May 28 2024


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Burtt: Sound Effects In Star Trek XI

2 min read

Star Trek XI Sound Designer Ben Burtt brought elements of the original series to the newest Star Trek movie.

The attention to detail when it came to the sound effects in the original series was something to be emulated according to Burtt. “Two things in the original Star Trek effects were revolutionary: Roddenberry had his team create lots of detail. Every room in the ship sounded different. Every button made a noise, when you pressed a lever or a switch. Not only were there sounds articulating all these things to make them sound like they were real, but they were very musical sounds. Somebody pressed a button, there was a little melody. That was not in the movie at the point I came on: you’d just hear a little beep. If it was Star Trek, it needed to sing a little bit and feel like it was alive.

“You really felt there was a complex operation going on and it was fun to listen to. The ships and the weapons and the ambiences of the places they went to were a form of music. When they went to planets there was always a tone going on, like a ringing bell, or chimes in echo. I tried to create sounds in that style.”

“The other thing that was used a lot in the original show a lot was shortwave radio recordings and sounds off of transmissions and Morse code, things you can pick up in-between the dials on a shortwave radio,” said Burtt. “I love that sort of thing and I’ve collected it for years. There’s some of that in the original Star Trek television show, and the whole beginning of the movie, that first minute or two where the Kelvin is coming into view, is all short wave radio sounds.”

There’s a purpose in using these special sounds. “It reads to the audience that you’re way the heck out at the edge of the universe, barely in contact,” said Burtt. “Things are far away: there’s these disembodied sounds that are being transmitted back and forth. That’s not the way the sound was, but I wanted to make it seem like the ships were way out there. They’re supposed to be encountering something new so I tried to capitalize on this legacy in science fiction of using radio.”

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