Film School: Walter Murch

Walter Murch in 'Side by Side' (2012) Walter Murch in 'Side by Side' (2012)

The pioneer discusses his Six Criteria of Film Editing.

Editor and sound designer Walter Murch literally wrote the book on film editing (In The Blink Of An Eye). He devised six criteria of film editing (via Web of Stories – Life Stories of Remarkable People):

The Six Criteria:

  1. Cut for Emotion
  2. Advancing the Story
  3. Cutting with Rhythm
  4. Lead with Eye Trace
  5. Recreate Reality on Screen (2D space)
  6. Physical Space in a Scene (3D space)

Murch acknowledges that nailing all six isn’t always possible, or even desired – and if something has to go, “throw things off from the bottom up“:

While criteria 1, 2 and 3 are more intuitive and learned by practice, 4, 5 and 6 are more technical.

4 ~ Eye Trace

StudioBinder shows examples of eye trace used in the films of Steven Spielberg and others:

5 and 6 ~ 2D and 3D space

Conventional narrative coverage and editing ideally work together to create on screen (2D) a sense of the physical space where the action is taking place (3D). Murch mentions “the so-called 180 degree rule”, the guide to filming and cutting to achieve this effect, which we look at, with examples, here:

Further Viewing

Walter Murch’s sound design work on The Godfather (1972) is a film school all in itself:

Walter Murch is among the film industry luminaries interviewed by Keanu Reeves in the film Side by Side (2012), an exploration of film vs digital technology:

If you can’t track down the full length documentary, here’s a roundup of official clips:

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