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Walter Scott Murch (born July 12, 1943) is a film editor/sound designer, the son of painter Walter Tandy Murch (1907-1967). Murch married Muriel Ann (Aggie) Slater 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 Schoolmarker, a private preparatory school in Manhattan, from 1949 to 1961. He then attended Johns Hopkins University from 1961 to 1965, graduating 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 Californiamarker film school, successfully encouraging Deschanel to follow them. There all three encountered, and became friends with fellow students such as George Lucas, Hal Barwood, Robert Dalva, Willard Huyck, Don Glut and John Milius, forming a clique of friends collectively known as The Dirty Dozen. All of them 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 "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). Murch was the subject of Michael Ondaatje's book The Conversations (2002); 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.

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 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'smarker 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.

In 2006, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Designmarker in Vancouver, Canada.

He is perhaps the only film editor in history to have received Academy nominations for films edited on four different systems:


  1. Review of The Conversations. The Author and the Film Editor: Ondaatje interviews Murch by Mike Shen Webpage retrieved February 14, 2008.
  2. Murch, Walter (2001). In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing (Silman-James Press). ISBN 1-879505-62-2.
  3. Ondaatje, Michael (2004). The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Film Editing (New York: Random House).
  4. Ichioka, Edie and Ichioka, David (2007). Walter Murch on Editing. Webpage retrieved December 24, 2007.
  5. 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.

External links and further reading

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