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Film & TV

Cinematography

Ron Howard

Lesson time 19:34 min

Ron thinks about cinematic choices almost like a character in the movie. Learn how lighting, lenses, and stylistic choices can add visual power to your film.

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I've never been a director who wants to put a personal stamp on a project based on a look or an aesthetic. I've always thought of myself, more like a-- I guess the way an actor understands a character and tries to inhabit that character. I want to understand the character of a movie and sort of inhabit it as a director and try to fulfill the possibilities that I think are most appropriate. Now, of course, my personality, my taste, it's going to influence movies in similar ways. And I try not to work in opposition of that. But I like to try to understand a movie and let it begin to talk to me. I like to begin to understand what's visually possible and what would most reflect, I suppose, the themes, the story. It always keeps coming back to me, to supporting those ideas. What's it about? What's it trying to convey? And how is it supposed to transport the audience? How is it supposed to feel? And then begin to understand what sort of visual style will enhance that. How will it help us understand the characters? How will it help engage the audience? There's a kind of an ironic thing that happens, that suddenly you're going to hear a lot more about that subject. So now I'm thinking about becoming a doctor, and suddenly there's a great documentary about what it means to be an ER doctor. And oh, look at this. I'm really noticing that those people over at Starbucks, they're nurses. And I think I see a doctor over there, and they're talking. And maybe I'll go up and just talk to them about what med school they went to. It's all-- boy, this is amazing. Suddenly everywhere I look, it's all about medicine and doctors. Well, it's just that your antenna is tuned. My sense of this is that that information has always been there, but now you've focused your train of thought. I think as a director, you have the opportunity to do the same thing, to begin to focus on your subject. And you'll be amazed how many ideas can start flooding your way. And a lot of that comes to you as visual language. And it's great to start taking notes. You see a photograph. Pull it out-- well, if you can. If you already own the magazine, pull it out. Collect it. Give yourself something to talk about, to think about, to dream about, and just begin the process of understanding what that movie could be. At least that's how I like to work. And I never have any interest in having a particular kind of shot that I always do to start the movie or end the movie-- no signatures like that. For me, it's about a story finding its proper voice, its existence within the medium of cinema. A lot of what we perceive in life has to do with light. Bright shafts, stark backlight, so that things are a little bit muddled. Distance is often about-- the way the optics work is you start to lose detail and the light isn't registering with you on a distant figu...


Direct your story

Ron Howard made his first film in 15 days with $300,000. Today, his movies have grossed over $1.8 billion. In his first-ever online directing class, the Oscar-winning director of Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind decodes his craft like never before. In lessons and on-set workshops, you’ll learn how to evaluate ideas, work with actors, block scenes, and bring your vision to the screen whether it’s a laptop or an IMAX theater.



Reviews

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

Great class! So much content, learned much about what goes into a production.

Very Good. Had theory and a lot of practical lessons. Unlike Scorsese, who never stood up from his chair.

This class was incredible! I'm a camera operator working towards becoming a director and this class made me feel like I was right there on set with Ron Howard. It helped me gain great insight into his experience in the world of directing. I'm very pleased with this class. Thank you!

What an amazing Masterclass!! Ron was so generous with his time and with the process of how he works. So much useful and informative information. I will revert back to Ron's class many times as I move forward with my own project(s). A true gentleman and obviously a very nice guy. Thank you.


Comments

Jess

Quick update from MasterClass, you should all now be able to access the full class and workbooks - so sorry for that inconvenience!

Noel

Hi, I've read here (https://jonnyelwyn.co.uk/film-and-video-editing/ron-howard-directing-masterclass-reviewed/) that the woorkbook would be a 40 pages document. How comes there are only 20 on mine ? Thanks. PS : Thanks to Ron Howard.

Sophia

"Using light as a character" - was enough for me to understand the process and power of lighting. I love the way Ron sums up different processes in unique, wise, and simple phrases, some would need the whole chapter to express. It's so easy and important to keep those phrases in mind!

dwcrisman@gmail.com

I found it insightful. He Ron Howard give me the impression that he allows other experts to help him arrive at the good movie moment. Which is easier to say than to do often times.

Mary K.

Love Ron Howard movies and he provides very insightful commentary. However, like others, I was VERY disappointed that there were NO visual examples to illustrate his points. MasterClass has great creative talented presenters who have extremely valuable experience to share, but they need to consult some actual TEACHERS (those who are experts in their field of transmitting ideas in an effective way) on how to make classes such as this effective. Provide specific examples would have been their first recommendation. Talking heads are the LEAST effective way to teach. This was a real missed opportunity.

KathrynElise E.

I really liked the comment about the cinematographer "feeling the movie", it gave me a greater understanding .

Glen W.

I agree with some of the other comments. Frankly I'm miffed why more visual examples haven't been used to this point. If I wasn't such a fan of Ron Howard I might have tuned out by now. Static shots and slow dollies of one man sitting in a chair are very boring. I'm guessing (and hoping) he'll move on to a set soon and start showing us some examples of what he's talking about.

Mal D.

Images and 'movie clips' to illustrate what he is talking about is sorely missing from a section called 'Cinematography'

svetlana Y.

So true about fluidity and being flexible when working with a cinematographer. One of the reasons I love hand held camera, everything is much more organic when you are movable.

Matt H.

In my studio lab. That is robot Alicia Keys. We practice singing and acting all day. Both children of the 80's...