A Salute to Every Frame a Painting: Watch All 28 Episodes of the Finely-Crafted (and Now Concluded) Video Essay Series on Cinema

Doc­u­men­taries about film itself have exist­ed for decades, but only with the advent of short-form inter­net video — pre­ced­ed by the advents of pow­er­ful desk­top edit­ing soft­ware and high-qual­i­ty home-video for­mats — did the form of the cin­e­ma video essay that we know today emerge. Over the past few years, the Youtube chan­nel Every Frame a Paint­ing has become one of the mod­ern cin­e­ma video essay’s most respect­ed pur­vey­ors, exam­in­ing every­thing from how edi­tors think to the bland music of super­hero films to why Van­cou­ver nev­er plays itself to the sig­na­ture tech­nique of auteurs like Mar­tin Scors­ese, Jack­ie Chan, and, yes, Michael Bay.

Alas, Every Frame a Paint­ing has come to an end. “When we start­ed this YouTube project, we gave our­selves one sim­ple rule: if we ever stopped enjoy­ing the videos, we’d also stop mak­ing them,” says series co-cre­ator Tay­lor Ramos. “And one day, we woke up and felt it was time.” 

She says it in the nev­er-pro­duced script for a con­clud­ing episode, a text that takes us on a jour­ney from Every Frame a Paint­ing’s incep­tion — born, as co-cre­ator Tony Zhou puts it, out of frus­tra­tion at hav­ing to “dis­cuss visu­al ideas with non-visu­al peo­ple” — through its evo­lu­tion into a series about film form rather than con­tent (“most YouTube videos seemed to focus on sto­ry and char­ac­ter, so we went in the oppo­site direc­tion”) to its con­clu­sion.

Just as Every Frame a Paint­ing’s episodes reveal to us how movies work, this final script reveals to us how Every Frame a Paint­ing works — or more specif­i­cal­ly, what fac­tors led to its video essays look­ing and feel­ing like they do. “Near­ly every styl­is­tic deci­sion you see about the chan­nel ‚” Zhou says by way of giv­ing one exam­ple,  “was reverse-engi­neered from YouTube’s Copy­right ID,” try­ing to find ways around the plat­for­m’s auto­mat­ic copy­right-vio­la­tion detec­tion sys­tem that would occa­sion­al­ly reject even the kind of fair use they were doing. Oth­er choic­es they made more delib­er­ate­ly, such as to do old-fash­ioned library research when­ev­er pos­si­ble. “It’s very tempt­ing to use Google because it’s so quick and it’s right there,” says Zhou in a much-high­light­ed pas­sage, “but that’s exact­ly why you shouldn’t go straight to it.”

What­ev­er the ori­gins of Zhou and Ramos’ rig­or­ous process, it has end­ed up pro­duc­ing a series great­ly appre­ci­at­ed by film­go­ers and film­mak­ers alike. Binge-watch all 28 of Every Frame a Paint­ing’s episodes (up top)— which will explain to you dra­mat­ic strug­gle as seen in The Silence of the Lambs, how the movies have depict­ed tex­ting, the cin­e­mat­ic pos­si­bil­i­ties of the chair, and much more besides — and you’ll end up with, at the very least, an equiv­a­lent of a few semes­ters of film-school edu­ca­tion. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll come away with the idea for a cin­e­ma video essay series of your own.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Every Frame a Paint­ing Explains the Film­mak­ing Tech­niques of Mar­tin Scors­ese, Jack­ie Chan, and Even Michael Bay

The Alche­my of Film Edit­ing, Explored in a New Video Essay That Breaks Down Han­nah and Her Sis­ters, The Empire Strikes Back & Oth­er Films

Why Mar­vel and Oth­er Hol­ly­wood Films Have Such Bland Music: Every Frame a Paint­ing Explains the Per­ils of the “Temp Score”

How the Coen Broth­ers Put Their Remark­able Stamp on the “Shot Reverse Shot,” the Fun­da­men­tal Cin­e­mat­ic Tech­nique

Buster Keaton: The Won­der­ful Gags of the Found­ing Father of Visu­al Com­e­dy

How Orson Welles’ F for Fake Teach­es Us How to Make the Per­fect Video Essay

Van­cou­ver Nev­er Plays Itself

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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