Unit 12 Week 6- Practitioners Report

For this task, I was following on from my research into sound by looking at two practitioners, one early and one contemporary, from my specialist area which is sound. The early practitioner that I researched was Jack Foley as he started the Foley technique of recording sounds that has given directors a new way of recording sounds like footsteps in post-production. The contemporary practitioner I looked at was Ben Burtt as he has designed sound effects for many films including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films and has inspired other sound designers with his work, but I will mainly be looking at his more recent work for the new Star Trek films. I will be deconstructing some of their work and looking at the materials they used, and the processes and techniques they used to create their work. I will also be discussing the biography and history of them and their work.

Jack Foley

Jack Foley was born in 1891 and was a pioneer in the field of sound effects in film. Foley had many jobs throughout his life, including, being an accountant, a cartoonist, a stunt man, and a film director as well as some others. However it was while he was working as an assistant director for Universal, who were under pressure after Warner Bros released “The Jazz Singer” that he came up with the idea of gathering people to record sounds like clapping or cheering. This became known as the “direct to picture” or “Foley” technique. There had been sound effects in some films before Foley, however he developed the best way to make them work as a small team was able to create the effects, match them with what was happening on screen and record it all on one reel. This made it very easy to record sound effects. It has been reported that Foley would be able to recreate the sound of three people walking together using his own feet and a cane.

One of the most famous examples of Jack Foleys work is from the film “Spartacus”. For a scene involving an army marching into battle the director, Stanley Kubrick, was not happy with the sound from the location and was planning to send the crew back out to record the scene again, but Jack Foley was able to save the time and money that would have cost and did the sounds using Foley. He managed to recreate the sound of the army marching using his feet and used keys in front of a microphone to create the sound of their armour and weapons moving as they marched. He was able to authentically recreate those sounds, that without him would have cost the studio thousands to reshoot, just by using his knowledge of what they should sound like and improvising how he would be able to make them.

Jack Foley has influenced me as now that I have learnt about Foley I really want to do more of it and I am always wondering about what sounds I could create with different objects when I have been doing my sound experiments and how I could incorporate Foley into my FMP.

Ben Burrt

Ben Burtt was born in 1948 and has been the sound designer on many famous and successful films, such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, which have won him four Academy Awards. During his career he has created iconic science fiction sounds including R2-D2’s voice, the hum of the lightsabres, and Darth Vader’s breathing. He “singlehandedly redefined the sounds of science fiction and other film lore by utilizing organic material such as film projectors, guy wires, and walruses to engineer authentic-sounding science fiction sounds”. Before his work in the first Star Wars film, sci-fi movies relied on electronic sounding effects to use for futuristic devices, but Ben Burtt wanted more natural sounds that would make the audience believe they were authentic. For example, he made the lightsabre hum from a film projector combined with feedback from a broken television, which he thought to do after a microphone picked up the feedback. It is because of his work pioneering sound design that modern sci-fi films sound the way they do and why he was sought out to work on the Star Trek films. One of Ben Burrt’s most subtle sound effects is the use of an “audio black hole”. In the film “Attack of the Clones” Burrt adds a short period of absolute silence into the film right before the detonation of a “seismic charge”. This was done to make the following explosion more prominent for the audience. He recalls his influence for this as from a talk with a retired sound editor.

For his work on the Star Trek films Burrt wanted to create new sounds that sounded similar to the ones from the original series and so created his sound effects in very similar ways as they were originally made. To recreate the sound of the Enterprise Warp Drive he thought about how it would have been made and then tried to do that himself by using the same equipment. He used a test oscillator and put it through a plate reverb chamber as he believed that was how the sound was originally made and he wanted a similar musical tone that would change pitch. To create the sound of the transporter he did something a bit different to the original series as the transporter in the film isn’t exactly the same, so he made the sound for it using bar chimes and adding a lot of reverb.

Ben Burrt has influenced me as he has changed the way science fiction sound effects are created and I enjoyed creating sound effects using ordinary objects and then manipulating them to get them to sound like something sci-fi and I want to do more work like that in the future and keep trying to create sounds for any genre just by using objects that I can easily find.

From this task I have learnt much more about two people who have both made a difference to the sound industry and how sound effects are made. I have also learnt how these individuals produced some of their most well-known works and how I am able to do similar things with the tools I have available which has given me ideas for what I could do for my FMP. I can use what I have learnt from this task in my FMP as I now have ideas as to how certain sounds can be made and if I need to make any of these sounds or sounds similar to them I will already have an idea of how I can start to make them and then I can develop that and experiment so that I can create the perfect sounds for what I require.



Anon, (n.d.). Ben Burtt answers questions about sound design of Star Wars. [online] Available at: http://filmsound.org/starwars/starwars-AQ.htm [Accessed 21 Feb. 2017].

Buchanan, K. (2015). You’ll Never Guess How the Dinosaur Sounds in Jurassic Park Were Made. [online] Available at: http://www.vulture.com/2013/04/how-the-dino-sounds-in-jurassic-park-were-made.html [Accessed 20 Feb. 2017].

Isaza, M. (2009). Independent SFX libraries. [online] Available at: http://designingsound.org/2009/09/septembers-featured-ben-burtt/ [Accessed 20 Feb. 2017].

Isaza, M. (2009). VR audio resources. [online] Available at: http://designingsound.org/2009/11/ben-burtt-and-the-sound-design-of-indiana-jones/ [Accessed 20 Feb. 2017].

Kunkes, M. (2017). From the Guild : MORE SOUND TREKKING WITH BEN BURTT. [online] MPEG. Available at: http://www.editorsguild.com/FromTheGuild.cfm?FromTheGuildid=68 [Accessed 12 Mar. 2017].

Turdiman, D. (2017). The sounds of ‘Star Trek’: This man makes them happen. [online] CNET. Available at: https://www.cnet.com/uk/news/the-sounds-of-star-trek-this-man-makes-them-happen/ [Accessed 12 Mar. 2017].

Viers, R. (2008). The sound effects bible: How to create and record Hollywood style sound effects. United States: Published by Michael Wiese Productions.

Wilson, M. (2015). How Ben Burtt designed the sounds of Star Wars. Co.Design. [online] Available at: https://www.fastcodesign.com/3045177/how-ben-burtt-designed-the-sounds-of-star-wars [Accessed 20 Feb. 2017].



Hrsto, H. (2016). Professional development analysis Jack Foley and Ben Burtt. [online] Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/HrvojeHrsto/professional-development-analysis-jack-foley-and-ben-burtt [Accessed 1 Mar. 2017].

LoBrutto, V. (1994). Sound-on-film: Interviews with creators of film sound. United States: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Punter, J. (2017). Jack Foley – Film’s unsung hero. [online] Filmsound.org. Available at: http://filmsound.org/foley/unsung-hero.htm [Accessed 12 Mar. 2017].

says, M. (2006). Jack Foley and the art of sound. [online] Available at: http://irishamerica.com/2012/01/jack-foley-and-the-art-of-sound/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2017].

WILLIAMS, O. (2015). The secrets behind 44 classic cinema sound effects. [online] Available at: http://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/cinema-sound-secrets-foley-artist/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2017].

Yewdall, D. and Yewdall, D. (2011). Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound. ed. United States of America: Focal Press.


One thought on “Unit 12 Week 6- Practitioners Report

  1. Liam, this is a coherently structured, well researched and well-referenced practitioners report. You have identified two suitable practitioners and have discussed the context of their work effectively. It would have been useful to develop this discussion of the context of their work a little further, however, considering the common practices in the industry at the time. For example, you do not really discuss the fact that Foley was initially working at a time when sound was very new to the film industry. Initially many people did not see the need for it. You could also consider the technology of the time and the processes for recording and editing, particularly as these are far-removed from the technology and processes that we use today. Your work on Ben Burtt is also effective but you could have used examples from films to illustrate your points, particularly when contextualising his work in the 1970s compared to that of others. Make sure that you explain what you understand by some of the terms such as a plate reverb chamber – do you know what this is and how it works?
    That said, overall this is a very good report and it is clear that you have learned from studying these practitioners. Well done.


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