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Arts & Entertainment

Understanding Cinematography

Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 10:59 min

Martin teaches you how to work with your cinematographer and tells you the best way to learn—by asking your DP questions.

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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There's so much to know that you don't know. And I always found this to be something about film making. No matter what the technology is, you shouldn't be cowed by the technology. You shouldn't be cowed by the process in a sense. You should have the kind of passion and bravery and ignorance, I think, to a certain extent, of wanting to get something done. Because if you really thought about making a picture, if you really thought about it step by step, you'd never do it. It's always a situation where you wind up, like, three days into shooting or so, or two days, and you say, what have I done? What was I thinking? But you have to do it. When it came to light, I never really understood light. I still really don't. I don't really need to, I don't think. I never really became something that was prominent in designing scenes. And I think a lot of that had to do-- it took me years to understand a lot of that had to do where I grew up. I grew up in actually the tenements and on Elizabeth Street in the late '40s through the '50s into the '60s. And basically all I needed to know there was daylight at night. I didn't really-- if it was dark, it was dark. There was maybe a light bulb in the hallway. It wasn't complaining about any deprivation of nature's beauty. It was where you were. And it had its own beauty, you know? Yes, there's a nuance that I did learn. On a daylight, in a daylight situation there could be clouds and there could be sun. I got that. But aside from that, where the sun is and where things to be shot at a certain time of day, I really don't-- I still don't know. I still don't know. Maybe that's why I like a lot of British cinematographers too because of the overcast in their country. But in any event, I learned to work very closely with the directors of photography over the years. And in designing the shots, they would add the element of light. I would change. I would work it. I began to understand something about it. And so this is something that I think can be, if not learned, can be coexist with the necessity of making the film. You deal with it. You-- if you don't know something ask. Try it. You know, learn as much-- you may forget afterwards, but you learn a little bit each time a little more. But it's something that shouldn't stop you. If there are certain elements of the actual production, or how to get an image on screen or how to tell a story, you'll find your way through. Freddie's work I'd seen as a cinematographer. But also he was the camera operator on Tales of Hoffmann and a couple of other films of Powell, Pressburger. So he came out of that group and got to know him a bit. I was there the night he won the Academy Award for Glory and said he was looking for a job. And so I thought of possibly working with him on this film Cape Fear, which was a film I hadn't...

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 cannot express how I have come alive inside from sitting and listening to this stream of wisdom and insight. I feel like a wise uncle who I've always admired just gave me the secret to his moxie...and who knew, God could teach you to be God too. I'm as ready as I'll ever be, which is not ready at all. But I'm going anyway. Thank you!

Наверное, лучший просмотренный мной здесь класс. После его поэтапного просмотра и внедрения, актеры и съемочная команда даже стали меня понимать!

I like how he emphasized practicing things like scouting locations and thinking about clothes.

He is a master, a lot of good information. It was great to see his thought process around film, scenes and making a picture.



Great lesson. Martin reminds us how to remain always humble students of our art.

Antonia T.

Super interesting lesson. Good cinematography is what makes a good film truly artistic. Loved the lesson.

Jimmy S.

This lesson gives me a lot of confidence about something I was kinda nervous about.

A fellow student

I love the little anecdote about Houston, and generally any mentioned all throughout this course. It makes me feel like I can get an insider glimpse of working with these incredible figures of film.

Teddy W.

Use the lens and the camera to find a different world from the normal life. It's like a magic. I first have this concept from a teacher who is a painter, he told us how to use the camera shot the normal thing but change the status of them. Like the painting what see and then you paint with you hand. The painting is what you see and what you feel. Shooting a picture is harder because the image is too real, you need try to find the best way to tell the story with picture.Find the unusual way in the normal world. Recommend a book Cinematography for Directors: A Guide for Creative Collaboration by Jacqueline B. Frost, you will find the relationship between director and the cinematographer how they work together.


To know that you don’t know is the inner key to open the hidden door toward knowledge , M S constant humility over the years is a testimony of his genius

Pétainguy M.

With big data and big five, I am anxious for independent creation. What was done will never. We have to invent a new wave of film makers. Martin expertise is very useful. Thanks a lot for the lessons, very great idea !


i know a couple of young cinematographers who are going to be great one today.

Robert A.

Yeah it's great to work with your cinematographer. Yes you are the director and it's all about what you want and what your vision is. But it's good to listen to your cinematographer because what he or she suggests could also make your film good aside from your own vision. Thank you again martin!!!. Onward!!!.

Gene B.

Shot composition is crucial, as well as shot interpretation! A single shot might seem like it's nothing, but in fact, it could convey so much in the tone and mood of the film, as well as determining how the filmmakers will tell the story in the world of the film through the use of lightning and shot angles. A single shot could convey so many interpretations that allow​ the audiences to figure out where the film is progressing towards to.