George Lucas explains how the lightsaber was invented

April 2, 2014 6:58 AM

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The lightsaber is without a doubt one of the most famous weapons in all of science fiction, but how did it come to be? In a new video posted on the Star Wars YouTube account, George Lucas and other involved in the Star Wars saga detail how a concept became the iconic Jedi weapon we know today.

We’ve all seen production footage and stills of the actors using hollow tubes before all the glowing post-production effects, but ever wonder what those things are? Lucas explains the original lightsabers were hacked together from the flash attachment of a 4×5 camera. The amount of “real” blade under the special effects was varied based on the speed of the scene and how close set pieces were. The goal was to create a weapon which was more noble than a blaster that any thug on the street can pick up and use. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age, as they say.

Lucas also explains his rationale for the marked difference in the speed of lightsaber battles in the original and new trilogy. The battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan in Episode IV was slower than subsequent battles because lightsaber hilts are apparently quite heavy. Lucas was adamant that the actors treat the lightsabers as if they had serious heft, like a real sword. Vader was an awkward mechanized man, and Obi-Wan was an old guy, so the battle was pretty slow.

As Luke becomes more proficient throughout the films, the lightsaber battles get more intense. And of course, the prequels are centered around powerful Jedi Knights with a strong command of lightsaber battles, so of course it’s faster and more aggressive.

As for the familiar sound of a Lightsaber humming menacingly, that’s the sound of the projectors running in the screening rooms. The crackle when the blades cross is based on the crackly feedback picked up by an unshielded tape recorder placed too close to a TV picture tube. Put it all together, and you have a Lightsaber audio track.

The video is worth checking out for the full story. It contains some cool pre-production footage of Lightsaber duels from the original films and interviews with those involved with making the Lightsaber a part of film history.


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