
  • To create your mask, take your pen tool and click to make points that go AROUND you actor's body until the mask shape is closed.
  • For the mask, make a lot of points if you have to. For example, you can see all the yellow points that make up the pre-made mask in "Force Jump" composition - just go to the Force Jump composition and click on the little triangle to the left of the top most "force jump" layer, click on the triangle to the left of "Masks", click on the triangle to the left of "Mask 1" and click where it says "Mask Shape" - the mask now appears with all it's points (roughly 55 or so).
  • If all is well, the polygon will show up with a yellow border around your actor's body.
  • If you look on the left side of the time line, the top most "jump up" layer's mask is now created. To find it, click on the triangle next to the layer name, Click on the triangle next to "Masks" and click on the name "Mask 1" to reveal the yellow outline of the mask
  • Click on the triangle next to "Mask 1" to expand it's properties.
  • Make sure the time line meter is still at 2:06 and then click the little STOP WATCH just to the left of where it says "Mask Shape" under your "Mask 1".
  • By doing this, a little sliver diamond will appear at 2:06 on the timeline - you have just set a KEYFRAME - and you will need to do this (set keyframes) for the next 5 frames on your mask layer..
  • To set another key frame at any point between 2:06 and 2:12 on the timeline (for this particular mask layer), DO NOT click the STOP WATCH, but click the CHECK BOX just to the left of the "stop watch" and where it says "mask shape". If you check the box a diamond will appear representing a new keyframe in the time line.
  • Go ahead and move your time line meter to the next frame and set your next keyframe (should get a silver diamond) and move your yellow points around on your mask to match the outline of your actor's body. You will need to repeat this process until about 2:12 on the time line.

Creating the jump and adding some blur

  • Once you've completed your keyframes, we now want to alter the POSITION of the mask (the cut-out actor's body) such that the mask will move upwards and out of the camera view very quickly!
  • To do this: make sure the time line meter is at 2:06 and select the triangle next to the top most "jump up" layer and then click on the triangle next to "Transform".
  • You will see the "Position" property under the Transform you just expanded.
  • Set a keyframe by click the stop watch once.
  • Now lets alter the VERTICAL dimension to make the mask appear farther up: to the right of where it says "Position" there are two blue numbers: 360, 240. Click on the 240 (which is the vertical dimension) and type in 192. This will put the mask for this particular keyframe higher up than it was before.
  • Now, move your time line meter to 2:11 (NOT 2:12), set a keyframe for the mask position and change the vertical dimension to -370 (this will put the mast way, way up there so you shouldn't even see the mask anymore)
  • After effects will automatically create the animation between 2:06 and 2:11 so you don't have to set anymore keyframes for the mask's position.
  • Now we want to apply a BLUR effect to the top most "jump up" layer (the layer you've just been working with).
  • Make sure the top most "jump up" layer is selected and go to: Effect -> Blur & Sharpen -> Fast Blur. A dialogue box should appear: set the "Blurrieness" to 30 and "Blur dimensions" to Vertical
  • If you move your time line meter back to 2:06 you should see your actor hanging in mid-air with a vertically blurred body - it should look like somebody took a snap shot of your actor flying upwards at 300 mph. Cool!
  • From here you should be DONE! Mare sure the time line is selected and press your space bar key to start a RAM preview of what you just did!