March 6, 2018
Video Essay

Watch: Discover the Importance of Sound Design in New Star Wars 'Force of Sound' Doc

Excuse the pun, but sound is definitely a force in film. 

When used in motion pictures, sound evokes emotion, helping to bring viewers into the world on screen. In the case of Star Wars, it brings them to a galaxy far, far away.

Whether it’s a malfunction with the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive, a blaster firing, a Wookie screaming, or a lightsaber hacking off a Jedi's limb, all of these sounds have to be conceptualized and put together by a team of people. These talented folks are called sound designers, and if they do their job well, you shouldn’t even know that they exist. 

“We often say that hearing is believing. The sounds that we put in give the dramatic reality to something that might otherwise be somewhat lifeless.”

ABC’s new Force of Sound documentary follows the sound design team at Skywalker Sound as they work on the latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi. This fascinating doc reveals the importance of sound design through interviews with the team and director Rian Johnson, showing how they came up with some of the more interesting sounds incorporated into the film. Of course, we're referring to the Porgs. 

A good portion of the documentary focuses on the foley artists and how they created very specific sounds for the film. Unfortunately, they don’t show how the latest lightsaber sounds were made. We do, however, get to see how they came up with the sound of Rey picking up Luke’s lightsaber after he tosses it over a cliff. In case you’re wondering, it involves an air pistol and a garlic press. 

“Sound is a subconscious force of the scene. Because you can’t see it, you hear it, and that’s a pure feeling. We can get away with using things to convey emotion that visuals can’t.”

The team also revealed how they came up with the sound of the Force connection between Kylo and Rey, an entirely new concept in the Star Wars universe. For these scenes, Rian Johnson and sound designer Ren Klyce were able to create a sense of intimacy between the characters that wasn’t all about a visual effect. They also discuss the use of silence, and how they came up with the sound design for that impressive lightspeed collision scene.

The documentary is definitely worth a watch, and if you are still curious about how lightsaber sounds are made, check out this interview with Ben Burtt.      

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