In creating the original Star Wars trilogy, filmmakers had to find clever solutions to a very specific problem: sound. YouTuber and former film student Kristian Williams, aka kaptainkristian, pinpoints this problem concisely. “With film, the goal of a traditional audio department is to reinterpret the visual environment into a complimentary aural environment, giving realistic contextual sound to images on screen,” Williams says in narration. “But what happens when none of those sounds exist? When there’s no source to draw from?”
For example: if you’re going to have lightsabers, what exactly does light sound like?
Williams explores the work of Ben Burtt, who designed the sound for Star Wars at a time when sound creators were divided into either production mixers or sound editors. Burtt began using the term sound designer to describe his work, which required a great deal of post-production work. “The sound gives those visuals credibility,” Williams explains, “and can take something that seemed relatively awkward during production and transform it into something epic.”
In other words, without proper sound design, those iconic lightsaber duals would have sounded like two dudes whacking each other with wooden swords.