Steel with custom plating
Red, Blue, Green, and Purple

The lightsaber is a science fiction weapon with a key role in the Star Wars movies and in the novels, games and other forms of media that constitute the Expanded Universe. The lightsaber is a sword with a column of brightly colored energy in the place of a metal blade. Its distinct appearance was created using rotoscoping for the original trilogy, and digitally for the prequel trilogy. The lightsaber first appeared in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), and in 2008 a survey of approximately two thousand film fans found it to be the most popular film weapon.[1]

The lightsaber hilt is a polished metal grip that can project a blade about one meter long. The blade cuts through most substances without resistance, leaves cauterized wounds in flesh, but is deflected by another lightsaber blade. An active lightsaber gives off a distinctive hum, which rises in pitch and volume as the blade is moved rapidly through the air, and bringing the blade into contact with an object or another lightsaber blade produces a loud crackle. The lightsaber is the signature weapon of the Jedi order and their Sith counterparts, both of whom can use them to deflect blaster bolts. Every Star Wars movie features at least one lightsaber duel.

Production Edit

Visual effectsEdit

Nelson Shin, renowned South Korean animator, was tasked with drawing the lightsaber to match the film scenes that the film producers brought. Shin explained to the people from Lucasfilm that since the lightsaber is made of light, the sword should look "a little shaky" like a fluorescent tube. He suggested inserting one frame that was much lighter than the others while printing the film on an optical printer, making the light seem to vibrate. Shin also recommended adding a degausser sound on top of the other sounds for the weapon since the sound would be reminiscent of a magnetic field. The whole process took one week, surprising his company, and Lucasfilm demonstrated the film to him, having followed his suggestions, including using an X-Acto knife to give the lightsaber a very sharp look.[2]


The lightsaber sound effect was developed by sound designer Ben Burtt as a combination of the hum of idling interlock motors in aged movie projectors and interference caused by a television set on an unshielded microphone. Burtt discovered the latter accidentally as he was looking for a buzzing, sparkling sound to add to the projector motor hum.[3]

The pitch changes of lightsaber movement were produced by playing the basic lightsaber tone on a speaker and recording it on a moving microphone, generating Doppler shift to mimic a moving sound source.[3]

Prop construction Edit

For A New Hope, the original film prop hilts were constructed from old camera-flash battery packs and other pieces of hardware. The "switched-on" sword props were designed with the intention of creating an "in-camera" glowing effect. The "blade" was three-sided and coated with a retroreflector array—the same sort used for highway signs. A lamp was positioned to the side of the taking camera and reflected towards the subject through 45-degree angled glass so that the sword would appear to glow from the camera's point-of-view.


Lightsabers were present in the earliest drafts as mundane laser weapons that were used alongside laser guns.[4][5] The introduction of the Force in a later revision made the Jedi and the Sith supernaturally skilled, eventually the only swordsmen. The lightsaber became the Force-user's tool, "...not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age."[6]


Lightsabers can be wielded as either one-handed or two-handed weapons. The Phantom Menace introduced a double-bladed lightsaber with an emitter on both ends of the hilt, Attack of the Clones Yoda's diminutive one and dual wielding them, and Revenge of the Sith quad wielding them given sufficient arms.

The Expanded Universe adds several lightsaber types including short,[7] dual-phase (changeable length),[8][9] those attached to the end of a staff, and those connected by a chainlink.


Lightsaber blades in the movies are green or blue for Jedi, and a crimson red for Sith. The only exception is Jedi Mace Windu's purple lightsaber in the prequel trilogy. Lightsabers were initially designed to be either blue or red, the colors of the two seen in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker's new lightsaber was blue during the initial editing of Return of the Jedi, and appears so in an early trailer. The green-bladed lightsaber was created because Luke's blue-bladed one would not have contrasted enough with the blue sky in its introduction.[10]

The various Expanded Universe sources add a multitude of colors. The Kenner figure of Luke Skywalker in his Tatooine costume from A New Hope was released with a yellow lightsaber blade, which has appeared in several computer games, such as Jedi Outcast. The Knights of the Old Republic games feature yellow, cyan, viridian, violet, silver, and orange.[7] Star Wars: The Force Unleashed adds black, with a white outline, and pink in the Nintendo DS version. Multiple sources refer to a focusing crystal in the hilt as the source of the blade's color.[7]

Choreography Edit

The duels were specifically choreographed to be miniature "stories." Gillard's goal in choreographing the action for Episode I was to create stunts that flow from the story. "You can't just think, 'I'm a stunt coordinator, I'm going to make a big stunt happen'," Gillard says. "It's all about making it tie in nicely with the film so that you don't notice the stunts." Creating narrative through physical expression, Nick wrote each fight as an individual story that supports the overall structure of the movie. "All the fights have a beginning, a middle and an end," he says. "I worked hard to write them like a story."....No two sword masters have exactly the same style, and the subtleties of distinct identities are woven into the choreography of the lightsaber battles. "It was important to me that each character in Episode I have a distinctive fighting style," he says. Some of this shading came from the classic Star Wars Trilogy."Template:Fact

In writing the prequel trilogy, George Lucas said he wanted the lightsaber combat in the prequels to be "reminiscent of what had been done in the previous films but also something that was more energized. We'd seen old men, young boys, and characters who were half-droid, but we'd never seen a Jedi in his prime. I wanted to do that with a fight that was faster and more dynamic-and we were able to pull that off."[11]

According to prequel trilogy stunt coordinator Nick Gillard (who would later go on to perform in a cameo role in the third prequel), various lightsaber combat styles were devised for the prequels and intended to further characterize their practitioners.

"I developed different styles for the characters, and gave each of them a flaw or a bonus. So with Obi, for instance, he's got a very business-like style—when he was younger he could border on the flashy and might twirl his lightsaber a bit, because he was taught by Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon was brash, that rubbed off on Obi and Obi then taught Anakin, who was way too old to learn anyway." "I think the style really worked well. The Jedi style of fighting is an amalgamation of all the great swordfighting styles. Melding them together is the difficult part—to move from a Kendo style to, say, Rapier requires a complete change in body and feet movement, and this must look effortless. The style moves seamlessly between the different disciplines, but remains technically correct throughout. It's unlike any other style of fighting and I think it's beautiful to watch." [12]

For The Phantom Menace, Gillard set out certain styles and faults for the saber-wielding characters.[13] He added that the Jedi's use of such "a short-range weapon" meant "they would have to be very good at it"; combining a variety of disciplines from various swordfighting styles to martial arts "with a touch of tennis and tree chopping", he created the style seen in the Episode I lightsaber battles.[14]

Appearances in popular cultureEdit



The discontinued Force Fx Lightsaber is a replica of the Lightsaber props used in the Star Wars series of films.

Unlike the cheaper Hasbro and Rubbies products, the Force Fx sabers are not designed as toys, but are instead considered collectors items. The hilts are generally made of metal with a fixed polycarbon blade. The current range of blade contains a string of coloured LED's that allow a scrolling effect when turning the saber on, where the originals used Electro-Luminescent technology. The hilt also houses a speaker that plays back sound samples of the power on/off effect an idle hum and clash sounds.

Lightsaber effects in the films Edit

Visual effectEdit

When the prequel trilogy began filming, George Lucas said that all Jedi would have blue, green, or similarly-colored lightsaber blades, not only to differentiate themselves from the Sith, but also to give them their own visual identity. Whenever there were flashes of blaster fire or explosions around, the color of a Jedi's lightsaber would shine through.

There is a visual inconsistency throughout the Star Wars saga in regard to the light the sabers themselves cast. Light is typically cast across the face of a digital character, such as Yoda in Episodes II and III. When a saber passes by a human figure, there is very little glow cast across the figure or face. An exception is that during the Dooku/Skywalker fight in Attack of the Clones, the actors shot close-ups while holding, essentially, neon tubes colored appropriately for their blades. This was not done to contradict anything previously stated but purely dramatic effect.

Arguably one of the most sought-after props in film history, various toy replicas have been released, ranging from essentially a flashlight with a plastic tube attached, to accurate copies of the original film props, complete with motion-sensitive sound effects and colored blade. Toy lightsabers are consistently the best-selling of all Star Wars related merchandise.


The characteristic sound is added later by the sound effects team, the characteristic lightsaber sound is a combination of a film projector's idling motor and interference caused by a television on an unshielded audio cable. The latter sound was discovered accidentally when Ben Burtt was moving house, knocking his microphone behind his television and creating the sound.

References Edit

1. Star Wars Blueprints: The Ultimate Collection by Ryder Windham

External links Edit

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