Arts & Entertainment, Writing


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.

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

Topics include: The basics of sound • Stylization • Listening for the remarkable


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...

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.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Werner Herzog

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

Explore the Class
Sign Up