Let me confess, before you read further, that I am such a fan of singing and dancing that… well, let’s just say that when I was a young director, I was in awe of the television musical specials directed by Dwight Hemion and produced by Gary Smith.
Most of the performance video techniques that we rely on today were invented by these two guys. To my mind, they are the gold standard against which all other performance videos need to be judged.
Anyway, I was given a ticket to a preview of the upcoming 3D Glee Concert Movie. So I went to see it tonight. (And, yup, I’m a fan of the show — it has singing and dancing!)
The movie interweaves three storylines: onstage performances to what looks like a crowd of about 50,000 enraptured screaming Gleeks, backstage with the performers getting ready to go on, and interviews and profiles of fans.
Its also shot in 3D.
For people interested in production and editing the movie is worth seeing for a variety of reasons.
First, the sheer energy, enthusiasm, and talent of the performers just radiates off the screen. It is enormous fun watching talented performers who clearly enjoy what they are doing.
Second, the editing on the main set pieces is always good and many times borders on amazing. The performance by The Warblers is an outstanding example of successful editing in a 360 degree environment. The Puck solo as he traverses the entire floor of the stadium is a great balance between being lost with the crowd and keeping the viewer oriented. And the dance number by Brittany and her backup dancers is a clinic on how to edit dance for the big screen.
However, there are also a number of other things to watch that didn’t work so well. Notice how 3D does not enhance the performance. In many cases, there were real issues where they had trouble shooting a live scene and keeping performances separated from the screen plane. All too often, the performer would touch the edge of the physical frame and the 3D effect was lost. The Mercedes set piece is an excellent example of the breakdown of the screen plane. 3D may sell tickets, but it doesn’t enhance the performance… especially a live performance when so much of camera work is “keeping up and winging it.”
Another issue with 3D is that camera angles that work in 2D, don’t work in 3D. An example of this is a low camera angle shooting up at a performer. Very uncomfortable. Also, fast cuts that work great in 2D, are too fast in 3D. The brain can’t orient in space fast enough.
The whole 3D editing issue needs to be thought through more when dealing with fast-paced music. In this case, the cutting was too fast and the 3D made it disorienting.
Notice how hard it is to weave three separate storylines, and five different Gleek profiles into a coherent performance video. Also notice that the documentary sections switches into 2D, then back to 3D for the music. As an editor, how would you handle the challenge?
For anyone who’s a fan of the show, the movie is well worth seeing.
For people who are fans of production and editing, the movie provides an exceedingly good example of what works and what doesn’t when integrating performance with documentary footage. And, while most of us don’t work on this scale or with these budgets, this combination is a popular format where we are all wrestling with the same issues:
* How do we transition from speaking to performance and make it appear seamless?
* Is the musical performance enough to carry the film? If not, what do we need to add?
* How do we compensate for the inherent imperfections in a live performance?
* How do you edit multi-camera musical performance without excessive jump cuts and without obstructing the flow of the performance itself?
* How important is it to make people in the film audience feel like they are in the concert audience?
An example of this last question is compare the editing of this concert to the editing in “Singing in the Rain,” any Fred Astaire movie, or “Woodstock.” The Glee movie has outstanding talent that can easily fill the frame, yet, many times, the editors were afraid to stay with a shot, cutting off action too soon, just to keep the pace up.
Many times, I feel that editors are afraid to trust their actors to fill a scene. That the imperative of cuts for the sake of cutting gives the illusion of pacing, but actually obscures what’s going on and frustrates the audience.
When you are trying to hide the fact that your performers are inept, then rapid cutting, shaky handheld shots, wild angles, bad lighting, and unmotivated effects are the rule. But when you have talent that glows, cutting too soon should be a crime.
I enjoyed the movie. And I’m old school – I’ll buy it on DVD when it comes out. Its worth watching more than once because there’s a lot we can learn from it – both good and bad.
As always, let me know what you think.
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