From Ron Howard's MasterClass

Frost/Nixon: Steadicam Staging

Ron reworks the scene for a Steadicam, which requires technical movement and choreography from actors.

Topics include: Steadicam Rehearsal • Steadicam Staging


Ron reworks the scene for a Steadicam, which requires technical movement and choreography from actors.

Topics include: Steadicam Rehearsal • Steadicam Staging

Ron Howard

Teaches Directing

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So. That last one was a pretty rough assimilation of what we did with it as a movie. It was a kind of applying the same aesthetic sensibility to this scene today as it when we shot the film. But I want to experiment a little bit today. And this is something that I actually thought about for the movie. We didn't really have time to explore it this way, and I ultimately rejected it. But today I'm going to-- we're going to experiment with it a little bit. Which is the idea of playing it in a long, extended steadicam shots. I'm not sure we'll get it to be a one-er. But, using a steadicam, I want to go at the scene in a different way, and which is going to require some different staging. Now when you're working in a scene that's a one-er-- if you think of a movie like Birdman. It all had the feeling of a one-er. It requires some technical willingness and adeptness from the actors. Because very often you have to work with the camera operator. You know what we were doing was a little more spontaneous and natural, and the camera was hand-held, and it could move to find the shots. But when you get into this kind of highly choreographed sort of shooting, the actors have to be a little more technically willing to really hit specific marks and make it seamless. So we're going to work on that now. The only thing that I'm going to change, for starters-- because we have to reblock-- is instead of going in that alleyway, because it would be very difficult to do much with the steadicam inside that narrow alleyway, instead we'll assume that when you want to go, that you're going out the garage door. And we'll finish out here. And this is an area where the steadicam can operate. And move around you guys a little bit. OK? So let's just begin to experiment. It may be one shot. It may be three shots. I'm not sure. But just walk in, and do what you were doing more or less and let's see how much we can adapt a single shot to that. And then we'll have to start tweaking it. But I'm going to sort of be the steadicam now for a second. And we have a steadicam operator. Work with me here a little bit. OK. OK. All right. And, so maybe we'll just hinge him in, like in a profile or something. And action. What revolution? Let him come through. And keep going. You just let Richard Nixon claim the country was in a state of revolution, with protesters bombing and assaulting police officers. That's not how I remember it. What I remember is people protesting peacefully and legitimately against the Vietnam war. So if you got a wide for a second. That's what I remember. Music off, please. Music off. I need to see that. Hang on, whoa, whoa whoa. So how are we going to see that? So we've come into this situation. That's pretty good, because we get him yelling. If maybe, you might need to mot...

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.


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

Worth every bit of time I am spending on it. We are very lucky Mr. Howard is willing to take the time out to share his knowledge.

Wow! This Class was absolutely amazing. Ron Howard is a great talker and I have certainly learned a lot of things here. Just one thing that I missed there was that the shots that he did in the Frost/Nixon Staging Series weren't ever shown cut together, so that would be a very interesting approach to maybe future classes of directors. Great class!

Perfectly structured and very focused class! I like balance of important points and fine details.

A great insight of the Directing process, from prep to post. I loved especially the classes about stagin actors. Very accurate, real. You wouldn't get this level of professionalism and "closeness" to a real film set on many film schools.


Chris B.

Man he's good, I have to agree a master at his craft. Just so much fun to watch the process.

Kevin B.

Wow this is such a great lesson! I absolutely loved how he moved the steady cam operator around the scene. I have to try this when I can find a steady cam and operator on my budget. LOL!

Maria Elena S.

Love being able to visualize the difference in all these cameras and lenses that many of us as indies, can not afford. great to know what I need to save up for - lol.

Ting K.

Got to have the capacity to be flexible to adjust the staging when using a steady cam. This lesson is an eye opener.

Charles B.

This is sooo blocked to show everyone in the frame. It strikes me as trite. this might be me though

Cameron B.

I love seeing this scene staged with the steadicam contrasted with the multiple handheld shots. I love how we can see how the process of getting coverage is different when you're doing steadicam versus the handheld shots. Staging the pieces of the camera movement and the actors similar to a dance. I love how purposeful his choices were on camera angles and subjects. Also, the variety of wides, mediums, and close ups were excellent with the steadicam blocking. I love how real he is with the actors and the comment at the end is priceless.

A fellow student

Amazing class!!! It's invaluable to go behind the process with Ron and understand how he made his filmic decisions and landed on his shots. I love watching him work with both the crew and the actors too. The energy, enthusiasm and encouragement he carries with him on set is absolutely contagious and makes for a fabulous working environment. An absolute pleasure to see a master at work - thank you, Ron!!

Jessica O.

This has been so so illuminating. I love how Ron Howard talks to everyone. He is always so sharp with picking up acting notes and they are straightforward and clear. I have never worked with a steadicam before. I always wondered how you would start staging it and what would inform choices and movements. Without having to say too much and by simply stating at the beginning that he wanted to respect the sensibility and aesthetic it is just amazing to see Ron in action - pulling from a profile two shot to cover a moment of confrontation to pushing in at a moment it feels that everyone is bearing down on David. He is so instinctual. It's wonderful to watch. I think I'll have to watch it a few more times to fully absorb it.


Bravo for this lesson. Demonstrating is so much more illuminating than long lecture. For contrast, I would have liked to seen the very same scene shot with iPhone mounted on Steadicam stabilizer. But this episode definitely calls for a celebratory dinner with some MasterClass friends and instructors!

Janice O.

I absolutely loved the take with the steadicam. This was an amazing revelation for me because I use less expensive equipment than Ron is using, so seeing the take done like this was very useful.