‘Good Editing makes the film look well directed, great editing makes the film look like it was not directed at all’. -Victor Fleming 1939



(Shari Kizirian 2010)

Walter Murch


Walter Murch was is an acclaimed film editor and sound designer. He was born in New York City in 1943 and has worked n films such as as The Rain People (1969), The Godfather: Part II (1974) and American Graffiti (1973), winning his first oscar in 1979 for Apocolypse Now.

He is known for his intricate and deep thinking into sound editing for his projects, and is seen as a master in this field, who has contributed to bringing the quality of editing to a new level, universally.


Walter Murch on Editing: ‘You have to have the personality that enjoys that… It’s almost like making little pieces of jewelry. That patience of the individual shots and how they’re crafted together… but at the same time, you have to have an appreciation for the larger picture and how these shots fit into the larger picture of the scene and then how the scene fits into the larger picture of the sequence and how the sequence fits together with the larger picture of the whole work and then how the work fits together with society. So it’s boxes within boxes within boxes.’


Walter Murch is definelty someone I myself look up to as an editor. Not only as he worked on multiple award winning films, but the techniques that he uses and his outlook on how to piece together a films footage is extremely insightful and helpful to any budding editor.  The Rule of Six is a very specific list of things Murch keeps in mind when editing a clip for a movie. It is his own personal technique to making sure every scene within a movie has the exact elements that it needs in order to connect with the movie on a whole and have optimum success in the storytelling, angles and audience contentment.


The Rule of Six

The first and most important rule to consider in Murch’s opinion when editing is (e) motion. This involves the audiences emotional response to what they are seeing n the screen, and how it makes them feel. Murch believes emotion “is the thing that you should try to preserve at all costs”. One must ask themselves  what they want to evoke in the audience at this particular part of the story telling. Is it the appropriate time to show this clip or would it be more impactful later on? Does the clip add to the overall emotions of the film or take away from it? Murch rightfully noted that at the end of a film, the audience does not go away remembering the way the film was edited, or how well it was directed. The remember the way it made them feel.

The second most important element to consider would be the story. It is vital that the narrative is making sense to the audience and they are aware of what is going on within the movie. If the scene being edited is not advancing and moving the story forward, then it is not necessary and should be eliminated as it is potentially leaving  the audience confused or bored. Of course, not every rule is 100 percent compulsory to follow everytime, and there will always be exceptions. For example, if the story is momentarily confusing yet massively impactful on an emotional level, the clip can be left in. But as a general rule, scenes that do not hold a meaningful purpose should be cut.

Furthermore, Murch’s next rule is Rhythm. ‘Like music, editing must have a beat’. This could be more accurate, as in the process of editing, there is always an exact moment when a particualr clip is perfect to be cut, and move onto another. If the clip was to end even a second before or after this point, the whole flow would seem off and out of sync. It is essential to keep all of the cuts tight,  eliminating the possibility of sloppy edits.

In a conference at Sundance, Murch commented, “Now, in practice, you will find that those top three things on the list…are ex­tremely tightly connected. The forces that bind them together are like the bonds between the protons and neutrons in the nucleus of the atom. Those are, by far, the tightest bonds, and the forces connecting the lower three grow progressively weaker as you go down the list.”

The next rule on the list includes Eye Trace, which involves where the audiences eyes are led to look on the screen within a particular frame. Blogger Nicole Boyd explained to split the frame on the screen into four sections, and keep the  movement that that you want the audience to focus on within one of these four sections.

The 180 degree Rule is to ensure the video clips follow the axis properly. This will keep the action along it’s correct path of motion and maintain the continuity. There are certain logical things that need to be considered in order to represent the 3 dimensional world on a 2 Dimensional screen, in a realistic way. It allows the audience to keep track of where everything is placed within the film, including the characters and objects that surround them.

Lastly, the final element to consider during editing is 3 dimension continuity of space. This takes into consideration where the people, and elements are in the situation being represented in the scene. A scene would not show every single thing occurring in one shot, so to go back and forth between clips that show all the different characters and for example their reactions to certain things is essential.

(Adobe Creative Cloud 2015)


IMDb. 2016. IMDb: THE BEST FILM EDITORS – a list by bolaproducciones. Available at: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls000915865/. [Accessed 05 November 2016].

Video & Filmmaker magazine. 2016. Walter Murch and the ‘Rule of Six’ – Film Editing – Video & Filmmaker magazineVideo & Filmmaker magazine.Available at: http://videoandfilmmaker.com/wp/index.php/tutorials/film-editing-walter-murchs-rule-6/. [Accessed 05 November 2016].

IMDb. 2016. Walter Murch – Biography – IMDb. Available at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004555/bio. [Accessed 05 November 2016].

Adobe Creative Cloud. 2016. Walter Murch: Making the Right Editing Choices & Switching to Adobe Premiere Pro CC – YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLFODQ8o4lNYocDhG0d-BdQUIzsAxWgiB-&v=zprzAROe9i4. [Accessed 05 November 2016]