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Sound Engineer Ben Burtt Explains How STAR WARS’ Most Iconic Sounds Were Made

Imagine Star Wars‘ iconic lightsaber…you can almost hear it now, right? Now think of a blaster bolt, or Chewy’s stuttering roar. Over almost 40 years, these sounds have been etched into our collective consciousness. Hear any one of them and you’ll instantly think of Star Wars. But how did these famous pressure waves come to be?

Below, legendary sound engineer Ben Burtt goes through the surprisingly complicated processes that ultimately generated famous Star Wars sounds, from the malfunctioning Millennium Falcon to the hum of a lightsaber. Now these are by no means new interviews, but I was so amped by the look and feel of the lighsabers in the latest The Force Unleashed footage that these are all worth a watch no matter when they’re from.

The first interview with Burtt describes just how complicated the lightsaber sound is, and the kind of engineering imagination it took to create it:

How about how the Death Star made that most famous BOOM:

A malfucntioning hyperdrive turns out to be a very rich, non-intuitive sound:

“R2-D2 was probably the most difficult voice to work on,” says Burtt in the video below, “because it was the most abstract”:

Finally, Chewbacca’s voice was the first Burtt was hired for, back when Star Wars was just a script. It’s a combination of bears, walruses, lions, and many other animals:

Burtt didn’t go through how he crafted a blaster bolt sound in these interviews, but thankfully, if you have a slinky and a microphone you can make your own:

IMAGE: LucasFilm

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