Setting the scene, or set design, is something that I focus in on quite a bit in my own machinima and photos, but also when I am considering the work of other people. The set design plays such an imporant role to setting the mood and plays a descriptive role - a good set design tells some of the story in and of itself. I will say this up front - set design in the early stages after Sims 4 release is going to be an issue and a big setback for many of us due to the obvious limitations of a new base game. Having said that, I will also note that there is a lot of potential here and I personally can't wait to see how the possibilities grow as the collection of content becomes larger.
The outdoor views have a very different look and feel to The Sims 3. Some of you will like it and some will not. It does have a bit of a "pixar" animated feel to it, but at the same time there is some realism too. It is difficult to explain, but you will get the idea as you see more photos. The biggest limitation here for set design and story backdrop is that there are only two worlds to choose from at the start. There is no point in complaining about this, it is limiting and it sucks a bit, but it won't be that way for long. As new worlds come out, and they will, surely we will begin to see a variety of world types to suit our moods.
Background Scenery lend a nice view to a scene - as in these photo examples. The neat thing is that depending on which direction you are facing, there will be a slightly different scene in the backdrop so this will lend some variety.
Neighbourhood Street Scenes have a much more realistic feel to them. There are more Sims wandering around it seems, or perhaps it is just that the Sims that are wondering seem to have more of a purpose to their wanderings, or maybe it is just that the walk and movements have a more realistic feel.
Neighbourhood Editing - you cannot edit the neighbourhood on a grand scale, and you cannot edit the sections off of the designated lots. We will have to wait to see what other worlds are presented to us in order to have the neighbourhood background theme and feel that we need for a wider variety of stories and movies. This is going to be an initial limitation that will be frustrating to some, I know. The best you can do, and this may work well in most cases, is that you can edit any of the larger lots to create a large set design that fits the theme that you are going for in your outdoor scene. This will, of course, be much easier to do once we have more outdoor objects to choose from.
Here is another example of how the world background will look as a backdrop to a scene.
More scenes will be available in the form of unlockable "parks" or secret areas, like rabbit holes in a sense, but it appears that they are actual locations that you can access. This too appears that it will create more opportunities for backdrop settings.