"Editing Is A Combination Of Cooking, Surgery & Orchestra Conducting" - Walter Murch On Editing & Cinema

By Srikanth Kanchinadham. Posted on April 18, 2016

A film is a director’s medium. He is the one who guides his team and ensures that they are on the same wavelength and share his vision. Unsurprisingly the director ends up getting a lion's share of the acclaim garnered by the film. While the editor is an unsung hero who does not get much of the spotlight, yet infuses the required emotions into a motion picture. The film editors task is to make sense of the director's vision and capture the key moments and sounds that define a film. However the editor's contribution is not often noticed by the average viewer.

When it comes to editing and sound design, very few can rival Walter Murch. For he has been a true inspiration, thanks to his impressive track record that include the likes of Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Trilogy, American Graffiti, Julia, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Talented Mr. Ripley, among other films.

An intellectual with a sharp mind, Murch has managed to combine technological and engineering know-how with artistic inventiveness. Not surprisingly, he is also a bit of an eccentric, a renaissance man slightly ahead of his times.

If you have to give up something, don’t ever give up emo­tion before story. Don’t give up story before rhythm, don’t give up rhythm before eye-trace, don’t give up eye-trace before planarity, and don’t give up planarity before spatial continuity, says Walter Murch  in his book In The Blink Of An Eye.

For fans of Murch (which also includes us), we discovered a great set of interviews which we feel every film buff and editor must watch. This intriguing 3-part interview explores the dynamics of film editing, and sound design; all of which are Murch’s strongholds. He convincingly presents himself as an orchestrator of cinema and by giving examples, shows how he developed a system of notation for film much like musical notes. The three part interview will surely give you some new insights on the editing process.

In the first video, Murch talks about standing to edit versus sitting, editing as "a combination of cooking, surgery and orchestra conducting", micro-dancing and cutting on the upbeat.

In this part of the video, Murch talks about hitting the cut in real-time, the "rhythmic signature" of a film, suggesting dynamic trimming to Adobe and editing the image first.

In the third and final part of the interview, Murch talks about the editing process and how he cut the epic showdown sequence from The Godfather.

If you enjoyed reading this, then do read our post on 3 tips to edit your film effectively and 13 cuts to help you achieve the perfect scene transition.


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