To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact

Arts & Entertainment

Scene Deconstruction: Apollo 13

Ron Howard

Lesson time 20:05 min

Ron walks you through the movie’s iconic launch sequence and explains how meticulous research and shot planning energized a familiar historical moment.

Ron Howard
Teaches Directing
Ron Howard teaches directing, editing, and storytelling in his exclusive video lessons.


So now I thought we would take a look at the sequence, again, with the sound off. And this one I know something about. This is the launch sequence from Apollo 13. And let's look at it, again, with no sound. And of course, the sound and music played such an important role in it. And I'll talk a little bit about that, as well. But let's just go through the scenes, and I'll give you a little idea about how they were broken down and executed. What was required Here we are in the suit room. I really wanted to make it look like gladiators getting ready for combat. The important idea for me with the launch sequence was to give kind of an importance to it, and to connect the key characters who were going to be involved with the crisis emotionally. I wanted to set them up within the context of a triumphant and successful moment in the space program, the launch. I wanted the audience to feel the respect, the fear that everyone involved had with the launch. And so this the early part of the sequence is all about tension. The music is quiet, it's somber, there's nobility. There's again, this feeling of respect for what these men are willing to face. This is a set with a blue screen behind it and a model. This is before CG We didn't have very much CGI in this one. This is also a big, giant model with matted in little figures of our guys beginning to walk across. We went through hours and hours of archival footage. Everything that we could find. And in cases, I simulated shots. But we actually didn't use archival shots. There are a number of shots like this one, which was done on a sound stage. All we built was just a walkway. We didn't even put a green screen behind it, because I knew it was going to be a long lens and we would just blow that out, and we wouldn't really see the background. And here we are introducing mission control for the first time in the movie. Mission control becomes such an important setting for so much of the drama. I was trying to create, in a fun way, a little bit of suspense. So the camera moves around, we wonder what this is, but I didn't want to reveal Gene Kranz yet, and Ed Harris. I wanted to let people react to him and create a question mark. Here we are, going through the process of strapping in. This is our mock up on a set done at Universal Studios. We've seen the anticipation, we felt it. But it's also more intense. Their feet are pressing down on their shoulders. Everything's growing a little tougher. There we finally met Gene Kranz. Let's stop there. Apollo 13 was often shot with A and B cameras. But it was not shot in a style which I have used in movies, like Rush or Frost Nixon, that has almost an unplanned chaotic feel. Not quite faux documentary, but kind of a spontaneous, unstaged feeling. I didn't choose that for this sequence. And almost every idea ...

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.

The biggest thing for me was learning that I can Direct with confidence. Understanding how a Director fits into the larger scheme of a film, how to position yourself as the storyteller, how to set yourself up for successful collaboration, it's all the NON-technical stuff that Ron really focused on, and its what I found the most valuable.

I am so grateful this course exists. Ron Howard's in-depth look at filmmaking from the director's point of view is invaluable.

What a wonderful teacher... Ron so generously shared his experience and perspective... both practical and insightful.

As a writer for televison shows was very eye opening.


Robert H.

It was like I was in the mind of the master. Ever since I started writing, I have not watched a film the same way I used to. It drives my wife crazy and many times she has told me shut up and just watch the movie. Invaluable!!

Charles N.

Ron Howard does an excellent job in scene deconstruction. He gives excellent insights into types of camera used, stunt doubles, A and B unit shots and so much more. I appreciate the value in scene "staging" for sequences! This breakdown underscores the value of advance planning and preparation for efficiency and great camera results. These Master Classes are well worth the investment!

Paige K.

First off, fire your sound guy. Was he taking a nap while you were rolling? How is this even possible? Second off, how did this almost unusable audio make it past the editor, producer, director, etc. This level of negligence is baffling. This is a high-end course led by a famous director that people are paying good money for. What gives?

Pedro H.

Fantastic scene deconstruction. Using visual resources to set the tone and audio and music to complement it.

Mary S.

Great movie! I have seen it many times but will now watch it again to see how Ron set it up. Really enjoying this class.

Marjohn L.

Ron's Shirt rubbing on the mike is VERY distracting! Use Isotope RX7 sound repair to get that cloth noise out of there. You can and should do this for Ron. The pervasive noise ruins his very important and well presented lesson.

Paul K.

Another great scene breakdown. Love Ron's excitement and smiles as he relives the making of the movie. Very inspiring.

Phil S.

Love how he breaks don these scenes. This is what I expected from these classes - detailed breakdowns and explanations on how and why he achieved them, rather than superficial taking about making films in general. Even thought sound on this particular lesson is very bad.

M N.

Ron is a master of his craft. I really appreciate the way he breaks down the scenes' objectives, and points out how he achieved various shots. e.g. this was a model, this was a camera shake etc. Very inspiring. Thanks Ron!


Great. I enjoyed Ron's teachings. I just wish the green screen behind him was not empty. Especially when he turns to the screen to elaborate a scene.