The sound designers behind Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens have been getting a lot of much deserved attention recently through interviews and even awards. Supervising sound editors Matthew Wood and David Acord are widely know for their work in the Star Wars saga and deserve much credit for not only mixing in classic sounds but also creating new ones, even providing their own voices in many instances. Just recently Wood and Acord spoke with Nerdist about the sound design of The Force Awakens. They cover a variety of sounds and how they created them, including Kylo Ren's Lightsaber, Teedo, the Rathtars, and further discussed the various voices in the film, which included David Acord's now infamous portrayal of FN-2199(Traitor!!). You can check out a few excerpts from the extensive interview below:
Nerdist: Star Wars is, more than any other film, I think, known for its unique sound. Can you talk about some of the new sounds you designed for The Force Awakens?
David Acord: I think the most obvious new sound effect in the movie is Kylo’s lightsaber. We were attempting, along with his Force power effect, to create sound effects that would mimic his persona, which is this raw power he has that’s not quite formed. He’s not well trained, but he’s extremely powerful. It’s a little wild and dangerous. The sword itself, the look of the sword has the extra darts coming out the side, and it’s really sparky and wavery and it looks a little homemade. The idea of the sound was to match that–something that sounds like raw energy, just pure power, very brutal and kind of wild and dangerous sounding.
The Force sound to go along with Kylo had that deep, raw, animalistic sound. It’s a chunky, raw growl that’s supposed to imitate the Force power he wields, which is a little more raw versus Rey’s Force power , which tends to be—in the few moments when she’s using the Force, hers is a little more smooth and rhythmic and like a heartbeat. That’s the contrast between the two.
Nerdist: Since you do contribute to rounding out and developing characters’ personalities with your work, at what point in the story process does your work start?
David Acord: Once you read the script and come on board, early on there’s some obvious pieces [you know] you’re going to need to tackle. I mentioned the sword, there’s some new spaceships, some ambiances. Maz’s bar–you know that’s going to be a whole thing even before you see a frame of it. Then obviously, once you see the image, it all starts to take shape.
I think the first thing that I designed, I was asked to do—there were two things. One was the Teedo character that captures BB-8 in the beginning, the voice for him and then the two junkers that hassle Rey when she’s cleaning pieces of stuff, the voices for those two guys. Those are the earliest design pieces I made, and they’re vocal designs. That’s my favorite thing to do is alien and creature vocals; that was super fun for me.
Nerdist: Along that line, what are some of the weirdest sources you pulled from to design a sound in The Force Awakens?
David Acord: [Laughs] Off the top of my head, the Kylo Ren Force rumble—the really chunky and animalistic rumble—is my cat’s purring. It’s heavily pitched and slowed version of my cat’s purr that becomes Kylo Force rumble.
When the rathtar has his mouth on the cockpit of the Falcon, when it’s trying to eat the cockpit, that is me literally choking myself. [Laughs] Finger down my throat in front of the mic to accomplish that and then it’s pitched down.
Nerdist: Dave, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about voicing FN-2199, a.k.a. TR-8R. I know it was part of the “additional voices” recording—how were those recorded and how did “Traitor!” come about?
David Acord: Normally you have a loop group, which is a collection of highly trained, skilled voice actors, gather in a room. There are a couple of microphones, and the movie is projected on a screen and the scenes are tagged or spotted ahead of time [to say], “We need two stormtroopers talking in the background of a hangar here.” That scene will come up, two actors will walk up to the mic, and will ad-lib a performance. Matthew’s expertise is in dialogue and he was very careful to pick loop group actors that were all Star Wars savvy. There are a ton of Clone Wars alums and names from previous Star Wars movies who were cast as loop groupers because they would know what to say and how to properly deal with things like the mundane dialogue two stormtroopers would have.
And then occasionally, you’ll just be working and, “We need this guy to say this right now” and we’ll go record it. That’s another way; it’s on the spot. You find somebody that can do it, and you do it. That’s how FN-2199 happened. Originally, it was J.J. His voice was a temp placeholder, and he wanted to replace it. It went through four other actors, I think, before it landed on my performance and he was okay with it. It’s a really funny thing to me. It’s a cool scene; the stunt actor, Liang Yang, really did all the hard work in that scene, but it’s fun to be part of. I didn’t even know it was a thing on the Internet until Pablo Hidalgo emailed me and asked if he could post on StarWars.com that I was the voice of FN-2199.
You can read the rest of this insightful interview by clicking here, in which they discuss BB-8's voice, the sounds of Maz Kanata's Castle and an interesting Indiana Jones Easter Egg.
Photo: Star Wars Aficionado
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