Star Wars After Effects Laser Gun Tutorial


Short example


Full example

Step 1: Watch a movie
See the laser gun in action!

Step 2: The concept
The laser gun effect is created in a very similar fashion to that of the light saber. The laser itself (the green shot) in this example is a composition of 4 glowing layers, just like the light sabers in my tutorials, while the explosion blast from the barrel of the gun is a short movie file that is screened onto the final composition.
Step 3: what you will need
  • Gun prop: you can use whatever you want, could be a bee-bee gun, a power drill or a simple stick branch off of a tree :)
  • Light saber prop (for this example), but again you can use anything to deflect a saber blast, it's doesn't have to be a light saber: could be your own hands or a sheild... get creative!
  • Download the laser blast! (right click to download) This short quicktime file is used when your laser beam hits an object, or when the laser beam is first fired out of your gun.
  • Adobe After Effects (computer program windows or mac)
Step 4: Create the laser gun effect!

Firing a laser gun

  • There are two parts to this tutorial:
    1. Firing a laser beam and
    2. Deflecting the laser beam with your light saber
  • Lets go through the first part:
  • Open After Effects and import your video of yourself pretending to fire a gun (or some object that resembles a gun)
  • Create your main composition and drag your video onto this comp.
  • Make a second composition, this will be used for creating the green laser beam
  • Make a copy of the video in your first comp and drag it into the second comp.
  • Using the methods from the light saber tutorial, create a simple oval or blob from a new layer in your second comp that resembles a laser beam. (Again, If you've followed the light saber tutorial, things will be much easier for you, I highly recommend that you step though building yourself a light saber BEFORE you proceed with making the laser beem)
  • Your beam could be a simple four corner rectangle or a polygon made up of 12 vertices (this is about what I use to make the edges look a bit smoother).
  • Once you've got your simple beam constructed you will need to set the beem layer's position keyframes to move across the screen from the tip of your gun all the way out of the view's edge. I generally give a laser beem about 2 to 3 keyframes of on-screen time. Any more will look too slow and any less will be not enough for your eye to catch the effect.
  • Once you've got your beam's keyframes all setup, then you will need to apply the same effect from the light saber tutorials to make the beam glow, i.e. add the extra glowing layers... read up on the light saber tutorial. Again, the laser beam is fundamentally just a modified light saber: it just moves very fast accross the srceen.

Deflecting the laser with your your light saber

  • Time for the second part of our tutorial: lets deflect a laser beam with some object, say, a light saber.
  • Conceptually, we'll have your beam come in from one side of the screen, maybe from left to right where the actor is standing.
  • Give the beam 2 keyframes of on-screen time before the beam hits the light saber (the deflecting object). So on the 3rd keyframe, the beam should be right on the light saber.
  • Once the beam hits your deflecting object, apply the laser blast explosion (right click to download). For best results you will need to set keyframes for your blast explosion to match that of the impact position from the beam where it hit your light saber, i.e. the camera or the actor's light saber may be moving as the blast explosion runs from start to finish so you will need to compensate by applying position keyframes to keep the blast consistent with the impact point. The blast explosion will last for somewhere between 3-5 keyframes, so this may be the number of keyframes you will have to set.
  • The last step is to create the deflected last beam. I generally like to deflect the beam at an angle of about 45 degrees or 315 degrees (360 degrees - 45 degrees), this seems to be pretty natural but you will have to play with it until you come up with something you are happy with.
  • You can either create a new last beam for the deflection or just modify the mask's layer vertices. It might be best to just create a new beam layer to represent the deflected beam as this can be easier to re-use for future last beam deflection shots.
  • Use 1 to 3 keyframes of on-screen time for the deflection, again you will need to play with this until you think you've got it looking good.