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The 'diet and exercise' reduction of the film length


Digital editing favours close-ups
Walter Murch Film-maker
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And so it was a while. It was a month or two months, at least, before we were able to sit down and watch the film in a projection room, with a projector showing film of what we had done. And of course, there were surprises in that. But we worked through them. They were not huge surprises. But inevitably there were some, 'Oh, that shot isn't in focus after all.' And, 'Well, I thought this would be different than it was, but whatever.'

I remember some film... two of the film editors on [The] Godfather III were working with another video editing system [the Montage editing system]. And I was brought in late on that film. And I didn't have time to learn that system. And I was kind of suspicious of that system, to begin with. And so I cut on film. But the difficulty with that [Montage] system, which was still present on the Avid to a certain degree, was that you couldn't read people's expressions in long shots. It was just too granular, too pixelated. So editors would naturally prefer to use shots where they could see expressions, which were mostly medium shots and close-ups. So even though the director had shot long shots, the tendency in those early, awkward days was that films used more close-ups than they should have used because of this tendency. Anyway, we confronted those problems as they came up, and dealt with them.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Godfather III

Duration: 2 minutes

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017