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July 12

Sound Designer Ben Burtt

Sound Designer Ben Burtt records the sounds of a black bear named Pooh as part of creating the voice of Chewbacca for the Star Wars films.

1948: The Sounds of Star Wars
Sound Designer Ben Burtt is born
Close your eyes and imagine the many unique sounds in the Star Wars films: Darth Vader's breathing, X-Wing and TIE fighters, the Millennium Falcon, blasters and lightsabers, the voices of R2-D2 and Chewbacca. Sound designer Ben Burtt created all of those sounds.

But he didn't just create sounds for the Star Wars universe. He is responsible for the sounds of the Indiana Jones film series, The Dark Crystal (1982), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), WALL-E (2008) and Star Trek (2009). Burtt has earned four Academy Awards for his work.

Ben Burtt created the title "Sound Designer" and during his time at Lucasfilm and Pixar he set the standard for contributing a unique and innovative creative voice in his field, creating new sounds (like a scuba regulator for Vader's breath, or tapping a wrench on a radio tower support wire for the sound of a blaster shot) and repurposing classics (he championed use of the "Wilhelm Scream" and "Robin Hood arrow", both of which are used frequently by other sound designers).

According to Burtt, "Your success as an artist, to say something new, ultimately depends on the breadth of your education. My recommendation would be to major in an area other than film, develop a point of view, and then apply that knowledge to film. Because if film is all you know, you cannot help but make derivative work. I found that what I had learned about sound, history, biology, English, physics all goes into the mix."
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