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January 2016

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THE FORCE AWAKENS AT SKYWALKER SOUND 40 POST JANUARY 2016 to add movement. Another new face in The Force Awakens is the droid BB-8. Although similar to R2-D2 in that BB-8 commu- nicates in beeps and tones, the sound of BB-8 needed to be instantly distin- guishable from his droid cousin. "If they had a conversation it had to be obvious who was speaking," says Wood. It was no small task following in the tracks of R2's sound. Rydstrom, Burtt, Acord and Wood went through numerous permu- tations on BB-8. They came up with loading sounds into a custom tactile in- terface that can change timbre and pitch. Director Abrams was able to use the interface to perform sections of sound for BB-8's scenes. Additionally, they em- ployed two 'BB-8 voice consultants,' Ben Schwartz and Bill Hader. Schwartz set up the timings for how the droid would speak to the other characters. "There is a lot more dialogue that happens between a droid and the other characters than ever before in a Star Wars film," explains Wood. Once they established a pat- tern for BB-8's responses, sound editor Lindsey Alvarez cut Abrams's samples to picture. Acord had the idea to pass some of those samples through a Heil Talkbox by Jim Dunlop, and have them performed through the mouth of actor Bill Hader. "Then we recorded those per- formances using a microphone to give it a rounded, analog effect. Some of those samples ended up in BB-8, too. It was a long process with BB-8. Many levels of design came together to create the final product," says Wood. In addition to helping craft the voice of BB-8, Wood was also tasked with inventing vocal processes for Kylo Ren's mask, Captain Phasma's mask and the Stormtrooper helmet futzes. Intelligibility was paramount in Wood's quest to find a unique, character-appropriate sound for each. For perfidious Kylo Ren, Wood notes, "Early on we knew we wanted the sound of the mask to be something the actor could be motivated by." He made a version of Kylo's vocal process — a com- bination of five different plug-ins from Waves, like the Chris Lord-Alge CLA Effects, and Soundtoys, and fed that into actor Adam Driver's headphones during the ADR session. "He could really play on the mic. The plug-ins were able to affect his performance in a way that was pos- itive and real. It wasn't just him reading the lines dry and then we post-processed them. He actually got to play while we recorded," says Wood. Abrams wanted Kylo's mask to sound like a reflection of his lightsaber, which sounds broken and imperfect. Unlike Darth Vader's mask that served to keep him alive, Kylo's mask only functions as a means of intimidation. "JJ would use big words like flamethrower, chainsaw and Harley-Davidson — sounds that are really, really big — to get that across emotional- ly. We used distortion, compression and side-banding to get that quality out of Kylo's mask." For Captain Phasma's mask, Wood chose a combination of delay and ring modulation plug-ins from the Waves diamond bundle. Additionally, he notes C-3PO's voice is treated with EQ to roll off the top and bottom frequencies, and a short delay. All of C-3PO's lines were post-recorded by the man-in-the-suit himself, actor Anthony Daniels. "Anthony can always up his performance. That is when looping is really doing its job, when you are improving a scene and it doesn't feel like you are just doing it from a tech- nical standpoint. It feels like, creatively, it is helping the movie and that is some- thing we did with C-3PO," says Wood. Chewbacca's voice in The Force Awakens was edited from Burtt's classic Chewbacca sounds that he created using a slew of animals like walruses, rabbits, camels, lions, tigers and bears. Acord and sound effects editor Terry Eckton, who worked on the original and prequel Star Wars films, had the challenge of cutting the existing material into new 'lines' for Chewy. "There were a couple of mo- ments there that required them to craft a line with a particular cadence we were looking for and I think they pulled it off pretty well," says Wood. It wouldn't be a galaxy without differ- ent alien species, all speaking different alien languages. To keep track of them all, Lucas Licensing keeps a Holocron — a continuity database that catalogs all Classic Chewbacca sounds were used for his vocalizations. Kylo Ren's mask and lightsaber were made to sound "imperfect." Fans are very familiar with R2-D2 and C3PO, so BB-8's sound needed to be instantly distinguishable.

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