Critique This Frame: How would you improve this web series shot?


(Stareable) #1

Trying something new today! It doesn’t matter if you’re a cinematographer or simply a fan of film: how would you improve the following web series shots? Consider:

  • Production Design
  • Framing
  • Lighting
  • Wardrobe
  • Etc!

Alternatively, how would you change the following shots to fit your own preferred style? It may not be better or worse, but it would be YOURS. Let’s see what people come up with!

shot 1

shot 2

Want to put your own show up for frame critique and discussion? Let us know!


(Bri Castellini) #2

Now I might be biased (for no reason whatsoever, of course) but I would change EVERYTHING.

Just kidding.

Shot 1

  • I would go back in time two years to re-color this scene using @hermdelica’s Color Correcting article
  • I would add more depth with color or shadow- even though there’s several feet of distance between the two subjects and the background, because it’s all the same color and lit exactly the same, it feels flat. Plus, since this show was found footage, this was the ONLY shot of the entire scene, and it could have done more to make itself interesting.
  • I do like that the only real color in the scene is the subjects, because it was an emotional scene focused on these two women having their first civil discussion in several years, but there are ways to add contrast and texture without adding more color. More subtle business on the desk behind them
  • I’d definitely find a way to key out the gross outlets under the table

Shot 2

  • Ditto color correcting. I’m so mad.
  • Key out how ugly the damn door was (the stain in the upper left was there when we moved in, promise)
  • Clear the dishes and shit on the counters- it looks cluttered in an unintentional way
  • Be more distinct about what was on the fridge, instead of just including what was literally on my fridge at the time
  • We tried to have a gag where, despite four perfectly organized paintbrushes being next to him, the character on the left was finger painting, but you can’t actually see the paintbrushes in any shot. You can barely tell that’s what they are, and the mediums of this scene couldn’t frame them in either, so maybe a slightly higher angle? Not sure.
  • The frame also isn’t quite straight, which you can tell best from looking at the top of the oven fan area in the center of frame, and that’s going to drive me crazy for the rest of my natural born life even though while editing I didn’t notice or tweak in a way that would have gotten rid of the problem in seconds.

(Bri Castellini) #3

@CommunityMVPs @kmd @JustinMMorrison @JustinHarris @mdec24 @gmcalpin @cagesafe @RobbieRuviews @alwaysafilmgeek @barbaramcthomas @Sandwich_Fam @OddLantern


(sam lockie-waring) #4

from a production design standpoint, both of these seem like they were victims of circumstance and didn’t really add anything (or subtract anything) that wasn’t already there, which seems accurate based on bri’s comments. i’m not sure where the first scene is meant to be set because it is obviously a classroom but it also has a single yellow book and some empty test tubes? that’s just confusing and doesn’t really place you anywhere. i’d add more stuff not just to the table, the obvious place, but maybe a second piece of furniture that did more to place you, or maybe flip the girls and the frame so you see all the chairs behind them (or whatever is on the other side of the camera in this shot) to add texture and depth and place you where the scene is meant to be placed.

second shot is just way too busy on every plane, so i’d want to hella simplify but try to keep the feel of a cluttered room/home (i’ve seen this show and it’s about depressed people so i’d obviously want to keep the depression present without overwhelming the frame visually because it’s a comedy not a drama)


(Herman Wang) #5
  • I’d definitely find a way to key out the gross outlets under the table

Assuming the camera was steady, that’s easily done:


(Joseph Steven Heath) #6

I probably would have done it with less head-room. A lot of empty space up there on both of them. As for the brushes, maybe put them in a cup and fan them out, so that they are more distinctive.


(Herman Wang) #7

For dialogs, I generally prefer to have the characters mostly facing the camera. In these two shots, when they’re looking at each other they’re almost 90 degrees to the camera.

Personally, I would reframe (or add extra angles) as two A-B shots. In Shot 1, I’d do two oblique angles and for Shot 2 I’d do two over-the-shoulder shots. Also, it tends to make it easier to edit out one bad line from what was otherwise a terrific take.


(Herman Wang) #8

Agreed, in Shot 1 especially it seems to me like the heads should be in the top third.


(Amen J.) #9

This is such a great topic and you’ve brave for putting your show to the test for this exercise, Bri! I’ve just started to explore how to make better use of colour, wardrobe, set design, etc. and pay more attention to it watching other works. For the first shot I would definitely say you need more in the background to speak to the show’s themes, vision, the mood of that scene, etc. For both shots agree that there could be more depth added through colour grading…as well, what kind of colour theme do you think would work for the story you’re telling and how can you bring that out in the shots? For the visual gag you’re referring to, I would cut from a shot of the paintbrushes to showing the character’s fingers, in order to make it more obvious. I wouldn’t actually consider that so much a gag as a revelation about the character and perhaps their insecurities about themselves. I do like the background clutter in the second shot, even if much of it wasn’t intentionally created, as it’s more revelatory than the first shot. It could also be fun if you used an extra wide angle lens for this show, to highlight the disorientation one feels being too much inside your own head…

Something else I’ve been thinking more about is sound, we should do a community discussion on that and how that contributes to storytelling!


(Bri Castellini) #10

Yup! I think I might have even known how to do that at the time, I just… didn’t… lol


(Bri Castellini) #11

In fairness, because of found footage, shot 1 had to be able to do this:


(I’m in a slow internet area, so it’s not actually that blurry of a shot haha)

Obvs this is not the point of this discussion because of course you’re both right- there’s hella headspace that could have been taken out if taken at face value. And shot 2 absolUTELY should have had less headspace.

I am curious, though, how you guys would both deal with a stagnant shot that would need to account for characters coming in later in the scene, though, without a cut or camera move. I know a lot of people on this forum do found footage-y, vloggy style series, so any good ideas for managing that?


(Amen J.) #12

Watch this, this was a brilliant revelation: https://filmmakermagazine.com/92859-watch-kurosawa-and-the-geometry-of-a-scene/. I think it speaks to film’s origins in theatre, where you have to get really imaginative about how to break up potentially stagnant scenes.


(Bri Castellini) #13

I love this and just added it to my “teach me tuesday” schedule :slight_smile:


(Joseph Steven Heath) #14

Just a side story, but when I first started out making videos my dad would do a lot of the camerawork and most of the footage would have tons of headroom. It took me a while to get him to stop doing that. But he was a cartoonist, so he was basically just used to making room for the speech bubbles.


(Bri Castellini) #15

Will do! I love watching directing and cinematography breakdowns now that I’m actively trying to learn them.

I will say- my point with the last comment with the new pictures is that we literally could not move the camera at all during that scene. From start to finish it was one take, one frame, and naturally that limited our framing capabilities when it wasn’t full of all the action from later in the scene, and that’s not a unique challenge for web series creators. How would you frame a shot that would have to fulfill multiple numbers of people without moving and still make it a good composition throughout? I think it’s possible! I just don’t know how haha


(Joseph Steven Heath) #16

I’m not sure. I wonder if maybe this is more of something you tackle in the writing stage? Would you have written it differently if you were more consciously thinking of framing? That’s something I’ve been doing more of lately now that I’ve been writing more comic books. I’ve been writing more to what it’s eventually going to look like than just writing something and figuring out how to stage it later.


(Amen J.) #17

That video talks abut that - the use of your set design to frame characters in the setting, having one character closer to the camera to change the perspective, etc. But it all goes back to the story you’re trying to tell in that scene, as that would inform it.


(Jonathan Kaplan) #18

I like a shallower depth of field between subjects and background and seperating the subjects from bkgs with light.


(Herman Wang) #19

Maybe set the camera lower and angle upwards? That way sitting people in front and standing people in back end up having heads in roughly the same zone.


(Daniel Hart) #20

A lot of good stuff has already been mentioned, but I’d like to add my two cents on the first shot.

Things I like:

  1. The whole foundation of the shot. It’s very well balanced left-to-right, with each character pushed close to their respective frame edge.

Improvements:

  • This is a personal preference thing, but I would have tightened up the geometry. I can tell that we’re sort of looking down and to the right. I think it would have looked even nicer if the shot was 100% dead on, with the camera at ninety degrees from the subjects.

  • I definitely think the headroom is an issue, but keep in mind, heads don’t have to be in the upper third. You could push them to the lower third, or you could even leave them straight in the middle for a more unique and interesting shot. But no matter what, it needs to look intentional. As it is, it just looks like someone didn’t know what they were doing. (I’m sure that’s not true, just my gut reaction.)

  • I can’t believe no one’s said this yet, but I definitely think you should’ve drawn something on the white board. (That is a white board, right?) ANYTHING. Complex equations, dinosaur doodles, doesn’t matter. That would have made for a way more interesting background, and subsequently, shot.

  • I would have put more objects on the table in the background, and also centered them so the background was as nicely balanced as the foreground. It drives me crazy how the test tubes are halfway blocked by the subject’s face.

That said, this isn’t necessarily the found footage look. For found footage, I think you almost need to throw out all the rules of framing just to tell the viewer “This wasn’t made by filmmakers.”

So, if I was gonna do this scene found footage, I would have backed that thing way the heck up. Go for a really wide shot of the entire room, not just that one wall. I think that would have solved all your problems, or at the very least, made for a way more interesting and unique look.

I’d be really curious to see what the room you were shooting in looked like. If you did go wide, you might’ve been able to have fun with the blocking by keeping your subjects moving throughout the whole room, thus shifting the viewer’s focus across multiple points of the shot.