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Postmortem: Every Frame a Painting (2017) (medium.com)
187 points by smacktoward 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments





> "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."

Copyright and the rabid defense of IP by corporations shapes so much of what we're allowed to see and talk about and how we have to address those things. There's no telling how much better these already great videos would have been if they weren't shackled by fear of censorship or attack by media cartels.

These guys had the time, skill, and energy to figure out how to work around the problem, but I can't help but wonder how much stuff we're missing out on because a system designed to encourage the creation and propagation of creative works has been perverted to control and suppress it instead.


No.

If system == YouTube, then it does exactly what it was designed: makes money. For it, it has to play by the rules of copyright.

If system == the internet, it was not built to propagate creative works either, its purpose was reliable delivery of arbitrary data.


in this case the system isn't youtube or the internet, but our broken copyright system.

Many of youtube's problems are caused by their attempts to alleviate increasing pressure from powerful media industry organizations like the RIAA and MPAA who insist that youtube must aggressively enforce their copyrights for them. I think youtube should do better than they have in their efforts, but I also appreciate their position.

The internet as a whole suffers in its own ways because of these company's abuse of copyrights to control our access to our own culture such as the inclusion of DRM in standards like HTML and the pressures placed on ISPs to act as copyright police and ban their customers from having any access to the internet based on nothing more than the unproven accusations that a subscriber has circumvented a corporation's copyrights.


Only if you're using other people's work. Make your own original content and there isn't nearly as much of a problem. Who says everyone should have the right to profit off somebody else's work? especially one that's only considered good because of all the money spent on marketing it.

If you don't consider Every Frame A Painting to be original work, then I think this is just one of those situations where there is so little common ground between two sides that there can never be any agreement.

I'm not sure you should even bother framing things in terms of "common ground" or "two sides" when it's clear that one party is trying to define original work so narrowly that it's doubtful anything could qualify.

> Only if you're using other people's work.

Many people have had their videos censored without violating any copyrights at all. Many many more have had their original content removed for what would clearly fall under fair use. I haven't seen a case where a large media company has ever been meaningfully punished for blatant abuse of the DMCA.

> Who says everyone should have the right to profit off somebody else's work?

Who says someone should be able to buy the rights to profit off someone else's work and then continue to profit on it indefinitely? It's in our power to choose what copyright means. Right now we've ceded that power to media companies who have bribed their way into getting the laws they want passed and into positions of power within our government itself. They've used that power to turn a good idea (limited protections to give creators a chance to profit from their works) into the broken system we have now where copyrights are perpetually extended and creators are routinely screwed over by massive corporations who want to act as gatekeepers.


A lot of people seem to be reading something else into my comment so this is sort of a reply to all of them.

The images in Every Frame a Painting are almost entirely other people's work. I'm not saying it's not legal fair use or that they didn't add their own creative and hard work on too, but it's still other people's work. They could have made their own movie scenes but that would probably be too expensive so they used someone else's. There are other creators who do make their own images and music, and they won't be struggling with copyright for the most part.

Maybe people are defensive because EFAP is so obviously and heavily using copyright protected work and they feel the need to point out that it's also got original material too in case people think it's just a bunch of random movie clips.

I've heard a lot of Youtube creators complain about copyright detection but in every case that I can recall, they really did use somebody else's work and the algorithm correctly detected it. It might not have correctly judged fair use, that's not my point. Interesting cases of raindrops are exceptional and I'm sure are not a normal concern at all.

As for indefinite copyright, that's a separate point, but why not? Copyright protection doesn't prevent anybody else from doing anything as long as they don't copy your work. So in the worse case, it's as if you never made the protected work in the first place. That's not like patents which can be for important non-creative inventions that can't necessarily be done just as well some other way. It's all creative work and there's nothing stopping somebody else from making something just as good without copying it.


> They could have made their own movie scenes but that would probably be too expensive so they used someone else's.

That's like saying when you copied part of the previous comment[1], you could have written your own quote instead. EFAP's whole point is analysing the movies we have seen; creating their own scenes is not just more expensive, it would be missing the point.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20388320


> I've heard a lot of Youtube creators complain about copyright detection but in every case that I can recall, they really did use somebody else's work and the algorithm correctly detected it

Then let me help you: https://www.eff.org/takedowns


I can't tell if you're trolling. EFAP is incredibly high quality original content that analyzes film and tv. Obviously it has to use other people's work, as that work is the subject of the video.

You can upload sound of rain and it will get a YouTube strike.

A sound. Generated by nature. Produced uniquely at your own location. Is copyrighted.

What are you even on about?


>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.

Man, what an apt way to explain my frustration with the monoculture of the web. But it's creeping into the world of books, where fewer and fewer writers know how to research anything. I cannot tell you the number of books I have picked up lately that cite things they saw on Twitter or gleaned from a Google search.


Ironically, even this very article has been posted on HN twice before.

HN aggregates, it has no illusions of creating original works. Occasional high-quality reposts are a virtue of HN, and I don't think HN suffers from the same regurgitation issues as film sites. The film websites often come with analysis or reviews of films where the regurgitation lies, whereas Hacker News provides no editorialized comment on the articles, only discussion.

"Echo Chambers" etc... could be merely a distributed version regurgitated content, however I think the HN community tends to self-police groupthink


The comments on HN are quite often regurgitated, especially for the political topics rehashed every week.

Comments are not the main content that HN aggregates. They facilitate discussions around the main content, which are just either links or at best a question.

Reposting the same thing is fine. It helps new people find the content.

Regurgitating a meaninglessly mangled version of something (intentionally or not) on order to plagiarize without getting caught, is terrible pollution.


I'm actually fine with that. I found the article this time, plus it helps to discuss with a new set of people.

Sadly, terrible citations aren't new. More than once I have read an academic book with a good quote only to hunt down the original source and find it doesn't contain that quote at all. Sometimes it it source A taking source B's paraphrase of source C as if it was an actual quote. Clearly A never bothered to read the original source.

There is unfathomably large back catalogue of books on every topic. Maybe you should try diving into older works? I guess this is only useful advice for certain categories of books.

Even as a non-cinemaphile, this channel, and the post-mortem essay, had resonated with me. Both are excellent, both provide far more than insights into a century of cinema, although if that's all that you take from it it's more than worth the time.

I'd commented on the postmortem essay shortly after it was published with some additional thoughts of relevance to my own (very non-cinematic) work:

https://old.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/7hgb24/brillia...

(I'd also submitted the same link, a minute after smacktoward did, full credit to them it's a very worthwhile submission.)


Same here. As a... let's say, cinema-newbie, I found the Every Frame a Painting channel simply fascinating. I devoured every chapter in a short time. To me this kind of channels is a triumph, what YouTube can be and should strive to be.

I think they did overreach with some conclusions. For example, his "obvious" conclusion about the story told by the edition in the clip with the father and the two young daughters wasn't at all obvious to me (and judging by the comments on that video, a lot of other viewers didn't get it either). I suppose it's part of the subconscious knowledge someone in the industry has which someone outside doesn't.


Is anyone aware of other content like it on YouTube? Long-form , artistic, very high quality. Channels like 3Blue1Brown and Kurzgesagt are usually great, but I don't think they're the same kind of thing.

Longer form than EFaP, but Lindsay Ellis has some great film/TV analysis videos. She's usually more focused on writing than anything else, though. Here's a postmortem she did on the Hobbit films, which was recently nominated for a Hugo award:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTRUQ-RKfUs

Other solid works by her include a postmortem on the last season of Game of Thrones and an analysis of themes in Michael Bay's Transformers. (I know that last one sounds weird, but it's really well done.)


Ellis' hobbit videos are absolutely wonderful. I love the unexpected direction she takes the videos when she [spoiler] visits New Zealand and talks to people involved in the films.

I follow a decent amount of video essay channels on YouTube, some better than others, here are a few that I think operate around the same level of quality as Every Frame a Painting:

Lessons from the Screenplay - Similar to EFaP but for screenplays (obviously)

Wendover Productions - Many topics but generally focuses on Logistics, Aviation, Economics, Geography, and their intersections

Ahoy - Video games, firearms, and their intersection

NoClip - Video games; Their format is more traditional documentary as opposed to video essay, but I feel compelled to mention them here due to their quality work (disclaimer: I donate to them via Patreon)


I like Lessons from the Screenplay and Wendover Productions, but Every Frame a Painting seemed to have something that those channels are missing.

I think it helped that the creator (Tony Zhou) is himself a filmmaker and editor. It felt like I was watching a well-done film about films, rather than a "video essay". A lot of these other media analysis channels seem to be from fairly ordinary people without professional experience.


Primitive Technology is a big one, turn on captions or you're really missing out

Other long-form movie content - Movies with Mikey (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEtB-nx5ngoNJWEzYa-yXBg) thought provoking movie commentary with a great visual style. Patrick Willems (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF1fG3gT44nGTPU2sVLoFWg) analysis of movie structure and technique.

Music Commentary - Middle8 (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfeppgcy70ERp4gQrsYijsg) Nerdwriter-esque content focusing on music.

Besides commentary there is also the whole maker community that produces fantastically produced videos for metal/woodwork - Clickspring (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCworsKCR-Sx6R6-BnIjS2MA), This Old Tony (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5NO8MgTQKHAWXp6z8Xl7yQ), DiResta (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiEk4xHBbz0hZNIBBpowdYQ), etc


Weirdly niche, but I love James Hoffman for coffee stuff. He's extremely thorough (he has a 12 minute video on the best V60 technique!) and has a great sense of style. Plus he's very careful about buying the products he reviews with his own money (well, Patreon) or disclosing if they've been sent.

If you want film stuff, Criterion's Observations on Film Art is fantastic but not on YouTube. They have short excerpts but the whole videos are far better. I do love Criterion's channel though for its closet series where famous film people pick out Blu-rays and DVDs to take home. Seeing what filmmakers pick and say about their picks is super interesting.


Cinema-related, you have CinemaWins (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL8h3ri2WN_-IbviBlWtUcQ) which is probably a spin off of CinemaSins, but you can tell the guy really loves his motion pictures. Take Coco, or take Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, and you'll see what I mean.

Historia Civilis makes great videos on history and politics. The main focus is a series on Rome and Julius Caeser, but also had side videos like "Can animals commit crimes?" with notes from ancient philosophers.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv_vLHiWVBh_FR9vbeuiY-A


As a general case: academic lectures / lecturers on certain topics fill this bill for me. They're typically not episodic, as with channels, but if you're looking for deep dives into solid subjects, they're golden. This includes both current productions and old / archived materials republished on YouTube or other video distribution systems.


I've come to feel nearly all of his content is just blogspam in video form.

Definitely not artistic or high quality.

Ben Eater is also top notch content: https://www.youtube.com/user/eaterbc

but it's not artistic


This might make a good "Ask HN" question / submission.


> part of the subconscious knowledge someone in the industry has which someone outside doesn't

Yeah, when you watch a lot of stuff with an analytical eye, you start to see patterns. Eventually you get to the point where you can pause it, make a prediction about what's gonna happen, and be right 90% of the time. Which is either super annoying to the people you're watching it with, or a really fun game if everyone involved is this genre-savvy.

Getting close to that level is pretty much a requirement for getting a job like "editor" or "storyboard" or "script-writer".


Apologies for stepping on your submission :-/

Not at all. I was very amused. Thanks for posting this, it really is a great piece.

What a shame this YouTube channel ended. The videos were insightful and so well put-together. Making a video that is both informative and entertaining at the same time is much harder than it seems.

Are there are other film-related YouTube channels people recommend?

Two I recently discovered:

Mystery Clock Cinema: Film director Alex Proyas ('Dark City', 'I, Robot') talks on camera about independent filmmaking

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYO7h2SOZjRah8bhyOXtGHw/vid...

Ponysmasher: Film director David Sandberg ('Annabelle Creation', 'Shazam!') has a few behind-the-scenes videos and thoughts on filmmaking. The channel is not updated very often, but his most recent video 'Random Lessons Learned from Making Films' is very watchable and has a surprising (and very honest) revelation near the end of the video:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ponysmasher/videos


I love these kind of channels as well. For me, the channel that most similarly resonates and has a similar level of quality to EFaP is Now You See It

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWTFGPpNQ0Ms6afXhaWDiRw



RLM is great for more casual and humorous views on film. Their "Best of the Worst" series is one of my favorite things to watch

Technique Critique - Erik Singer's videos on accent work in particular fall right into the 'informative and entertaining' basket for me, anyway.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvDvESEXcgE&list=PLibNZv5Zd0...


> 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.

Wow. Talk about “the medium is the message”.


What I love about Every Frame a Painting is the depth of its research. It's quite clear that the creators had an extensive knowledge of film. The videos always include wonderfully selected interviews with the filmmakers that emphasize the point far more than just a person talking. The Deakins interview in Shot | Reverse Shot taken from Cinematographer Style is a nice example^[1]. Or Sidney Lumet's interview in the Kurosawa video^[2]. Taking from film criticism solidifies the video's arguments, creates an amazing rhythm to the videos (Tony and Taylor are clearly great editors) and also prevents the "annoying person endlessly lecturing to me about film" feeling that I get with some other channels.

I've thought about doing videos of my own on various topics (the usage of eyes and glances in Il Posto, Kieslowski's poetry, the reflexivity of In the Mood for Love, etc.) but the YouTube film criticism industry is pretty saturated. Perhaps a different format?

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UE3jz_O_EM [2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doaQC-S8de8



Every Frame a Painting is what truly turned me on to Fincher, after I’d enjoyed Seven, Fight Club, The Social Network, Gone Girl, Zodiac.

He’s on the same level as Lynch for me; they both found their favourite perversion.

As for Fincher, Mindhunter is the spiritual successor to Zodiac. It’s fantastic.


I've always seen this as a workflow/business failure.

Obviously they had a great product -- everyone I've shown EFaP to loves it. They could have spun it into something of a personal brand (like, say, CGP Grey or Nerdwriter did). But instead killed it off because it felt like more of a burden than a reward.

Might have been on monetization, or personal perspective. In the essay they seem uncompromising on quality, but there are probably ways to get similar quality output with fewer hours by improving the workflow. I imagine if they made tens of thousands of dollars per video, or built a large brand of the video's success, they wouldn't have felt like such a burden either.


Money is not the solution to everything. A burden cannot always be overcome with money. Sometimes it's natural to kill something off when it has fulfilled its goal. Sometimes people get tired of their projects and want to move on.

Eh, they got hired by Criterion to do similar videos^[1]. That's not exactly a failure. Plus they no longer have to conform to the YouTube algorithm, play the subscribers game or deal with YouTube comments. I'd call that a success.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND_xkQ9j_A0


This was no failure.

“A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts”.


Except that it is. They say so themselves and also mention that is totally OK with failing.

Except that it isn’t. They say so themselves and also mention that “...Every Frame a Painting ended up being both a personal and a professional success.”

Edit: and because “Vancouver never Plays Itself” (the phrase, the concept, the idea) has transcended.


Trying to read that made me appreciate Tony's work to create video versions of his essays.

I watched every EFaP video and never noticed Taylor existed. :-(


>There is no such thing as free content on the Internet

[...]

>Everything costs something to make. If a person is putting out content for free, that means they’re not getting paid for their time.

First of all, remember when people posted things on the internet just out of our desire to share things? I certainly support Tony's decision to shut this down - it is his decision to make, and no one should feel FORCED to create content for free.

But second of all, doesn't the second commend contradict the first?


the delightful ambiguity of English allows us to say such things as "Things that are simple should be simple" and in context of describing design of systems have it understood as Things that are simple to describe should be simple to do.

In this case the ambiguity has allowed them to say That which is free is not free, meaning that which is free to consume is not free to make.

I certainly remember people posting stuff on the internet for free out of their desire to share. I also remember lots of those people over the years shutting down their delightful sites because not having the time to keep doing things for free, nor the money to pay for the hosting or other things like that.


>meaning that which is free to consume is not free to make.

I guess it depends on what cost you want to include? I create content "for free" using my free time. Would you consider my mortgage, the cost of my computer, etc, to be part of the cost, so it is not "free" ? I wouldn't, because I would incur those costs whether or not I was making content "for free".

>I certainly remember people posting stuff on the internet for free out of their desire to share. I also remember lots of those people over the years shutting down their delightful sites because not having the time to keep doing things for free, nor the money to pay for the hosting or other things like that.

Yes, more and more all the time - exactly my point. And like I said in my original post, it is certainly there prerogative. If they don't enjoy it, they should stop.


Few "desires to share things" require 200+ hours per item, more than a work-month's worth of time. And, the authors did that amount of work for free for some time.

Of course, and I agree, as I said in my original post:

>I certainly support Tony's decision to shut this down - it is his decision to make, and no one should feel FORCED to create content for free.


My reading is that it's not "free" because it costs the creator something to make it, even if you get to consume it for free.



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