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In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  6,323 ratings  ·  408 reviews
In the Blink of an Eye is celebrated film editor Walter Murch's vivid, multifaceted, thought -- provoking essay on film editing. Starting with what might be the most basic editing question -- Why do cuts work? -- Murch treats the reader to a wonderful ride through the aesthetics and practical concerns of cutting film. Along the way, he offers his unique insights on such su ...more
Paperback, Revised Second Edition, 148 pages
Published August 1st 2001 by Silman-James Press (first published April 1st 1995)
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Tyson Hunsaker I would say it's suitable for people who are especially interested in film editing. It's something everyone involved in film production should read bu…moreI would say it's suitable for people who are especially interested in film editing. It's something everyone involved in film production should read but especially editors.(less)

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Emma Angeline
Nov 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: film-school
I really enjoyed this, but I’m not sure how much I actually learnt. Murch is certainly amusing to read and I can imagine great to listen to. I’ve been editing since I was 12 so it has certainly affirmed and validated for me a lot of the things I knew about editing on certain levels, but never have had explicitly stated. This new edition is already 20 years old. I am DYING to know what Murch has to say on the evolution of editing within social video like goddammit how does he feel about tiktoks I ...more
May 06, 2014 rated it liked it
While this is more geared towards the editing concerns for larger productions with multi-month editing cycle, Murch has many insights into the basic practicalities of editing. Even better are the bits where he delves further, into the theoretical underpinnings of what a cut is, and why they work at all given the unfamiliarity of jump cuts in day to day life (so one would think). Still, it's converted pretty directly from a lecture he delivered, which keeps the material a little close to the surf ...more
Aug 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a nice little book on film editing. Walter Murch has edited many films, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Part II, and The Conversation. He writes about his editing process and somewhat the history of cutting films. One of the things I found most interesting is that Murch says its not obvious that film cuts should work as well as they do. Most of what we experience visually from the moment we get up is a continous stream of linked images. The "cut" would seem to go against and one would thin ...more
Jul 25, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: film
Divided into two parts, this book is essentially the sharing of a film editor from his career and the history of editing technology from his personal experience. While one can never doubt his credentials to teach (he edited Copolla's Apocalypse Now, in which production probably produced the most footages in film history for an editor to work on...), I am not sure what a reader can learn from this short book apart from a few truisms. The fact that only two editing examples are given photos also d ...more
Alexandra Markovic
Nov 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Murch has taken years of experience in the film industry and poured them into this work of theory and art. Deep enough for those well-versed in film arts yet still appealing to those outside that world. Well written and thoroughly engaging.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Yes, a book on film editing, it's about storytelling.

If you're interested though, I'd recommend The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje. It contains much the same (and more) content and is crafted by Ondaatje to emphasize not just Murch's genius, but also his humility and eager, genuine curiosity. And it's about storytelling.

p. 15
The underlying principle: Always try to do the most with the least—with the emphasis on try. You may not always succeed, but
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wish this existed on kindle, as I would've highlighted a ton instead of dog-ear-ing basically every single page. I thought it was fantastic, and not exclusively for those interested in filmmaking. The first half is about the art of editing itself (and more old-style/analog editing), distilling several days worth of raw footage into a final product lasting only few hours. Not all the ideas are his own, he credits John Huston with the titular theory that eye blinking is basically defining "clips" ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is really helpful in understanding the history and culture around video editing. I don't have a film background and after college got a job in video production--for companies, startups, etcs. My boss recommended that I read this and I finally did. While this book covers video editing from a high-level, theoretical perspective, a lot of the advice and thinking informs "lower" forms of video production. But in a way, the title of the book kind of says it all. There is tremendous power in ...more
Alia Yunis
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Written by one of the great editors of one of the U.S.’s finest decades of cinema, the 1970s, Walter Murch is part psychologist philosopher and part editor in this short treatise on film editing. Written before the digital age, it talks to students about the aesthetics and psychology of editing, rather than which key on your keyboard to press, which seems to dominate so much of the education surrounding editing today, with the technology overtaking the storytelling aspect. As a teacher myself ov ...more
Clare O'Beara
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well written and this is the second edition, although as the author knew would happen, film production has moved on fast.

This tells how an editor makes choices and cuts film - originally a physical cut - and how machines used to be large, noisy and heavy but have moved to be computers.

We are told to bear in mind that seeing a film on a big screen is more immersive than seeing it on a two foot wide screen, and more detail will be seen in a big picture; at the same time, readily available screen
Andrei Alupului
Sep 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Not quite on par with "The Conversations," the book of interviews between Murch and Michael Ondaatje, but an absolutely stellar and essential read for anyone interested in film on a more than superficial level. It's a quick read, probably only a few hours from front to back, so there's really no reason at all not to pick it up and read it. What I like about Murch's thinking, as highlighted both in this and "The Conversations," is that he's as much a philosopher as he is a theoretician and many o ...more
Nathan Pilgrim
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking for techniques and tricks to edit film, you are looking in the wrong place. I bought this book expecting exactly that, but even when none of it came, it was a great experience, and I learned a LOT.
Mr. Murch approach is more of the zen type, teaching that editing is more like a dance, and an art, than a science, and how you can learn from that. The last part of the book is a bit obsolete, since is a overview of the then emerging digital editing process, but it only shows the ac
Oct 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Helped to know that being an editing nerd/theorist could also end up prolific. Personally just lovely.
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book is certainly a useful tool for considering how to conceptualize the editing process. I only gave it two stars because it is short on information and reads like a children's book. ...more
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
In the Blink of an Eye first came out about the time I was teaching myself to shoot and edit video, and I was looking for all kinds of books to help me along with that education. I remember looking at the book in my local bookstore and passing on it because it seemed less instructional than theoretical. Now, 20 years on in my profession, and well past the instructional stuff, someone on one of my social media groups quoted from the book, and it piqued my interest. So I got myself a copy.

My first
Alex Goldberger
Mar 27, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: textbooks
A book I will be rereading until memorized

The first half of this book is an indispensable treatise on WHY cuts in film/video work and WHAT separates good cuts from bad cuts. The way he encourages us to think both philosophically and physiologically about the process of editing felt like a kind of “Eureka!” moment for me (and countless other aspiring editors who have read it). While Murch makes pains to clarify that these are just his opinions rather than objective truth, the intellectual perspec
Aug 08, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I was scheduled to teach Introduction to Digital Video Editing during our Summer semester here at Texas Southern University. Suggested my students read this book as a way to understand not only the history of film editing but how it has evolved into the current non-linear mode of post-production. Since my career has taken the same path as Mr. Murch I feel it is necessary to explain the process of editing in film, video and audio.
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Recommended by Jodie Foster and it does not disappoint. Solid insight into the art & craft of editing from a master. Truly engaging with insight into editorial philosophy and the why, not just the how, of editing. I recommend to any serious editor or filmmaker.
Jan 04, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I am now a black belt in editing come at me
Apr 07, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
Brian Hart
Jul 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is legendary in the editing world, and for a good reason. But you only need to read the first half. The Second half just talks about his predictions about how digital film will affect cinema. It’s outdated, and I wish I just read the first half twice instead. Still worth five stars.
Jun 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
A very light and illuminating read. I bought this book for my brother but soon after reading I found the content quite relatable when it comes to how budget and projects are managed. It gives a peek in how things work in post production. It’s interesting to get to know how, in past, the editors had to mechanically splice the films and had to review the films for years during editing phase. The writing of author demonstrates how thorough his note taking might be as well his grasp on the emotion f ...more
informative, not much more to add except that Walter Murch is a great editor
Sanskar Chitnis
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Walter talks about editing and the art of filmmaking with such passion and with such beautiful analogies that you can't help but fall in love with films all over again, now with the knowledge of these new insights. ...more
K.Q.  Webster
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My dad found this book stashed away from back when he had to read it in college and said I might find it interesting. I'm no professional but I do enjoy the subject of video editing. There were bits of editing techniques that I thought were interesting and I want to try sometime. The last few chapters about blinking (hence the title) were especially enthralling. It was a great look at how they edited back in the day. The best part was laughing at how much has changed in the industry since the 19 ...more
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: video-editing
When I am asked to describe this book to someone, my pet phrase is to call it the "Zen of Video/Film Editing", which it essentially is. The phrase "Renaissance Man" is bandied about a bit too loosely or negatively these days, but Walter Murch is a marvel as a craftsman and author. He manages to break down what many perceive as a highly technical profession to a simple series of intuitive human responses. He also manages to give a quick survey of the state of editing technology and where it's hea ...more
Feb 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I would not have the confidence to be an editor without this book. Walter Murch is a brilliant editor who has cut some of the best movies in the history of film and he thinks it all comes down to catching reactions and feeling the cuts based on actors processing information. If that description does not make your cinematic mouth water, this book may not be for you but for my money it's a great tool of the trade. ...more
Mar 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Fascinating stuff, especially in a time of cinematic upheaval. The second half speculating about the then-oncoming digital revolution is compellingly prescient. It’s abstract and free-wheeling a lot of the time, but Murch writes about the intangible appeal of the movies really, really well. I’d be curious to hear what he has to say about the increasing shift to streaming and at-home viewing in the past year.
Hassan Zakeri
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Views of a celebrated film editor in a concise text. His thesis is that cuts are like eye blinks and eye blinks happen according to thought process. Hence a good cut should be seemless to the viewer.

There is one third of the book, added later, discussing digital age editing. You may skim/skip it, I suggest
May 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: readin2016
too technical for the casual reader, i.e. me.
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Walter Scott Murch is an American film editor, director, writer and sound designer. With a career stretching back to 1969, including work on THX1138, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III.

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“Most of us are searching-consciously or unconsciously- for a degree of internal balance and harmony between ourselves and the outside world, and if we happen to become aware-like Stravinsky- of a volcano within us, we will compensate by urging restraint. By that same token, someone who bore a glacier within them might urge passionate abandon. The danger is, as Bergman points out, that a glacial personality in need of passionate abandon may read Stravinsky and apply restraint instead.” 8 likes
“But first I'd like to take a moment to emphasize the astronomical number of ways that images can be combined in a motion picture. This has always been the case, no matter what editing system is used: manual, mechanical, or electronic. If a scene is photographed with only two shots - one each from two different camera positions (A and B, let's say)-you can choose one or the other or a combination of both. As a result, you have at least four ways of using these two images: A, B, A+B, and B+A. However, once the number gets much larger than two shots-and a director might shoot twenty-five shots for an average scene-the number of possible combinations quickly becomes astronomical.” 1 likes
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