Ben Burtt – Sound Designer Behind WALL-E (2008)

Every sound designer is asked to create some sort of a world in sounds. And it’s most inspiring when the whole movie requires an original new world of sound – WALL-E

Ben Burtt is an Academy Award-winning sound designer who did his very first work on first Star Wars movies, and in many ways, he’s considered “a father” of modern sound design. He was born on 12 July 1948 in Jamesville, New York. Graduated in 1975 from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts with a Master of Fine Arts degree in film production. He created a whole new world in animated movie WALL-E, from the background sounds and ambiances, the wind, the storm, mechanical sounds of motors, robot arms and legs, the sound of a space-ship, to new imaginary language. It’s really hard to make up an original sound voice, especially for the character like WALL-E, because he doesn’t talk. Sound designer has to pay attention to emotion that needs to be emphasized, and it’s the hardest part in filmmaking because the film can easily lose it sense, it can be misunderstood. WALL-E doesn’t talk in languages we know. Even if he doesn’t talk much in his imaginary robotic language, he uses different sounds like squeaks, pitched sounds, etc. It took nine months for Ben Burtt to create sounds for this movie.

It’s really hard to make up an original sound voice, especially for the character like WALL-E, because he doesn’t talk. Sound designer has to pay attention to emotion that needs to be emphasized, and it’s the hardest part in filmmaking because the film can easily lose it sense, it can be misunderstood. WALL-E doesn’t talk in languages we know. Even if he doesn’t talk much in his imaginary robotic language, he uses different sounds like squeaks, pitched sounds, etc. It took nine months for Ben Burtt to create sounds for WALL-E. Out of improvisations of taking sounds from both the real world and some synthesization, he will fascinate you on what you hear in the movie.

wikimedia.org
wikimedia.org

There are around 2600 sound files made for WALL-E, which is a lot. More then he made for any other move. A Star Wars movie, which is huge, usually has around 1000 new sounds. For Ben, this was gigantic, partly because WALL-E needed so much detail in the sound. WALL-E does lots of movements in the film; lots of driving this way, driving that way. They put the sound with everything and convince the audience that this character really exists; this illusion. Obviously, nothing is recorded while you’re making the movie, everything’s added later. “You learn, as a sound designer, that the most important thing is to make the right choice with the right sound in the right moment in a film. The end result is a product which involves thousands, maybe tens of thousands of decisions, and certainly thousands of sounds.  And all this sounds end up in the world of WALL-E.”


If you are wondering what the story is about I recommend that you watch the movie, and here’s a brief introduction (no spoiler alert): 700 years in the future, the world is turned into an uninhabitable garbage dump. Humans are long lost cruising in the galaxies. Back on Earth, there are two signs of life: one is a cockroach, of course. And the other is WALL-E. WALL-E spends his days collecting, compacting and stacking cubes of junk. Then out of the sky comes another, but different robot – EVE. She is in search of planet life, which signifies that it’s time for humans to leave the stars and reclaim their badly abused planet. So that is how the story begins, I recommend this movie to all ages. WALL-E was directed and co-written by Andrew Stanton, who was the big star behind the biggest Pixar film today Finding Nemo.

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