One of the most recent works of Ben Burtt: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a 2008 adventure film, fourth in the Indiana Jones franchise, created by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg.
“It started for me back in September , when I went to L.A. and read the script in a secret room with a guard at the door,” he says with a chuckle during a break from mixing this summer’s Disney-Pixar spectacle, WALL-E. “They were still shooting at the time, and I hadn’t had a conversation with Steven yet. But I went through it, as I always would, making lists and noting questions and sort of deciding what are all the sounds I might need to make this movie? From the script, you can see there are going to be certain vehicles and certain weapons and locations, and you figure that for the Crystal Skulls themselves, you’ll need a lot of supernatural sounds like we did for the Ark or other things in the past. Then Richard [Hymns] and I were able to go down on four or five occasions and sit with Steven at the KEM flatbed in a traditional film editing room — as we would have done back on the earlier Indiana Jones films — go through the film and look at each scene and discuss what sounds were needed in greater detail, and get Steven’s ideas. Each time, I’d come back up here [to Skywalker Sound] armed with more specific marching orders as to what to do.”
“I knew from the beginning that we’d want to refer back again to some of the sounds we’d established in the earliest films because Indy still has a whip, he still has a gun, there are going to be fights and chases — though, of course, we wanted to do new things with those sounds, too. I always try to create a world of sound for each movie I work on. With this one, I knew we wanted to start by having the original library of sounds brought up to date because they really only existed on old quarter-inch tapes. Portions of them had been copied and digitized in a different manner over the years — some had gone to PCM and Betamax, or whatever we were using in the ’80s. But I didn’t trust those earlier generations, so I said, ‘Let’s go back and restore the whole collection.’” Burtt’s frequent sonic collaborator, Matt Wood, set up a work environment for Burtt’s 24-year-old son, Benny, to transfer the analog tapes to Pro Tools via a mint-condition Otari MX5050 and Apogee A/D converters. Everything was classified in a Sound Miner database so that the editors could easily get to any sound.
“My job was to design the sounds for Indy, and for all the work they did up here at Skywalker, I was able to follow through and give the editors all the spotting sheets and lay out the structure for the whole film — kind of like an architect would lay out the plans — and then I was able to sit with each editor in each premix and get what I wanted out of it. Then it was sent to L.A. for final mixing, so at that point my main contact was I had the ability to sit in on the mix over the Skylink box so I could go into a room and see and hear in real time what they were doing, and also had a video iChat link so I could talk to the editors on the stage, or with the mixers, or with Steven, and that worked really well. Obviously, it’s not quite as good as being there in person, but sometimes I’d go down to the mix on weekends, so in the end it was fine.”
You can coninue reading the full article about the movie at Mix Online; with notes of supervising sound editor Richard Hymns, and re-recording mixer / sound designer Chris Scarabosio.