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The metaphoric sound of an elevated train


What do frames feel like?
Walter Murch Film-maker
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Another advantage of that is that this will allow you very quickly to quantise your technique. This is kind of down at the level of a violinist talking about bowing techniques, and you know vibrato. But if you practice this technique, you will get better at it, and you will also discover that when you... when you hit the stop button, you will feel something. You will feel: 'Oh, that was a little late', or: 'that felt great', or: 'that felt a little early'. Holding that feeling in your thoughts for a moment, now look at the number and yes, that felt early. And now that I look at the number it is three frames earlier than the other time I did it. What that tells you is for this film, for this shot in this film, that's what three frames feels like. So you're picking up a way of quantising an emotional state in musical terms, and the same thing obviously would apply to 'oh, that felt late.' How late? Well, five frames. Oh, okay, that's what five frames feel like. So it puts you in a creative spiral that reinforces a kind of aesthetic, a sort of musical aesthetic as quickly as it can be done, I think, if you're sensitive to those kinds of things.

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: aesthetics, feeling, sensitivity, film editing

Duration: 1 minute, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017