What's your opinion on technical quality for a web series?


(Andrew Bearden) #1

Hey, guys! So my web series, “BIZARRE,” was recently posted on the site. My team and I have finished producing the first 5 episodes and are nearly done with the 6th. Feedback has been positive and we’re happy with the outcome.

But what I wanted to ask you all today is your opinion on technical quality of a web series. I feel my team and I have a very firm grasp on the story we’re telling and have been successful in moving that story along. Something we are a bit lacking in though is the technical aspect of the show. we have a decent camera as well as editing software but the show still has a less than professional quality to it.

So my question is how important do you feel technical quality should be for a web series if the story and character elements are all clearly demonstrated? Obviously the series shouldn’t look like it was shot on a toaster, but if it’s anything less than premium professional quality do you think it will take away from the show?

I have posted the page to my web series below and I would appreciate if you checked it out to just see where we are technically.

Thank you so much!
Andrew

https://www.stareable.com/series/view/bizarre


(Bri Castellini) #2

Hi Andrew! I suspect we’ll have a lot of opinions on this topic (tagging @hermdelica @kmd @movieguyjon @Peppered @danielmhart @cagesafe @EricaHargreave @Anthony_Ferraro @alwaysafilmgeek @jonathankyall @JonSosis @Mark_Mainolfi @JeromeKeith76 to get us started)

In my mind, I don’t think there’s necesarilly a concrete threshold you have to reach in order for your web series to be worthy of release- it’s very subjective. We actually talk about this in the first episode of the new Stareable podcast (with guest @berniesu!) where Bernie thinks that your first web series should be designed to prove whatever it is you want to highlight- in this case, it’s your storytelling and writing.

I think that if it’s good, it’s good. There are a lot of variables that go into if something’s good, and production quality is merely one of many.


(Herman Wang) #3

Web series viewers are fairly forgiving of technical things. For the most part I think they understand that the work’s largely being done on low budgets compared to TV. If you don’t have an expensive camera, that’s okay.

That being said, there are things you can and should put some effort into, because the audience will be less forgiving in these areas.

If it doesn’t look and sound “right”, you’ll tend to lose the audience right off the bat.


(Mark Mainolfi) #4

I’m both a writer and an audio technician, so naturally these two parts of my brain are clashing over this topic. In the end though, I’m a practical thinker and I think production quality is incredibly important. In an over-saturated media market like the one we’re in, if your production quality is low, then your story will be skipped over. Professional artists need more than crayola crayons, and chefs need more than tv dinner ingredients. If your production quality is lacking, then you’re doing a disservice to your story (as in, no one will stick around to see it). That said, Stareable’s forums have a whole bunch of articles about getting production quality out of a low budget or little experience, so don’t feel discouraged!


(Emma Drewry) #5

I think the technical requirements of a web series vary a bit based on your goal. I find the only technical element that will really frustrate people is audio quality, but your show from what I saw had decent audio. If you’re aiming to get an audience, the story itself (given good audio) should be your primary focus. If you want to do the festival circuit/market yourself to execs or distributers, you’ll need a good tripod and fewer hand-held movements, because your footage is a bit shaky and that takes away from the quality. Adding some simple lighting might also help out production quality-- it’s currently pretty dependent on sets as it seem.

I think one thing that really stuck out to me in terms of quality was the 180º rule-- or specifically, that it definitely wasn’t followed. I’d recommend sticking to that to up quality, even if you’re not going for super high production value.


(Jonathan Hardesty) #6

I think the answer to your question is all about the expectation for your webseries. What’s the end goal for your show? If it’s to get serious attention, then you’ll probably want your technical game to be on point. Having a strong technical game will also help you get noticed, especially since the market is flooded with content and it’s hard to keep track of all the shows on all the different platforms.

Personally, I’d suggest you strive to remove as many obstacles to watching your content as possible.


(Amanda Taylor) #7

I come from the land of Literary Inspired Webseries (our first show, The Cate Morland Chronicles, was one in the MOST traditional sense). Much of it is vlog-style storytelling based on classics, and much of it is frankly awful. We made a huge effort to keep things SIMPLE so we could have the cleanest possible audio and crispest possible picture while also telling a great, emotional story. When starting out I think it’s good to place limits on yourself so your first show can still be watchable and not distract from the script and acting! Then, from the ‘first pancake,’ showing vast improvements will keep your audiences happy.


(Laura Pepper) #8

Hi Andrew,

I agree with much of the above. Your story, acting & how you cut the episodes will determine much of your audience’s reaction. Audio quality will trump video - you can always cheat crappy video with b-roll, cutaways, montage, etc. You don’t have that luxury with audio, so that should be the best you can make it.

Overall you seem to have good sound, are varying your camera angles, and have pretty good lighting. The biggest opportunity I see as far as the technical side is some of the handheld shake. Consider that people can watch your series on screens as small as a cell phone or as large as a wide-screen tv. Shake will be far more noticeable (and possibly distracting) depending on what they’re watching on.

If you edit in Premiere, you can dramatically lessen it with the “Warp Stabilizer” effect (I haven’t used Final Cut in a while, but they probably have an effect as well). Watching clips from my upcoming webseries, some of the angles had horrible, nauseating shake. It was amazing how the software fixed it almost completely.

Keep shooting & polishing your edits - you’re on a good track!

Hope that helps.


(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #9

I don’t want to pick on your show specifically, because clearly people worked very hard on it, and I have no idea what their experience level is, what limitations they were facing, or any of that. I’m not interested in picking apart a genuine effort with useless negativity. But I do want to offer thoughts if they can be helpful so here’s some general low budget basics that I have picked up working on tons of student films and low / no budget shorts and webshows along with a couple specific notes about yours…

  1. Audio quality is more important than picture quality. Your eyes can adjust to low quality visual, but you can’t hear what’s too soft, and it’s really hard to unhear clicking, buzzing, varying volumes, etc.

  2. The picture still matters. Most important–in focus and well lit. Next, framing, etc. Me personally, this matters a fair amount, but I know some people aren’t as bothered. I don’t expect it to look like multi-million dollar per episode stuff, but the basics should be there.

*I noticed some eye-line issues once or twice early on as well as jumping the line within a scene of dialogue, which threw me a little. It begins here…

1

2

and then continues when two of the characters basically counter cross. There’s never a wide establishing, so it’s tough to get a sense of the geography of the space, but I think when you cut back to the guy in brown (next to Han Solo) is when you jump the line.

*I also noticed in your show there seemed to be some kind of wobble… but it didn’t look hand-held, it looked digital–a result of something happening in the editing process maybe? During rendering or compression, I have no idea–that’s not my area of expertise. This was a little distracting–I didn’t really see it consistently in other places though. Mostly the top of episode 1.

  1. I don’t care at all about your credits, your theme song, or any of that. And if any of that is bad, I’ll probably stop watching before it even starts. It’s better to have none of that at all or something extremely basic rather than something that looks cheap and poorly done.

  2. I do care about sound editing. This is maybe a continuation of #1, but if you can appropriately use music, foley SFX, etc, please very DO. If not, again, nothing (or nothing special) is better than anything bad. *In general, I think I noticed that your added SFX were good and fit the style of the show.

  3. Art / set design, costume department, hair and makeup. You can do a lot with this stuff on a very low budget. Do not underestimate how doing these things with even minimal proficiency can take your project from looking amateur and fake to looking pro.

  4. Writing and editing–probably seems obvious, but writing and editing are the bookends of the process. At least one needs to be very strong. Ideally, both are good, but solid editing can fix a lot. It can be hard to see something objectively if you have been inside it all the way through the process, writing, directing / acting, and editing. It can help a lot to have extra eyes that you empower to make decisions.

*… I bring this up because, generally my advice for web comedy is to keep it under 5 minutes per episode. I personally think shorter is better. Even if you’re going for an episodic style with an overarching narrative, I think it works best to treat each episode like a sketch. The best sketches don’t overstay their welcome. They establish the baseline, find the joke, hit it hard a few times, subvert the pattern, get in a good call back or two, and move on. It’s not easy–and it can be subjective. Some of my favorite SNL sketches overstay their welcome by a long shot… and a show like Portlandia is almost universally understood to be breaking most basic sketch rules in all of their segments by people in the comedy world, yet it’s successful. (In both cases, I think it’s because of the talent of the actors, the directors, and the writing is usually incredibly strong despite breaking these rules).

So more specifically, I think my main advice here would be to shorten your episodes and move on from jokes a little faster. You have some funny gags in there, but some of them linger a bit. Specific example: Episode 4, beginning at 1:41… the “Grinning Man.” This is basically the opening of a sketch and it’s great. We know what’s up immediately. Two pals need directions. A creepy weirdo offers help. One is WAY too trusting, the other is the voice of reason. You nailed your first beat by having the voice of reason point out that it seems like “The Grinning Man” who he says killed a bunch of people. We know the stakes. Then you hit the joke with arguing whether the guy was grinning vs. smiling. IMO, it should move on there. But when it looks like they’re about to move on to the next beat, (at about 2:36), the voice of reason stops the WAY too trusting friend to argue again, first repeating the joke we just heard to explain the guy is creepy and in what ways he might be dangerous. Maybe that’s not a ton of fat to trim off, but I wanted to pick a very clear example from your longest episode.

That’s all I’ve got for now! I seriously hope it helps!


(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #10

I didn’t realize that a few people had already pointed out some of my comments–so I wanted to add that I agree with their specific takes on what I brought up (i.e. sound).