Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Camera: Techniques

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 14:32 min

Werner teaches the basic rules of cinematography—and how to break them—to maximize your creative vision.

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

Topics include: Orientation in film • The Kinski spiral • The Nazarin walk


One of the things that is quite often overlooked by directors is orientation in film, that you know where you are as an audience. When you are in a complicated apartment, and it's, let's say, a hostage taking film, and you know the hostage takers, because you look down the corridor, come from the right, and that's where the kitchen is. So I want the audience having a general pattern of orientation. Where are we? what's coming from which window? And also, for example, a film, Waterloo, it's interesting, because there are three different armies, and they're marching all towards the battlefield. And just from the direction, the way it's filmed, you know, oh, those are the French. Those are the Brits. Those are the Prussians. You know. And it's very hard to establish that. And I want to have an audience that doesn't need to worry about where am I suddenly. And of course, it has to do with basic principles of filming. For example, a dialogue, if you have two actors, the two faces, and there's an invisible axis between them, you better stay on one side with the cameras, or with your camera. On the axis, you film this face from there and that face from there. Or you can be behind it, over the shoulder, but stay behind this axis. So otherwise, you immediately have an disorientation. But it's such a primitive law of how we see movies or how we see configurations. Because if you trump the axis, you film that actor from this side of the axis and then the reverse shot on that from the other side. Both actors on screen would look in the same direction, and it would be immediate disorientation for the audience. One example where you really can learn a lot is a wonderful film by the French director Melville. He did a film that is Le Deuxieme Souffle, the second breath. And there's a scene. A little gangster goes up the stairs to an attic, because he's been summoned to meet some rival gangsters. And he knows they want to kill him. And he goes into this empty apartment under the roof, and he looks around. And you see empty chairs. Where are they going to sit? If they hold him up, where would he stand? And he stands behind an armoire, and he raises his hands. So he, in the future, the configuration in space, he figures it out. He raises his hands, and he takes his gun and places it only inches away from where his hands would be. And then it's very beautiful. One of the rival gangsters has watched him entering the home. And he wonders what did the guy do there. And he goes up into the empty apartment and looks and says, what did he do there? And he sits in one chair and then in another chair, and walks around and stands against the armoire. And he finds the gun. So the configuration, which is only something that becomes essential for life or death, of the protagonist in the future becomes an architecture of possibil...

About the Instructor

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. In this film class, you’ll learn storytelling, cinematography, location scouting, self-financing, documentary interview techniques, and how to bring your ideas to life. By the end, you’ll make uncompromising movies.

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Werner Herzog

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

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