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I'm interested in creating lightsaber effects with a Macintosh on home videos with my children.

What is the best low cost software for recreating this effect today? I don't have Adobe CC, and have no desire to subscribe to it, nor do I have Final Cut Pro X.

Does iMovie support this effect? Are there any good free or cheap rotoscoping or canned effect programs to accomplish this?

Edited to add: "Would the free (non-commercial) edition of Nuke for Macintosh" be a good solution? (I discovered it after asking.)

Thank you.

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You could try the HitFilm Express 4, they have the sci-fi pack (25usd) which contains the VFX you want and specific tutorials for lightsaber (https://hitfilm.com/express/the-force) and it works on mac :) Link: https://hitfilm.com/store/hitfilm-4-express

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You could use Nuke. It's certainly capable of the effect you want. However, it may be very difficult to use as it's a fairly complex program.

It may be easier to use something like Apple's Motion. (It's relatively cheap at $49.) A quick way to get the effect would be to draw a line where you want the light saber to be using the line tool, then add a Bloom or Glow filter over it. You should be able to track the ends of your stand-in saber (if you have one), and pin the ends of the line to those points. (Or, for another $20, you could download the Sabre Blade plug-in from FxFactory.)

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MotionVFX makes an excellent saber plugin for Motion. Not as wallet-friendly as the FxFactory version, but probably somewhat more versatile.

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Video Copilot has an interesting plugin, Saber, that's free. It requires some manual tracking on the lightsabers and most likely some masking / roto, but it's a great solution that works with After Effects CS5.5 and up on Mac and PC:

http://www.videocopilot.net/blog/2016/03/new-plug-in-saber-now-available-100-free/

EDIT: I assumed because you mentioned Adobe CC, you had an older version of After Effects. That doesn't seem to be the case. Regardless, this might help another person who's looking for an answer.

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