Film & TV


Werner Herzog

Lesson time 10:08 min

Sound quality can make or break your film. Learn how to avoid lost footage and listen for the remarkable.

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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There's one scene that really drew my attention to sound. It was the very, very first film I made. We were a group of 8 or 10 young men. And we said we'd help each other when you are doing your film. I'll help you with driving the car and I'll help you with editing-- we changed things. Of these 10-- 8 films, only 3 films were actually finished. 2 of these finished films were never shown in public because I had sound problems. Sound, and it occurred to me that this is important. And sometimes when I watch a film, in the first minute you know there's very, very great attention in detail about sound, and you know you better watch that one. Very often when I'm rehearsing with actors or when I'm filming with them, sometimes I don't even look at them because I just listen and I know this is great now, just listening. And, of course, it doesn't have to do with sound recording. But sometimes I take more time in organizing sound than organizing camera and lights. [MUSIC PLAYING] I had to learn it because of necessity because there was no money to have anyone paid for doing the sound . You can easily do it because equipment today is not very expensive. You see you can have a fairly small sound recording device and you just have to get a good microphone and operate with it and listen. Listen, what does it do when you move it around and you listen to ambiences. Spend a whole night out in a forest and listen to the sounds and record the moments that are really wonderful, and listen to how the birds wake up in the morning. And you start to feel a day coming. It is good that you, as a filmmaker, as a director, know how to handle sound. You should know it and you should test mics and you should hear what's going on. [MUSIC PLAYING] One film where sound was particularly complicated and problematic was a very early, controversial film of mine, Even Dwarves Started Small. It was a cast, all cast of little people. And, of course, voices in much higher pitch than ours who cannot [? up ?], them you cannot post sync them, so the direct sound had to be perfect, or at least presentable in a theater. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [END PLAYBACK] On this island, in the Canary Islands, Lanzarote, all lava fields, there was constant, day and night, stiff gales and wind. And, of course, a microphone picks it up and creates problems. Mics rumble, and I believe I spend more time organizing and setting up the sound than setting up the camera and looking at locations. Recently in Bolivia I shot at an old hacienda, which was built in the 1560s or so. And it was a wonderful location. And I was there with a cinematographer. First alone, then with a cinematographer. And I said-- and they all loved it-- and I said but there is a problem. There is a problem. And they said what, what, what? The problem was sound. The had wooden floors, very anci...

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. 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.


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

I´m on my way to a castle of hell and I´m ready to go and knock on its doors. -Dante. No, it was not Dante, It was me who wrote that. Lol

He's certainly a prolific filmmaker and a very smart person. His films aren't really my style, but he's always fascinating.

Im so glad that my first teacher was Werner, somebody who believe in the love for this, who leave the gadgets in a second place and use the creativity and poetry as powerful tools. Im so inspired by him.

Me dio el impulso que necesito para comenzar a cometer errores sin miedo a las imperfecciones y a las críticas que muy seguramente voy a tener. Una clase maravillosa


Ana B.

I learned the hard way myself . I was recording outside for my documentary. I know there is background noise and dialogue/interview isn't loud enough. Any Suggestions? I was in Colorado for the footage and I live in Dallas.

Eric G.

My first film's biggest weakness is the sound quality. It is abysmal in places, much to my chagrin. We did so much with sound in the post editing, special effects and so on, which were successful. But the loss of sound during dialog was overwhelming in places and could not be made acceptable for release into theatrical viewing. The lesson is a critical one which too many of us as indy producers and directors often do not pay enough attention to.


Clean sound makes any movie much better. Many indie film makers don't realize the power of sound and present a film or documentary to festivals with a mediocre sound. You can always argue that the shaky images were intended as a style, but no one will believe you chose to have poor sound quality as an artistic choice.

Rich C.

The clip of the windmills is such a great example of why we lie, often times, when we do audio. Audio isn't pat. While somewhat technical, it isn't a mechanical thing. Open your mind and your ears. Experiment. Explore.

Jonathan S.

The right mics are critical. Mics that are too distant from the actors pick up too much room noise. Passing traffic, airplanes, air conditioners going on and off, all make a mess of trying to splice scenes together.


Oh my, I wouldn't put my ear or anyone's ear on the ICE there. Safety first!

Maram J.

Sound can make or break your film. You should be able to close your eyes and listen to your film as much as you should be able to close your ears and watch your film.

Lauren L.

I was unsure what the little person with the camel was trying to achieve. By the end of the clip I felt sorry for the camel as it seemed to have problems sitting down, or was it the noise the little person was making which put the camel off?

Renita S.

Sound is everything. Next to cinematography, it is the most important thing that tells your story. This is why the film, "A Quiet Place," is so ground breaking. Also, the Jurrasic Park series comes to mind when you think of excellent sound in a film. Steven Spielberg is a master when it comes to using sound to bring a story to life.

O M.

Herzog expressed his distaste for zooms earlier in the class, yet the final clip of this lesson features one of the more egregious uses of a zoom I've been cursed to see. This is the true, hidden lesson: to be a great filmmaker, let your mood dictate your principles. The next step of the lesson is to offer hopeful pupils advice you do not follow yourself. Truly, he is a master. Truly, this is his class.