Walter Murch

Walter Murch

Infobox Actor
name = Walter Murch

caption = Walter Murch speaking 13 March 2005
birthname = Walter Scott Murch
birthdate = birth date and age|1943|7|12
location = New York City, New York
yearsactive = 1969 - present
spouse = Aggie Murch (1965-)
academyawards = Best Sound
1979 "Apocalypse Now"
1996 "The English Patient"
Best Editing
1996 "The English Patient"
baftaawards = Best Sound
1974 "The Conversation"
Best Editing
1974 "The Conversation"
1996 "The English Patient"
awards = Eddie "The English Patient" 1996

Walter Scott Murch (born July 12, 1943) is an Academy Award–winning film editor/sound designer, the son of painter Walter Tandy Murch (1907-1967). 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 Murch, Carrie Angland, and Connie Angland.


He went to The Collegiate School, a private preparatory school in Manhattan, from 1949 to 1961. He then attended Johns Hopkins University from 1961 to 1965, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in Liberal Arts. While at Hopkins, he met future director/screenwriter Matthew Robbins and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, with whom he staged a number of happenings. In 1965, Murch and Robbins enrolled in the graduate program of the University of Southern California film school, successfully encouraging Deschanel to follow them. There all three encountered, and became friends with, fellow students such as George Lucas, Hal Barwood, Willard Huyck, Don Glut and John Milius all of whom would go on to be successful filmmakers.


Murch started editing and mixing sound with Francis Ford Coppola's "The Rain People" (1969). Subsequently, he worked on George Lucas's "THX 1138", "American Graffiti" and Coppola's "The Godfather" before editing picture and mixing sound on Coppola's "The Conversation," for which he received an Academy Award nomination in sound in 1974. Murch also mixed the sound for Coppola's "The Godfather Part II" which was released in 1974, the same year as "The Conversation". He is most famous for his sound designing work on "Apocalypse Now", for which he won his first "Academy Award" in 1979. In 1985 he directed his one film, "Return to Oz", which he co-wrote with Gill Dennis.

Unlike most film editors today, Murch works standing up, comparing the process of film editing to "brain surgery and short-order cooking", since both 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. [Review of "The Conversations". [ The Author and the Film Editor: Ondaatje interviews Murch by Mike Shen] Webpage retrieved February 14, 2008.]

Murch has written one book on film editing, "In the Blink of an Eye" (2001).Murch, Walter (2001). "In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing" (Silman-James Press). ISBN 1-879505-62-2.] Murch was the subject of Michael Ondaatje's book "The Conversations" (2002);Ondaatje, Michael (2004). "The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Film Editing" (New York: Random House).] the book, which incorporates from several conversations between Ondaatje and Murch, emerged from Murch's editing of "The English Patient", which was based on Ondaatje's novel of the same name.

In 2007 the documentary "Murch" premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival, which centered on Walter Murch and his thoughts on film making. [Ichioka, Edie and Ichioka, David (2007). [ "Walter Murch on Editing"] . Webpage retrieved December 24, 2007.]

Innovations & Awards

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

In 1979, he won an Oscar for the sound mix of "Apocalypse Now" 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's "The English Patient", which was based on Michael Ondaatje's novel of the same name. Murch won Oscars both for his sound mixing and for his editing. Murch's editing Oscar was the first to be awarded for an electronically edited film (using the Avid 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 film, "Cold Mountain" on Apple's sub-$1000 Final Cut Pro software using off the shelf Power Mac G4 computers. This was a leap for such a big-budget film, where expensive Avid systems were usually the standard non-linear editing system. 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".Koppelman, Charles (2004). "Behind the Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain Using Apple's Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema" (New Riders Press) ISBN 978-073571426.]

In 2006, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design 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
* "Apocalypse Now" (1979), "Ghost" (1990), and "The Godfather, Part III" (1990) using KEM flatbed
* "The English Patient" (1996) using Avid, and
* "Cold Mountain" (2003) using Final Cut Pro.


External links and further reading

*imdb name|id=0004555|name=Walter Murch
* [ Walter Murch Articles] at []
* [ Transom Review]
* [ Behind the Scenes with Film Editor Walter Murch] interview at NPR All Things Considered, November 8, 2005
* [ Edison-Dickson Kinetophone Project 1894]
* [ Heliocentric Pantheon: an interview with Walter Murch]
* [ Return to Oz - Ultimate Movie Site] , Photos, videos, memorabilia, just about everything you have ever wanted to know about Walter's movie Return to Oz.

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