Six Film Editing Guidelines from Walter Murch

by Peter D. Marshall

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According to Walter Murch, (an Academy Award–winning film editor/sound mixer) when it comes to film editing, there are six main criteria for evaluating a cut or deciding where to cut.

Here they are in order of importance:

1. Emotion – Does the cut reflect what the editor believes the audience should be feeling at that moment?

2. Story – Does the cut advance the story?

3. Rhythm – Does the cut occur at a moment that is rhythmically interesting and ‘right’?

4. Eye-Trace – Does the cut pay respect to “the location and movement of the audience’s focus of interest within the frame?

5. Two-Dimensional Place of the Screen – Does the cut respect the 180 degree rule?

6. Three-Dimensional Space of Action – Is the cut true to the physical/spatial relationships within the narrative?

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