Critique that [web series] Frame! May 9, 2018

It’s time to Critique That Frame again! We hit “surprise me” in and picked screenshots from the first three shows that came up! (and if any of them seem interesting, click the link to watch more and leave them a Stareable review!)

Shot 1: Sam Sweetmilk

Since this show is animated and mostly uncolored, I decided to add two different screenshots

Shot 2: Screwed

Shot 3: ThirtyNothings

It doesn’t matter if you’re a cinematographer or simply a fan of film: how would you change or improve the above web series shots? Consider:

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

If you like a frame, how would you change these 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!

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Shot 1:

  • So obviously animation has a lot of considerations that I don’t have a ton of experience in, but so many of the shots from this show had void white backgrounds and it just seems like a waste? Even a color might have helped, though I’m open to @movieguyjon and @gmcalpin telling me off for adding complications to an animator’s plate.

Shot 2:

  • I really like the cereal blurry in the foreground
  • So much white, and it feels somewhat weirdly color corrected
  • Other than the cereal in the foreground everything else in frame seems random and most of it is pretty ugly (whatever is on the cabinet behind the guy, the radiator and open door behind the girl, the bit of couch)

Shot 3:

  • A lot of weird space to the left of frame- this probably could have been tighter on the two characters
  • So much beige! It’s an incredibly unappealing color palette from costume to wall color to couch color. Even a colorful throw pillow or more saturated wall hanging would have helped.

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That looks to me more like a colour correction issue than set design. That table lamp probably added a lot of yellow to the shot that could have been compensated in post.

That being said, I probably would have gone with a more brightly coloured party hat, to accent that it’s the unusual element in this story.

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The first one is supposed to be a sample for crowdfunding purposes, but without any colour it looks too much like a placeholder animatic - which is fine for people who understand the animation pipeline, but isn’t really something to show a general audience. Even just block colouring would help.

I would have tightened the second frame a little bit, just to mostly exclude the other rooms of the house.

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I’m going to say only about the animated web series that is effectively an Animatic since it has only the keyframes developed. It’s a stylistic choice made (by a quick online research I did) to pitching it to TV networks.

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Shot 2:

While the cereal box in the bottom of the frame adds some interest, it also makes the rest of the shot look haphazard. Without the cereal box, I might think that the rest of the shot (barren, whiteish) was composed. There’s depth in the open doors leading elsewhere at either edge of the shot, but without some kind of variation in light or color there, it doesn’t actually draw my eye.

Shot 3:

The shot itself is good! I hope I’m learning a lot about the characters from their placement to one another and how much space they take up in the frame and I’m happy to not see them head on in a two shot BUT wardrobe should have been switched up here to offset the drabness of the couch. I also would’ve fiddled with the lamp to either center the shade or the base because it is a little distracting and crooked in the center of the frame there.

P.S–We had a lot of these issues come up when we shot My Astronaut in a particularly bland airbnb, and we really could’ve worked harder to avoid the grays and browns taking over some shots. But budget and time constraints are real…

  1. No comments. I don’t know animation and these are unfinished (I think?). At the point they’re at, they look fine.

  2. Most things, honestly. There’s no depth in this shot other than the cereal box in the foreground leading to the actors. Generally speaking, shots pointing right at a wall will end up looking cheap. If going for a particular look (Wes Anderson) it can work, but everything within the shot has to be working together with intention.

No matter what, I’d lose everything on that wall behind them (or at least center it), I’d lose the shelf on the left, whatever that is on the ground, and add a table cloth on the table (or get a different table).

A lot of this depends on what this show is about. It seem to be a comedy. Maybe about awkward random hookups? Maybe about roommates? Anyway, I wouldn’t try to get whatever’s happening here in this medium/long two shot and I’d consider getting out of whatever wide/master shot as fast as possible and jumping into some medium dirty coverage of each character to find depth in shots and indicate the geography of the scene.

I’d probably also frame this a little tighter and cheat it to be shot from the opposite side, so that we see into an open area of the apartment rather than a flat wall. If for some reason this shot must be done against this wall, I’d frame tighter so we don’t get so much of what’s under the table and center the wall itself, so we don’t get any of the door on the left or the hallway on the right. In that way, if it makes sense for the show, I’d lean into the idea that this is a small world they live in, with limited options.

Costume design - the colors don’t make sense in this world and the actors look washed out among all the white. Put the guy in gray or blue long sleeves and same for pajama pants. I would but her in something similar maybe, but with more colors and no white.

Set design / Art dept. - I’ve kind of gone over that already. I think I’d have picked a different location entirely, but I know that’s not always an option in web. If painting the walls was an option, I’d maybe do that.

  1. I think this one is better, but I have fairly similar general comments to the ones I just made in 2, so I won’t rewrite them. Shooting into a corner and not having the actors on a perpendicular line to the camera was a good idea, if there were no other realistic options.

Welcome back, Chris!!

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  1. It’s unfinished…

  2. I hate to say it but… this is just all wrong. My #1 web series pet peeve is characters up against white walls. GET AWAY FROM THE WHITE WALLS!!! PUT SOMETHING IN THE BACKGROUND AND MAKE IT BLURRY!!! ARRRGGGUUUUGGGGHHH!!!

  3. It’s decent, I probably would’ve done some things differently color wise… I think the issue is that the lights just aren’t bright enough here and the camera isn’t of a high enough quality to create an exposure with enough color information in it to be super useful in editing.

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  1. I’m at the beginning stages of animatic for the first episode of Flagon S2 and my animatic won’t be nearly as detailed. This is - like others have said - built for pitching and giving people with money an idea of what to expect.

  2. This still gives me an idea for a blog post about rethinking how you shoot every scene. Seriously, wide shots are difficult because the more we see, the more intentionality is required. A shot like this requires set decoration and prop work and that’s obviously missing here.

  3. As far as I’m concerned this shot is the same as #2. Both give me nothing to work with, and both would be made immensely more interesting with a different framing setup, or some serious set decoration.

I get we all have a budget, but I also hate doing things the obvious way if I can help it. Those aren’t mutually exclusive ideas.

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  1. I’m nothing close to an expert on animation, so the only thing that bothers me is that everything is slightly off the third. For some reason this always bothers me, especially in simple shots where there’s only a single subject like these two.
  2. Unless this shot is panning in or out, the hints of objects (what looks like a cereal box and a couch) aren’t useful. They’re too small to add any interest framing, so they’re just distracting. Likewise, the open door is distracting, and so is the little stand behind the man, so I’d take it out. There’re some really great possibilities for depth in this set, but they’re definitely not taken advantage of because the lines of the shot aren’t interesting or aesthetically pleasing-- the small glimpse outside is distracted, so I’d realign the shot to start on the left where the door meets the wall, or (less ideally) close the curtains so that it blends in a bit more. For the other side, I’d move the couch so it’s not in shot, shut the door, and maybe add a painting to the door. There are already two that add some interesting depth, so adding a third would create a nice pattern and add more depth, which is always fun. I’d also add something else to the table, which is very plain right now.
  3. The third shot needs more color, and more depth. It feels crowded and one-note, especially because the costumes are very neutral. There’s a hint of pink in the shirt, and there’s the hat, but those are essentially the only pieces of fun in the shot. I’d add more colorful throw pillows, a paining on the right hand wall. move the lamp off-screen, and definitely color correct more. There’s also a pretty prominent shadow on his shoulder, which should be fixed, and potentially adding some more backlighting would make the actors stand out a bit more than they do now.
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