The Sounds Behind The Millennium Falcon's Failing Hyperdrive

"It's not my fault!"

Millennium Falcon
Nobody's about to duplicate the Millennium Falcon, the modified YT-1300 light freighter piloted by Han Solo. But more important is what it signifies: that space travel in the Star Wars universe isn't just for the elite...Lucasfilm

Star Wars is a visual experience, to be sure, filled with glowing lightsabers, strange aliens, and amazing outer space dogfights. But none of that would make quite so much of an impact if it weren't for the sound. Ben Burtt is the man responsible for creating much of the franchise's iconic audio and effects -- everything from the snap-hiss of a lightsaber to the sound of the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive failing.

The latter noise is a perfect example of Burtt's skills, because most of these sounds aren't simply a single effect, but rather a whole collection of sounds layered on top of one another. The good news is you can make your very own failing-hyperdrive noise, thanks to an old video of Burtt that resurfaced on the Internet recently. Just acquire these super "easy-to-find" audio sources:

  • The inertia starter from a 1928 biplane. Everybody has one of these lying around, right? Check your backyard.

  • An airjet from a dentist's office. Next time you go in to get a filling, just whip out your smartphone and record that sucker (pun intended).

  • The sound of an arc light motor stopping and starting. I'll confess: I'm not sure exactly sure what Burtt is referring to, but it's possible he's talking about a motor used to generate an electrical current for an arc lamp? While arc lighting is still in use, the equipment he's recording here probably dates back to earlier in the 20th century. So you might need a time machine to find a working one—but once you've got that, it's a piece of cake.

  • Tank turret motors. I'm sure the army would be thrilled to let you come in and record some audio.

  • Rattling water pipes from inside Lucasfilm's office, circa 1980. Just tell them you're on a field trip to collect all the sounds for the Falcon's hyperdrive. Let 'em know we sent you.

There you go! Mix those sounds together in your favorite audio editor (or, failing that, call up Ben Burtt and have him do it for you) and now you've got the perfect ringtone from your phone.