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Walter Murch

Walter Murch

Overview
Walter Scott Murch is an American film editor and sound designer
Sound design
Sound design is the process of specifying, acquiring, manipulating or generating audio elements. It is employed in a variety of disciplines including filmmaking, television production, theatre, sound recording and reproduction, live performance, sound art, post-production and video game software...

.

Murch was born in New York City, New York, the son of Katharine (née Scott) and Canadian-born Walter Tandy Murch
Walter Tandy Murch
Walter Tandy Murch was a painter whose still life paintings of machine parts, brick fragments, clocks, broken dolls, hovering light bulbs and glowing lemons are an unusual combination of realism and abstraction...

 (1907-1967), a painter. He went to The Collegiate School
The Collegiate School
Collegiate School is an independent school for boys in New York City and is one of the oldest schools in the United States. It is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and is a member of both the New York Interschool and the Ivy Preparatory School League.-History:Collegiate was founded in the...

, a private preparatory school in Manhattan, from 1949 to 1961. He then attended Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University, commonly referred to as Johns Hopkins, JHU, or simply Hopkins, is a private research university based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States...

 from 1961 to 1965, graduating in Liberal Arts.

While at Hopkins, he met future director/screenwriter Matthew Robbins
Matthew Robbins (screenwriter)
Matthew Robbins is an American screenwriter, film producer and director. He is good friends with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Guillermo Del Toro and Walter Murch and has had cameo appearances in THX 1138 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind...

 and cinematographer
Cinematographer
A cinematographer is one photographing with a motion picture camera . The title is generally equivalent to director of photography , used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image...

 Caleb Deschanel
Caleb Deschanel
Joseph Caleb Deschanel, A.S.C. is an American film cinematographer and film/television director.-Early life:Deschanel was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a French father and an American mother, who raised him in her Quaker religion. He went to Severn School for high school...

, with whom he staged a number of happening
Happening
A happening is a performance, event or situation meant to be considered art, usually as performance art. Happenings take place anywhere , are often multi-disciplinary, with a nonlinear narrative and the active participation of the audience...

s.
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Encyclopedia
Walter Scott Murch is an American film editor and sound designer
Sound design
Sound design is the process of specifying, acquiring, manipulating or generating audio elements. It is employed in a variety of disciplines including filmmaking, television production, theatre, sound recording and reproduction, live performance, sound art, post-production and video game software...

.

Early life


Murch was born in New York City, New York, the son of Katharine (née Scott) and Canadian-born Walter Tandy Murch
Walter Tandy Murch
Walter Tandy Murch was a painter whose still life paintings of machine parts, brick fragments, clocks, broken dolls, hovering light bulbs and glowing lemons are an unusual combination of realism and abstraction...

 (1907-1967), a painter. He went to The Collegiate School
The Collegiate School
Collegiate School is an independent school for boys in New York City and is one of the oldest schools in the United States. It is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and is a member of both the New York Interschool and the Ivy Preparatory School League.-History:Collegiate was founded in the...

, a private preparatory school in Manhattan, from 1949 to 1961. He then attended Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University, commonly referred to as Johns Hopkins, JHU, or simply Hopkins, is a private research university based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States...

 from 1961 to 1965, graduating in Liberal Arts.

While at Hopkins, he met future director/screenwriter Matthew Robbins
Matthew Robbins (screenwriter)
Matthew Robbins is an American screenwriter, film producer and director. He is good friends with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Guillermo Del Toro and Walter Murch and has had cameo appearances in THX 1138 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind...

 and cinematographer
Cinematographer
A cinematographer is one photographing with a motion picture camera . The title is generally equivalent to director of photography , used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image...

 Caleb Deschanel
Caleb Deschanel
Joseph Caleb Deschanel, A.S.C. is an American film cinematographer and film/television director.-Early life:Deschanel was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a French father and an American mother, who raised him in her Quaker religion. He went to Severn School for high school...

, with whom he staged a number of happening
Happening
A happening is a performance, event or situation meant to be considered art, usually as performance art. Happenings take place anywhere , are often multi-disciplinary, with a nonlinear narrative and the active participation of the audience...

s. In 1965, Murch and Robbins enrolled in the graduate program of the University of Southern California
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...

 film school, successfully encouraging Deschanel to follow them. There all three encountered, and became friends with fellow students such as George Lucas
George Lucas
George Walton Lucas, Jr. is an American film producer, screenwriter, and director, and entrepreneur. He is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Lucasfilm. He is best known as the creator of the space opera franchise Star Wars and the archaeologist-adventurer character Indiana Jones...

, Hal Barwood
Hal Barwood
Hal Barwood is an American game designer and game producer best known for his work on games based on the Indiana Jones license.Born in Hanover, New Hampshire, he studied art at Brown University and later attended the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television, where he met and...

, Robert Dalva
Robert Dalva
Robert Dalva is a noted American film editor. Filmography as editor includes The Black Stallion, Raising Cain, Jumanji, Jurassic Park III and Hidalgo...

, Willard Huyck
Willard Huyck
Willard Huyck is an American screenwriter, director and producer, best known for his association with George Lucas. They met as students at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and along with others, they became members of a renowned group of amateur filmmakers called The Dirty Dozen...

, Don Glut and John Milius
John Milius
John Frederick Milius is an American screenwriter, director, and producer of motion pictures.-Early life:Milius was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Elizabeth and William Styx Milius, who was a shoe manufacturer. Milius attempted to join the Marine Corps in the late 1960s, but was rejected...

; all of them would go on to be successful filmmakers.

Career


Murch started editing and mixing sound
Sound
Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.-Propagation of...

 with Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. He is widely acclaimed as one of Hollywood's most innovative and influential film directors...

's The Rain People (1969). Subsequently, he worked on George Lucas's
George Lucas
George Walton Lucas, Jr. is an American film producer, screenwriter, and director, and entrepreneur. He is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Lucasfilm. He is best known as the creator of the space opera franchise Star Wars and the archaeologist-adventurer character Indiana Jones...

 THX 1138
THX 1138
THX 1138 is a 1971 science fiction film directed by George Lucas in his directorial debut. The film is based on a screenplay by Lucas and Walter Murch...

and American Graffiti
American Graffiti
American Graffiti is a 1973 coming of age film co-written/directed by George Lucas starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips and Harrison Ford...

and Coppola's The Godfather
The Godfather
The Godfather is a 1972 American epic crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the 1969 novel by Mario Puzo. With a screenplay by Puzo, Coppola and an uncredited Robert Towne, the film stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard...

before editing picture and mixing sound on Coppola's The Conversation
The Conversation
The Conversation is a 1974 American psychological thriller film written, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gene Hackman...

,
for which he received an Academy Award nomination in sound in 1974. Murch also mixed the sound for Coppola's The Godfather Part II
The Godfather Part II
The Godfather Part II is a 1974 American gangster film directed by Francis Ford Coppola from a script co-written with Mario Puzo. The film is both a sequel and a prequel to The Godfather, chronicling the story of the Corleone family following the events of the first film while also depicting the...

which was released in 1974, the same year as The Conversation. He is most famous for his sound designing work on Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American war film set during the Vietnam War, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The central character is US Army special operations officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard , of MACV-SOG, an assassin sent to kill the renegade and presumed insane Special Forces...

, for which he won his first Academy Award in 1979. In 1985 he directed his one film, Return to Oz
Return to Oz
Return to Oz is a 1985 film which is an unofficial sequel to Victor Fleming's The Wizard of Oz. The film is based on the second and third Oz books, The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz...

, which he co-wrote with Gill Dennis.

Unlike most film editors today, Murch works standing up, comparing the process of film editing to "conducting, brain surgery and short-order cooking", since all conductors, cooks and surgeons stand when they work. In contrast, when writing, he does so lying down. His reason for this is that where editing film is an editorial process, the creation process of writing is opposite that, and so he lies down rather than sit or stand up, to separate his editing mind from his creating mind.

Murch has written one book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye (2001). He was also the subject of Michael Ondaatje's
Michael Ondaatje
Philip Michael Ondaatje , OC, is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet of Burgher origin. He is perhaps best known for his Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient, which was adapted into an Academy-Award-winning film.-Life and work:...

 book The Conversations (2002), which consists of several conversations between Ondaatje and Murch; the book emerged from Murch's editing of The English Patient, which was based on Ondaatje's novel of the same name
The English Patient
The English Patient is a 1992 novel by Sri Lankan-Canadian novelist Michael Ondaatje. The story deals with the gradually revealed histories of a critically burned English accented Hungarian man, his Canadian nurse, a Canadian-Italian thief, and an Indian sapper in the British Army as they live out...

.

In 2007 the documentary Murch premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival
San Francisco International Film Festival
San Francisco International Film Festival is the oldest continuously running film festival in the Americas. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society, the International is held each spring for two weeks, presenting an average of 150 films from over 50 countries...

, which centered on Walter Murch and his thoughts on film making.

Innovations & awards


While he was editing directly on film, Murch took notice of the crude splicing used for the daily rough-cuts. In response, he invented a modification which concealed the splice by using extremely narrow but strongly adhesive strips of special polyester-silicone tape. He called his invention "N-vis-o".

In 1979, he won an Oscar for the sound mix of Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American war film set during the Vietnam War, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The central character is US Army special operations officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard , of MACV-SOG, an assassin sent to kill the renegade and presumed insane Special Forces...

as well as a nomination for picture editing. Murch is widely acknowledged as the person who coined the term Sound Designer, and along with colleagues developed the current standard film sound format, the 5.1 channel array, helping to elevate the art and impact of film sound to a new level. Apocalypse Now was the first multi-channel film to be mixed using a computerized mixing board.

In 1996, Murch worked on Anthony Minghella
Anthony Minghella
Anthony Minghella, CBE was an English film director, playwright and screenwriter. He was Chairman of the Board of Governors at the British Film Institute between 2003 and 2007....

's The English Patient
The English Patient (film)
The English Patient is a 1996 romantic drama film based on the novel of the same name by Sri Lankan-Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje. The film, written for the screen and directed by Anthony Minghella, won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture...

, which was based on Michael Ondaatje
Michael Ondaatje
Philip Michael Ondaatje , OC, is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet of Burgher origin. He is perhaps best known for his Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient, which was adapted into an Academy-Award-winning film.-Life and work:...

's novel of the same name. Murch won Oscars both for his sound mixing
Academy Award for Sound
The Academy Award for Sound Mixing is an Academy Award that recognizes the finest or most euphonic sound mixing or recording, and is generally awarded to the production sound mixers and re-recording mixers of the winning film. Compare this award to the Academy Award for Sound Editing...

 and for his editing
Academy Award for Film Editing
The Academy Award for Film Editing is one of the annual awards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Nominations for this award are closely correlated with the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since 1981, every film selected as Best Picture has also been nominated for the Film Editing...

. Murch's editing Oscar was the first to be awarded for an electronically edited film (using the Avid
AVID
AVID stands for:* Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college-readiness system designed to increase the number of students who enroll in four-year colleges in the U.S....

 system), and he is the only person ever to win Oscars for both sound mixing and film editing.

In 2003, Murch edited another Anthony Minghella
Anthony Minghella
Anthony Minghella, CBE was an English film director, playwright and screenwriter. He was Chairman of the Board of Governors at the British Film Institute between 2003 and 2007....

 film, Cold Mountain
Cold Mountain (film)
Cold Mountain is a 2003 war drama film written and directed by Anthony Minghella. The film is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Charles Frazier...

on Apple's
Apple Computer
Apple Inc. is an American multinational corporation that designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers. The company's best-known hardware products include the Macintosh line of computers, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad...

 sub-$1000 Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro is a non-linear video editing software developed by Macromedia Inc. and then Apple Inc. The most recent version, Final Cut Pro X, runs on Mac personal computers powered by Mac OS X version 10.6.7 or later and using Intel processors...

 software using off the shelf Power Mac G4
Power Mac G4
The Power Mac G4 was a series of personal computers that was designed, manufactured, and sold by Apple between 1999 and 2004. They used the PowerPC G4 series of microprocessors. They were heralded by Apple to be the first personal supercomputers, reaching speeds of 4 to 20 Gigaflops...

 computers. This was a leap for such a big-budget film, where expensive Avid
AVID
AVID stands for:* Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college-readiness system designed to increase the number of students who enroll in four-year colleges in the U.S....

 systems were usually the standard non-linear editing system
Non-linear editing system
In video, a non-linear editing system is a video editing or audio editing digital audio workstation system which can perform random access non-destructive editing on the source material...

. He received an Academy Award nomination for this work; his efforts on the film were documented in Charles Koppelman's 2004 book Behind the Seen.

In 2006, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design
Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design
Emily Carr University of Art and Design is a public post-secondary University located on Granville Island in Vancouver, BC, Canada...

 in Vancouver, Canada.

He is perhaps the only film editor in history to have received Academy nominations for films edited on four different systems:
  • Julia (1977) using upright Moviola
    Moviola
    A Moviola is a device that allows a film editor to view film while editing. It was the first machine for motion picture editing when it was invented by Iwan Serrurier in 1924.-History:...

  • Apocalypse Now
    Apocalypse Now
    Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American war film set during the Vietnam War, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The central character is US Army special operations officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard , of MACV-SOG, an assassin sent to kill the renegade and presumed insane Special Forces...

    (1979), Ghost
    Ghost (film)
    Ghost is a 1990 romantic drama film starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. It was written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker.-Plot:...

    (1990), and The Godfather, Part III
    The Godfather Part III
    The Godfather Part III is a 1990 American gangster film written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, and directed by Coppola. It completes the story of Michael Corleone, a Mafia kingpin who tries to legitimize his criminal empire...

    (1990) using KEM flatbed
    Flatbed editor
    A flatbed editor is a type of machine used to edit film for a motion picture.Picture and sound rolls load onto separate motorized wheels, called "plates." Each set of plates moves forward or backward separately, or locked together to maintain synchronization between picture and sound...

  • The English Patient
    The English Patient (film)
    The English Patient is a 1996 romantic drama film based on the novel of the same name by Sri Lankan-Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje. The film, written for the screen and directed by Anthony Minghella, won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture...

    (1996) using Avid
    AVID
    AVID stands for:* Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college-readiness system designed to increase the number of students who enroll in four-year colleges in the U.S....

  • Cold Mountain
    Cold Mountain (film)
    Cold Mountain is a 2003 war drama film written and directed by Anthony Minghella. The film is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Charles Frazier...

    (2003) using Final Cut Pro
    Final Cut Pro
    Final Cut Pro is a non-linear video editing software developed by Macromedia Inc. and then Apple Inc. The most recent version, Final Cut Pro X, runs on Mac personal computers powered by Mac OS X version 10.6.7 or later and using Intel processors...


Personal life


Murch married Muriel Ann "Aggie" at Riverside Church, New York City, on August 6, 1965. Walter and Aggie have 4 children: Walter Slater Murch, Beatrice Louise Murch, Carrie Angland, and Connie Angland.

External links