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'Overscanning' – the new way of making films


Cutting vertically within the frame
Walter Murch Film-maker
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And this... That was ten years ago. Since then, shifts in equipment have only accelerated that process. By today's standards, the Sony F900 camera is very primitive, meaning, it's... The chip that was behind the lens was quite small. Now, those chips are much bigger, much more defined, and so you can blow things up even more. And that has precipitated a shift in filmmaking, whose implications are profound. We don't really know where it's going yet, but it is pretty well-entrenched now that, with many exceptions, we are talking not about shooting, but another term called 'acquisition', which is kind of a weasel word. It's not a very good word. But it means we're getting something with which we are going to do something later. This is not the final version.

And really, what it is, is an extension of the act of film-making into the individual frame itself. In a sense, you can think about normal film editing as horizontal, which is to say, we have a series of shots, and we are going to put these shots in a certain order, or put them in a slightly different order, but we are rearranging something on a horizontal line. Now, think vertically. Here is a shot, and now we are editing within the shot. We are recomposing the shot, sometimes, dynamically, meaning, it's not just a simple enlargement, we are enlarging and moving the focus at the same time. And more and more, this is happening. And more and more films are being shot intending that this will happen.

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: Sony F900, camera, chip, equipment, blow up, shooting, acquisition, film-making, film editing

Duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017