David Acord interview | Star Wars

Besides things like the characters and visual effects, sounds are very important when creating a Star Wars movie for the big screen or a Clone Wars episode for the small screen. Sound designer David Acord is one of the people responsible for this.
He has been at Skywalker Sound since Attack of the Clones and is currently involved with the Clone Wars TV series. Besides the sounds he's also the man behind many voices; Rotta the Hutt, GH-7, Pilf Mukmuk and A-4D are just some of the characters he voiced.
In February 2010 I had the chance to ask him some questions about his career, Star Wars and Clone Wars. Here's the result of that.

How did you get started in the sound engineering/movie business??

I was a musician in college, in couple of bands, and we recorded a lot of original music, mainly for our friends and each other. I suppose that was my introduction in sound recording/editing/mixing. As for the film business, I was working in the Special Effects department on 12 Monkeys in 1994-1995. On set, I got to be pretty tight with the sound mixer, Jay Meagher, talking about sound and sound mixing. He graciously hired me on to his next 4 or 5 projects as his assistant.

How did you get started at Lucasfilm?

Matthew Wood. After a couple of years of knocking on their door (so to speak), and two or three interviews later... I was hired as an assistant on Attack of the Clones.

GH-7, the medical droid that delivered Luke and Leia in Revenge of the Sith

You’re currently sound designer for Clone Wars. Can you tell what you exactly have to do for this series?

The "sound designer" is basically in charge of the sound effects for a show. The designer selects, creates, records, etc. sound effects to create a specific tone for the project.

In 2009 you won a Golden Reel Award for Clone Wars. Did you feel winning that award was a crown on your work?

It is certainly great to be recognized by your peers for your work! I'm very proud of the work we do and of the people I work with; it's a collaborative process after all.

David Acord (left) and Matt Wood (right) with their Golden Reel Award

You worked on the 2004 DVD version of the Star Wars original trilogy. For this, you had to go through the archives. Were there notable discoveries you made while going through all those old takes?

Ha! Yes, indeed. Matthew Wood and I had a lot of fun pouring over alternate takes of famous lines from the show. I think the one that stood out to me was an exchange between George Lucas and Alec Guinness. It was an ADR (looping) session and George was directing Alec's performance for lines like "Use the Force, Luke..." That was kind of surreal.

Pilf Mukmuk, the kowakian monkey lizard from Clone Wars

At Skywalker Sound you must have met the legendary Ben Burrt, who won 2 Oscars. Has he taught you important things and functioned as a mentor to you?

I owe quite a bit to Ben Burtt, obviously. Ben is a good friend and has been a great guide and a source of encouragement during my time as designer on Clone Wars.

You have done a wide range of voices for Star Wars and Clone Wars. Do you consider yourself a voice actor as well?
And how do you create all these voices? Is there a lot of computer enhancement involved?

Well, I have spent time learning the craft of voice acting at classes San Francisco and Oakland. I have a lot to learn still, I have great respect for our voice actors on Clone Wars; those guys are amazing! The voices I've done range from robotic (A-4D and GH-7) to creature (Rotta and Pilf Mukmuk) to human (Senate guards and the Coronet Captain). The droid voices are definitely processed, at least somewhat, to give them that classic Star Wars droid ring. The creature voices have a little less process, usually just a pitch change.

Pune Zignat, the aqualish technician

About the characters you have voiced; did you get to choose them yourself? Or were the assigned to you?

Generally, you audition for a voice role. A couple of characters were sort of assigned to me, though. GH-7 for instance: Ben asked me to take a crack at it, which I did. George then signed off on it, and it made it into the movie. A-4D was a role written with me in mind by Henry Gilroy and Dave Filoni as a foil for General Grievous (Matt Wood).

I bet you saw Return of the Jedi back in 1983. 25 years later, in 2008, you voiced Rotta, his son. That must have been something you would have never, ever expected?

I did! Multiple times... No, I never would have expected that I would have anything at all to do with Star Wars on a professional level, nevertheless voice a character!

Rotta the Hutt from the Clone Wars movie

Of all the characters you voiced, you must have a favorite. Can you tell who that is and why?

A-4D is my favorite, for sure. He's fun to do because he's got so much personality and he's so evil!

You have worked with directors George Lucas and Dave Filoni. How were both men to work with?

George and Dave are really great to work with! They both completely respect sound and know well the process of creating good a track. They also have great ideas on how to handle certain sound-related challenges we face in every episode. At the same time, Dave and George encourage a lot of creative free reign, sound-wise.

A-4D, David Acord's favorite character

How do you look at working on the Star Wars movies and on the Clone Wars series? And do you like the movie and series as a fan?

I love it! Of course I'm a fan! The hard work Matt Wood and I put into the show is as much a part of our profession as it is a labor of love.

Looking at the future: what are your upcoming projects?

"Always in motion is the future...."