Kevin Spacey in House of Cards

House of Cards

Kevin Spacey in House of Cards

Just finished all 13 hours of the first season of the latest Netflix series, House of Cards. While I didn’t binge view as some of my colleagues did in the name of journalism, I did find myself staying up later than normal to watch “just one more episode” of this dark cousin to West Wing.

Apparently Netflix dropped $100 million to produce two 13 episode seasons. The result is a Season One that plays as a 13 hour movie about the dark, evil underbelly of Washington politics. Given such resources and space the characters are wonderfully developed and, if like most, you watch the series over a short span of time, you come to know them as an extension of your reality. The depth and detail of House of Cards makes the typical 2 hour feature film feel like a rough character sketch.

The series was shot with digital RED cameras which allowed them to shoot takes continually without stopping the camera.

Obviously, shooting digitally helps, [House of Cards was shot using the RED camera] because I never had to cut. I could say, ‘Go back out and come in again,’ and it’s amazing the pace you get. It’s a Frank Capra trick from way back. Because he could only print so many takes, he used to say, ‘Keep it rolling, go out and come in.’ What he found was people were more energized, and it gave this effervescence, and I ended up having to do that.

But the most interesting thing is that Netflix decided to release all 13 hours of the first season in one go. At first I was skeptical. Traditional television leaves you with cliff hangers that bring you back each week for what they used to call appointment television. Netflix knows a thing or two about “binge viewing” and based on their data, felt they could generate more buzz if they released everything at once. I agree. The coverage has been fantastic for Netflix and I’m sure it’s driven a spike in membership. Indeed, they are watching data on viewers to inform their next original series.

Further Reading

House of Cards’ Forth Wall –  Exploring the lead character’s asides to the camera.

Playing with a New Deck – details about how multiple director’s filmed the series and were given freedoms not normally extended to directors of television series.

House of Cards coverage on GigaOM & paidContent

 

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