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

Newer Comments →
  1. Yoann says:

    Just one question , why buy this movie on DVD and not in Blu-ray or Blu-ray 3D ?

  2. John Morton says:

    Could it have been cut on Final Cut X? ie. from a technical perspective do you think it’s possible to create this kind of production using the new Final Cut?

  3. Leo Hans says:

    Interesting post.
    It’s in tune with Walter Murch thoughts about 3D.
    Take a look at this post:


  4. Michael says:

    3D should go away. Come back when it doesn’t require glasses and doesn’t make my head hurt.

  5. Mal says:

    Old school editors and directors have a clue (and respect) about screen direction and screen orientation.

    Not that many years ago, (well probably a few now) we saw the introduction of younger directors and editors butchering action scenes in ways that were horrific to behold.

    These days it’s usual to see “crossing the line shots” in ads and prime-time shows, most often unintentionally. Young directors probably don’t even know what “crossing the line” is, but in the past it was very rare, not now.

    I partially blame the introduction of MTV!!! (Is that still around?)

    (Cue: jump cut to next comment where we’re both facing the same way.)

    • Larry says:


      Yup, them young whippersnappers just don’t know how good they’ve got it… (deep sigh…)

      On the other hand, we caused our own share of trouble, “back in the day.”


  6. Leo Hans says:

    Larry, becouse the lack of 3D or related to other things?

    • Larry says:

      Leo, I’m not sure of your question. In this case, among other things, I’m questioning the need for 3D when it gets in the way of enjoying a performance, rather than enhancing it.


  7. Allynn says:

    Very interesting commentary! I awoke this morning to a local news piece on Gleeks waiting in line to see the show and then immediately read your blog. No small coincidence either that I got my LG 3D monitor working last night or that I’m halfway through Bernard Mendiburu’s fantastic book “3D Movie Making”. All paths are leading to 3D for me these days!

    What Mendiburu’s book makes clear (and what you reinforce here) is that shooting and editing 3D is a totally different beast from 2D. In fact, the techniques that have been perfected over the past 100 years or so were designed to give (false) depth to 2D video using monoscopic depth cues (perspective, relative size, occlusion, atmosphere, etc.). These all need to be re-thought for 3D space. We’ve learned a lot from 3D CGI but even just the *technical* aspects of 3D for live action are extremely complicated.

    The other issue you bring out here is “why 3D”? What is the compelling, storytelling, reason to use it? And if there isn’t one then… buns on seats? OK… good for box office but an artistic zero.

    I’m not sure how 3D can enhance storytelling. I like to watch the undersea stuff, the space stuff, the mountain stuff. All pretty and oohs and ahhs. The sci-fi stuff, of course, but so much of that is about the CGI anyway. I can’t say how “It’s a Wonderful Life” could be made better (or even just effectively) in 3D.

    When I shoot 3D (and I’m going to be doing a lot more of that once I finish Mendiburu’s book) I tend toward nature shots. I’m hoping to do an “actual” piece this fall for our local park. There are lots of statues and fountains and the trees will look amazing when they start to turn. A nice blue sky and a breeze should create some awesome 3D. But story…? If there’s no alien invasion or marauding visigoths I’m not sure there’s a point to using it. Hopefully, as I get more technically skilled, I’ll be able to see the storytelling possibilities. It is such a different way to work. Definitely NOT just shooting with two cameras instead of one!

  8. Allynn says:

    Actually, Tim Dashwood’s Stereo 3D Toolbox (http://www.dashwood3d.com/) works just fine in FCP X. I’m using it in 7 (cuz’ I ain’t had that much Koolaid yet) but it fully supports “X”

  9. Dick Applebaum says:


    Great blog entry Larry!

    I felt like I was there beside you.

    Seriously, your “story” reminded me of the old days of radio and early TV were the images were largely created in the mind of the listener. Orson Wells and Rod Serling come to mind as this kind of storytelling talent.

    I was so taken by the mental imagery of singing dancing that I tried to find some web footage of the June Taylor Dancers (From the 50s Jackie Gleason show. Sigh I couldn’t find any good footage. I do remember 100 girls in top hats and tails singing and tap-dancing while playing accordions.

    Anyway, the point of my post is to ask you about storytelling.

    You are very good at storytelling — where/how did you learn that.

    While editing, how do you know when to do a cut-away or use a B-roll?

    I am not an editor but, have used FCP7/GCS for a few years, now for videos of family and friends.

    I would like to learn how to do “storytelling” with video… not just titles, trims and transitions.

    I looked around your site — but couldn’t find anything specific to “storytelling”.

    Do you teach video storytelling… if not, you should.

  10. Dick Applebaum says:


    Exactly what I was looking for!

    I watched the first episode, and felt the need to thank you!

    I had seen a short video by Norman Hollyn on YouTube that used the same example — but this was much better done — and holds the promise of combining the techniques of story telling and the implementation of those techniques with production and post.

    My 16-year-old granddaughter has a flare for video storytelling — I just emailed her the link!

    Thanks ever so much — from both of us!

    Dick Applebaum

Newer Comments →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Larry Recommends:

FCPX 10.5 Complete

NEW & Updated!

Edit smarter with Larry’s latest training, all available in our store.

Access over 1,900 on-demand video editing courses. Become a member of our Video Training Library today!


Subscribe to Larry's FREE weekly newsletter and save 10%
on your first purchase.