Critique these frames: Sam and Pat Are Depressed


(Bri Castellini) #1

As I move into season 2 of my dark comedy web series Sam and Pat Are Depressed, I wanted to crowdsource some ideas to make our frames more interesting.

At its core, this is a very short series about two depressed friends in an apartment. There are escalating prop gags in both seasons (more so in season 2, plus a bit more movement) but a lot of this show is dialog, and that’s not super visually interesting.

*NOTE! Season 2 is taking place at a new apartment than the one in season 1. Photos of that location for reference below. If you have recommendations for making that space visually interesting in frame, I’m all ears!

Shot 1

brichris

Shot 2

Shot 3

potato

The new couch/ shooting location:


Note on the new living room: the weird painting from season 1 will be above the couch again/ all framed photos of our former projects will be taken down

(Herman Wang) #2

I feel your pain when it comes to making dialog in a tight space visually interesting.

One thing I do sometimes is have the camera slowly move sideways for the duration of a shot, either using a slider or dolly. It changes the angles slightly on the people and objects in the frame, which can help perk it up.


(Bri Castellini) #3

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(Gordon McAlpin) #4

2 could be funnier/more extreme with a wider angle lens, if that was the effect you were going for. But in any case, I’d make him WAY bigger and that very cool looking lady smaller in the frame — basically, exaggerate what you’ve got here.


(Bri Castellini) #5

The wonders of movie magic :joy:


(Jonathan Hardesty) #6

Hrm, I agree with @gmcalpin - if you can get a wider angle lens and scoot that angle closer and use some really extreme angles, that could make for some very interesting subtext…that depression skews everything from attitude to relationships. It can even skew perspective and just make us as viewers get into the headspace. Maybe the lens from one character “attempts” to normalize, while the other gets more skewed? Something like that.


(Bri Castellini) #7

hmmmMMMmmmmm interesting! There’s some second season arcs that might actually fit great with that… but do those sorts of things make sense for a comedy?


(Gordon McAlpin) #8

absolutely! there’s no reason you can’t use visuals to make jokes (or add funny visual subtext, at least) in comedies.


(Magdalena Waz) #9

These are looking great!

I agree with some of the comments above about exaggerating shot number 2. A huge face in the foreground is funny and allows for a kind of irony where the viewer sees the reactions of two characters who can’t see each other. More of that please!

Both shots one and two show a lot of big acting movements even when you’re sitting down, which really helps break up a dialogue-driven story.

Overall, the only concern would be the color palette. If you’re shooting in different rooms of this new apartment, you could maybe differentiate them with some different color on the walls or the furniture. Right now, you’ve got a lot of horizontal panels of texture and color, but it just leaves my eye going left to right and then back again without anywhere else to focus, and I’m looking for more contrast between the characters and the setting.


(Bri Castellini) #10

SUCH A GOOD POINT! Other than our weird painting, we barely gave any thought to production design for season 1. Do you have any thoughts on good palettes for this?


(Magdalena Waz) #11

Well if season two is all about the ways in which battling depression and sadness can be funny, it would make a lot of sense to me if you subtly suggested that the characters are stuck (blues, grays, staid colors), while the world around them remained unmoved by their antics…reds or other contrasting, brighter colors. Of course, that’s a really heavy-handed way to explain the contrast, but whichever way you go with your wardrobe, try to push against it with your set decoration.

And assigning different colors or temperatures to different rooms could work if the story puts the characters in different apartment settings for specific reasons. Does the same thing always happen in the kitchen? Does it reinforce what happens in the living room or does it work against it?


(Rodrigo Diaz Ricci) #12

Perhaps, seeing the scenes and the different rooms of the apartment, would it be a good idea to put different things out of place? An example of what I say (not necessarily this) could be to put the picture of shot 2 upsides down.
The picture shows one person talking to another and that other is indifferent. If the picture is turned and that person who converges is seen above, the pressure on the other increases and creates a little uncertainty. I think the key is to make those kinds of things a little out of place, but funny, not dark.


(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #13

I think one of the hardest things about doing web comedy–and what makes it look different from professionally done TV stuff–is that it tends to play too much in close-ups and close medium shots. Comedy on TV tends to play a lot in wide-medium and wide shots, even for reactions. It’s almost never in close-up.

Part of what makes this hard on a budget, though, is lack of lens options. I think seeing if you can rent some lenses and then experiment with what wider lenses look like, that could add a more pro look to your shoot.

As for making the shots more “interesting”, I’m not sure. I’d focus more on using the composition of each shot to communicate relationships and who has status in a given situation. Of course, you can play against expectations with that too. Either way, that’s generally where I’d start, rather than working too hard to figure out how to get wonkier angles in there. That can work for a unique effect (those chest mounted cameras in comedy scenes where someone is on drugs, freaking out, for example), but I think your bread and butter will still be pretty conventional shots in comedy.

Otherwise, what makes something interesting might be more about set design / art dept. That’s an area I’ve absorbed less information about, but again, budget constraints come into play.


(Jonathan Hardesty) #14

I can’t speak to TV comedies as I don’t watch them for some of the reasons you mention. The wide-medium and wide shots don’t grab me much in them, and when employed in webseries they end up in our frame critique with the same feedback of “what is this trying to say” or “this is a boring shot.” I agree about the lenses and I also agree that prioritizing the set design is a must.

I do think Sam & Pat can get away with unorthodox frame compositions, if only because its a bit more intimate of a show than a standard TV comedy. Maybe wonky angles isn’t the solution, but maybe those wider shots can be used more creatively than just straight on the actors or to their profile or any of the compositions that we’ve aggressively critiqued in other threads on here.


(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #15

Are you only talking about multi cam stuff like BBT? Because that’s not what I meant. But if you really don’t watch any TV comedies and the reason is that you need more interesting shots to be hooked into them, I’m not sure what to say.

Granted, if the creators really aren’t interested in emulating TV style, then fine, but from about 2006 on, we’ve seen a sort of classical era in TV comedy—with the rise of the single camera show basically replacing the multi-cam box set sitcom as the standard and to a degree, even changing how those shows are shot. It works and a lot can be learned from looking at the best ones—which are all pretty intimate when compared to Cheers or Friends, etc.

Film comedies, even creative indie films follow pretty similar conventions for comedy. What We Do in The Shadows is a great example of an underplayed indie comedy that does make use of some close ups, and it still mostly plays in wides and two or three-shots.

Some creators feel so strongly about the visual language of comedy following these conventions, they use a more square aspect ratio and don’t release letterboxed versions on home video.

Part of why is that comedy tends to play bigger with the actors, which can look like terrible overacting in close ups. Also so much of comedy relies on word play, which can be hard to follow if the visuals are distracting. Same with comedy that plays in visual gags or reaction shots—it almost always needs to be a quick read. Timing is everything. If the audience gets slowed down by unusual and unconventional visuals, the comedy fails.

All that said, it is important to remember that most people watching webseries watch on their phones and small laptop screens. This is why, I think, the most popular and successful webseries tend to feature a lot of static shots and in my opinion, broad overacting.

…the rise of the Vlog style series wasn’t just because people liked watching vloggers, but it offered a familiar visual language that played almost entirely in relatively close mediums so you could still make out people’s facial expressions easily. And then they usually gave pretty big performances on top of that.


(Jonathan Hardesty) #16

While not thinking of BBT specifically, that’s what I was thinking of in general, and probably where our wires crossed on that point.


(Erik Urtz) #17

A lot of the spatial / framing issues have to do with the relative size of the apartments we’re are able to shoot in. My general advice with regards to the frames shown in this discussion is to first park the camera as close to the wall as possible, then move your subject matter forward to get the best framing, and then decorate the background in a manner that makes sense.

The issue with this, is that with the general size of apartment we shoot in you are going to end up compromising on composition, be it in terms of framing or background. You can play around with angles as well, so rather than having the nearest wall be the background if you move the camera you can make a further wall the background.

Does that make sense?


(Kallum Weyman) #18

I don’t know how good I am at these but I will give my very probably odd critiques that probably don’t matter.

Shot 1: Nothing much to report the only thing that catches my eye is that the drinks clinking (whatever tapping them against other is) seems like it could have been brought more central between the two characters.

Shot 2: A lot of empty space in the top left corner. To the point, it draws my focus away from the characters. While I totally get the idea of the shot the headspace drowns out the actual action.

Shot 3: I am not really a fan of having the top of the head and hand out of shot. With a slight movement, you might have been able to capture the whole action.

Overall the colours are little meh (that’s how I would describe how I feel when I look at it) but for the show and its theme, it totally works. As someone who watched the show and enjoyed it, I don’t really have any other critiques of these frames. Maybe they are nonsense I’m not expert.