Animating Star Wars Lasers

I want to photoshop some laser blasts into a 3d animation video I am making.

I know how to make lasers in photoshop. That isn’t the problem.

What I don’t know are any tricks or techniques to having them move, across multiple images.

The video will be 15 frames per second. I am assuming that a single laser blast will take less than a second, perhaps a third?

I am not sure how they should move, for instance overlapping like this (the underline is the laser, the periods are just for formatting):

___ Frame 1
…___ Frame 2
…___ Frame 3

or non overlapping like this:

___ Frame 1
…___ Frame 2
…___Frame 3

Should there be a motion blur effect? If so how?

Does anyone have any tutorial links or experience in this matter?


It’s more a matter of art than science. The blaster bolt won’t be on screen for more than a few frames, so timing imperfections will hardly be noticeable.

The longer you draw the blaster bolt, the faster it will look like it’s moving. That’s all the motion blur you need.

It doesn’t really matter if the bolt overlaps its position from frame to frame, if you don’t go overboard in either direction. If it overlaps too much, it will look like a stream emerging from the gun, rather than a discrete object. If there’s a large gap between the frames, it will break the illusion of motion. But anywhere between the extremes, and the viewer’s brain will fill in the gaps. The exact sweet spot will depend on frame rate, how fast you want the bolt to move, and the angle it’s moving, so experiment with it.

Take a look for star wars fan films. I remember there used to be a lot of tutorials and discussions about how to do this sort of thing, but I haven’t looked in years.

The simple solution is to find a movie where you think they looked good, and go through it frame-by-frame to see what they did.

Also be advised: I’ve heard that “laser” guns are harder for the actors than normal guns. If their aim is a little bit off, the visible laser beams call attention to that fact.

It would be WAY simpler to do this in Post, in a program like Motion or After Effects.
If you are forced to do it frame-by-frame, you just need to decide how long your laser fires, and how fast the bolt moves, then do the calculations to determine how many frames it appears in, and it’s start and end points.