Tuesday, February 26, 2013

WALKING DEAD: The Home of Visual Discontinuity, Version 2.0

Among the many errors one regularly finds on THE WALKING DEAD are those resulting from a lack of care taken with the visual continuity. The episode "Home" featured some noteworthy examples, and this little presentation on the subject was one I had in mind last week after it aired. I didn't take the time to put it together for inclusion in my regular review of that ep. I've only just gotten back to it today.

At one point in "Home," Daryl comes to the assistance of some folks being assailed by zombies on a bridge. He slams the head of one of the creatures in the rear hatch of a vehicle, pulping it and covering his own hands (particularly the right one) in gore:

A split second later, he snatches up his crossbow, and his hands are entirely clean:

A little later, he and Merle quarrel, and, as he walks away, Merle grabs his shirt, causing it to rip and reveal a network of scars on Daryl's back. Daryl also sports a pair of tattoos extending down from his right shoulder:

 Daryl stands, adjusts his shirt and walks away, and something magical happens!

Later in the episode, Hershel goes out to have a talk with Glenn, who is about to take a truck around the front of the prison to search for the long-neglected breach in its walls. It turns into a very disorienting talk for the viewer. Here's the basic geography of the scene, with the truck in the foreground:

The two walk to meet one another and that geography goes right out the window.

UPDATE (27 Feb., 2013): When I posted the original version of this article yesterday, I'd identified the vehicle in the background of the next few shots as the truck. One of my readers (in the comments section) correctly noted that it is, in fact, the SUV, not the truck. Though this reader missed the point, this makes the visual discontinuity in the scene even worse. I was going to address this in a footnote, as is my habit when someone finds an error, but the nature of the sequence, one building on another, requires a more thorough re-write. To wit:

As the two men talk, the camera cuts back and forth between them. The first time it cuts to Glenn, the truck, which would be visible behind Glenn by the established geography, has sudenly disappeared entirely. The vehicle in the background is the SUV:

Glenn starts to walk away, then turns back. His new orientation places his right shoulder and Hershel's left in rough alignment:

Then, when the camera cuts back to him, neither man has moved, but his left shoulder and Hershel's right are suddenly the ones in alignment. What appears to be the shadow of the truck, which is suddenly in front of them, can be seen on the ground in the lower left part of the frame:

Glenn turns his head to the right, the camera angle shifts the same direction, and something magical happens again. Merle's bike is suddenly parked in front of the SUV:

The alignment with Hershel shifts again:

When the camera returns to view the scene over Hershel's let shoulder, the SUV and the chopper have disappeared:

Glenn, having had enough talk, turns and walks away, and suddenly the original geography is restored, with the truck back where it started.

And here's the last shot over Hershel's left shoulder (Hershel having not moved at all):

And that's how the camera works on THE WALKING DEAD.



  1. Consider this a fan letter from a long-time reader-

    First of all, why the walking dead? There are tons of shows that you could rip on that are much worse and that are just as popular. Ever seen criminal minds? Now that is some bad television right there. I get the feeling that the only channel you get is amc. If only you could find that damn remote and change the channel.

    Second, are you really of the opinion that the show does nothing well? I mean, it sure works on a visceral level when it comes to zombie killing, and the horror elements are usually first rate. Also, the score is very effective at ratcheting up tension, and it can be great for dramatic moments (see e.g. when rick stabs shane).

    Third, does it really have to be a good show? Since when did a fucking zombie show have to be the pinnacle of long-form storytelling? I mean, I like the comic, but after the prison it went to shit. Cannibals? I trip to Washington on a whim? Gay, gay and gay. I don't see why you and many of the haters can't just accept that the show is not very good and leave it at that. I'm beginning to think you are exaggerating your dislike for this show to get more hits.

    And finally, continuity errors are a problem in just about every film. The Dark Knight squandered millions and millions of dollars on action scenes littered with these problems. Look it up on youtube, because it makes the mistakes you pointed out seem trivial in comparison. Pointing out this stuff is nitpicking, not critiquing, and you seem to be doing nothing but nitpicking these days.

    Well, on the bright side there are only a few more episodes left before that friend of yours gives you the opportunity that you just couldn't pass up--whatever that means. I'm sure you will share it with the Internet so we can all criticize it. Somewhere another jriddle will be born to blog about nothing except how bad your project is. It brings a tear to my eye how beautiful that day will be.

    Keep fighting the good fight because it sure is entertaining watching the fanboys and haters go at it. It's almost as exciting as a one-eyed sniper and a zombie car bomb. (not really). And I never said your blogs didn't continue to entertain me.

    P.S. For just an astute critic as yourself, never admit that you like Hell on Wheels. That shit is bad. And boring too. I'd love to see you write a review on the great Cullen Bohannen and his slow, long, agonizing quest for vengeance.

  2. This article is full of crap! Glenn's car is the Dodge pickup which is in front of the other car, an SUV. The bike is in front of the SUV, obscured by Glenn and Hershel. Geez..!

  3. Anon #2, that is, indeed, the SUV in the background in some of those shots. In your zeal to assert "this article is full of crap," though, you missed something: this fact makes the visual discontinuity worse. I've corrected the article to reflect this.

  4. The fact that the IMDB thread where you shared this piece has 17 pages of replies now is a hilarious indication of how furious the fanboys of TWD get at any criticism of this train wreck of a series.

  5. Just curious, how many times did your mother call you up (from the basement) to dinner while you were writing this? And what did you scream up to her? "Maaa, I told you I'll be up in a minute! I just need to finish nitpicking about shit in a show that I can't stand but watch every week because I'm a loser and I have no life!"

    At which point your mother shakes her head in disgust and wishes she's had an abortion.