Opinion on New Episodes ... Camera In Tighter Please

Controversial take? Perhaps, but the more I watch old episodes on the Gizmoplex and on Twitch and then watch one of the new episodes afterwards keeps reinforcing one inescapable fact to me…

The new episodes have the camera too far away … both in the host segments AND in the theater.

In the older episodes the camera is in tighter. The result is that you feel closer and it gives a more friendly, more intimate feel to the episodes. In particular in the movie segments it gives the viewer a MUCH better sense of the silhouettes, who is moving, who is talking, and of the mouth motion on the robots. In the new episodes the silhouettes are too small, too distant, and its hard to tell if they’re moving or talking at all. It comes off as inferior to the older episodes where you had a tighter sense of the riffing.

Am I alone here? I wish they’d go back to tighter shots and ‘bigger’ silhouettes.


There are tighter shots in places like the shuttlecraft, but I agree. Maybe it has something to do with the quality of the video, I know old video had a tendency to “hide” perceived defects of the face and what not…they might not like us counting their pores…


part of this is going to be the aspect ratio. The older Comedy Central and Sci-Fi shows were 4x3. Starting with the Netflix seasons, the aspect ratio changed to 16x9. That change means the silhouettes for example look smaller now than in the older shows.


Not just aspect ratio, but resolution as well. At the lower resolution Tom would be an indistinct smudge if he was small like the current one. Also on the original series the graphics were done with the expectation that people would watch them on a 20-25 inch screen. Now the screen size probably averages 50+ inches, but at the same distance that the older, smaller sets were.

Scaling up the silhouettes on the wide screen would cut off too much of the screen without anything useful added. Also the silhouettes are far less important than the actual riffs. As for the host segments, I don’t notice them looking too small at this camera distance, perhaps you just need a bigger screen.


I think there’s an aspect of this that’s due to COVID precautions, and also budget, the host segments are quite 4th wall-y. I don’t have a problem with that, and I think they do it very well particularly in the Synthia Selects spots from other rooms, but it’s definitely a different style to the Joel and Mike days with the 3D sets. I would say that the Netflix host segments were also generally in this style but with more physical set pieces, I think the green screen makes it a little more obvious, but again I don’t mind it myself.
I’d be happy for the silhouettes to be slightly more prominent. A lot of these films are quite dark and murky so it’s not always easy to see. I don’t have trouble with identifying voices but maybe I’m missing the odd reaction movement.


That was my first thought as well. The more square aspect ratio is naturally going to push things in more, side to side, than a wide rectangle. Add a smaller screen size, and lower quality resolution to that square box of a screen, and you need things to be even tighter so you can pick up facial expressions and the like.

With the theatre shadowbox, the issue is more of “how much do you want to obscure the view of the movie?” The larger the silhouettes, the less picture you are going to see. The large, badly scanned silhouettes from the first few seasons actually look quite terrible, and are distracting for me as a result in some of the episodes. I prefer them to be smaller, higher quality, and less distracting.


Oh - I’m more than aware of the changes in aspect ratio and resolution. But I still think they need to work on it. The silhouettes are too small, too obscured, too blacked out, and not distinct enough. I’ve watched them on Twitch on my monitor good and close. I’ve watched them on my big 60" 4K tv. On neither platform are they particularly good at conveying things.

Sure - Rifftrax proved you can do the riffing just fine without silhouettes at all. That’s not the point. MST has always had the Shadowrama theater and its part of the experience. In the first couple seasons they were still dialing it in, but by season 3+ they’d gotten it down pretty well and from that point forward it was very solid. The silhouettes were there and provided humor, but at the same time weren’t in the way of the movie. They had it down.

In the new seasons though the silhouettes really aren’t very ‘present’. They’re so small, so dark, and so tucked away in the tiny tiny corner beneath the letterbox that quite frankly it’s very very very rare that they have any part of the movie. The only real times that Shadowrama comes into play much anymore are when GPC sticks her head in.

So not only is the feel much less close and intimate, it is also (essentially) making it so that Shadowrama might as well not even be there. Why not just get rid of the silhouettes completely at this point? What would be lost? If this last season is any indication … not much.


Can we bring back physical sets as well?


Amen to that! Though I sense that ship has floated away.


I remember seeing indication somewhere along the way that the virtual sets were due to COVID and that future seasons might employ real sets. Can’t remember where, though.


One of the main things I miss: in the old MST3K, the Mads were often shot from a higher angle with a slight fish-eye. This made it feel like you were seeing them through a wonky security camera from Joel or Mike’s perspective. And it felt like it moved around a bit more. The new locked down shots at head height feel too standard. I like visually making the world of the Mads a bit off kilter.


One thing we can probably all agree on … we’re glad that the bubble-wipe is gone. :slight_smile:


Disagree on this. Just thinking of the actors alone cramming more together to get a tighter shot with giant puppets…when we have 16:9 frames now?


spread that shiz out more.


I’m apt to agree. A touch nearer in the Host Segments increases connection to the host and bots and that intensifies identification with the people onscreen. Both the Mads and the SOL. The occasional zoom or closer shot would be welcome. My theory is the uniform distance now is what was settled on to help Season 13 stand out and possibly to cater to the Covid distance requirements at the time. It is a touch too aloof and indifferent in my feeling and I hope Season 14 corrects this. MST3K is family and the slightly extended separation from the principals has made the episodes slightly less enjoyable for me. Not even knowing why till later.

To the theater? From Season 11 on, the implementation of widescreen and the larger theater as a result of it redefined what theater scenes would mean moving forward. More seats, smaller silhouettes, more bots dropping in. This was all Joel’s plan and understanding the changes necessary given the space. Season 13 inherited the Netflix look. Yet the information is diminished and not as prominent. The shadows are smaller. The gestures harder to see. The puppetry fails to leave as strong an impression. The personal touch feels lacking.

I stand with you. Revert to the earlier format of Seasons 11 and 12. That would fix it at once. I don’t mind Season 13. And in truth, I love it. The Hubble framing is a problem. But only a slight one.


Since the silhouettes take up les vertical real estate now, maybe they should move the host and bots to the center of the screen instead of to the far right. Part of the issue may be that they are too much in your peripheral vision.


I just mentally cringed at the thought of the bots and host being anywhere other than the bottom-right of the screen. It’s more tidy from a technical standpoint, but it feels like it’s messing with things that ought not be messed with.


I only remember seeing that near the end of the original series. I don’t think most of the series was like that.


Experimentation is welcome. I never said otherwise. With what Riddler is responding to the short of what I’m saying is while I quite like and admire Season 13’s changes, Seasons 11 and 12 may have been a better balance in what Riddler is speaking to. That’s what I was saying above.


They did it quite a lot throughout the series. (Not claiming every shot of every episode) but if you call up images of the Mads, you’ll see quite a few shots where you can see the floor and tell the camera is tilted. Frank and Clayton came in close to mug for the camera quite often - Something Kinga and Max don’t really do but I would like to see. Lots of the Pearl segments are shot from even higher angles with her and Bobo and Brain Guy often looking up a bit at the camera. (Again, not saingy all the time every episode) just often enough to add a bit of kookiness to the shots. Subliminally letting you know the Mads are a bit off-kilter.


Point taken and I’m not saying I want everything to go back ENTIRELY to the way it used to be in the old seasons. I’m just of the opinion that the balance should probably lean back a bit more towards that direction. There’s a happier medium in there somewhere which accounts for the new technology while also recapturing some of that more intimate feel of the former style.

And its not just for nostalgic purposes. :slight_smile: The smaller darker silhouettes in the theater really do make it so that the Shadowrama concept doesn’t seem to have any point anymore. Puppet movement is almost invisible now, and hosts aren’t much better.