Naboo Ship Bluescreening With Photoshop And Premiere

Click picture to view QuickTime movie.

October 1999, Darel Finley

More grist for the mill!

(Copyright Notice: The Naboo ship design and name are owned by Lucasfilm Ltd. Visit the Star Wars website for more information about The Phantom Menace. This webpage is for informational purposes only, to encourage non-commercial, experimental, amateur filmmaking.)

Also visit the Lightsaber Rotoscoping page.

1. Capture the ship

To capture the ship, I placed the model on its mounting, placed the mounting on a stack of books in the hall, then draped a blue piece of cloth over the back of a couch. A Kodak DC200 digital still camera was used to photograph the ship. The camera is sitting on top of an inverted plastic Wal-Mart trash can. After each shot, I simply slid the trash can down the hall 3 inches, using a yardstick as a guide.

Click the above image to view a QuickTime of the raw pictures. NOTE: That QuickTime is not the source material for the bluescreening! It's just a 320x240 QuickTime representation of the images. The actual images are 1152x864 JPEGs.

The Advanced Marks-A-Lot Motion Control System Notice how the picture shakes about violently as it pulls back from the ship. That's because no matter how hard you try, the camera is bound to change orientation slightly from shot to shot. If we were LucasFilm, we would have a "motion control" camera, but since we aren't and we don't--we use a Marks-A-Lot marker to make an X on the blue cloth directly where the camera is pointing--i.e. in the center of the picture. (This X is not really visible in the raw QT above, but it's very visible in the actual source JPEGs.)

2. Acquire a background

For my moonscape, I found an image called "Earthrise" at Axe's Bryce Gallery, and I modified it down to 320x240. Then I blew my 320x240 background up to 1152x864 and placed a bright green dot near the center of the image.

3. Frame-by-frame processing.

To process a frame, first open the source JPEG in Photoshop. Then select "Blur More" from the Filter menu. (This helps kill some of the image's noise, and won't hurt the final results since they're going to be so much smaller than the source JPEG.)

Now, select a retangular area around your ship.

Use the magic wand tool to remove the blue screen from the selection.

If it doesn't get it all, then just use it again on the remaining areas until the ship is nicely selected. Then use the marquee to add the Marks-A-Lot X to the selection.

Copy the selection into the clipboard, then close the image without saving it. Open a fresh copy of the 1152x864 background blowup, and paste the clipboard into it.

Set the opacity of the top layer to 75%, then move the layer until the Marks-A-Lot X is centered over the green dot.

Set the opacity of the top layer back to 100%, then draw a selection marquee around the X and delete it.

(If the ship is moving especially fast in this particular frame, now would be a good time to add some Motion Blur to the top layer.)

Flatten the image, erase the green dot, then shrink the image down to 320x240 and save it as a Photoshop file with a sequential frame number. (I used the same number as my digital camera gave the image, just so I wouldn't get confused.)

4. Creating the lasers

To assist with the lasers, I created a Laser Reference Frame, which is a composite of every 5th ship picture, and drew orange lines (in a separate layer) where the lasers are going to travel.

To make a particular piece of laser, simply select all the portions that you don't want...

...and delete them.

Then select the bottom layer, knock the upper output level down to 0, and flatten the image.

Use the paintbrush with black paint to round off the ends of the beam.

Select All, Copy, then Paste. This will create two layers, each with the same orange beam. Click off the "eye" of the top layer (making it invisible), then select the bottom layer and perform these actions: Gaussian blur 5.0; upper input level 10; gaussian blur 5.0; green upper output level 0. Now make the top layer visible again and then set its mode to "Screen". (If you're using Photoshop LE, you'll have to use the "fake screen," as described in the rotoscoping page.) You should now see something like this:

Flatten the image, shrink it down to 320x240, paste it into a clean 320x240 background image, and set the top layer to Screen (or do a "fake screen" again). Flatten the image one more time, and save it as a numbered still.

That's it! Now you're ready to import your set of numbered files into Premiere as a sequence of Numbered Stills, add sound effects, and compile. If only everything was so easy.

May the bluescreen be with you...always.