Where did the laser sound in STAR WARS come from anyway?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/05/04/where-did-the-laser-sound-in-s.html


Ben Burtt is a genius. end of story.


I remember learning this via one of the many how-it-was-made documentaries that aired over the years. Once learned, my sister and I sought out all the high-tension wires in the neighborhood to twang them for ourselves.


That was in a documentary about the FX (audio & visual) in the first Star Wars film. Maybe a year or so after its release. On German television. It was so interesting for 14-year-old me that it left a lasting impression.


If you tape a slinky onto the end of a plastic cup you can have blaster fire sound effects to your hearts content. Happy Star Wars Day! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFax1JA5zNY

I noticed as a kid a Slinky would make a laser like sound tapping on it with something hard.

My brother got me this huge book that details where thousands of sounds used in the film. I haven’t gotten through it yet.

My friend also found a sound library and discovered the baby elephant call that was used as the TIE fighter roar.


But the actual real-world origins of that iconic pkew pkew sound are less well-known

wow. I must be a 100 years old. cause in my time this was common knowlegde among everyone who knew starwars.


This might come as a shock, but people born after you don’t automatically have all the knowledge you do. They have to learn them, just like you did. :woman_shrugging: So unless someone told them about how the laser sound, they’re not going to know it.


Back in late December I pointed out a bit of lighting design to my partner, in a decidedly non-sci-fi movie, as being very Star Warsy. That’s when I learned she had seen almost none of the movies, save for portions of a prequel or two. So I explained the history and controversy of the series, doing my best to channel Mr. Plinkett in four part harmony and full orchestration. We then spent the month of January watching the whole series prior to seeing #9 in the theater. Fan++;

I told her my imperfect recollection of this pew-pew trivia at the time, so it was nice to see this here and find out that I hadn’t even lied about it!

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Another bit of classic SW trivia for any newbies out there, Burtt cameoed in Return of the Jedi as the Imperial officer who Han Solo knocks over the railing inside the Endor base. Burtt did his imitation of the Wilhelm Scream as he fell.


I always saw a connection between the sound the Tie Fighters made and the sound of the Solarites’ flaming fighter craft in the 1961 feature The Phantom Planet…

which was exactly my point :wink:

I always just assumed they were inspired by Stuka sirens.

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20,000 Hz? Can’t say I’ve ever heard it.


Good Stuka siren trivia here, BTW:

Apparently, they (1) weren’t hugely effective, and (2) were despised by the Stuka pilots themselves.


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