Online courses have been around for a while; I’m sure many of us may even be working creatives thanks to some of these courses. However, the last five years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of classes taught by industry-leading professionals and recognizable household names.

Tuition for these courses ranges from under $100 to over $1,000. Today, we’re going to look at three leading brands, Masterclass, MZed, and Skillshare, to see what you get for your money. This isn’t going to be a comparative review of the content but, rather, a breakdown of what the sites offer and what students should expect.

MZed, founded by esteemed photographer Monte Zucker, is an educational website that offers courses in photography, cinematography, editing, sound mixing, and many other filmmaking subcategories. The courses range from $49 to $1,000, but there is a subscription option — you can subscribe for $299 and access the entire library, plus future additions. However, the subscription service only allows you to stream the courses — you cannot download them permanently. As many courses hover around the $200-$400 range, you’ll have to weigh the benefits of downloading one course or accessing all content

The range in prices between courses is due to course length. Philip Bloom’s Cinematic Masterclass is $199, at a duration of nine hours and 27 minutes. Mark Edward Lewis‘s Cinema Sound is $999, but at a whopping duration of 85 hours, 46 minutes. Alternatively, for $79, you can purchase a single module to learn directly about an individual element of a specific course. However, $79 for content that lasts just about an hour is quite expensive, and if you’re seeking specific information, perhaps wireless audio transmissions or recording at weddings, you may be better off combing the archives of blogs such as this one.

Vincent Laforet’s Directing Motion Class

Vincent Laforet is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, an accomplished director, and one of the filmmakers at the forefront of the DSLR revolution. If you were around when the 5d MK II was taking the world by storm, you might remember his short tech test, which captured the attention of professionals and amateurs alike.

The Directing Motion course deconstructs the methodology behind movement in film and television — both the camera and the blocking of the action. Unlike many other online courses, which often present an intimate conversation between the viewer and the educator, this course is a live demonstration at a workshop. It comes across as an active lecture rather than a passive tutorial. This is a common among many of the courses MZed offers.

You become a fly on the wall at a live demonstration. But you’re not sequestered from the action, or made to feel like you’ve purchased a download because you missed the tour. MZed produces the courses with an HD multi-camera setup and crisp HQ audio, and when Vincent demonstrates a camera technique with some of the audience members, you find yourself immersed in the action, as if you are a volunteer yourself. You can, to some extent, see more of the demonstration this way than if you had purchased a tour ticket.

While the content is excellent and the production quality fantastic, I can’t help but feel that MZed is expensive compared to Masterclass. I imagine that Masterclass can offer such a low price because bigger household names draw more students from outside of the educators’ industries, but still, for some, $90 vs. $400 is a big difference.

In brief: 

  • Lengthy courses
  • Industry-leading educators
  • Subscription option
  • Purchase individual modules
  • Downloads available

Cover image via mzed  

You can access both classes via