Star Wars sound designer is, indeed, a radio enthusiast

StarWars-LogoSWLing Post readers may remember a post I recently published in which I believed I’d identified a familiar shortwave time signal station in the Battle of Hoth scene from The Empire Strikes Back. If you haven’t read this post, feel free to do so and listen to the embedded video/audio clips.

Upon hearing this, I went so far as to muse that the Star Wars sound designer might be a radio listener. I asked our readers if anyone could confirm this–?

Well, we’ve got our answer!  I’m truly indebted to an SWLing Post reader who passed my post along to his friend, Ben, who could provide this definitive response:

“This is Ben Burtt, sound designer of the Star Wars films. A friend sent me a link to this blog thinking I would like to comment.

Ben and old recorders

Ben Burtt with his recording gear, circa 1980. The mike on the stand at Ben’s feet is one from his grandfather’s ham radio station in the 1950s, or possibly earlier.

“The answer is yes, I have always been a ham radio enthusiast.”

 

“My grandfather, Harold Burtt, operated W8CD out of his home in Columbus, Ohio 1930s-1960s. I was enthralled as a kid listening to the sounds on his receiver. I heard alien worlds and cosmic ‘voices.’

Harold Burtt, (Chairman of the Psychology Dept Ohio State) with his attic gear approximately 1935

Harold Burtt, W8CD. (Chairman of the Psychology Dept Ohio State) with his attic gear,  approximately 1935

“So not only did I record his radio, but continued to do so on the Star Wars series and Star Trek as well.

My memory of the Hoth transmission was that it was WWV but it could have been CHU since I was recording all that interested me on the dial.”

Terrific! Thank you, Ben, for taking the time to respond. As I said, you’ve certainly started off this radio enthusiast’s year on the right wavelength…no doubt some of our readers will agree.

Indeed, the powerful sonic experience of the Star Wars and Star Trek films has, in my estimation, helped shape many of us into the radio/sound enthusiasts we’ve become–myself certainly included. Thank you, Ben, for this!  You’ve sharpened my ear to a greater appreciation of sound, especially filmic sound, and your work in particular.    

For readers who are less familiar with Ben Burtt’s work, check out his Wikipedia page and IMDB profile–you’ll find he’s been the sound designer on numerous influential films including the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

A special thanks to Ben Burtt for sharing these wonderful photos and kindly giving me permission to use them here on the SWLing Post.  I must say, considering my love of radio in the thirties, I especially like that photo of Harold Burtt (W8CD) in his shack.

Happy combo: Steve’s coffee mug and the RF-2200

SWLingPost-Coffee-Mug-Panasonic-RF-2200-2Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Steve Lebkuecher, who sent the above photo; Steve notes:

“What a nice cup! I wish you and all of your readers a very happy New Year!”

And a happy cup of new year cheer to you as well, Steve! I must say, that classic Panasonic RF-2200 does pair well with your new SWLing Post coffee mug…Enjoy!

If you, too, would like a mug with our new logo, click here for the SWLing Post CafePress shop.

From the Archives: Yes, there is a shortwave…!

Note: Jeff Murray and I posted this last Christmas–I thought it would be fun to dig it out of the archives for this Christmas as well.  Enjoy!


Virginia letter Dash

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no shortwave. Uncle DX Dash! says, “If you see it on the SWLing Post, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a shortwave?

Virginia E. Layer
330 Independence Ave., S.W.

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a digital age. They do not believe what can’t be heard or seen on their smart phone. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by Google. They seek credit cards, not QSL cards.

Yes, Virginia, there is a shortwave. It exists as certainly as sound and circuits and tubes exist, and you know that these abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no shortwave! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no heterodynes, no band openings, no propagation to make tolerable this existence. It would be a world without London Calling.

Not believe in shortwave! You might as well not believe in the ionosphere. You might get your papa to hire men to listen to all of the wi-fi radios of the world, but even if you did not hear shortwave, what would that prove? The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see ground waves dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can casually conceive or imagine all the wonders there are heard and unheard in the listening world. For that, you must wear headphones.

No shortwave! Thank goodness! It lives, and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, shortwave will continue to make glad the hearts of listeners.


Happy Holidays from your friends at Dashtoons and the SWLing Post!

With apologies to The New York Sun.  Our tongue-in-cheek editorial borrows from the timeless classic, “Is There a Santa Claus?” printed in the September 21, 1897, issue of The New York SunClick here to read the original

Time station CHU in The Empire Strikes Back

Fullscreen capture 12202015 40448 AM

Earlier today, I published a post noting that I thought I heard the time station WWV in a scene of The Empire Strikes Back.

SWLing Post reader, RadioGeek, quickly corrected me: that’s Canadian time station CHU‘s data pips I’m hearing, not circa-1980s WWV.  Cool!

Listen for yourself

Here’s the clip from The Empire Strikes Back, Battle of Hoth: listen at 25 seconds and at 40 seconds (the clip starts at 23 seconds):

Now listen to the recording of CHU I made only moments ago–note the tone and duration of the data pips:

No wonder I mixed up CHU and WWV; I’ve listened to both for propagation since I was a kid.

I wonder which of the Lucas Film sound engineer(s)/artist(s) chose CHU for this scene? Anyone know, by chance? Or can anyone find out?

No doubt, that sound designer is an SWL or ham radio operator. Perhaps this may also explain the SSB-esque radio dialog between fighter pilots throughout the Star Wars films:

Please comment!

The Empire Strikes Back: Is that WWV I hear?

Fullscreen capture 12202015 40448 AMWith all of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens hype going on, I remembered that, as a kid, I thought I heard WWV in a scene from The Empire Strikes Back.

I looked through some video clips of the movie online and discovered it again this morning: I heard the WWV-like sound in the Battle Of Hoth scene. [Update: RadioGeek suggests this may actually be CHU’s date pips.]

This video clip will start around the :23 second mark; start listening for the metronomic tick in the background around :25 seconds and then again at :40 seconds:

I may be mistaken, but I believe that sounds like 1980s era WWV. Has anyone else noticed this?

Looking for SWLing Post gear? We’ve got you covered!

Over the years, readers have often encouraged me to create SWLing Post shortwave radio-themed products, which is to say, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and the like. But for some reason, I’ve never gotten around to it.

That is, until now…

SWLingPost-DXFiend-Vintage-Front

What finally motivated me to create these items is a friendship:  I’m fortunate to number among my friends the amazingly talented Jeff Murray (K1NSS) of Dashtoons.  It occurred to me that I might commission Jeff to design some shortwave radio-themed graphics that represent the broad spectrum of radio enthusiasts here on the SWLing Post. Jeff, ever enthusiastic where radio is concerned, was the perfect artist for the job–particularly since he and I see eye-to-eye on the beauty of both radio innovations and radio nostalgia.  And with Jeff’s quirky sense of humor to enliven his sharp, dapper graphics, the great results you see here were simply inevitable.

SWLingPost-DXFiend-SDR-Front

Of course, his pictures speak louder than my words.  As I’ve said, Jeff’s clearly a graphic artist par excellence, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he really knows radio–inside and out.

SWLingPost-DXFiend-Vintage-Back

While he was at it, Jeff created an SWLing Post logo that will soon accompany a refreshed Post design I’ve had in the works…stay tuned for that as the new year approaches.

SWLing-Post-Women's-T-shirtIn the meantime, I thought I’d share a link to a simple CafePress webstore I’ve put together for our newly-minted swag.

Click here to view great SWLing Post gear.

So far we only have a few select items on offer, but I’ll soon be adding more. But we do have two great t-shirt and coffee mug designs available now:  the Radio Waterfall design features the SWLing Post logo superimposed over a blue SDR waterfall, with the words “DX FIEND” emblazoned beneath; the Radio Nostalgia design features the above vintage-style radio image, with”DX FIEND” beneath, and the “SECRET WORLD” image on the back. Take it from me, they look great.

Let me know if there’s something in the CafePress catalog you’d like to own featuring Jeff Murray’s terrific radio art, and I may be able to put it out there for you.

SWLingPost-Shirt-FrontOh, and by the way–a small percentage of your purchase (typically between $2.00-4.00US) goes towards keeping the SWLing Post online. The rest of the cost goes to CafePress’ product base price. True, I doubt we’ll ever sell enough to break even this way, but who cares…! After all, I do all this for fun, not profit.

Plus I confess to a little personal motivation: I really wanted a Jeff Murray-designed mug for my own cuppa joe!

The great thing about CafePress–although slightly pricey for some items–is that they offer great products, great customer service, and a no-questions-asked return policy. I like that.

large_mug_sdr_waterfall_mugsSo, if you take a leap of faith and purchase one of our items, please comment and let me know how you like it!

Side note: If you ever need amazing custom artwork for your QSL cards, your company, or your shack, I highly recommend Jeff Murray. He worked with me over the course of a week to nail down these incredible designs, and wowed me with his powerful creativity every step of the way.  It was worth every single penny and more, and an honor to work with him, which is why I hope to have him create even more artwork next year! Thanks, Jeff!

And thanks to our Post readers for your purchase!  Go ahead–join me in a hot cuppa!

Wired: Inside Bang & Olufsen

Beolit 39 from 1938, B&O's first Radio in Bakelite (Source: Wikipedia, image by Theredmonkey)

Beolit 39 from 1938, B&O’s first Radio in Bakelite (Source: Wikipedia, image by Theredmonkey)

On the topic of beautiful radio design, I just read this Wired Magazine article which features photographer, Alastair Philip Wiper.

Wiper has been researching the Danish consumer electronics company Bang & Olufsen for his upcoming book, The Art of Impossible: The Bang & Olufsen Story. He was granted unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to B&O, where he learned about the company’s design philosophy, process and history. Here’s a short excerpt from the article:

“In the mid-1950s, design greats like Arne Jacobsen began experimenting with new materials and colors, galvanizing a wave of mid-century modern Danish furniture makers. Everything was sleek, teak, and handsome—it still is—but exhibits showing off the new pieces had a curatorial problem: no one was making modern radio cabinets, forcing curators to display decidedly outdated designs alongside the stylish new furniture. The technology definitely needed a major overhaul.

Bang & Olufsen joined a handful of radio manufacturers in rising to the challenge. The two men spent a few years doing research and working with architects and designers to design devices as beautiful as they were functional—an approach widely taken for granted today but novel at the time[..]”

I encourage you to read the full article at Wired.com and view some of the photographs in their online gallery.  If you’re not familiar with B&O design, do a simple image search online.