The ideal method for creating any sound effect is to capture it live in its natural environment, it will possess all the authenticity and fullness of effect. Unfortunately, it is not always so easy to do this, for a number of reasons of course, but a major one being that a particular sound or even the object making that, may not exist in reality. Thus, a sound must be crafted to the creators vision. This blog will be examining the world famous sound of the Lightsaber, from the LucasFilm saga, Star Wars.
The Lightsaber sound was created by the sound designer for the first film, Star Wars IV A New Hope, Ben Burtt. Amongst the plethora of weird and exotic sounds Burtt had to create, the first to catch his interest was the Lightsaber sound. At this time he was a student and a projectionist at USC, the campus had projection booths and some very old Simplex projectors, these were connected to the system with interlocking motors. When switched on they created this humming sound, according to Burtt this hum was the foundation of the Lightsaber sound. Burtt also found, by accident, this other sound, that was created when he walked past a running Television set with a microhone. The microphone picked up a transmission from the TV when passing over the picture tube, it created another humming and buzzing sound. These two became the basic lightsaber sound for the film.
From this point the only hurdle to tackle was creating the right tone to work with the visuals, a lightsabre isn’t a stationary object, it is constantly being waved and thrusted around. To create that effect, he played the humming and buzzing sounds through speaker, and with a long microphone, he recreated the Lightsaber movements of the actors in front of the speaker. This created a pitch changing sort of doppler effect which created this feeling that the Lightsaber was moving around. This sound has been a landmark in history for all sound designers, and a piece of inspiration for myself and many other engineers to chase and learn from.
Ben Burtt on Lightsaber Sound Design. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 1 July 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0WJ-8B6aUM
Star Wars Featurette: The Birth of the Lightsaber. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 1 July 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIefj6dOhnM
For our major group project this trimester at SAE, we are focusing on sound replacement, concepts such as foley, ADR, sound effects and composition. Creating interesting sound effects is a major part of this project as one of the designated sound designers. Exploring new concepts of sound design is something I am very excited to be apart of.