Inspiration, Pro Tips

Building a Universe: The Making of Our ‘Star Wars’ Tribute Videos


Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out this week, and like most people, we couldn’t be more excited. To celebrate the release of the film, we recently unveiled our “Race for the Republic” project — a series of spoof political ads for some of our favorite Star Wars characters, all made using video, music, and sound effects from the Pond5 library.

Since we’ve had such a great response to the videos, we thought we’d give you a glimpse into how we were able to create some of the scenes and effects using nothing more than the media already at our (and your!) disposal. Check out three deconstructed scenes from our “Race for the Republic” videos below to see how we compiled the source material from our media library and turned it into something otherworldly.

Making an Ewok Village

For the “Green Party” ad supporting the candidacy of the Ewoks, we wanted to create a visual of their home on Endor. To do that, first we had to find a forest, so we searched for “redwood forest” in our video collection. After all, Return of the Jedi‘s Endor scenes were filmed in Northern California. We came up with this great clip:

Tourists at the Muir Woods National Monument by azuri

Then we searched for huts and bridges to add to the forest scene. Here’s a couple of additional shots that worked really well:

Indigenous Native Tribal Culture in Laos by kagemusha

Indigenous Native Tribal Culture in Laos by kagemusha

Below, you can see how we started with the base video clip:

3 Base Shot

The post-effects started with “painting out” the people walking through the forest:

4 Paint Out People

The next step was adding in a bunch of the masked-off huts from the village and hut videos.

5 All Huts

We then continued to add bridges and more huts to the composition for context.

7 All Layers On

And here’s the final composition layout with huts, bridges, and glow!

9 Close up

From Viking to Vader: Recreating an Icon

For the “Elect the Empire” video, we knew we wanted a shot of a Vader-like figure, preferably looking out over an expanse. We came across this shot by searching “space” and “door”.

Door in Space by Petrovich99

Then we needed a foreground subject — a silhouetted figure, preferably. We searched “cape” and “warrior” and this Viking rose from the search:

A Viking Warrior Looks Out Over The Battlefield by UHDMedia

The viking was already wearing something suitably cape-like, so I simply removed the chromakey background and placed him into the ship’s bay door, then darkened him down.

3 Green Screen

4 Black Figure

The fact that he’s holding a sword makes the lightsaber easier to animate, since I could use the motion of the sword for reference. With that in mind, I built the lightsaber on top of the sword:

7 Sabre Overlay

I added a shadow, because we see a light coming in through the bay door:

6 Shadow

And I added a helmet to give it a more recognizable look:

5 Helmet

Which all resulted in this final shot:

1 Full Build

Turning Day into Interplanetary Night

For the opening of the Chewbacca/Solo video, we needed an exterior shot of a house — ideally a dolly or tracking shot. Since detail is often lost in nighttime photography, we decided to find a daytime exterior shot and convert it instead.

I found this shot in our collection after searching “suburban home”:

Suburban Home Slider Shot by maxwellmonty

Some simple color correction, brightness, and contrast softening enabled us to create a more general nighttime look:

House Color

To further the effect, I added some stars to the “night” sky:

Sky Replace

Then I added the two moons, just to make it clear this was no longer taking place on Earth:


And as a final touch, I added some ambient lights on the home’s exterior. Good citizens of the universe always leave a light on.


Of course, these are just three small examples of what went into these videos, and what you can do with the combination of Pond5 media and your imagination.

If you haven’t already seen all the “Race for the Republic” videos, check them out now and vote for your favorite! And if you have, be sure to take a look at our first blog post on the project, where you’ll find bonus poster art for all the campaigns, as well as a collection featuring all of the media used to create this project.

And if there other scenes that left you wondering how we made them, let us know in the comments! Or you can just tell us how you’re celebrating the big debut of The Force Awakens!