INSIDE: The Photobook
May 31, 2022 11:45 AM   Subscribe

INSIDE: The Photobook
Last June, my brother texted me a rave review urging me to watch Bo Burnham's Netflix special INSIDE, which had been languishing on my to-watch list along with a hundred other things. I ended up loving it so much that I made this exhaustive megapost about it. As thanks (and for his 30th birthday present), I embarked on a project to turn the entire special into a coffee table-style photobook. It took a biiit longer than I thought (about six months longer!), but the project is now complete. Process, photos, and full PDF available... Inside.

The process started out fairly simple: I downloaded an MP4 copy of the special and an .SRT file of the closed captions. I used a spreadsheet and some regex to strip the extra formatting out of the text, dropped it into a square-paged Libre Office Writer document, and started going through it line-by-line, adding song title headers, screenshots of key images, and otherwise making the text look nice. The raw text was roughly 80 pages, and with images I was expecting around 100-150 total.

As I got deeper into the file and ran into denser and more complicated scenes, I slowly figured out more and better ways to map the visuals to the page, including photo grids, text art, two-page spreads, and complex layering. By the end of it I'd reached ~250 pages -- but given the learning curve, the quality of the first half was noticeably poorer than the second. I decided to make one more pass to make things more consistent, with a goal of keeping the exact middle of the special (the clock ticking over to midnight) the centerpoint of the book. After expanding on the first half and adding an intro, table of contents, and credits, it amounted to exactly 300 pages -- with midnight right in the middle! (NB: I dropped the first page of the uploaded version so the two-page spreads work on PDF readers).

After tying up some loose ends (page numbers, margins, designing a cover), I exported the whole thing as a PDF and submitted it to a self-publishing service as a high-quality photobook. Procrastination, IRL distractions, learning curves, and supply chain delays made the whole thing take much longer than I'd hoped, but it turned out really, really nice! It's now sitting on his desk, and I've finally gotten around to making this write-up, just one day after the one-year anniversary of the special.

Image gallery

Download the PDF here (opening in a PDF reader with a two-page view recommended!)

Sample pages (vs. original video):

Front cover
Table of Contents
Content and more Content (video)
Camera Test montage
Healing the world with Comedy (video)
Welcome to whatever this is
Socko (video)
Social Brand Consultant
White Woman's Instagram montage (video)
STFU (video)
Reaction (video)
Bezos I (video)
The pillow talk
Sexting (video)
Thank You (video)
Problematic (video)
Midnight (video)
Shit (video)
All-Time Low (video)
Welcome to the Internet and the old web (video)
Outside (video)
That Funny Feeling (video)
All Eyes on Me (video)

PS: If you're a fan, don't miss the hour-long cut of unreleased material that just debuted yesterday!
Role: book layer-outer, procrastinator
posted by Rhaomi (3 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

This is really huge and impressive!

Um, I'm a little fuzzy about the legalities... could someone clarify that?
posted by amtho at 8:11 PM on June 1, 2022


There's some boilerplate at the end, but tl;dr it's both a non-commercial work and extremely transformative (reworked text, heavily edited images, significant creative re-interpretation, completely different medium, etc.), so I do believe it's fair use in this case.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:02 PM on June 1, 2022

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