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Postmortem: Every Frame a Painting (medium.com/tonyszhou)
250 points by 19870213 on Dec 3, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 55 comments

This news breaks my heart because Every Frame is my favourite youtube channel bar none. I feel empty knowing that I won't get to watch another video from them.

I did enjoy reading this though, because learning more about their creative process helps me appreciate them that much more. It now makes sense why the Jackie Chan video was amazing - it was a 150 hour labour of love from knowledgeable professionals who spared no effort.

For me, watching this channel was more than just an enjoyable 10 minutes - it helped me understand and appreciate film for the first time ever. I could always say that I loved the opening sequence of Pixar's Up, that it brought tears to my eyes, but I could never express what made it so special. Tony and Taylor gave me the vocabulary and the ability to do so, and I'm forever indebted to them for that alone. Thanks guys.

I hadn't seen this channel before, but the Jackie Chan video is fantastic -- it's a thesis that I'd never have come up with, but that immediately clicked and explains why the old Honk Kong kung fu films still hold so much charm and satisfaction compared to new action movies.

It’s kind of amazing... at 150 hours, even after 900 people have watched your video, you’ve still invested more time than all of your viewers combined.

At 9,000 views society is leveraging 10 units of consumption for every 1 unit of work.

So big YouTubers who get on the order of a million views per video and spend an order of magnitude less time on the content are producing entertainment at an approximately 10,000:1 ratio. Ten thousand hours of mindless consumption for each hour of work they put in.

> mindless consumption

I'm uncomfortable with this characterization of consumption. I'm not doubting that most consumption is passive, but I think its a bit unfair to most people. Even creators, including in this case, Tony and Taylor are consumers 99% of the their lives. Nor is consumption a bad thing - watching Every Frame changed the way I think - which is great.

I thought twice about that word “mindless” but I stand by it.

I was explicitly not talking about Tony and Taylor I was talking about creators who put in “an order of magnitude less effort” and get a million views per video.

Much of that content is mindless. Not all. And I’m not judging mindless entertainment. Mindfulness is one thing, not everything. But I think it’s a fair characterization of the typical in the segment I described. It’s worth noting that to get to that level of viewership you typically need to be producing very consistent content daily.

I think the mindless type of YouTube viewer would quickly get bored and cut short their viewing of Every Frame videos (they're long for YouTube videos and require some attention to get entertainment value from them).

Yeah, it's the same thing for me.

Big fan of Every Frame a Painting. Loved the indepth breakdowns the channel did and really affected the may I look as film as a medium. Sad to hear that it winded down.

For others interested in similar channels, here's my list:

NerdWriter: https://www.youtube.com/user/Nerdwriter1

Lessons from the Screenplay: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCErSSa3CaP_GJxmFpdjG9Jw

The Film Theorists: https://www.youtube.com/user/FilmTheorists

Beyond The Frame: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZ7g7HfH1gWmhgxW47IcW7Q

Wisecrack: https://www.youtube.com/user/thugnotes/videos

Movies I Love (and so can you): https://www.youtube.com/user/MarcusHalberstram88/featured

Let's not forget Movies with Mikey: https://www.youtube.com/user/chainsawsuitoriginal

You should check Kogonada:


This is insane.

"I spent about a week doing brute force trial-and-error. I would privately upload several different essay clips, then see which got flagged and which didn’t. This gave me a rough idea what the system could detect, and I edited the videos to avoid those potholes."

It is amazing the hoops people have to go through to enjoy the rights provided by law.

Those hops aren't legal, they're economic. It's cheaper to run automated systems that flag content automatically without human review than to pay people who can think across multiple domains and say 'this is ok'. Of course, one simple solution would be give people a formal way to assert fair use and put any monies in an escrow account pending challenge from rightsholders, but any challenge would have to be lodged in a timely fashion (like 2 weeks).

I'm fairly sure people have been through similar experiences trying to get films through manual censorship processes.

It would be interesting to know what they found about where the boundaries lie and how this compares to the "traditional" approach - sample clearance. I'm fairly sure that if you tried to get approval for using lots of micro-clips it would be incredibly time-consuming, prohibitively expensive, or both.

> I'm fairly sure that if you tried to get approval for using lots of micro-clips it would be incredibly time-consuming, prohibitively expensive, or both.

But approval is not needed. These videos are pretty much textbook examples of legally-protected fair use of the content they discuss. The labor necessary to get such content through the gates at YouTube is stifling others who can’t dedicate the kind of time needed to skirt their overzealous copyright protections.

Shifting economic burdens onto the least well-resourced is a standard formula in American business and public life.

You can enjoy those rights on your own video hosting.

You can also enjoy high bills for bandwidth and cease-and-desist letters from all the major movie studios.

Well, that's the point - if you use youtube's hosting, they're taking care of that for you. In return, you agree to their methods of dealing with copyright issues - which may not be ideal in theory, but are most rational at that scale.

> You can also enjoy high bills for bandwidth

I mean, obviously? The choices are: pay the money, or accept the limitations of a free service.

> cease-and-desist letters

It's an imperfect system. I wish that there were fines for making false IP claims.

You can build your own internet

A lot of good lessons in the script. It may not be apparent, but they sure put a lot of hours into making the videos. I especially like the point of no Googling for research (research offline). Every Frame a Painting feels unique because they don't just try to echo other's opinions.

  A huge percentage of the Internet is the same information, repeated over and over again. This is especially apparent on film websites; they call it aggregation but it’s really just a nicer way to say regurgitation.
It's sad that they couldn't turn it as a final video, even using a very different style (breaking from their norm). It feels that a video channel deserves a video closure, not a blog post.

I'm happy that both of them finds happiness in their new jobs and location.

Can I ask that people quote things like this:

> So that it wraps when you have a long line, so that it wraps when you have a long line, so that it wraps when you have a long line, so that it wraps when you have a long line

Instead of like this

    so I have to scroll horizontally to read beyond about 120 characters

This is unfortunately a losing battle. It kills me that people overload the code blocking for quotes because it's simply unreadable on mobile/tablet.

It's unreadable on a regular monitor, too.

Looks fine on iPhone.

I'm on an iPhone - it does not.

Sorry, didn't realize it's a problem for mobile.

This was an interesting detail: Nearly every stylistic decision you see about the channel — the length of the clips, the number of examples, which studios’ films we chose, the way narration and clip audio weave together, the reordering and flipping of shots, the remixing of 5.1 audio, the rhythm and pacing of the overall video — all of that was reverse-engineered from YouTube’s Copyright ID.

"A huge percentage of the Internet is the same information, repeated over and over again. This is especially apparent on film websites; they call it aggregation but it’s really just a nicer way to say regurgitation."

I think this is increasingly a problem, and various forms of clickbait make it worse. As does the counter-trend of demanding sources for everything. Where only online sources are acceptable.

As I keep saying, this is a fundamental limitation of the web, which shows you leaves on trees. What you want is the inversion of that as a dynamic DAG in 3d. This would be the killer app for VR.

Huh? How could VR possibly get rid of "the same information, repeated over and over again"? The problem comes from limited research (fast & cheap, not good), not HTML presentation. VR is not going to help with that, as it's not going to magically replace Google (which already indexes books anyway).

Because VR makes it easier to look at the structures like the branches of the tree. You can put this on a screen too, of course, but from a user interface point of view it's a bit like looking at the world through a letterbox.

The 3d-ness of VR makes it easier for people to maintain a persistent mental model of a virtual environment than that which can be presented through a single screen, and that facilitates the presentation and navigation of complex structural information in 3 dimensions.

This channel was really amazing, got a lot out of it, noticed things I'd never noticed before. Highly recommend along with Lessons From The Screenplay.

Why don't Netflix or Amazon pick them up?

Cheap production. These companies eat copyright problems for breakfast. Documentary series seem to be popular lately, and Every Frame is already a well-known name.

It looks like the creators weren’t interested:

> We didn’t care about cheap or fast, we cared about it being good. [...]

> If we sold the channel to another company, or partnered with some network, then we would no longer control the triangle. And guess which of these three things would get sacrificed first?

Edit: added exact quote from article

They have over a million subscribers on YouTube. They could just post a video saying "listen, YouTube sucks, sign up for us on Patreon, if we get more than $X at minimum $Y per-person we'll make the next video and send you all a hosted download link".

There's podcasts with less reach than this channel that easily make $100K per upload in revenue.

Why do you assume that monetisation was the main problem? This wasn't a startup that needed to return 10 times the initial investment in 5 years.

The impression I got from the postmortem was that they just got tired of the format and wanted to do something else.

I have not assumed that, we're commenting on a specific sub-problem they mentioned in their post in this thread, yes they made it abundantly clear that it wasn't the only reason.

Between copyright issues on YouTube, getting around that by working with a big partner that would sell their content, and getting donations on Patreon, they never seemed to have considered selling access to high-quality content for a fee without partnering with someone.

I listen to several Podcasts that have something like this as a monetization model, i.e. some sort of paid-for premium content or content exclusively for subscribers.

Apart from a wonderful end to a lovely YouTube channel this essay easily surpasses most 'lessons learned' articles i've read. Kudos to Tony and Taylor for having the motivation to write this down.

There is no wonder they stood out. They did research very thoroughly to create every single video.

I've made a few toy films for work - an internal movie festival, nothing professional - and I'm glad that their timelines look kind of close to what mine look like, with things overlapping all over the place instead of something neat and orderly.

I watch a lot the French equivalent Blow Up [1], they are a lot more productive, less didactic and I find them more irreverent & interesting. I think they do not have any upload and rights issue because they are produced by Arte, a Franco-German TV network

[1] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfE1oQ47oqyJNzM-nFy_gjA

they said they stopped when it stopped being fun, after their marvel series. Is there any clearer proof needed that Marvel is killing cinema?

While I'm sad my favourite channel has officially ended, I still feel so grateful cause they made me look at movies in a different light.

One of my favotite channel. Sad, its over.

> The big danger for future video essayists is that large websites have started moving away from the written word and towards video, which is completely unsustainable. Video is just too expensive and time-consuming to make. (TAYLOR) Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, nobody can cheat this triangle. And sooner or later, all of these large sites will bleed money, at which point some executive will say “We need to make our content both faster AND cheaper!”

I feel the field of video editing and clipping needs a solid dose of machine learning and other software magic. In the future, creators like Tony and Taylor will collect clips and start talking. And the software will edit, transition and even reorder clips to match what's being spoken and what's consistent with the style of the channel. Suddenly that 8 hours of editing per minute of video will go down to 8 minutes. So get on it Adobe: make editing great again!

PS: I fucking hate medium. How does shit like this even happen? https://imgur.com/UVdXKxk

Damn, this channel had under 30 videos, but I'm grateful to Tony (and apparently Taylor; bad on me for not bothering to read the credits) for helping me appreciate movies technically. It's been dead in all but name (no videos for a year), but I read all of this classy post-mortem in Tony's voice.

I’m going through now and watching the ones I missed before, and I think only eight have the double credit. I assume you read that sentence the same way I did, which was the first video only had one credit, but all subsequent videos credited both. But I think he meant the first one only credited him, he just used the same template for a while, and started putting in a double credit near the end.

Well, that is very sad. I just watched the final episode and it is probably my favorite things I have watched in years. I truly mean this. I am a film editor who truly despises temp music, and never knew about this episode. Bravo! I am honestly just goig to watch this again, and admittedly in a self-righteous pat-myself-on-the-back sort of way. I know, it’s awful, but so has watching the art of film be sacrificed through these systemic abuses.

I may have just begun a marathon. I don’t know. I had work to do today.

Unfortunately, they only made 30 videos (and now I understand why). So more like a 10k than a marathon :)

I'm going to marathon today too (but I had no work to do).

In memory, I will also put off work to run an Every Frame A Painting 10k today

I thought it was about this animated movie of Vincent Van Gogh: http://lovingvincent.com/

I saw a poster for that somewhere and was hoping they'd mention it, but no luck.

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