Creating Maria - Masterclass Ben Burtt 2017

Legendary sound designer Ben Burtt (Star Wars, Wall-E, Indiana Jones) prepared some fairly challenging homework for the participants of his 2017 Masterclass in Hamburg. The task was to create a sound track to a 3-minute clip from the silent movie ‘Metropolis’. Ben’s brief was as follows:

With regard to the METROPOLIS clip, here is my briefing: Metropolis is a silent film and thus this clip represents an opportunity to attach a wide variety of sound and/or music to interpret the drama. I am open to a wide variety of possibilities and the students should feel free to express themselves from the heart. You could try and be completely realistic with sound or you could be very abstract and impressionistic. You could just create music. Whatever you do, the objective is to tell a story with sound that has a beginning, middle, and end. You should establish a mood, then add sounds in to create a crescendo and ultimately some sort of resolution. I imagine that the sounds, if heard by themselves, would tell a story or at least have a dramatic profile as well.

Ben Burtt, May 2017

Masterclass Ben Burtt - Creating Maria - Guidos Version

Switching back and forth between the original audio track and the edited version is simple. ‘Metropolis’ is a silent film, so all you need to do is turn off the sound if you want to ‘hear’ the original.

Creating a sound track for a silent film is both exciting and excruciating at the same time. As we soon found out, Ben’s clip proved to be a rather challenging task with all sorts of obstacles. In an email message before the class, Ben promised he would have a crack at the clip as well, which provided some relief (at least we wouldn’t be the only ones losing our hair over this task).

I decided to make my version of ‘Metropolis’ as realistic as possible. In other words, I wanted to use mainly 'real' sounds. I also wanted to focus on loud and rather powerful sounds that would create a very intense atmosphere; transferring the soul of a man into a machine is, after all, a very violent process.

The biggest challenge, however, was to build enough tension to make the sound of the sequence exciting and diverse––while at the same time creating a counterpoint (before releasing the tension again for an appropriate ending).

Ben Burtt, 2017: Leitmotiv - all those years, Jonny and me pronounced it wrong...

Many thanks to Ben for an extremely thrilling and informative workshop. And, yes, 'Leitmotiv' is the word…

As promised, here's Ben’s version of the sequence.

Creating Maria - Ben Burtts Version

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