To kick off a new class of interns (and score some cool new sound elements for our library), I asked Boom Box Post intern James Singleton to create a selection of lightsaber/laser sword sound effects. The original Star Wars trilogy is chalk full of classic sound effects that continue to inspire our field today, and recreating old favorites is a great way to flex sound design muscles and explore unconventional techniques. I requested James work primarily from recordings and sounds created specifically for this project, and take inspiration from Ben Burtt's original methods. To wrap up the project I asked him to tell me a little about his process for creating the final sound effects.
These lightsabers sound sweet! What were the steps in the process for creating them?
James: The first step was taking a walk through the office looking for sources to record. We were looking for anything that was humming, buzzy or electrical. After capturing some material, I trimmed down the files and started fooling around with plug-ins and layering different recordings.
Once we had the steadys, we moved on to the swishes. We created the swishes by what I call re-sampling. Basically we played the steadys out of one speaker while waving a shotgun microphone back in forth in jedi-fashion to create the doppler effect. Then we edited the resulting sounds down to separate elements for the library.
What tools did you find yourself using the most while creating?
James: For this project I used a lot of Pro Tools Elastic Audio Vari-Speed to slow down and speed up elements. Some layers were processed using Unfiltered Audio's Indent saturation plug-in to get more of a fat, unstable, electrical sound. I also used some EQ for spectral management when layering.
How do you see these sounds being used by other editors?
James: I was envisioning these elements being used in a dramatic lightsaber battle. I remembered the scene Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, when Yoda flips through the air and demolishes Count Dooku in super cool jedi style.