As I was lying in bed last night, somewhere between sleep and consciousness, I began to recall a documentary I saw as a child about the making of the original Star Wars film. It wasn’t so much about the creation of the special effects that I was remembering though; it was how they created all of those sounds in that movie, and the subsequent sequels. I was fascinated by the fact that much, if not all, of the sounds were created by experimenting with striking ordinary objects, recording of quite Earthly things, and even by stumbling upon the sounds by accident. Hey, I know, and knew that there were no such things a light-sabers™, blasters, land-speeders, TIE Fighters, etc. etc., but I was a kid, so I just kind of figured there was a more high tech way that much of these sounds were created; even back in the dark ages of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Anyway, when I woke up this morning and started going about my business, that semi-conscious thought popped back into my mind and I decided to see if I could find a video of what I remembered. Well, I didn’t find it, though I admit I wasn’t exactly scouring the world wide web for it, but what I did find out was what many a Star Wars/sci-fi/movie nut probably already knows, and that is it was a man named Ben Burtt who was charged with coming up with those sounds in the Star wars franchise, as well as many other popular movies, like Wall-E, Super 8, the 2009 reboot of Star Trek, the Indian Jones franchise, and many more, including the obviously not science fiction, and current film, Lincoln.
For whatever reason; call it a continued naivety carried forward from my childhood; I was still rather struck, that even in today’s computer driven world, so much still goes into the creation of sound in movies. I guess, and maybe it is still just me, we just kind of take sound for granted; probably because we are inundated with sounds of all sorts all day, every day. Music on the other hand requires a creative hand, logical thought, and the harmonious blending of musical notes, and instruments. Sound is just noise, but when you are creating a movie, or television show, or play, sounds are also needed to create a feel, an environment, and in the case of science fiction, the sound of something that doesn’t exist. Sounds are as important in the telling of a story as the musical score is, yet because sounds are so commonplace, and pedestrian they are easily overlooked, and ignored.
There are a lot of videos out there about sound design, but since it was the Star Wars documentary that initially got me thinking about this I thought I should share a snippet of an interview with Ben Burtt on how he came about creating the sounds of light-sabers™, Imperial Walkers, and explosions: