The sound design of Star Wars is explained by the father of Skywalker Sound, Ben Burtt!
One of the small wonders inside the Star Wars universe is how every sound sells the world that's being built. They never feel out of place or wonky, they just take us deeper into a world we are slowly beginning to understand. That goes for the blasters but also the foreign languages spoken on every planet.
The man behind the mythos is Ben Burtt. He's the guy who was behind the scenes of your childhood. Creating the "voice" of R2-D2, the lightsaber hum, the sound of the blaster guns, the heavy breathing of Darth Vader, and the Ewoks’ language, Ewokese.
And that's only his Star Wars work. But how did he do all of that? Like how can you make a language?
Check out this video from INDEPTH Sound Design, and let's talk after the jump!
Do a Deep Dive into the Sound of Return of the Jedi with Ben Burtt
This is a long video, and I won't summarize it all so you can enjoy discovering things for yourself. But I did want to look at a few highlights together.
First, how disturbing was it to watch Jabba speaking English?
I had no idea they performed the lines in English and then re-dubbed over them in Huttese in post. Language creation seems incredibly daunting. Lucky for us, Burtt gave an epic 10-minute masterclass on how he creates an alien language within the video. There's a real art to it, working in the phonetics of the speech as well as just figuring out how an alien's dialect will sound in our ears.
Another cool factoid, speaking of voices, is that the voice of Leia in disguise as Boushh is actually Pat Welsh, the voice of E.T. That's a clever cameo that I'll never be able to unhear, and now you have to be a part of that as well. Given that E.T. himself shows up in the prequels, this is fitting.
With all this work, I was hoping that Burtt had a physical place in the movie. In fact, he's in there twice, as a palace droid and an Imperial officer. This adds another layer to watching the movie and provides some trivia I can point out as a nerd.
When it comes to sound design, everything has to be in play. You can gather the right sound from any source. Your ears need to be keen. For example, a hot dog... that's right, the Rancor beast roars come from a dachshund!
This is all fun trivia, but there are lots of reasons to watch all 45 minutes. Those of us fascinated by worldbuilding and traveling to faraway lands can really find inspiration in the way Burtt listens to language and listens in general. It puts this sound design over the top, and it's what makes Star Wars special.
Not like Christmas special... special... you get the picture.
What were your favorite parts of the video? Let us know in the comments.