Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Got Static?

I just purchased a second-hand ROM/FX Static Burst/Voice Amplifier unit and started playing around with it. A "static box" is a custom circuit board that adds the cool walkie-talkie clicks and radio noise that is heard after a Stormtrooper speaks in Star Wars. The static (in combination with a voice amplifier) really adds a nice element of realism to the costume. I acquired the "Pro" version, which comes with a speaker, microphone, battery boxes, three wired buttons for alternate sound effects, and some other add-ons. This particular set-up cost me $250 US which isn't too bad considering the current exchange rate (USD to GBP). On top of that, availability of the ROM/FX unit through their site is somewhat unpredictable. My old FX helmet had the classic "Radio Shack" voice amp set up (no longer in production). You can still get an inexpensive mini amplifier but you'll need to buy the microphone separately. I had an old "GT Static Box" from around 2002 (now out of production) but it never seemed to work quite right so I ended up using the low-tech "blow into the mic" technique to punctuate my sentences with a static burst. This approach actually worked really well over the past five years, but the poor man's "static burst" sound isn't movie-accurate. Since I got a new RT-MOD helmet, I figured it was time for an upgrade. Pulling out the old wiring from my FX bucket was going to be difficult anyway and would depreciate any resale value should I decide to part with my trusty old oversized bucket. Playing with the settings was simple and the sound effects are great (mine came customized with three sound clips in addition to the static burst effects). There is quite a bit of wiring, mostly due to the two battery packs which each hold 4 AA batteries, so I'll have to play around with the best way to pack this all into my helmet. Some people install these things behind their chest armor or on a belt-pack, but I like the all-inclusive helmet package.

TRIVIA: The static burst audio effect is only heard on Stormtroopers in Episode IV: A New Hope. Curiously, the static is absent from trooper chatter in all of the other Star Wars films.

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