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

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  5,116 ratings  ·  314 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 subject ...more
Paperback, Revised Second Edition, 148 pages
Published August 1st 2001 by Silman-James Press (first published 1991)
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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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Nate D
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 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
Rebecca McNutt
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant collection of insights, and I'm glad to find a book that still treats the superiority and integrity of film with respect instead of falling victim to the all flash but no substance digital technology of the 2000's. Vibrantly written and filled with unforgettable detail, this is definitely worth reading.
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
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
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Even in its second edition - now published nearly two decades ago, the book contains many prescient insights, such as the prediction that editors would soon be editing with online material, and turning around work far faster than ever. The book doesn't, however question whether this is better, though it does briefly touch on the idea of the vertical integration of the workflow meaning that softwares will converge and editing will begin to encompass changing the facial expressions of actors, usin ...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
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
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.
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
Juliette Barasch
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such a beautiful book with so much critical insight. Essential reading for anyone interested in film in an analytical way.
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.
Shhhhh Ahhhhh
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: high-value
Pure gem in the rough.

So, I have this idea, right? Here it goes. The idea is that at the top levels of performance in different fields, people start seeing, saying and doing very similar things. The short version of the why is that we are all operating in the same reality and in order to operate with maximum possible functioning in response to that reality, you must have a fairly clear view of it, which leads people who have nothing to do with one another (top athletes, scientists, film editors
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.
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.
Billy Ram
A great insight into the process of editing films from a very well experienced artist.
A must read if you are, in any way related to the artist side of filmmaking. A fast and simple read.
Spencer Jackson
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Makes you rethink the whole concept of video editing. Great read.
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great book to start with editing. My best parts would be "The Rule of Six", "The Decisive Moment" and "Dragnet".

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 attempt to produce the greatest effect in the viewer’s mind by the least number of things on screen. Why? Because you want to do only what is necessary to engage the imagination of the audience—suggestion is always more effective than exposition. Past a c
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very short- more detailed stories from experiences on any or all of the movies Murch edited would have been nice to extend the length.

I liked hearing about the manual film editing machines- the stand-up machine with foot pedals and wheels sounds nice, it would be interesting to have a work station (for computer based work) that could be operated with both hands and feet for various purposes.

The old film editing machines are also praised for their ability to play back film at high speed without r
Mar 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Walter Murch takes you through his extensive experience editing films, and you find yourself learning things you'd never imagine you'd learn from a book like this. I went in thinking the title was purely a philosophical one, perhaps related to a story about editing a close up of a blinking eye, and while this does absolutely tie in to editing, you end up learning why a human blinks, and what that tells you about the human condition. You learn about sign language, about DNA and how all of these c ...more
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Editing is mysterious. On the one hand it is the most defining aspect of cinema, without which the medium wouldn’t be what it is, yet on the other hand, when it’s done right, it has to become invisible. When Walter Murch talks about the nature of editing and why we feel so comfortable with it he is right in pointing towards the subconscious brain processes, which already streamline incoming information as if they were a little editing machine. How many times have we heard the phrase “it just fee ...more
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Speaking as a person who doesn't know much about the filmmaking process, I had no idea the editing process was so fascinating, and so integral to the final feel of a film. The editor is the one in charge of putting together the disparate pieces and false ends of the filming process, gathered from hundreds of hours of takes, and assembling them into a final product that flows logically and rhythmically, and that resonates properly with the audience.

In this book, Murch shares his thoughts on the n
Tally, The Chatty Introvert
I've read about Walter Murch before, and just refreshed my memory of some of the things he talks about in this book by watching Apocalypse Now (and it's documentaries) again. This book is great for giving you a very basic history of film editing, and some real-world examples of difficulties in editing movies, the different types of technology in use, etc.

It's not too technical a book, and does have an expansive section on digital film editing (now that that's the primary method), but even detail
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In the Blink of an Eye was not what I expected. It is not a how-to, but instead an individual insight from one of the most accomplished men in the field.

I was fascinated to find that I was not purely reading this book to learn, (a process I often sludge through with some filmmaking books) but I genuinely wanted to keep reading this book, as well, it entertained me. It feels like such a truly personal take from Murch that I don't feel like I'm reading a text but I'm actually hearing a man profes
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2015 Reading Chal...: In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch 2 10 Apr 02, 2015 04:38PM  

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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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