If you’re not familiar with Walter Murch, you should be. He’s an Oscar winning sound designer, a writer, director and most notably, a film editor. There’s a raft of information concerning his career and spectacular achievements on the web, but the one I want to alert you to is the book he wrote, In the Blink of An Eye (Silman-James Press).
Originally published in 1995 (an updated edition appeared in 2001), it details many of his unique practices but it’s not a technical manual. Instead, it approaches the craft of editing from a much more sophisticated space. His take on the psychological aspects of stringing images together and how they effect the viewer is of great interest to cinematographers. After all, the editor can only work with the material we provide. Anything that helps sharpen our ability to lay out scenes and develop solid shot structure should be embraced…and this book does precisely that. I highly recommend it!
For a little taste, consider Murch’s Rule of Six. These elements are required to make a cut work. They’re listed in order of importance, but he also concedes that when compromises have to be made while editing, you should start by sacrificing from the bottom of the list up.
1. Emotion – 51%
2. Story – 23%
3. Rhythm – 10%
4. Eye Trace – 7%
5. Two-Dimensional Plane of Screen – 5%
6. Three-Dimensional Space of Action – 4%
Give these points a little thought and see how they affect what you do the next time you go out to shoot. Get the book for a more detailed study of the topic!