VIDEO: JJ Abrams Presents Ben Burtt With HPA Award – Explains How Sound Designer ‘Salvaged’ Star Trek

One aspect of the new Star Trek movie that received universal acclaim is the sound design, and that much of that was due to Oscar-winner (and Star Wars vet) Ben Burtt. Last week, The Hollywood Post Alliance honored Burtt with their Charles S. Swartz Award, presented to him by JJ Abrams. You can watch video from the event below, where Abrams talks about how important Burtt was to Star Trek.


Burtt is honored, JJ talks Burtt’s Trek
Burtt was honored at the Hollywood Post Alliance Awards held November 12th at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The video below was provided by, a site dedicated to the world of sound in film, TV and games.

The HPA was bestowing Burtt with their Charles S. Swartz Award, which honors those who have made outstanding contributions to post production. In his introduction, JJ Abrams talks about being a fan of Burtt’s going back to the original Star Wars, and how Burtt came into the Star Trek post production late and put some "Star Trek" back into Star Trek.

JJ Abrams and Ben Burtt at HPA event
(Ryan Miller, Capture Imaging)

For more on the event visit

Ben Burtt on the Star Trek Blu-ray
In my reviews of the Star Trek movie I have noted how I feel Burtt has made the new film, the best sounding Star Trek film ever. You can see how he did it on the new Star Trek Blu-ray. One of the most interesting featurettes exclusive to the Blu-ray edition, is "Ben Burtt and the Sounds of Star Trek", Abrams noted it as a favorite in our recent interview.

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which smart ass thought itd be a great idea NOT to include stuff like the Burtt doc on the dvd?

it is insulting to NOT honor Mr. Burtt with any sort of award and/or praise for his work on Star Trek.

the new star trek theme sounds familar,does anyone know if it
was in any other trek film.

Ben Burtt’s sounds are iconic. Seriously, is there anyone better than him at sound design?

Ben Burtt has been a hero of mine for ages… So glad to see him getting recognition… was fascinated to hear that he was a voice of reason re: the mix of the film… saying there was “Too much” in there, and it was becoming muddled… and it wasn’t Star Trek…

I wish there had been someone around who could tell JJ that, in my opinion, the same thing was occuring with his visuals…

as we say on Earth, c’est la vie. Congratulations Ben.

Congrats Mr. Burtt, I throughougly enjoyed seeing your process on the ST Blu-ray and wish it was actually a longer segment!

I’m a huge fan of the original sound effects
from Trek. I’ve studied them for years.
I also love MR. Burrt’s segment on the
Blu-Ray. I feel as though that was made for me.
I love the way some of the original sounds
were mixed into te new movie. Such as
the transporter beam had some new elements
yet it was the original whining noise when people
faded away during transport. That sound was
also used faintly on Talos 4 on the planet surface.
I like the new version of the pinging noise
that represents the viewing screen. Like every
few seconds you here that pinging. In TOS
a similar sound was used the the light raced
underneath the veiw screen left to right.
I LOVE THOSE SOUNDS!! One of my favs
is Spocks scanner. The viewer with the blue
emitting light? The best!!

I think the opening with the Kelvin was great with the iconic scanner ping. You knew it was Star Trek.

Yes I loved that too. I do think that ping sound
represented the original view screen ping noise
Really made it sound like Trek for sure!!
Did a great job on updating those!

there’s something poetic about george kirk dying alone on the bridge of the kelvin, seeing as how “kirk prime” always said he’d die alone.

just wanted to let ppl know that theirs HUGE RUMORS swirling around the web about Khan in the trek sequel.

Nestor Carbonnel is apparently abrams top choice for khan.

ANDDDD….. on the blu-ray disc commentary track for star trek producer Damon Lindelof and director Abrams discuss that they flirted with having a scene with the Botany Bay at the end of the credits.

@3: If you meant the main theme that stood in for most of the score cues, that’s just because it was the most trite and unoriginal music ever written for a Trek film. (I just rented and watched it again, can you tell? :P Having only seen it once in theatres, I now find I was being too kind in previous comments about the score. There’s actually far less unique content than I remembered.) If you meant the end credit music, that’s an adaptation of the theme music of the original 60s TV series by Alexander Courage, which is why it seems familiar.

Oh no. Please no damn Khan!!!

Burtt’s sound design is so connected with Star Wars for me, I’m having trouble discerning anything very “Trekkish” about his work in the movie other that what’s been mentioned.
I don’t think there were ENOUGH classic references. The phaser sounds, for example were truly lame.
I’ll have to check the DVD…

Congrats to bb-i think he deserves the award not just for the new trek but for everything hes done including much pioneering sounds on star wars-he gave r2d2 personality even tho hes not a humanoid robot-hes brilliant-it was great to have him on star trek too!

I absolutely loved all the classic Trek sounds they incorporated into the movie – my favorite being the classic warp whir in the climactic scene over the black hole.

Thanks for the clip, and bravo, Mr. Burtt!

I loved the movie opening with the TOS sounds mixed with all the radio chatter. So epic.

Laser blast = tension wire + wrench? who’d have thunk it?

Nice to hear the Fringe theme at the beginning there! :D

@14: I think we’re going about this the wrong way — it’s not that Ben Burtt’s work on Trek sounds like Star Wars; it’s that both Star Wars and Star Trek sound like Ben Burtt! :)

A thoroughly deserved award, the guy is a genius! Ben Burtt put the Star Trek back into the movie and we should all be grateful for that! :)

the sounds in trek 09 are outstanding… you really hear the love for TOS in them…

I like the Comm system sound on the Captain’s chair. That’s a classic sound snippet.

All the TOS effects incorporated into the sound mix almost make the movie for me. The transporter effect, the pinging sound on the bridge, the whining of the warp engines as Enterprise tries to out run the black hole or dodge space debris. Classic trek!

For all of the wonderful work Burtt has done over the decades, I will always love the man for that opening “ping” sound in Trek.

I just watched the Ben Burtt Star Trek sound design segment on Blu-Ray and was shocked that Burtt failed to mention the great sound effects editor Doug Grindstaff who created all of the original groundbreaking sounds on the original series and who Burtt owes a lot.

I met Grindstaff in 1976 at Paramount and he told me that Gene Roddenberry had hired an original sound effects team who promised him “great stuff” in terms of sound effects and then failed to deliver. Roddenberry fired them and hired Grindstaff who had little time to create the Star Trek universe sounds we now know and love. But he sure came through.

He told me a little of how he created the tribbles sound which was the mix of a backwards owl and some other animal sound. The transporter effect was created on an old organ of some type.

I was there to get some original effects for a Star Trek convention commercial I had shot and produced (and aired during syndicated Star Trek episodes) back in 1976 for the famous ST fan Bjo Trimble. So Bjo had arranged through Roddenberry for Grindstaff to take me to the Glen Glen Sound department and let me look through the Star Trek sound effects log and pick out whatever I wanted! It was cool to see like the separate sound effects listed like Warp 1, Warp 2, Warp 3, etc.! I still have the sounds. A mix of some of what I have was actually put on the Crescendo Star Trek Sound Effects CD.

After Mr. Grindstaff asked me if I wanted to meet Roddenberry (heck yes!) we went to his office I met the Great Bird Of the Galaxy himself. For a 1st generation Star Trek fan like me (and later a VFX Supervisor) it was quite a heady day!

Funny too I have shot season vfx season finale stuff with J.J. Abrams on his ALIAS series and on the LOST pilot in Hawaii too. Also worked on the recent film CORALINE.

Ben Burtt is to movie sound what John Williams is to movie music. He makes it a living character that is absolutely essential to the story.

#23 How awesome it must have been to meet those guys. And how sad that they are gone and can’t reveal those great little secrets, like the backwards owl being used for the tribble, on DVD. Makes me even more sad when I consider some of the off the wall comentaries being given on the TOS discs rather than useful commentaries by people who were there.

But it’s a joy to see a team in charge of StarTrek that truly understands it…and I’m talking TOS here. The know it, they love it and in doing so, they have reaped the rewards with a huge hit . The sounds are awesome and congrats to Ben Burtt who’s contributions really helped put the final TOS polish on JJs movie.

I was always under the impression that the pinging sound was the Starship/future version of a sonar ping that subs use when they navigate? I don’t think it’s the view screen making the sound (why would a view screen make pinging noises?).

I also loved the mixing in of the original sounds. About the only thing I wasn’t crazy about were the weapon sound effects – both hand weapons, and especially Enterprise’s weapons. But it’s a minor nit, really..

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