In case the name
is not familiar (if you're an editor it should be), Walter Murch
is the winner of multiple Academy Awards for his work as a film
editor and a sound designer -- he coined that term. Among his
many notable credits are "The Conversation", "American
Graffiti", "Julia", "Apocalypse Now",
"The Godfather" (parts II and III), "The Unbearable
Lightness of Being", "Ghost", "Crumb",
"Romeo Is Bleeding", and "The Talented Mr. Ripley".
His first Oscar was for "Apocalypse Now" and he won
unprecedented double Oscars for sound and film editing for "The
English Patient". As an editor and sound man he is one of
the few universally acknowledged masters in his field. Murch
sent ripples of surprise through the editing community (but not
those of us who know its capabilities) when he decided to use
FCP to cut Anthony Minghella's "Cold Mountain," a $100
million Miramax film shooting on location in Romania (due out
Having been told about this book
by a director for whom I was editing a film, I sat down to read
it with a red pen at hand so that I could mark salient passages.
I never touched the pen because had I used it I would have marked
I liked it from page one but by
the middle of page eighteen I came to believe that Walter Murch's
"In the Blink of an Eye" will become to film/video
editors what Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style"
is to writers.
The title derives from his observation
that "... the blink is either something that helps an internal
separation of thought to take place or it is an involuntary reflex
accompanying the mental separation that is taking place anyway."
This statement is preceded by two pages of setup and followed
by a number of pages throughout the book expanding the idea and
relating it to film editing. One other significant quote on this
subject, talking about a real life conversation: "And that
blink will occur where a cut could have happened had the conversation
been filmed. Not a frame earlier or later." This blink discussion
alone caused me to go back into the movie I was cutting and look
for the blinks. I was surprised and encouraged to notice that
instinctively I had made many cuts on blinks and in evaluating
the ones where I hadn't done so I changed most of the edit points
and many of the cuts then became "invisible". (Those
are the best kind in my opinion.)
This is not a "how to"
book in the sense of specific techniques, a manual, if you will.
It is much richer than that. Murch discusses the art and craft
of editing on the levels of meaning and emotion. In doing so
he will influence your work for the better as he has mine.
Even if one were not an editor
this little book would be worth the time. It's filled with insights
on human behavior, wonderful anecdotes about movies he has worked
on and people he's worked with. Murch has an eclectic intellectual
and artistic background and the book is laced with instructive
metaphors drawn from painting, music and literature and spiced
with his lively sense of humor and fun.
The second half of the book is
a look at the history and future of digital editing. I expected
to skim through this part thinking it would be data driven and
dry. Wrong! The gems of wisdom embedded in his commentary on
the pleasures and pitfalls of the new editing technologies are
worth the price of the book many times over. I did my first editing
on film with Moviolas and Steenbecks then moved much later into
analog videotape and three years ago into FinalCutPro. What Murch
has to say about the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the
various methodologies is brilliant and unique. I promise that
it will make you reevaluate the way you work and, almost certainly,
improve your final output.
I'm tempted to go on and on about
this book, give you more samples and go into detail about how
it has already affected my work. But as you see I have resisted
this temptation. I will conclude by simply saying that if you
are serious about your craft, buy and don't just read but study
"Your job is partly to anticipate,
partly to control the thought processes of the audience. To give
them what they want and/or what they need just before they have
to 'ask' for it -- to be surprising yet self-evident at the same
time. If you are too far behind or ahead of them, you cause problems,
but if you are right with them, leading them ever so slightly,
the flow of events feels natural and exciting at the same time."...
copyright © www.kenstone.net
Bryant has acted in prime time TV shows and commercials and
on Broadway, sung at the Metropolitan Opera and in Jazz clubs,
produced over 1,000 TV commercials and dozens of industrial films,
worked as First AD on features, produced and directed over fifty
TV shows. Now he shoots, directs and edits video productions
of all varieties.
Ben Bryant Web Site
You can purchase 'In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film
Editing' from the lafcpug
This article first appeared on www.kenstone.net and is reprinted here
All screen captures and
textual references are the property and trademark of their creators/owners/publishers.