Tony Zhou, who heads up the Every Frame a Painting series on Vimeo, recently wondered how filmmakers can better depict text messaging and the Internet in cinema. In a new video essay, he explores the ways television series like Sherlock and films such as The Fifth Estate have done away with the cell phone screen cliché to depict text messages between characters.
These films and TV shows are using a simple, but artfully designed “beyond screen” method where floating text suggests the act of texting without all the obnoxious and outdated cutaways. As Zhou explains, it’s not only cheap and easy, since filmmakers can add the effect after shooting, but it also offers an uninterrupted view of the action on screen.
Thanks to these savvy filmmakers, we no longer have to stare at a bubble of text, which instantly dates a film. Depicting the Internet is a whole other monster — and none of this stuff has been solved and presented in one neat little package. Filmmakers are still creating new ways to depict how people interact with each other in a digital age, which is pretty exciting.