Watch: A Masterclass from Legendary Film Editor & Sound Designer Walter Murch

Walter-MurchAs one of the most internationally renowned editors and sound designers in the world, Walter Murch carries a unique perspective on the craft of cinema -- a master's perspective that he generously shared at last year's Sheffield Doc Fest. In his invaluable masterclass, a must-watch for every editor/sound designer alive, Murch talks about his body of work, including providing the editing and sound design on Apocalypse Now (for which he won an Oscar), how he works, and what techniques he's picked up during his almost 50-year career.

Walter Murch has had quite the illustrious career. He has worked as the sound designer on many of Francis Ford Coppola's films, including The Rain People, The Conversation, The Godfather: Part II & IIIand Apocalypse Now. He was also the first to be awarded an Oscar for editing done electronically (on an Avid system) for The English PatientNot only that, but Murch, despite his status as a world-class editor/sound designer, edited Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain on Final Cut Pro on a stock Power Mac G4 -- and then went on to receive an Oscar nomination for his work.

Though Murch gave this speech last year, the video wasn't made available until a couple of days ago. In it, Murch touches on many different aspects of film editing and sound design -- everything from the fungibility of goods to the future of independent filmmaking. One of the most interesting and inspiring things I took away from his speech -- and something you should look out for (it's around the 38-minute mark) was this idea of "the black box and the snowflake" -- the "tension between control and spontaneity," which he believes is at the heart of all art forms, including cinema, and is something that will become more vibrant as digital filmmaking continues to become the norm.

What did you take away from Walter Murch's masterclass? Does your approach to filmmaking represent the "black box" or the "snowflake"? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[via Shef Doc FestFilmmaker Magazine]

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First off, thanks Renee for sharing this; I had a lot of fun for an hour and a half!
I really enjoyed listening to him, in particular when he's talking about the metaphor of the blink of an eye –a very useful and powerful tool.
I also wanted to share this vid of Nick Dorsky talking about THE CUT:

Again thanks,

February 24, 2014 at 1:29AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Amazing stuff.

February 24, 2014 at 11:49AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Álex Montoya

Thanks so much for sharing this. Been watching it in pieces all day at work.

Love the snowflake discussion about the artistic process in the digital age, and of course, his take on documentary editing, given his background and previous workflow. Some great Q&A at the end, although I wish he had explored the questions about delivery on small screens a bit more (I always want more from this guy!).

February 24, 2014 at 2:33PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Now this is a bloody good post. Thanks Renee for posting this

February 24, 2014 at 2:38PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Fresno Bob

Has anyone figured out a good technique for efficiently printing out frames from video to create the shot board Murch uses?

February 25, 2014 at 2:10PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Daivd S.

You can always just export 1 frame out of the program. Whether it's Avid or FCP or Premiere, just set in and out points on the frame you want and export that as a JPEG. You could then open it in photoshop or whatever and put them all on an A4 paper. Then print that out and voila.

February 25, 2014 at 11:40PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I find just hitting print screen while watching the clip is a fairly quick and easy way to do this. Much easier than rendering single frames.

Of course, in Windows, print screen just copies the image to the clipboard, rather than writing it to a file, so I don't know what kind of quick and easy solution you have on that platform. Dualboot / VM with linux for your movie watching?

February 25, 2014 at 11:58PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

You voted '+1'.

Eyeon Generation makes creating these very easy. Check it out.

March 3, 2014 at 2:38AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


You can do screen grabs in VLC media player (for Mac or Win). It saves to PNG or JPG depending on what you have in your preferences. Mac OS also let's you do full-screen captures with SHIFT + COMMAND + 3 (exports png to desktop)

October 16, 2014 at 6:12AM

Gboyega Dada
Director of Photography, Editor

Hero. 'nuff said

February 27, 2014 at 2:01PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I'm trying to create a personalized binder for post-production editing. Anyone know what contents are useful to have inside? so far I have the script, walter murch picture board (like in tetro) and line paper for notes.... any suggestions?

March 18, 2014 at 9:35AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


On a Mac you could do a screen grab. Command + shift + 4 , then hit spacebar and click on the window you want. It'll give you other things around the image, but it could be cropped.

or enter full frame viewing and then Command + shift + 3 to capture the whole screen.

July 29, 2014 at 8:46AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM