Robots are going to take over the world one day. It’s inevitable. But if they’re all as cute as BB-8, meh, we’re cool with it.
The only problem is going to be understanding what our new overlords are saying. Thankfully, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” sound supervisor Matthew Wood is here to translate.
The Huffington Post caught up with Wood recently to talk about “The Force Awakens,” which is now out on Blu-ray and DVD. He opened up about how his team at Skywalker Sound created BB-8’s unique voice and even revealed what the droid is actually saying.
“Some of the first notes we had [from director J.J. Abrams] were that he really wanted BB-8 to have a distinct sound,” said Wood.
They started by creating an interface with oscillators that Abrams could use on set to give the actors something to react to. Then, once that was done, actor Ben Schwartz was brought into the cutting room to speak the droid’s dialogue in English. (No beep boops.) Wood said that gave everyone the ability to know what BB-8 was saying and thinking. Sounds were then built to match that emotional quality.
“So that was used as a guide for us to make our sound sort of go over the top of that,” said Wood.
So what was BB-8 actually saying? Wood broke down the droid’s first meeting with Rey:
The first time you hear him, it’s sort of off screen, and you hear him yelling because Tito has kidnapped him, and you have the creature sound that Tito is riding on the back of, and BB-8 is making sounds, but then it’s when Rey runs over and starts talking to him. Even moments there when she first rescues him, and she’s like, ‘That’s just Tito. He’s a dune bandit, and he’s going to sell you for parts.’ And then Ben Schwartz’s dialogue would be like, ‘Oh, yeah? Well, you know, I hate you, Tito.’ And he’s like yelling to him, basically getting mad at him. And it’s good for us to know the emotional beats. Like, ‘Well, can I come with you?’ He’s like, ‘Oh, thank you so much for saving me … please take me with you.’ And she’s like, ‘No, I’m not going to,’ and it was just that kind of dialogue to help the plot. Is he feeling desperate here? Is he feeling angry?
Wood said most of the dialogue matched up with what the puppeteers had already done on set, since BB-8 is so expressive, but the phrases were meant to help Abrams editorially with the beats of what was being said.
The last step for BB-8’s voice was bringing in Bill Hader, who helped create a library of sounds.
“We spent days recording with him and set the output of this oscillator device into Bill Hader’s mouth, and he could almost do it like a Peter Frampton guitar type talk box … and give it sort of a more rounded quality” said Wood.
So hopefully all this helps you understand BB-8 a little better. Now when the robots take over, you’ll be ready.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
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