In the entrepreneurial world, amateur video making lacks post-production. Most entrepreneurs shoot and post. Even Facebook lives allow limited editing for videos over 5 minutes. Unfortunately, that is so limited that it doesn’t allow for crafting a story through the sculpture of editing. Walter Murch, Academy Award-winning film editor, and sound design theorized how films should be edited to craft a compelling, engaging, and entertaining film, The Rule of Six.

Post-production is essential because we will craft the shots into a story and the narrative arch comes to life. In this article, we will focus on his Rule of Six and how it guides us in deciding what to cut in film editing, and you will learn how to make the decisions on what to keep and what to left of the cutting room floor. So yes, some of your precious shots will not and should not make it into the final product.

In his book, In The Blink Of An Eye, he describes his editing process. Walter Murch’s Rule of
Six outlines the six elements in which a film needs to be cut in order for it to be compelling and entertaining. The six elements for the ideal cut are Emotion, Story, Rhythm, Eye Trace, 2D Plane of the Frame, and the 3D space of the action.

Throughout his career, he drew a correlation between the cuts he was making and how his eyes blinked, and how his brain edited the images he was taking into his physical body. “Our daily lives are filled with cuts. When we blink our eyes, that is equivalent to a cut in a film. From when we wake until we go to sleep at the end of the day, our visual reality is a continuous stream of linked images. For all of the existence of human’s we have experienced this, and at the beginning of the 20th century, we are confronted with the edited film.” (Murch)

It is the blink of the eye that is an indication of the rhythm of the sequence. The blinking of the character’s eye indicates his emotional state and is a point of the film’s rhythm. When you are thinking a series of thoughts related to the message you are conveying, the blink of your eye reveals the emotional state and will naturally move in the rhythm of your emotions. These are “blink points” and will show you the natural placement of the cut points.

There are three problems wrapping up together:

  1. Identifying a series of potential cut points
    (and comparisons with the blink can help you do this),
  2. Determining what effect each cut point will have on the audience, and
  3. Choosing which of those effects is the correct one for the film.

Walter Murch’s thoughts on film editing. “It is frequently at the edges of things that we learn most about the middle: ice and steam can reveal more about the nature of water that water

René Estes, The Video Mentor®

alone ever could.” (Murch, In The Blink Of The Eye) The more footage on hand, the greater the number of pathways possible to follow.
The editing process creates cuts and shadow cuts. The shadow cuts are the cuts made, considered, and then undone and lifted from the film. The process involves screenings, discussions, rewinding, re-screenings, meetings, scheduling, filing trims, note-takes, bookkeeping, and lots of deliberative thought, which leads to the arrival of the quick, decisive action: the cut —- the moment of the transition from one shot to the next —- something that appropriately enough, should look almost self-evidently simple and effortless if even noticed at all.

The Rule of Six

An ideal cut is the one that satisfies all of the following six criteria at once: 1) it is true to the emotion of the moment; 2) it advances the story 3) it occurs at a moment that is rhythmically interesting and “right”; 4) it acknowledges what you might call “eye-trace” —- the concern with the location and movement of the audience’s focus of interest within the frame; 5) it respects “planarity” —- the grammar of the three dimensions transposed by photography to two (the questions of stage-line, etc.); 6) and it respects the three-dimensional continuity of the actual space (where people are in the room and is relations to one another). (Murch, In The Blink Of An Eye)

Cut on:
Emotion 51%
Story 23%
Rhythm 10 %
Eye-trace 7%
2D Plane of the Screen 5% 3D space of the Action 4%

Cutting on emotion is the most crucial element that needs to be preserved above all else.

For instance, if you are considering a range of possible edits for a particular moment in the film, and you find that there is one cut that gives the right emotion and moves the story
forward and is rhythmically satisfying, and respects eye-trace and planarity, but it fails to preserve the continuity of the three-dimensional space, then, by all means, that is the cut you should make. If none of the other edits has the right emotion, then sacrificing special continuity is well worth it. (Murch)

René Estes, The Video Mentor®

When deciding to make a cut, preserving the emotion, story and rhythm is the most important, and there is often a sacrifice. Murch suggests eye-trace, the 2D plane of the screen, and the 3D space of the action are far less important than emotion, story and rhythm.

Why do cuts work? A film is made up of many different pieces of film joined together into a mosaic of images.

“The mysterious part of it, though, is that joining together of those pieces —‘ the cut’ in American terminology —- actually does seem to work, even though it represents a total and instantaneous displacement of one field of vision with another, a displacement that sometimes also entails a jump forward in backward in time as well as space.” (W. Murch)


Editing is more than simply cutting your videos into pieces. It is building a story that is compelling, entertaining, and informative.
It is through the cut that we can edit a video into an emotional story that has rhythm. It will keep our eyes and brain engaged in something that makes us lean in and want more. When we purchase the tickets for the latest movie, we are making an agreement with the filmmaker that we will hand over our lives for the duration of the movie to enter their universe. In addition, we can attract clients to our businesses via a well-crafted piece of art utilizing Walter Murch’s Rule of Six.

Walter Murch. Walter Murch won three Academy Awards for his film editing. Apocalypse Now for sound mixing, The English Patient won two: film editing and sound mixing. In addition, he was nominated for six other films he worked on, five on film editing and the sixth one on sound mixing.