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24 April 2010 @ 01:04 am
Is Breaking Bad not respecting the chemistry?  
There are a few shows I watch where weird visual quirks dominate my viewing. The clock on 24 has long had this trait, with the change to HD adding even more extra "features" to the clock than I used to recognize. In HD it is now clear that the digits 1, 2, 5, 7 have graphic elements in the form of sharpened corners in just the upper-right/lower-left/upper-left/upper-right of the 1/2/5/7 that imply extra LED elements that are not seen in these positions for all other numbers. Then there is the most significant problem, the 1 has a half-bar at the top which is not at all typical of LEDs AND the display has a kerning issue whenever a one is displayed leaving a smaller than normal LED space for that number, just at that time. As this would be visually jarring, the clock almost never has a 0 become a 1 or a 1 become a 2, except on the few occasions when the change of hour forces such a turn over and the editors have done extra work to undo the kerning mistake so it is not a problem. If I peek real closely, I believe some kerning issues can also be observed at other clock changes but at the level of a pixel from say the 8 to the 9 where the loss of the lower-left bar slightly shrinks the overall width of the character. Anyway, the problem with the 1s has been explained on the internet and you can find some good posts about the problem's origin being a computer "clock" font that had these stylized mistakes so when 24 chose to use it, they got the good and the bad.

Well, one of my favorite shows right now is Breaking Bad and unfortunately it has a visual mistake that is now a nagging curiosity too. In its title logo it uses boxes for the elements bromine and barium to highlight the first letters of each word in the title. During the intro, these atomic symbols pop out of a periodic table where all representations of the elements are reasonable and consistent. However, once in the titles alone, the Ba in breaking bad has had its electrons thrown off to match Bromine. Instead of stating 2-8-18-18-8-2, which is an absolutely fabulous symmetric distribution of electrons, it says 2-8-18-7 to match Bromine! For shame! Moreover, in the title shot the boxes are not the same size; instead the Ba box is about 95% in width/height of the Br box (I measured), and more noticeably the font sizes of all elemental information are shrunk and positioned somewhat inconsistently with the other case. Amazingly, none of these visual changes, even a smaller font as the electron shells get larger, are present in the correct periodic table that precedes the main title, so simply copying and pasting those two boxes from the correct graphic, instead of "stylizing" by an artist, would have given a much better result. Of course, this neglects to mention that if you wait 5 more seconds, on the (Cr)eated by Vince Gilligan image, Chromium is listed as 2-8-18-7 as well, and somehow in all cases the average weight and oxidation states are correct and its just the electrons that are funky.

For a show whose main character in a recent episode commented on the need to "respect the chemistry", this seems unfortunate. So, only having season 3 episodes at the moment to consider where I see this error universally, I went online to find how else the title graphic has appeared and to find if this has been mentioned anywhere before. Here the story takes another weird turn. There are apparently several versions that seem to be used for DVD releases and other promotional materials, including one that just gives Br and Ba with the atomic number in the upper-right, as well as a much more similar one to the one in the titles that has the correct information for Barium's outer shell but with the change in font sizes! This suggests that at some point a graphic artist had made the size inconsistencies between Br and Ba but had the right data for the electrons. So when did things get screwed up? Was this a conscious choice to simply improve the "look" of the numbers? Is 56 too many electrons to list? And has the title mistake really gone unnoticed for three seasons? When I caught up on the first two seasons on DVD the problem was less noticeable as it occurs once per episode, but now that I'm watching the show on AMC it is displayed at each commercial break too. Even other links inspired by the show don't respect the chemistry. This image of a (He)isen(Be)rg t-shirt imagines a universe in which, say, a +10 oxidation state for the element exists when it just has 4 protons to begin with. Really?

For now, I'll just refer to the show as Breaking Brd, Breated by Vince Gilligan, until they fix the electrons (if not the other graphical inconsistencies). The show may have a chemistry teacher as a main character, but Breaking Brd has no respect for the chemistry.
(Anonymous) on May 6th, 2011 05:29 pm (UTC)
Ba the same as Br... and Cr?
This was bugging me too. I wondered if anyone else noticed. Thanks for showing it wasn't just me!
(Anonymous) on June 19th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
you sir, are a douchebag. focusing on incredible stupid details...do you have OCD or something ??
(Anonymous) on August 25th, 2012 09:12 pm (UTC)
do you have OCD or something

What if he does? You, ma'am/sir, are a bigot. Obviously, you do not respect human diversity and the possibility that some one is obsessive/compulsive looms abhorrent to you.

Please note, by the way, that the appositive "ma'am/sir" is offset with commas, as appositives should be. In your post, you said:

you sir, are a douchebag.

That should have been written "You, sir, are a douchebag."

motrismotris on August 25th, 2012 09:17 pm (UTC)
I love that this thread keeps activity even though it is quite unlike other things I post. Yes, I have extreme attention to detail at times. I wouldn't call it OCD, but it is what makes me very good at my job of looking through data for trends and the like. Since things like this are just glaringly wrong, for no good reason, I don't see the harm in pointing them out.
(Anonymous) on March 16th, 2013 02:36 pm (UTC)
Yes, I noticed the same wrong electron orbits on Ba element. But you will notice that before Br and Ba elements "pop out" of periodic system they have right numbers. This error is just made by copying and pasting Br and forgetting to change all necessary numbers. This is only my opinion. Excellent observing motris.
(Anonymous) on September 24th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
It bothered me from about the second episode. A show that premises itself on winning through cleverness and attention to detail that has repeatedly missed a very sloppy error. I wouldn't call calling them on it douchebaggery at all.
(Anonymous) on November 5th, 2011 06:33 am (UTC)
It's just nagging. I'm sure it's just a simple mistake that happened when the titles were created. After a while, it seems a bother to go out of your way and change the titles because of a detail that will go overlooked 99.9% of the time. The titles are a neat idea, the concept of which matches the show well enough, and have a very clear meaning. There's plenty of art that is photoshopped for magazines and such, with minor details that if you took the time to notice are anatomically incorrect. But those pieces, like this intro, are expected to be somewhat overlooked(as they tend to be), because they are part of a bigger picture. It's not like the writers of the show created the title sequence, so it should really have no effect on the quality of perhaps the best show on television.
(Anonymous) on March 26th, 2012 03:04 pm (UTC)
Well considering that the title sequences are not done by the writers of the show, it's not a result of "sloppiness" on their part.
(Anonymous) on June 1st, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
But it is So Obvious !!!!!!!
I just received Season 1 of Breaking Bad. Thirty seconds after removing the shrink wrap, and I see the problem on the promotional sticker.

I haven't used my BSChE degree in twenty years and it jumped out at me. This is going to bug me every episode if the problem is in the credits too.

(Anonymous) on July 5th, 2012 02:05 pm (UTC)
It bothered me too
If its all about the chemistry why not get it right. Im sure someone on the show would have seen that but done nothing about it (maybe not).
(Anonymous) on October 18th, 2012 11:59 am (UTC)
Respect the artist
People, it is a show for entertainment. 99.5% of the population doesn't care or notice these minor artistic errors. It's intrinsic value to society is weighed by how many people watch the show and its impact on a societal level. Not if the number of electrons is off by one, the tv won't blow up because if it. If it bothers you, don't watch the show, I suspect many of you watch the show in order to "monitor" the accuracy. Ever stop to think that there are parts they don't need it want to show? Anyway I like the show and its "chemistry" because they don't over science the science. After all it is a tv show and will eventually end, sadly.
(Anonymous) on June 29th, 2013 12:38 am (UTC)
Love this post. Just started re-watching the show with my wife on our new 110" screen and saw that the electron configurations for Ba and Cr both matched Br. Couldn't see it well enough before on our 47"... Anyhow, these guys don't miss a detail. This was not a mistake. Ba has the right electron configuration just before it pops out of the table as another poster said. I believe there must be a reason for it. I haven't figured out the code yet, but there must be a significance to 2-8-18-7...
(Anonymous) on June 29th, 2013 11:14 am (UTC)
I work on feature films & TV. You cannot really comment on their reasons for the change. It's could be as a result of lawyers protocol. It could be a personal code that the graphic designer put in. It could be artistic license. It could even be to start a debate & provoke discussion such as this one.

I agree that attention to detail is important, but despite pre-production meetings & paperwork, film crews have to 'play around' with logistical problems every hour of filming & changes things around all the time on-set. It's called 'artistic license'.

I think BB is the most original storyline I have ever seen & the casting of every single character was sublime. Beautifully shot, slightly out of focus in places, but as a complete package, a seriously great piece of work & filmed to cinematic standards.

Ask yourself this; if you were the graphic designer on that sequence, would you stamp it with something personal or for a loved one?
(Anonymous) on August 13th, 2013 04:47 am (UTC)
This has ALWAYS bugged me, too. They certainly became aware of it and I figured that when Season 2 aired they'd have updated it. But they didn't. And not in season 3 or 4 or the start of season 5. I couldn't believe they'd let a blatant and basic CHEMISTRY error stand.

Last night Episode 9 of Season 5 aired and.... THEY FIXED IT! THEY FINALL FIXED IT!

why now? who knows. But I look for it at the start of EVERY episode and was finally given the peace I so desperately sought.

motrismotris on August 13th, 2013 07:04 am (UTC)
I noticed earlier this month that it was fixed in the advertisements for the final episodes and hoped it would make the main credits too. I was delighted when it was Ba = 2-8-18-18-8-2 last night!
(Anonymous) on August 20th, 2013 06:49 am (UTC)
Thank the science gods that the BB crew finally fixed this.
Now can those gods please get John Stuart's globe to spin the right way?
(Anonymous) on August 21st, 2013 05:59 pm (UTC)
Just started watching BB and noticed the orbital configuration error. So glad to find company in this thread.
(Anonymous) on October 14th, 2013 06:46 pm (UTC)
what are you? sheldon copper, maybe?
becouse it sounds like it
(Anonymous) on October 18th, 2013 03:21 am (UTC)
I agree - it is good to see attention to details, especially when they went to the effort to even list the orbitals