R2-D2’S voice. A blaster firing. Vader’s heavy breathing. Sound designer Ben Burtt created the legendary sounds for the Star Wars films. Burtt faced the task of using the objects of this world to create the sounds of another, completely alien world. He was guided in his choices by the story of the films. “The story is essentially about good and evil,” he says, “so I designed sounds that reflected that. Imperial ships and weapons tended to be shrieking and howling, frightening and ominous. Rebel spaceships, locations, and weapons, on the other hand, sounded less threatening, less sleek, and more organic.”
Burtt found many of the sounds that he used in unexpected places. When he wanted to create the sound of spaceships, he visited a NASA rocket testing facility to record their rocket engines. But in the end, he didn’t use the rocket sounds. Instead he used the sound of a faulty air conditioner in his hotel room!
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Q Where do personal preferences come from? For example, I like hard rock music. Why am I that social outcast who runs screaming into the bathroom at school dances when everyone else is singing along? —Kate, age 13, Ohio
Trevor Cox – Acoustic engineer and Stonehenge researcher
Trevor Cox is a professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford in the United Kingdom. He engineers systems to make sound better. And he studies how the structures we build affect the sounds we make inside them.
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Courtney Craven – Gamer and disability activist
Craven does presentations worldwide to assist game developers, teachers, writers, and others in making text and images available to people with any disability.
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