The Sound of a Lightsaber

There’s a great three-minute video interview with Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt up on Mental Floss at the moment, where he describes the creation of that beautiful lightsaber hum.


I could really just sort of hear the sound. I guess somewhere in my subconscious I had seen a lightsaber before.

We tend to watch the Star Wars trilogy,1 I think, with rose-tinted glasses. While there are many things to be admired in them, they’re also flawed in a lot of ways. Sound design isn’t one of them. Think of how many iconic sounds come from those films: lightsabers, laser blasts, Vader’s breathing, Chewbacca’s roar, R2D2’s chirps and whistles, the engines of the Millennium Falcon. The list goes on.

I’ve written before about my admiration of good sound design. In the case of Star Wars, it was fundamental to the creation of the universe.

Which is all to say, check out the video.

Update: There are more videos, which Mental Floss are drip-feeding us. Here’s Chewbacca and R2D2, and explosions.

1The Star Wars trilogy.

Behind the Roar: Finding Godzilla’s Iconic Voice

I loved discovering how the original Godzilla roar was made, in this article by Dawn Chmielewski on Re/code:

“It’s one of the most famous sound effects in cinema history,” said Aadahl. “We really wanted to embrace that and use the original as our template, and pay homage to that.”

The original film’s composer, Akira Ifukube, used a double bass, a leather glove and some pine tar to produce Godzilla’s trademark call.

“They’d rub the glove against the double base to create that groan,” Aadahl said.

The imagination of sound artists in those days blows my mind.