Ben Burtt doesn’t have a large list of films, but when he made the sound design of Star Wars, he created a new wave of sound making, introducing new techniques and certainly a new world of sounds.
I’ll divide the information about Star Wars Sound into five parts:
- The Sounds [Part 1]
- The Sounds [Part 2]
- Phantom Menace
- Attack of the Clones
Let`s begin with the first part: The Sounds. Ben Burtt revolutionized sound design with these creations. Take a look of the main sounds created for Star Wars.
“The lightsabers are one of my favorite sounds, and in fact it was the very first sound I made for the whole series. For some reason after I read the script even though my assignment was to find a voice for Chewbacca, and then a voice for Artoo, and then, well maybe come up with some sounds of laser guns and other things. The lightsaber fascinated me at the time when the script had first come out, they had some paintings that Ralph McQuarrie had done. So that there were some concepts visually of what some of these things would look like, and those pictures were very inspiring because they gave an idea of the direction we were trying to go in the look of the film and it was inspiring to me to therefore think of sounds that might fit that kind of visual style.
I could kind of hear the sound in my head of the lightsabers even though it was just a painting of a lightsaber. I could really just sort of hear the sound maybe somewhere in my subconscious I had seen a lightsaber before. I went to, at that time I was still a graduate student at USC, and I was a projectionist and we had a projection booth with some very, very old simplex projectors in them. They had an interlock motor which connected them to the system when they just sat there and idled and made a wonderful humming sound. It would slowly change in pitch, and it would beat against another motor, there were two motors, and they would harmonize with each other. It was kind of that inspiration, the sound was the inspiration for the lightsaber for the lightsaber and I went and recorded that sound, but it wasn’t quite enough. It was just a humming sound, what was missing was a buzzy sort of sparkling sound, the scintillating which I was looking for, and I found it one day by accident.
I was carrying a microphone across the room between recording something over here and I walked over here when the microphone passeda television set which was on the floor which was on at the time without the sound turned up, but the microphone passed right behind the picture tube and as it did, this particular produced an unusual hum. It picked up a transmission from the television set and a signal was induced into it’s sound reproducing mechanism, and that was a great buzz, actually. So I took that buzz and recorded it and combined it with the projector motor sound and that fifty-fifty kind of combination of those two sounds became the basic lightsaber tone, which was then, once we had established this tone of the lightsaber of course you had to get the sense of the lightsaber moving because characters would carry it around, they would whip it through the air , they would thrust and slash at each other in fights, and to achieve this addtional sense of movement I played the sound over a speaker in a room.
Just the humming sound, the humming and the buzzing combined as an endless sound, and then took another microphone and waved in the air next to that speaker so that it would come close to the speaker and go away and you could whip it by, and what happens when you do that by recording with a moving microphone is you geta Doppler’s shift, you get a pitch shift in the sound and therefore you can produce a very authentic facsimilie of a moving sound. And therefore give the lightsaber a sense of movement and it worked well on the screen at that point.” (Vía).
“Tapped with a wedding ring, it produces that lovely recoiling sound as the impact zaps up and down the metal. Recorded using a contact microphone.” (Vía)
We climbed to the top of a hill where there was a small radio tower in the hopes that the wind would make some interesting sounds in the tower or the support cables. I picked up a rock and banged on the cable just for fun and Ben said, “That sounds like the imaginary laser gun ought to sound!”
SO he recorded the sounds there and later in California he looked around for other towers and finally found one that he especially liked in the Mohave desert in California. There was a broken brace hanging on the cable that added a special quality to the sound and that was the one he used in combination with some other sounds to create the sound of the laser gun. (Full history here)
Sound of an Speeder Bike was achieved by mixing together the recorded sounds of a P-5 Mustang ariplane, a P-38 Lockheed Interceptor, and then record them
Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder
The whoosh of Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder was achieved by recording the roar the Los Angeles Harbor Freeway through a vacuum-cleaner pipe.
Second Part Soon!