The second part of the special about the sounds of Star Wars, created by Ben Burtt. Let’s take a look of the sounds of the characters in the film: Darth Vader, R2-D2, Chewbacca and the amazing Ewokese language.
“You have bits and fragments of animal sounds which you have collected and put into lists: here is an affectionate sound and, here is a angry sound and, just like with R2-D2, they are clipped together and blended. With a Wookie, you might end up with five or six tracks, sometimes, to get the flow of the sentence” (Ben Burtt in Film Sound Today)
Burtt said that he would come up with equivalent lines in English for what R2-D2 would be ’saying’ and twiddle the filter and other knobs of a synth whilst reading the lines out loud, to try and articulate the words using the synth.
Burtt used the sounds of an ARP 2600 synthesizer and his own voice to produce R2-D2’s silicon salvos. The ARP in question was recreated virtually via Symbolic Sound’s lofty Kyma system for more recent Star Wars movies.
“The concept for the sound of Darth Vader came about from the first film, and the script described him as some kind of a strange dark being who is in some kind of life support system. That he was breathing strange, that maybe you heard the sounds of mechanics or motors, he might be part robot, he might be part human, we really didn’t know. And so the original concept I had of Darth Vader was a very noise producing individual. He came into a scene he was breathing like some wheezing wind mill, you could hear his heart beating, you move his head you heard motors turning. He was almost like some robot in some sense and he made so much noise that we had to sort of cut back on that concept. In the first experiment the mixes we did in Star Wars he sounded like an operating room, like a, you know, emergency room, you know, moving around.”
Excitingly Burtt recreated this for us on the spot using a scuba oxygen tank. The intense breathing sound of Darth Vader is the microphone placed inside the respirator while breaths are taken through the respirator. Produces that distinctive electronic rushing of air.
A language created by altering and layering Tibetan, Mongolian, and Nepali languages
“I broke the sounds down phonetically, and red-edited them together to make composite words and sentences. I would always use a fair amount of the actual languages, combined with purely made-up words. With a new language, the most important goal is to create emotional clarity. People spend all of their lives learning to identify voices. You became an expert at that, and somewhat impossible to electronically process the human characteristic, and retain the necessary emotion. To fool the audience into believing this is a real character as the basis of the sound, although you may sprinkle other things in there. It varies from character to character.” (Ben Burtt in Film Sound Today)