Summary

  • Ahsoka made significant improvements to the appearance of lightsabers on-screen by avoiding a major mistake made in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series.
  • The show successfully introduced fan-favorite live-action characters and popular animated characters, expanding the Star Wars universe.
  • Ahsoka showcased dynamic lighting effects using LED lightsabers, demonstrating the potential of diegetic lightsaber lighting when captured properly.


SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

Ahsoka made a big improvement to the way its lightsabers look on-screen by avoiding a major on-set mistake from the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. The Star Wars franchise was always a pioneer in the development and use of groundbreaking visual effects, so Obi-Wan’s lightsaber issues are especially notable, but Ahsoka shows Lucasfilm may have learned from the error.

Ahsoka brought back a number of fan-favorite live-action characters, particularly Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker, and brought other popular animated characters, such as Ezra Bridger, to live-action for the first time. Despite re-treading a lot of familiar Star Wars territory, it also ventured into new areas, and, fortunately, avoided repeating a major lightsaber mistake from Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Related: 40 Unanswered Questions After The Ahsoka Finale


Star Wars Lightsabers Effects Aren’t Created the Way The Used to Be

Anakin, Luke, and Rey with Skywalker Lightsaber

The very first on-screen lightsabers in Star Wars (now known as Star Wars: A New Hope) were initially shot with rotating poles wrapped in reflective tape, but when the method didn’t quite achieve the look George Lucas wanted, he had his VFX team superimpose the light blade onto the frame, creating the iconic look the lightsaber has had in all subsequent movies. At the time, the props used on-set didn’t give off any light of their own, so in the rare instances where the light of the lightsaber was used to light something on screen, the light had to come from other colored lights on set.

The Star Wars prequels followed basically the same technique for creating lightsaber blades, but fore the sequels J.J. Abrams introduced some new innovation to the process with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, introducing prop sabers that actually gave off their own light, with the traditional blade added in post on top of that, adding some additional stylistic flair to the lightsaber scenes. While these new props added some colored diegetic lighting to the scenes, the props couldn’t be used for the actual combat scenes.

After the sequel trilogy, new LED lightsaber props were finally developed that could fully replicate the lightsabers for use throughout combat and non-combat scenes, providing colored lighting effects to the scene in the process. While this created a lot of cool opportunities to improve the look of lightsaber combat, it also created some big problems for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series.

How an Obi-Wan Kenobi Mistake Ruined The Show’s Lightsaber Scenes

Darth Vader with a red lightsaber and Obi-Wan Kenobi with a blue lightsaber.

In addition to bringing back Ewan McGregor for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Hayden Christensen for Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader for an epic rematch, Obi-Wan Kenobi tried to do something new with its lightsaber fights, leaning heavily into the new LED lightsaber props for extensive use of their on-set lighting flavor. While the benefit of the LED props is evident in a few iconic shots, the show is also littered with over-saturated and over-exposed scenes including numerous odd color artifacts due to a technical error related to the use of digital cameras and colored LED lights.

As explained in our article about Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s lightsaber color issues and a VFX artist breakdown of the problem with the blue lighting, the combination of a digital camera sensor and bright blue (and red) LED lights resulted in “chroma clipping” that broke the color data in numerous lightsaber shots in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Since the show couldn’t go back and start from scratch again with proper lighting conditions, some of the scenes are blown out with unfixable blue light or excessively dimmed to mask the error in what would have otherwise been a vibrantly lit duel of clashing red and blue light washing over Vader and Obi-Wan during their rematch.

Ahsoka Confronted By Anakin's Lightsaber

Ahsoka is the first Disney+ Star Wars show since Obi-Wan Kenobi to feature extensive lightsaber action, and fortunately, it completely avoided the lightsaber lighting complications experienced on Obi-Wan Kenobi. Some of the lightsaber scenes, particularly Sabine’s second duel with Shin Hato, showed just how great the dynamic lighting provided by the LED sabers could be under proper conditions. While green light isn’t as problematic as blue (and red, to a lesser extent) light for digital sensors, the fight is still an impressive glimpse of the kind of stylized look diegetic lightsaber light can provide.

Ahsoka also passes the blue light test when Ahsoka and Anakin fight in the World Between Worlds as the blue night naturally reflects off both Anakin and Ahsoka in their duel without the blue light blowing out the skin tones or textures or creating and deeply saturated pools of blue in the shadows of the costumes or lines on the characters’ faces the way it did in Obi-Wan Kenobi. There’s a variety of changes Lucasfilm could have made to ensure they didn’t repeat the mistakes made with Obi-Wan Kenobi, but ultimately it all comes down to ensuring the blue light wasn’t too bright or saturated when initially captured on set.

One way this could be improved is simply with a camera sensor that has a broader color range, but it’s also likely the brightness of the sabers was turned down slightly and some full-spectrum white lighting was added in to balance it out slightly. Blue lightsabers have traditionally looked a lot more white with a blue fringe in Star Wars, and Anakin’s lightsaber keeps closer to that hue compared to the deep dark blue of Obi-Wan’s lightsaber in Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Another way Ahsoka avoided the issue was simply limiting the use of blue lightsabers. This isn’t necessarily a decision directly related to the blue lighting complication, but it still helps. Even Ezra Bridger’s new lightsaber is far more cyan in hue than Anakin or Obi-Wan’s blue lightsaber, which is far easier for the camera sensor to process without complications.

Obi-Wan Kenobi wasn’t the first time Star Wars accidentally ruined some of its shot material due to complications with a new technology. When George Lucas made Star Wars: Attack of the Clones the first feature film shot entirely on digital, they ended up having to re-record all the movie’s dialogue after the fact. Fortunately in both situations, the filmmakers learned their lesson and improved their approach in future projects. Ahsoka could have simply reverted to older methods of shooting lightsaber action, or worse, repeated the mistake, but instead it evolved its approach, improving the look of lightsaber lighting in combat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *