By Sherif Badr
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, May the 4th was a time for bounty hunters and Jedi to aggregate and as Yoda would say, "down, get." Rumour has it that in some underground parts of obscure galaxies and Toronto, those with the force strong in them still gather and get out of hand with light sabers and possibly drugs.
1. Brighten the footage to you can see where the damn hands are.
In After Effects CS6, I had the most success brightening the Exposure rather than using curves. You can do this by selecting the clip you're working on and going to Effect-->Color Correction--> Exposure. An exposure increase of 2 does wonders for dark clips, the downside is that it gives you a lot of grain. Select the clip, go to Effect-->Noise & Grain-->Remove Grain. For almost the entire process I used an exposure of 5, and then reduced it when I was done.
2. Trace the light saber with the pen tool.
So, if our lovely Asian dancer had a stick or something in hand, this would have been way easier because I wouldn't have to guess where the blade should be. Otherwise, create a new white solid. Start tracing where the light saber should be using the pen tool and using position and scale, keep adjusting the light saber's place and size throughout the clip. Don't make the noob mistake of forgetting to key frame each change!
3. When the light saber goes behind the Jedi, hide it!
You can do this with a second mask on the light saber layer set to "subtract."
4. Add some badass light saber sound effects and you're golden!
Here's a decent sound pack: http://theforce.net/fanfilms/postproduction/soundfx/sabersounds.zip
5. Perfectionists should round out the top and bottom of their light saber
OR use this argument; Jedi technological advances in light saber crystal alignment have resulted in a flatter, 2D blade better for parrying and advanced combat. Vibrosword anyone?
Do or do not.