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Cold Mountain: Shooting in Romania


The economic impact of moving to Final Cut Pro
Walter Murch Film-maker
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The breakthrough was not just technical, but it was also economic. And it was significant in the sense that for the first time, the media itself, and the equipment that you were using to work with the media were not free, but insignificant costs. That Final Cut Pro was using off-the-shelf computers, it was not using any proprietary hardware, and the media is digital media, so you can make as many copies as you want just by pressing a key, clone this. You have to have hard drives and places to store it, but compared to working with film, the experience of working digitally is that it's free, that that's your feeling. With the Avid, the equipment itself was very expensive, because it was all proprietary at that time, proprietary hardware, and a significant thing. So you thought carefully about how many Avid systems are we going to use. Typically, two, but sometimes three, sometimes four. But that's a significant cost.

With Final Cut, with Apple system, given the budgets of film, this was an 80-million-dollar film, it was another couple of thousand dollars to buy a new Mac Pro and a monitor, and there you were, connect it up. What the offshoot of this was it was very easy for me as an editor to allow my assistants to have practice editing. Whereas in the old, old days of film, you could do that, but the film itself was very expensive to print, and the equipment, the Moviolas and the KEMs, were many tens of thousands of dollars to buy. In those days, you know? What it would be today is $30,000-$40,000 for each editing station. So now, by almost an order... More than an order of magnitude, these costs had come down, and a threshold was passed as a result of that. That you no longer had to think economically about, 'Oh, I have to get another print of that', to allow that person to experiment. You just make a copy of it, and then you no longer have to really think, because people could even take a hard drive and use their little clamshell iMac to edit with. It was inherent in the situation, but it was revelatory to experience that shift. Now that we don't even think about that anymore, because everything is like that. But at that time, that was one of the first big speedbumps that suddenly, we got over and on the other side of that we were in a slightly different world where you thought about things in a different way.

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: Final Cut Pro, Avid, Apple, hardware, software, costs, equipment, media

Duration: 3 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017