Chapter 11 of 26 from Werner Herzog

Camera: Cinematography


Learn how to paint with light, work with cinematographers, and bring your vision to life with extraordinary images.

Topics include: Creating a visual mood • Operating with your whole body • Working with cinematographers

Learn how to paint with light, work with cinematographers, and bring your vision to life with extraordinary images.

Topics include: Creating a visual mood • Operating with your whole body • Working with cinematographers

Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking

In 6 hours of video lessons, Werner Herzog teaches his uncompromising approach to documentary and feature filmmaking.

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Capture the spectacular

When the legendary director Werner Herzog was 19, he stole a camera and made his first movie. 70 films and 50 awards later, Werner is teaching documentary and feature filmmaking. You’ll learn storytelling, cinematography, locations, self-financing, documentary interview techniques, and how to bring your ideas to life. By the end, you’ll make uncompromising films.

Watch, listen, and learn as Werner covers every aspect of filmmaking, from pre-production to distribution.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Werner will also critique select student work.


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

The class has felt like a reminder more than anything else, to stay open and curious and not try too hard to fit in or follow rigid paths, but to listen, believe and dare to dream.

Mr. Herzog's class is not about the process of filmmaking, but the life philosophy behind it. This is a way of life, not a how-to.

It was an amazing journey for me to learn and understand the concepts of film making, each lesson was enriching with the great examples and experiences of Werner Herzog. One has to dream it and try to achieve it. Keep the focus intact, be curious ,have a sense of urgency to complete and most importantly decipline and budget ! Overall great valuable experience, thank you Mr. Herzog

These MasterClasses are the most well done online courses I've ever taken. And Werner Herzog... He doesn't disappoint. If you're a filmmaker or wannabe, you have to take this class! Can't wait to go through it again!



This man is such a great artist. He listens to his guts and goes with it all the way. Thank you.

Charles B.

If you shoot as a he describes as a great camera person, will you make a film that engages millions of viewers?

Eric G.

The more he speaks, the more we find the "heart and soul" of Werner's success. I love his disdain comment about "artsy-fartsy" esthetics. He is right in so much as shooting only based on aesthetics is not going to allow a proper natural creative process to occur, only an artificial one. Even choice of locations can affect the idea of aesthetics, so it remains incumbent on the director to assure open natural creativity, otherwise, just shoot everything on a sound stage and use CGI to make it "real." I really liked this lesson. Will have to revisit it after finishing Scorsese and Sorkin, then compare him to Howard.

Rane M.

Lots to think and rethink about in this lesson. And can I say how much I'm loving Masterclass as well as reading the comments of filmmakers from around the world.

Sonya S.

I work full time as a lawyer so my first documentary has actually taken me 3 years, not because I laboured over the filming, etc. but just because I made it organically and I also kept finding people whom I wanted to include in my documentary. I am about to start editing next month (October '18) and I am happy I listened to this lesson and the previous one -- what I take from these talks is that we don't have to be perfectionists, we just have to take action and do if my first documentary is not perfectly edited, it's OK, it's the content, the story that counts...also, I will eschew the advice that I got from another director friend in favor of Werner's advice to not take years in edit... Also, regarding the brevity of shooting...I have to film my feature film soon in NYC as it's been on my back burner for way too long - I found it heartening that he only took 8 hours of footage for the Bolivian film...I'm going to start experimenting with lighting and look at art for inspiration and see if I can recreate this kind of lighting on my Canon Mark III - for those of you who don't know me, I had a bad experience making my first short and got walked all over by my younger crew - and the actor was terrible - everyone thought they knew better than me! So this has helped a great deal. Thank you, Mr. Herzog.

Charlie G.

I think the viewfinder rule was confusing. As a cinematographer, I prefer to glance into a viewfinder to immerse myself in the shot that is being established. I think Werner is a great director and understands cinematography, but for specific preferences like this, I'd let the cinematographer decide. That said, his use of body movement and camera work is spot on. However, I don't entirely agree with his opinion on zooms. In "Grizzly Man" (a film by Werner Herzog), the use of zooms by Peter Zeitlinger created and cultivated more intense interview scenes. They helped convey the anxiety of certain scenes. Overall, this lesson was interesting, I'll have to revisit it soon.

Jenell B.

Just amazed at your style of film making. I now see why you are great at what you do. I love when you stated " Its not the Gear it YOU". Facts all Facts.


I totally agree with your Visual Mood and Magical Moments for shooting a great film.

Francois A.

The virtues of the far away light source: I was asked to film a seminar given by inventor Dedo Weigert showing his newest lighting instruments, specially the very new Dedolight Lightstream system. I was so impressed by the system that I wanted to share this information with the community because this is a unique and mind blowing approach, something very different then what I've ever seen before. The system uses one source and multiplies it trough a series of CRLS reflectors of various reflective index and angles. Basically, what it does is redistribute one source and multiplies it into several point sources surrounding the subject. Now there's nothing new with using reflectors to bring the light back, even a double reflections (reflecting back the reflected light) is common. So what is unique here? What is happening here is we are creating a virtual light source, based on the narrow exit angle of the projector, using a very powerful parallel beam light equipped with non-spherical optics (aspherical optics) and adding a parallel beam attachment, providing an absolutely unique character to the light source. The result when combined with the CRLS reflectors is an unprecedented development in the practice of reflected light and multiple reflections. After seeing the demonstration last month in Toronto (June 2018), I got myself two complete systems (3 aspherical light projectors and 20 reflectors) and I've been playing with the system since. I was lucky enough that an IB private school commissioned me to build a photo/video studio for their students. I chose to use the reflector system and created what could possibly be the first of it's kind Dedoligh Lighstream studio in a North-American school. This is how our studio works (see photo): the source is a DLED-9 with parallel beam adaptor (on the left near the floor) that beams the light upwards into a reflector #1 (high index maximum virtual distance) that is projected across the room where it's picked up again by a #3 reflector (25% of the reflection index of the #1) giving us the key light (since it's very close from the source, the fall-off is minimal, so I chose a #3 because the #2 was to powerful). Then later along the line, a small #1 takes the source and redirects it again to the back wall where it's reflected back to the subject (we have a triple reflection here), creating a very uniform backlighting. Then on the extreme right is a larger #2 (half the index reflection and virtual distance of a #1) that acts as a fill light. So there you have it, one source, 5 reflectors, creating a classic three point light composition, with a character of light that looks like the sun magically made its way into the room and multiplied itself. I've been looking for something like this for the longest time, and there it is — the future of lighting is here.

Bob Z.

I can see the shot, but I still like looking into the viewfinder and even the LCD/monitor just to be sure. Good point by Werner about not worry if the lighting needs adjusted just a little. Most people are not going to notice anyway. But they will remember the acting and the story.


Today I see it very often that young filmmakers at film school, they keep demanding, we need the state of the art camera, this Sony camera. So, yeah, that was great three years ago. But there's a new one, we have to have it. I think that's a silly idea. You have to be capable to make a photo with a shoebox, a needle to drill a hole into it, and a plate of celluloid at the end, a pinhole camera. Before you ask for the state-of-the-art camera, show me a photo that you have done with a pinhole camera. And the same thing, by the way, with cinematographers. I do not allow them a viewfinder. I do not like it. They better know what the projection lines of your 150 millimeter lens is. I think it is part of the professional caliber that they don't need it. You just don't need it. You know what is in frame with this or that lens. And of course, you establish the distance of your camera to the characters or to your scene in a certain point. Or here this camera, where, no, it's shifting, it's moving. And it will not lose me out of sight, but it will lose my hand out of sight if I grab over here. So I don't even know which lens you have at the moment. But I assume that I have to be cautious with this lens. I know that with this camera it's probably a wider lens. And I can even stand up. And I would be head to toe. And it's interesting, filmmaker Jean Rouch, who made one of the finest films, documentaries I have ever seen, Les Maitres Fous, The Mad Masters, shot in Africa in Guyana, I think in 1953 or '54, before the independence of Ghana. It was the Gold Coast still. And still a British colony. And he shot the entire film with, I think it was a [INAUDIBLE] camera, where you have this hand cranking sort of thing to it because it doesn't have batteries. So the longest shot he could take was something like 24 seconds or 25 seconds in one lens. And he made one of the finest films ever made. It's about street workers who lay asphalt in Accra, in the capital city. And on the weekends, they go out in the mountains and they drug themselves with I think the bark of a [INAUDIBLE]. And they stagger around and they reenact the arrival of the British High Commissioner. It's just unbelievable intensity in it and kind of insight, crazy, completely stark mad, insight into colonialism. Very, very advisable for young filmmakers to see. One camera, hand cranked, no batteries, one lens. Hold the camera. Operate with it. Don't look at the flip screen, look through it. You have to look through it. You have to know what you're doing. And I will get up because I will show a few things. What I do when I do camera myself, which I've done in quite a few films, and when I do handheld, number one, I grab the camera and I have my elbows solidly tucked to my body. And I look through the camera. And everything, it's not that I op...