How Six Classic Movie Sounds Were Made

February 24, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

Light saber
Photo credit: Pascal/Flickr (Public Domain)

From Lightsabers to T-Rex

The sound effects in a movie can make or break how realistic it seems. The wrong sound will affect the whole atmosphere and can easily change the mood or feel of a scene. Often, filmmakers must get creative to create the sounds they need during post-production. You can’t just go out and film a tyrannosaurus after all!

Lightsabers in Star Wars

The sound of the lightsabers in Star Wars came from mixing the hum of an idle film projector with the buzz from an old TV set. Ben Burtt, an American sound designer, explained that it came about somewhat by accident.

“I recorded that motor, and a few days later I had a broken microphone cable that caused my recorder to accidently pick up the buzz from the back of my TV picture tube. I recorded that buzz, and mixed it with the hum of the projector motor. Together these sounds became the basis for all the lightsabers,” he told

To capture the “lightsaber swooshing sound,” he played the sounds through a speaker and “twirled and swiped a shotgun microphone” in front of it according to Mental Floss.

Jurassic Park’s T-Rex

Many animals, from baby elephants and alligators to whales and dogs were used to create the iconic dinosaur sounds. Sound designer Gary Rydstrom slowed them down to create the chilling noises.

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"One of the fun things in sound design is to take a sound and slow it down: It becomes much bigger," he told Vulture. “If you slow something down, something small, it brings out elements of the sound that you could probably never get if you recorded something big.”

The Spartacus Army

According to Empire, the clanking sound of the marching army was created by simply jingling a set of keys. Who knew it could be so easy?

Psycho’s Shower Scene

The eerily realistic stabbing sounds during the shower scene in Psycho were achieved by stabbing through innumerable melons. The search for the perfect melon wasn’t easy: “In a recording studio, prop man [Bob] Bone auditioned the melons for Hitchcock, who sat listening with his eyes closed,” writes Stephen Rebello in Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, according to Mental Floss.

Wolverine’s Claws in X-Men

Sound designers Craig Berkey and Stephen Flick emphasized the realism they wanted to create with the sounds they used for Wolverine’s claws, when talking to Gizmondo. "The main part was making these sounds visceral and real—not comic book-like or magical," says Berkey.

They precisely determined the length of the claws and then established the velocity at which they were pushed out and drawn back in.

“For the claw sound, essentially there were two main elements I was working on. One was the metallic blade sound, as it goes in or out. The other was the actual physical sound of something going through flesh and retracting," Berkey explains.

For the flesh tearing, they used chicken and turkey carcasses and for the “metal protruding through flesh,” they cracked nuts.

Godzilla’s Roar

In the 1954 rendition of Godzilla, Ishiro Honda’s sound team achieved Godzilla’s bellow through an odd manner: rubbing the strings of a double bass with a leather glove coated in pine tar resin, according to Empire.

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