On a Lighter Note – The New Glee Movie

Posted on by Larry

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.


24 Responses to On a Lighter Note – The New Glee Movie

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  1. Dick Applebaum says:


    Just to follow up…

    I’ve watched the 1st 10 episodes and learned a lot of things I never would have stumbled upon — I didn’t know what I didn’t know, or where/how to look for it!

    The 2 Reel Guys are among my favorite instructive videos — right up there with the Two Fat Ladies 🙂


    Dick Applebaum

    P.S. Please add a link to these episodes on your site

  2. Jack Dragga says:

    Your comments on 3D and the different editing requirements got me to thinking – are we getting the 3D we are paying for. Brendan Fraizer’s version of Journey to the Center of the Earth is a fine example of using 3D to enhance the story telling. It has good “Ah, Cool!” moments that don’t get in the way of the story and the strength of the 3D is consistant throughout. Hopefully they will release it on blu-ray 3D someday instead of just the anaglyph DVD version. Now jump to Toy Story 3. Pixar does not seem too enthralled with 3D and are known for taking a minimalist approach to 3D. Five minutes into the movie, I had to strain to look for the 3D in the film. It was like buying the big tub of buttered popcorn and only putting in a few drops of butter. I felt cheated. Now lets move to Transformers: Dark of the Moon. This starts out with pretty decent 3D but as the action ramps up it seemed as if the 3D started to go away. Did my mind just get used to it and not process it as strongly as before, perhaps. Or did the filmmakers, knowing that 3D requires a different pacing of cuts so as not to give us all headaches, actually minimize the 3D so they could edit the way they are accustomed to for these action sequences. If so, why am I paying extra for something I’m not getting? I think the filmmakers will continue to edit for 2D over 3D since 1.) They are releasing 2D and 3D versions of the same film and it would be cost prohibitive to release them with different cutting styles. 2.) They probably feel that if edited for 3D, the 2D version would come off as slow paced. And 3.) The majority of video sales are in 2D. In the end it’s all about the Benjamins and not the art.

  3. Don B says:

    Mac Pros Not Long For This World

    In case you think Mac Pros will not be phased out in the near-to-mid future, take a look at this article, and particularly the chart, and then think of how the writing was on the wall for FCS the last few years:


    If Thunderbolt gets established and you want to work on Macs, you’ll be working on a MacBook Air. Guaranteed.

    • Larry says:


      I appreciate your enthusiasm, but disagree with your conclusion. The MacBook Air is a great system, but not for this. I’m not willing to accept that the MacPro is gone from the world. I will agree that Apple won’t upgrade it as often as other systems, mainly because they don’t need to.


  4. Don B says:


    I know it’s a little dramatic, but you know what? I really believe this. Look at the data in the chart I ref’d above once again. It’s not hard to connect the dots and see Apple’s road map. And working on an Air won’t be such a bad thing anyway. In a year or two it will have about as much power as today’s Pros. Hooked up to a big screen or two and Thunderbolt storage, I can see it handling most of today’s workflows. That is, as long as it’s running Adobe 🙂

  5. Dick Applebaum says:

    @Don B

    You could be right… but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple is abandoning Power Computers — they may just be repackaging them.

    The key to this is Thunderbolt. Conceivably, what you would have on your desktop is UI Center — a couple of displays, a keyboard, an iPad-like graphics tablet / control surface (display, multitouch and stylus entry). These would be daisy-chained, in turn, to one or more headless “processor boxes” and RAID storage boxes.

    The “processor boxes” would hold the CPUs, GPUs, RAM, SSDs. The “processor boxes” would the heavy-lifting: transcoding, rendering, etc. One or more “processor boxes” could be used as needed and available.

    The RAID storage boxes will be the repository of your content.

    I just got a new iMac 27 and a Promise Pegasus RAID — the performance is amazing. Here are some links!



    (For the record, I am retired and have no affiliation with Promise, Apple — or anyone, for that matter 🙂

    Dick Applebaum

  6. Don B says:

    @Dick A

    I love it. Sort of RED for computers. Thunderbolt does open up the possibilities.

    The one component I left out is a breakout box for PCI. Unlimited, high speed, third party functionality. And we’re just about there.

  7. Patrick Flaherty says:

    Larry, Interesting comments about editing choices with respect to live musical performances. I think an editors choice to make edits for edits sake has had me more than frustrated with another entertainment show on TV called Think you can dance! While this show is a creative piece blending lighting, music and choreography the director’s choice to cut away at certain points in a dancer’s performance is very similiar to what you speak about in editing a musical performance. When the director chooses to cut away from a long shot showing the 2 dancers to single shot of one dancer(MS) you loose the significance of the partners and their synchronicity. This has become a frustration with me because the director is making choices that make for an interesting visual but may go counter to the performance piece. I think you have articulated this case in point. thank you for that.

  8. Dick Applebaum says:

    Way of topic here…

    But, are you people (pro editors) aware of this?


    It is limited to still, for now, but could be applied to video.

    Long story, short — it is a photography process that allows you to change focus and depth of field after the shot — in post!

  9. Christopher says:

    Interesting to hear your comments. I agree that fast cuts are used to hide mistakes on stage. I tend to assume that most performances are enhanced by the edit. I attended the second to last taping of last season’s America’s Got Talent to see a friend perform and it just so happened to also be the night they were pre-taping an Usher performance to air on the following evenings show. Let me tell you…It was an extremely bland performance live and when I saw the edit on TV it was like a COMPLETELY different performance. It was cut super fast and blown out with backlights so the viewer couldn’t focus on the lip syncing etc. They never cut to closeups because he was tracked and rarely even moved his lips during the Live performance. I’m not really an Usher fan but I was surprised since I know he is a great dancer. Anyway, I would like to watch the Glee movie to see how long they stay on a dance section without cutting. I agree it was great in old movies with Astaire and O’Conner when you could see a whole sequence in one shot…Those were the days when people really got chills from a performance because you knew it was real.

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