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See the interview with Ben Burt how the sounds of Star Wars were created (click the image to see the video).

Ben Burtt on Lightsaber Sound Design

Darth Vader

“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.”  

Light Saber

“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.” 

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Test First Name this a issue of Pro tools experts by Mike Thornton 

In this free video Pro Tools user Marcelo Cyro reveals some of his sound design tricks in the soundtrack of the Oscar nominated animation – The Boy And The World. Watch as he shows how he created the ambiences for this scene.

 Recently Pro Tools Expert interviewed Marcelo about how he and the team of 4 produced the soundtrack for this oscar nominated film that is up against blockbusters like Inside Out and the Shaun The Sheep Movie.

As part of a series Marcelo is unpacking and revealing some of the techniques the team used to create the soundtrack in Pro Tools. Over to you Marcelo…

Telling a story using film is about creating connections between characters, places, objects, emotions and feelings. The ambiences should be very effective to help tell the story and provide the appropriate connections when producing sound for film.

Today we are going to look at ambiences, and how create some appropriate and believable environments. The sound of this oscar nominated movie was created to be a special world – to be the boy’s imaginative world and so it is a part of the imagination of the central character in ‘The Boy And The World’.

 Watch the video and you will see that there are a lot of layers in the atmosphere of this scene. You hopefully can hear that is a very sad and introspective scene, and a lot of this was the result of the way we structured the ambiences.

There are a lot of bird and animals but very little real sound, it was recorded and processed following the design brief from the director and alot of the sounds were created using musical instruments.

We like to use some layers to make the sound bigger, wider and richer, there are some music instruments playing the effects and also some very curious objects like the sound of scraping a plastic toy.

Our aim was to make all the sound convey the sense of sadness and loneliness.

– First, a waterphone was used to give an emotional feeling.

– Different whistles was used to create some birds.

– The crickets were achieved using a very small synth from Korg, the Monotron. We used a lot of cut off, to produce a very fast sound, with no sustain at all.

– Other animals were created by some very simple vocalizations by making some wind noises with the month.

– Flutes playing both short and longer notes, as well as some trills notes with some reverb give a variety of birds and a space for them to occupy. 

– The frogs are made with a very small plastic toy scraped with a finger.

Hopefully you can see that with some simple but very creative effects we can create the appropriate emotion for this movie.