How The Lucasfilm Sound Group Ensured 'Rogue One' Was Authentic To The 'Star Wars' Galaxy

Yesterday I posted the first part of my chat with supervising sound editors Matthew Wood and Christopher Scarabosio, talking about some of the fun auditory Easter eggs you might have missed in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Today I bring you part two of that conversation, where they talk about the unofficial Lucasfilm Sound Group which ensures that all the sounds in the upcoming Star Wars movies are true to the Star Wars universe; their use of the Lucasfilm sound library; and the old-school techniques utilized to create some of the sounds for the new vehicles in the first Star Wars standalone film.

Lucasfilm Sound Group Interview

matthew wood sound editor of star wars rogue one - Lucasfilm sound group interviewPeter: Matt, you've worked on almost all of the Star Wars movies released, and Chris, you're worked on everything from Episode I on, how was this film any different than the previous Star Wars movies?Christopher: New spaceships, there are new weapons, there's a few droids. And always thinking, well, you wanna make sure it fits in with all the other stuff, but you wanna give it a good, fresh sound that's new, something that's identifiable that lives as neighbors with the legacy sound. So that's the approach. We aligned. The sounds from the original, I remember from when I was growing up, they had such an impact on me and it's probably one of the reasons why I ended up getting into the industry to begin with. So I know there's an importance to it. I know that people are gonna watch these films over and over and my goal is if you can hear that without seeing it, could you identify it? So that's kind of one of the ways I've approached doing the sound for a film like Rogue One.Matthew: I think also one of the challenges now is that we have these films coming out every year with a different director, so they have their own sort of spin on the story they wanna tell and they wanna tell it in the Star Wars universe. And we go to a lot of new creatures and locations. Certainly, in Rogue One, we have a ton of those kinds of things.  So we pick our battles for where we're gonna play the classic sounds or where we're gonna use the new sounds. And they're all gonna have to sound like they're from the same place. And it's just the energy that comes to each project with a new director and a new team that makes it actually really exciting for us.Lucasfilm sound libraryLucasfilm has a library of sounds from Star Wars. How are legacy sound effects incorporated into Rogue One?Matthew: Yeah. We're in charge of that library. That's sort of one of the reasons why they have us work on all of the Star Wars productions. We are doing Rebels, the TV series, and we're doing video games and all that. The Lucasfilm Story Group keeps the story straight across everything, and we're in charge of doing that with sound. And we have sounds from all the way back to the original sounds that were created by Ben Burtt in the '70s which are fantastic and we just wanna keep those restricted to our Star Wars productions. What's special, when someone sees a TIE Fighter, it sounds like a TIE Fighter. You know, it's not gonna sound like something from another movie. And then everything that we make, Chris is cataloging. We've got Krennic's shuttle and the U-Wings and the TIE Strikers. And even though there's kind of a closed loop at the end of this movie where everything kind of goes, but who knows? You know, there could, if something springboards out of this film we wanna make sure that we have access to all that material that's been created and is created especially and it'll just be used in Star Wars.Is there any sense of how big the sound library is at this point?Matthew: The Star Wars classic library is over eight thousand sounds. But that's just the original trilogy. Everything we created in the prequels and we created in Force Awakens and Clone Wars and Rebels, that's just beyond countable. It's a tremendous amount of sound effects and Foley and creatures and everything that we created that we use as our base for a lot of the projects.lucasfilm story groupCan you talk about how you are bringing a continuity to Rogue One, kind of like the story group brings but in the realm of sounds?Matthew: Yeah, the continuity that we bring to it is certainly, we just offer opportunity. You know, it's like here's a moment where we could lay these sounds that have a legacy that would be something that I think would be upheld. Like especially at the very end of the movie when we go right back to the Tantive IV and we're right about to launch with Leia. And we wanna make sure the alarms were aligned with the alarms that were in New Hope. We wanted to very much make sure that there's a continuity there. We just try to offer opportunity. Here's a moment where you could sort of subconsciously connect to something historical in the Star Wars record. But then Chris' challenge is to take that even farther and like build it so here's new material that also could sound like it comes from the same place. And that's a huge challenge like for Chris and I in this project.What was the hardest thing in that respect, Chris, to create something that's supposed to be of this world that you did not have access to previously?Christopher: I'd say all the new ships were probably the biggest challenge. Just because the existing legacy ships are so identifiable that I knew that they had to seem new and fresh and so approaching the spaceships were probably the biggest challenge to come up with something new and fresh I think. That and the weapons for Baze and Chirrut.Rogue One - Princess LeiaWe've heard that they used a line from Carrie Fisher for her CG appearance in the film.  Matthew: Yes. I found the original tapes in a box in the archives at Lucasfilm, the original recording of her hologram from New Hope. Her "help me,Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope" scene. And I transferred all those. I found a scene that could work and transferred those into our editing systems that we thought represented her part there and so that's actually Carrie Fisher from 1977 saying "hope" on top of John Knoll's incredible visual work there. And I'm told by John that Carrie had seen it and approved of it.Did you ever consider bringing Carrie in to record the line? Or was that always the intention to find a clip of her?Matthew: I think it was, we knew that she, we wanted, it was just a happy accident, the fact that she was gonna say hope. We wanted the film to end literally on a note of hope. So that happened and we could have got a soundalike I'm sure, but the fact that we had Carrie Fisher saying the word hope and we had about 25 different outtakes of her saying hope in different ways. That really, we went with that instead of a soundalike.Rogue One - Darth Vader Shadow and Director KrennicIs there any challenge of matching up James Earl Jones' voice as Darth Vader nowadays to match A New Hope?Matthew: Yeah, sure. I mean, we had Angus MacInnes who played Gold Leader, one of the leaders in the X-Wings. You know, James Earl Jones and Angus were both matching into a performance from 40 years ago. So certainly there's a challenge there. But both of them did it and, you know, Vader had some processing we had to do to enhance so that is kind of a great equalizer when we process the voice to make it sound similar to what he'd done before. And he was thrilled to come back and as, you know, all the directors and myself included, the producers. Working with him again was just a dream.Rogue One A Star Wars Story - U-Wing FighterDid you go back and do some old school Foley techniques for Rogue One? Like recording real sounds from different environments? Or is it all done in the computer nowadays?Christopher: We're still recording stuff, yeah. Part of the U-Wing sound is these racing drones that actually my son had showed me a clip of something on YouTube. And I tracked down the guy. He's from the Bay Area. And had him come out and we did some recordings of these racing drones. They were pilots that raced these things. And they do a bunch of tricks and crazy flying.  They did like five different drones. So those became an element of the U-Wing. Yeah, we recorded a door motor for a handicap access door for K-2SO's motors. So yeah, we're out recording all the time. We're always looking for new sounds, fresh sounds. Found sounds, whatever.

That's always been one of my favorite parts of the special features, is seeing how guys create some of these sounds. Can we expect any of that on like upcoming Blu-ray or DVD?Mathew: Yeah, I mean, I'm certain. They shot a lot of footage. We don't even know where a lot of that ends up. It's kind of Star Wars has such a big following, a lot of these guys are, you know, they document everything. But we don't, we're not privy to where it ends up. But I'm sure there is footage that has been taken.Well, thank you, guys, I am a fan of both your work.  Christopher: Thank you.Matthew: Thank you very much.