Comedian Bo Burnham, who wrote, directed, shot, edited and produced (and starred in), his Netflix special “Inside,” was able to transform a small studio apartment into an entire production studio, complete with cameras, lights and audio gear for his various skits and musical numbers.
PremiumBeat writer Jourdan Aldredge speculates that the primary camera was a Panasonic Lumix S1H, newly approved by Netflix and the first mirrorless camera to hold make the mark.
“Using at least one Lumix S1H as his main camera, as well as what appears to maybe be a GoPro for at least one shot, Burnham was able to capture some truly amazing footage, as he mixed a wide array of setups and shot lengths,” Aldredge writes.
For lighting he used an array of GVM RGB LED panels and a mix of standalone kit lights. “He also made heavy use of a projector, finding creative ways to work with different backdrops, while lighting himself with different images ranging from scenic sunsets to emoji patterns to help with his act.”
If shooting an entire standup special by yourself in a small room isn’t really that hard, Burnham has excelled at finding inventive ways to make unleash the static camera.
“He consistently found creative ways to break up what could have been a monotonous production by adding plenty of other filmmaking elements you wouldn’t think possible for such a limited production,” says Aldredge, who was particularly taken by how much camera movement there was especially for some of the longer shots and sequences.
“While there didn’t appear to be signs of a digital dolly or sliders in his setup, the Lumix S1H shoots up to 6K, so he’d have had a good deal of crop and zoom options available to him.”
In another shot Burnham lies on the ground with daisies over his eyes “that emulates a luscious 16mm film grain — or maybe a filter that replicates that aesthetic,” Aurora Amidon suggests at Film School Rejects.
Later, Burnham layers strings of autumn leaves in front of the camera, displaying “an impeccable understanding of depth-of-field,” as well as of a general pleasing visual sense that one tends to associate with Instagram (the social media platform he is satirizing).
“Burnham uses strobe lights, creative reflective lighting (shining a flashlight at a disco ball, in one memorable sequence), multi-color gelled lights, and interior lighting that mimics daylight. He does not allow a single shot to pass that isn’t bold, exciting, and beautiful.”
Whether or not you embrace the weird tonal shifts and abrupt transitions between vignettes, the experience is a “constant audiovisual thrill,” Eric Kohn writes at Indiewire.
“From shifting aspect ratios to split screens, gorgeous experiments with light and shadows and an array of musical effects, Burnham has built an intricate tapestry of cinematic devices to deepen the psychological intrigue in play.”
READ MORE: ‘Bo Burnham: Inside’ Review: A Brilliant Pandemic-Era Special About Trying to Be Funny in Sad Times (IndieWire)
The creation of the show itself, in the same small room, is as much part of the artifice as the satire itself. Burnham deliberately shows the space “littered with cords and tripods and detritus… surrounded by cameras and lighting equipment, often sighing in frustration as he glances at a monitor,” Karen VanArendonk observes in Vulture.
“He rubs his forehead, pulls out a measuring tape to verify the distance from his chair to the camera, plunks out a keyboard melody. In these moments, he’s not playing a YouTube vlogger or a post-modern photographer; he’s playing a Renaissance self-portraitist in his studio surrounded by easels and still-life objects.”
Burnham, one of YouTube’s earliest stars, has previously directed other comics’ specials, staging stand-up sets by Chris Rock and Jerrod Carmichael “with his signature extreme close-ups,” Dylan Clark says in The New York Times.
“His virtuosic new special, pushes this trend further, so far that it feels as if he has created something entirely new and unlikely, both sweepingly cinematic and claustrophobically intimate.”
If you think these reviews are turned up to 11, wait till you hear what the normally reserved British film and TV critics think.
“Nothing short of a masterpiece,” glows Isobel Lewis at The Independent.
“This claustrophobic masterpiece will leave you wondering — and reeling,” enthuses Brian Logan at The Guardian.
The Daily Beast’s Kevin Falon thinks lockdown TV has reached its peak with this show. Inside is “Spectacular, must-see pandemic content,” he says. “Now, please, can we stop making pandemic TV?”
READ MORE: ‘Bo Burnham: Inside’ Is Spectacular, Must-See Pandemic Content. And Hopefully the Last. (The Daily Beast)
It all comes back to lockdown, says Chris Murphy at Vanity Fair. “This special only exists because of the external forces that forced many of us to spend more than a year of our lives trapped indoors
“Burnham’s status as a successful comedian did not protect him from that reality. Inside is his way of processing that experience and sharing it with us in a deeply personal, yet universal way. I think that’s why a lot of people really connected to this special — its specificity and its inclusivity.”