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News & Insight

Star Wars Featurette: BTS Video of the Birth of the Lightsaber

By Kishore Sawh on April 3rd 2014


Star Wars has, over time, become a yardstick in the lexicon of film comparisons; Best fight scenes, most iconic vehicle, and most iconic weapon, to name a few. Whenever these conversations come up around me, I’m either soon to be found being sick in a bush, or if forced to take part, arguing against the Star Wars fans that James Bond beats it in every category. I do this simply because they’re so intense it’s humorous – and because I’m right.

When I say intense, I mean it. I was once witness to a debate about the greatest spaceship ever created. One side said it was the Starship Enterprise, and the other, the Millennium Falcon. I suggested the space shuttle, but was quickly told to shut up. “The Enterprise can zip along at ‘warp 9,” but “the Falcon has double hyperdrive,” they argued, while I yawned. Until things got real.


Apparently, it has escaped some that neither is real. Some people have gone on to actually work out real dimensions and density by doing all sort of calculations based on footage in film dealing with non-relativistic rotational speeds, and other such witchcraft. The Falcon is apparently 27 meters in diameter, 7 meters thick, and with a density of 4,000 cubic meters. Which, oddly, is the same estimated density of The Enterprise, laboring under the assumption that around 90 percent of the volume is air. And this is the way it is with Star Wars fans. It’s passion.

Yet, whatever your thoughts are on intergalactic space ships, there is little debate on the most iconic weapon. You would find it nigh impossible to identify a weapon or object from film as instantly identifiable as the lightsaber. It’s distinct sound and elegant look, hark back to a Lancelot-like ‘more civilized age,’ which a ‘Phaser’ just can’t hold a candle to. All of this though, made it a challenge to capture on camera, especially given the time period of their first appearance. However, that labored and storied history of development is laid bare in this 15 minute behind the scenes video.

[REWIND: 900 Megapixel Portraits With A Canon 5D MK II]




From the epic’s creator to Ben Burtt, the man who created the sound of the lightsaber, along with the sounds of blasters, R2-D2, and Vader’s breathing, the video chronicles how a lightsaber came into being as the Excalibur of the series. From humble beginnings as a stick with rotoscoped animation over the blades, to the modern mostly CGI sword it’s evolved into today, put together in post. It’s here, and fascinating.


The video really does illuminate a lot. I’m still impressed at how Lucas and co. go through the development of the filming techniques, along with the long process of trial and error required in making the sabers look as desired on screen. It’s great info for any Star Wars fan, and will likely even more solidify your argument that the Lightsaber is indeed the most iconic weapon in film history. Except, you’d be wrong. It’s the Walther PPK. End of story.

[via Laughing Squid]

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Barry Cunningham

    “4,000 cubic meters” is not a density measure, it is a volume measure.
    A density measure would have units of mass / volume.
    Just keeping it real.

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  2. Jacob Jexmark

    Having built three lightsaber hilts I would argue with you on the most iconic movie weapon ;) Or not. Being a massive Star Wars geek aside you are absolutely right. There is no weapon more iconic than 007’s Walther PPK. I love how it made a return in the later Bond movies with Daniel Craig (as did the Aston Martin DB5, yay!).

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  3. Austin

    The last YouTube video is private. Great read though.

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  4. Rick

    Nice tribute to Bond; as a huge fan, I’ll definitely agree with you :)

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