Stories Behind 5 Iconic Star Wars Sound Effects

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When George Lucas and his plucky team of special effects, sound design, and cinematography whiz kids got together to create the original “œStar Wars”movies, they blazed new trails in all three of those departments. The techniques, technologies, and equipment used to create the sound and look of the films changed the way countless subsequent films were made. And some of the most memorable, easily recognizable aspects of “œStar Wars””“ the sounds and sound effects ““ came from some decidedly unexpected places.

5 The Lightsaber

Ben Burtt, the superlative sound designer on the “œStar Wars”films, says he got the sound for the famous Jedi (and Sith) weapon, the lightsaber, when walking past a vacuum-tube TV carrying a microphone. The eerie, electric hum it captured became their basic noise, and by whipping the microphone around, he produced the noise the lightsabers make when flying about through the air (or through people’s hands, as so often happens in those films).

4 The Laser Guns

The iconic “œskew-pew!”sound of the laser rifles and laser pistols that Han and Luke wield so skillfully, and that Imperial Storm Troopers were evidently trained to use by blind three-toed sloths, owe their futuristic sound to “¦ a backpack bonking a wire. A guywire supporting an antennae tower, to be precise, and the metal frame of a hiker’s pack. (The sound engineers recreated and amplified the noise using a hammer.)

3 The Ewok Language

There are dozens of languages heard in the “œStar Wars”trilogy, but most of them get a few lines, and then fade into the rich tapestry of that long ago, faraway galaxy. The Ewoks, though, have plenty of on-screen jawboning, so it makes sense that their “œlanguage”is almost real. In fact, it is an amalgamation of three distinct yet similar languages ““ dialects of Tibetan, Mongolian, and Nepali tongues, with word order changed and some nonsense added.

2 The Vehicles of “œStar Wars”

We wanted to tell you about a lot of them, so we’re forcing it all into this one point. The iconic TIE Fighter “œmoan”sound? That’s a re-mastered elephant call! Luke’s Landspeeder whines across the deserts of Tatooine thanks to sound engineers capturing the din of a Los Angeles freeway through a tube. The Speeder Bikes from Endor? Those got their engine sound from the blended engine noise of two of WWII’s most famous fighter planes, the P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning. And those menacing Imperial Walkers may look like latter-day Trojan horses, but they actually sound like massive industrial presses at work, plus chains and scraps of metal being dropped on cement.

1 Chewie’s “œLanguage”

Chewie, that loveable, badass sidekick, was not only always ready to kick some serious Imperial butt, he was also constantly screaming and yowling in a decidedly non-human voice. His “œspeech”was actually a blending of the calls of walruses, camels, and badgers, among other things (like a person).

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