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Core studies

Various courses in Department I (Film History, for example) and Department II (core and advanced technology seminars) give all our students a basic foundation of knowledge.
Students majoring in Scenic Film attend a selection of seminars in Department III (Improvisation with Actors and Camera, for example), while students majoring in Documentary Film attend special courses in Department IV (Television Journalistic Practice, for example). In the seminars offered by the Cinematography department, classes are not separated according to students’ year of entrance.

Seminars and practical exercises:
Image design
Lighting design
Fundamentals of shot selection
Spacial and temporal continuity in film
Camera movement (pan, track & crane)
Documentary camera work
Large-scale photography and darkroom
Image analysis
Camera technology and techniques at HFF
Shooting one’s own Film 01; cinematography on several fellow students’ Films 01 and 02.

Main studies

The main studies are largely practice oriented. Students solve special technical or aesthetic tasks in focused workshops – also addressing current issues. In some cases, the result is a proper film (genre seminar, 3-D seminar), otherwise just a work specimen.

Seminars, workshops:
Image design                       
Lighting design
Theory of cinematography
Genre seminar
Documentary camera work
Festival TV and multiple camera production
Practical staging
Television Journalistic Practice II
Image processing, image control and DI
Stereoscopic film, 3-D
Cinematography for Film 03

Basic training – technology, esthetics & craft

The source of all creative work is a broad basic training combining technical and aesthetic know-how with craftsman’s skills.

The basis of our technical training is made up of courses in Department II – Technology, subjects we then explore in greater detail to meet the special requirements of camera work (two examples):
Large-scale photography: An ideal haptic enhancement for conveying such optical processes as visual distortion, Scheimpflug principle, or gradation correction in enlargements.

Camera technology and techniques: Supervised by experienced assistant camerapersons, students gain hands-on experience in practical work with the HFF Munich cameras, and are introduced to testing procedures. Students learn how to set up and handle the standard equipment. This seminar concludes with an exam, which must be passed to gain access to the school’s cameras.
(We don’t train cinematography students for work as an assistant cameraman. It is necessary though that they acquire enough knowledge of the equipment to be able to work with the cameras. For the craft side of camera work, we offer exercises; for example, the seminar Camera Movement – Practical exercises with pan, dolly, crane, hand-held camera and Steadicam.)

Students receive an introduction to artistic camera work through a series of basic seminars on the aesthetics of image and film design, in which theory and hands-on work alternate:
The fundamentals of photographic image design, illustrated with examples from classical photography – image structure, composition, pictorial depth, golden section.

Fundamentals of optical camera work – format, focal length, camera position, narrative perspective. Static and dynamic principles are illustrated with film examples, supplemented with individual practical exercises.

Image design and motion: We analyze films based on the various forms and effects of camera movement. Panning and tracking; hand-held camera, SteadiCam, crane and dolly.

Fundamentals of light distribution and design – exercises with standard lamps and lighting equipment, plus the lighting of some typical situations.

Reconstruction of light spaces: As with camera technology, here too some technical fundamentals (lighting and electrical science, studio technology) give students the capability to act independently.

Color design: Fundamental theory and practical exercises convey the possibilities of color design, along with its aesthetic and emotional impact.

Style analysis – various analyses of movie cinematography, of how a film is made, its effect. We analyze lighting styles, based on selected examples.

Documentary camera work: We practice shooting standard documentary situations, considering shot  selection, manual skills and video technology.

Participation in the practical exercises offered to HFF directing students – blocking scenes and shot selection.

Improvisation with camera and actors, plus practical staging techniques.

Coaching – Films 01 and 02: The aim of each cinematography student’s first self-shot and directed film is to experiment with the camera. In their camera work for fellow students, our trainees are coached by professional cinematographers.

Our learning objectives: During the first semester, students already shoot small episodes, The core studies conclude with Film 02. For this film, our students must be able to handle all aspects of cinematography: creating a storyboard and an aesthetic concept, planning the technical means required, estimating the technical production requirements (scheduling, cost), execution of principle photography according to a self-devised shooting plan, supervision of post-production, critical appraisal of one’s own performance.


Film styles. Analyzing and testing photographic styles and stylistic movements in theory and practice. Exercises with framing, camera movement, light distribution.

Large night scene – working out lighting plans, location selection; an elaborate lighting set-up, in collaboration with a chief lighting technician.

Shooting under unusual circumstances, with special techniques and methods; special operational considerations. Working with existing light.

Portraits: the various possibilities of lighting portraits. We practice working with different physiognomies and dramatic contexts.

Commercial and PR film, in collaboration with Department V/1.

Advanced technical studies: creative technical tools. The aesthetic application of special technical devices and methods – snorkel and macro lenses, extreme wide angle, low-angle prism, Varicon, filters, image processing, image control and DI.

Stereoscopic film / 3-D: Introduction to camera techniques and technology, working with a stereoscope, and post-production.

VFX: Introduction to the possibilities of visual effects and image generation. Blue or green screen, compositing, motion control. Possible applications.

Excursion to CamerImage in Poland, the only film festival dedicated exclusively to cinematography. At the Festival, our students attend numerous workshops and present their own films.

Group productions

Genre seminar
The analysis of genre films. Examination of a short script from the Dramaturgy department. Working out concepts with directing students. Under the supervision of a director and a cinematographer, all the production stages are worked through together – shot selection and pre-visualization, location inspection and technical requirements, shooting and post-production. The objective of this seminar is to make a finished film with a running time of about ten minutes.

Documentary group production
The structure of the documentary group production is similar to that of the scenic project. Under the supervision of a director / author and a cinematographer, students shoot for two to three weeks. Again the range of tasks shall be as broad as possible.

Festival TV
Under real conditions, our students produce television programming for the Munich International Film Festival. The fundamentals of electronic news reporting, lighting a television studio and controlling  studio cameras. Although television studio-production practice isn’t covered in our training program, this seminar demonstrates how we address areas that offer our graduates entry possibilities beyond work in classical theatrical movies, television or documentaries. Moreover, this work demands secondary skills, such as working under extreme time pressure, team-playing skills and a willingness to compromise.