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How The Millennium Falcon's Hyperdrive Noise Was Recorded

As we saw in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer that was released late last month, there are many sounds out there that we directly associate with the sci-fi franchise – be it the gun fire of a TIE Fighter or the activation of a lightsaber. Certainly ranking with all of these noises are those associated with Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, which has certainly made some unique rackets over the years. Certainly one of the most iconic is the legendary ship’s hyperdrive failing – but how did it get made?

Eyes on Cinema has dug up an interview from 1980 featuring Ben Burtt – the sound designer for Star Wars, and in the video there is a breakdown of all the various noises that came together to create the clatter that occurs when the Millennium Falcon fails to go into hyperspace in The Empire Strikes Back. Apparently there were eight sounds that wound up being combined to create the effect, but the video only identifies five of them, namely:

  • The inertia starter of an old 1928 biplane
  • An air jet recorded in a dentist’s office
  • The sound of an arclight motor starting and stopping
  • The sound of a motor located in the turret of an armored tank
  • Pipes underneath a broken sink in the bathroom at the recording studio

You can listen to the various noises in the video below:

Because the quality of the video is so bad at the end of that clip, which features the actual scene where the hyperdrive breaks down, you can watch a better quality edition below. It’s also interesting to really focus in on the sound and identify all of the different parts:

Ben Burtt’s work - not only on Star Wars but on features like E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones movies, and more – is nothing short of iconic, and the best news of all is both that he is still working and is currently part of the team making Star Wars: The Force Awakens (he previous he previously worked with directpr J.J. Abrams on both Star Trek films as well as Super 8). I’m excited to hear what new stuff he has in store.

Eric Eisenberg
Eric Eisenberg

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.