Speeder bikes and swoop bikes are small, fast transports that use repulsorlift engines in the fictional Star Wars universe. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi includes a prominent speeder bike chase; speeders and swoops also appear in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and the Star Wars Expanded Universe's books, comics, and games.
Origin and design
Various concept sketches came from producer George Lucas' call for a "rocket-powered scooter" in Return of the Jedi. While Industrial Light & Magic's (ILM) Nilo Rodis-Jamero designed a blocky vehicle with a large engine, Ralph McQuarrie's designs were more fanciful but with less of a sense of the vehicle's power source. The final designs resulted in full-scale Imperial speeder bikes used by the actors for film against a bluescreen, along with miniatures mounted by articulated puppets. ILM used a steadicam recording at 1 frame per second to record the speeder bikes' path through the forest moon of Endor -- in reality, a California forest. Playing the footage at the standard rate of 24 frames per second caused a blurring effect, what looked like 100MPH actually was shot at 5MPH, which ILM used to simulate the vehicles' high speed.
The BARC speeder in Revenge of the Sith was designed to appear like a predecessor to the speeder bikes in Return of the Jedi. ILM's Doug Chiang designed Darth Maul's (Ray Park) speeder in The Phantom Menace to resemble a scythe, and Chiang's initial designs for the droid army's STAP vehicle resembled the speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi. An all-CGI swoop appearing in A New Hope stems from a design created for Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and the swoop also appears briefly in The Phantom Menace.
Return of the Jedi features a speeder bike chase in which Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) pilot a pair of Imperial speeders to chase down scout troopers who might reveal the Rebel Alliance's presence on Endor. Darth Maul uses his speeder to chase down Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) in The Phantom Menace. A pair of speeder-mounted clone troopers shoot down a speeder-riding Stass Allie when Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) initiates Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith. Film and Expanded Universe depictions of speeder bikes and swoops consistently portray the vehicles as fast and maneuverable: Expanded Universe material describes the speeder bikes in Return of the Jedi as being able to travel 500 kilometers per hour. Speeders and swoops achieve high speed and maneuverability, however, at the expense of size and protection for their riders. "Swoop racing" is described in the Expanded Universe texts and portrayed in LucasArts games as a dangerous, fast-paced competition between skilled pilots.
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