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Arts & Entertainment


Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 7:03 min

Martin gives you a lesson on the historic use of color in cinema and explains his use of color in his own films.

Martin Scorsese
Teaches Filmmaking
In 30 lessons, learn the art of film from the director of Goodfellas, The Departed, and Taxi Driver.
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I really loved to color when I was a child watching these films. And I found that as the color process changed, the color changed, you know? And eventually by the early '50s, the change from three-strip to mono pack changed the nature of the color. And colors became more muted I thought. I happen to like the very bright colors of early Technicolor. That doesn't mean I don't like black and white. That's the difference. The black and white was color, and still is. But I was really fascinated by that projection on the screen. Because the first film I saw was Duel in the Sun. It was three-strip Technicolor. And the credits, the opening credits come up, and it's the blazing hot, yellow sun. And the titles come up and you hear gunshots. And it was absolutely overpowering feeling watching that film, or trying to watch it. It actually terrified me. I was about five years old. But the use of color in that I think set the tone for me. And there's no doubt that I respond to the vibrant use of color in that. Or the moment like in 1948 when my brother took me to see a re-release of Wizard of Oz, when the sepia sequences at the beginning when the house lands in Oz, you know, and it's still in sepia, but she opens the door and it's Technicolor. That moment has always been something that I love. I love when films in the late '40s were in black and white and then there was one sequence in color, like The Portrait of Dorian Gray, or the end a Portrait of Jennie where it's tinted green, the storm, and ultimately the last shot is in color of the film. This made it very special for me. And then seeing the two color films, which I felt were magical to me. And so this all revolved around that technical process that Oswell, Mongerson, John Huston used on Moby Dick, the desaturation of the color, which I tried to do many times, basically coming up with an image that looked so desaturated that it was almost like a colorized daguerreotype in a way, and had a great sense of almost like looking at paintings, or, I should say, scrimshaw etchings done on whale bone. It was quite beautiful, I thought. You see, when a picture is made in color, you also have to design in color. That means the color means something. And color is special. And the use of color was something new in a way. But just to shoot because it's color doesn't quite make sense. So the use of primary colors is important. As I say, color means something. Even when you don't want it to, it does. And so you have to be very careful the colors you allow in the frame. When color became somewhat expected all the time, it lost its special nature for me. There was a different way of using color, too. Different lenses then, different film stocks. So you really had people utilizing color to tell a story also in a different way from the studio films. Because they did tell a ...

Study with Scorsese

Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online film class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make and watch movies.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I thought what Marty shared was truly inspiring.

Very Happy to join this class. I consider a word from Martin Scorsese equals days of self study. May God bless him.

True lessons of cinematographic art, one of the greatest directors of our time. Love the cinema, like a beat of life. Like the spark of the director's magic, and the movie. The cinema is a mystery to discover that you learn by doing. The cinema is a dream, of shadows and light that is made of time.

Gave me three words which will stick with me forever... do it anyway


Antonia T.

Fascinating. And I love this quote: "Don't let the technology to take over. Because you can do it doesn't mean you should do it".


Okay, this segment from Mr. Scorsese was a very pleasant surprise to me and something that validates what I was already thinking. My next movie is a piece set in 1935 in northeast England, and I had told my costume designer long before taking this class that because the story is set during the middle of Britain's Great Depression, I encouraged her to go with a very "pale color pallet" with the costumes (I used those exact words). "Lots of whites, pale blues, blacks, browns." And I've given my DP a lot of the same examples of a very cold and gloomy look to capture the mood of what people were going through during that time. I've encouraged both of them to try to stay away from anything too "rich" in color with this specific film, again, just because of what was going on in that place at that time. This segment in Mr. Scorsese's class may be very simple compared to the others, but *very* important ... in my opinion.

Teddy W.

How to USE color in storytelling, although I watch a lot of film and read many books about the analysis the way of use color in film, but still I don't get core skills using color. Everyone has the different philosophy on color. We can learn from everyone. Like cinematographer VITTORIO STORARO and Robby Müller it‘s very different of them use color. Especially Mr.STORARO uses the color very pioneering. But how we practice using the color?


Also shooting in real black and white, beautiful done, I think is more difficult.


As a photographer, color means everything to me. The way I shoot, the camera I use depends the color I´m looking for. Lightning also means the color I see. I see many poor color films.... and this makes me hate the movie.


I love Coconut Grove. It’s so nice there. Colors do seem more intense in natural settings. Color enhancements really must have been wondrous. I like pretty colors... Even if viewers notice it, colors are a moodsetter. Great class.

RJane @.

The possibilities of color are endless because color has multiple shades and looks different in some people’s eyes. @RJanesRealm


Amazing discussion. One day a new generation of film makers will view the amazing technology today as "old school".

Eric G.

Any film project, regardless of genre, is an open pallette of possible color use to tell your story...his insights are amazing.

Rowan S.

He is so knowledgeable, so insightful. What a great gift these lessons are!