BMZ Review: NSync: Bigger Than Live
By Ross Anthony
Actually, my grade for this presentation has almost nothing to do with NSYNC. I don't love their music, I don't hate their music. However, the reproduction of their songs on film and the playback thereof, is severely and sharply lacking in this "No Strings Attached" concert film. The fault for this falls on the sound engineers, not the band.
At my particular showing at the IMAX® theater in Irvine, CA, all of the sound came from the screen. Since Large Format theaters are equipped with perhaps the best sound systems in the world, the audio should far exceed what you could hear in an actual concert of NSYNC. Six distinct channels are available and are usually used to separate (pan) different instruments or even voices so that you feel as though you are surrounded by the music. (Hence the term "Surround Sound.") During the a cappella piece for instance, engineers could have put each singer's voice in its own channel, each individual melody coming to your ear from its own direction - you would have felt as though NSYNC formed a circle around you, singing only for you.
But instead, the sound comes from no other direction than the screen --percussion, bass, keys, harmonies all muddled together. Then to add insult to injury ... the roar of the crowd blares in the mix. Understandably, crowd noise adds to the excitement, but is best used strong at the beginning and end of the reel (maybe each song). To keep these levels high during the majority of the presentation is to subtract from the musical performance. This, too, could be controlled by engineers.
As for the band ... they perform as any fan would expect. Their dance routines are tightly choreographed leaving little or no room for straying. Their tunes sound just as they do on the radio, quite likely they are less live than you might expect. Still the voices are sweet and the dances full of energy, movement and enthusiasm (for the most part). These guys really give it up for a performance - running, jumping, sweating. Oh, I like the puppet strings introduction, would have enjoyed a dance routine based on that concept before untying the cast.
The cinematographers take no risks either. Three or four cameras are dispersed in the facility and take turns capturing the action. I would have preferred a handheld unit on stage with the performers, bringing theatergoers one step closer to inside. Additional crowd reaction shots would have spiced up the mix, as would a few more long-wide shots to relate the grand immensity of the venue and event.
Lastly, a huge video screen on stage often distracts from our five main characters. Save for the song "Digital Get Down," in this piece, the vid screen and coverage of the performance mix very nicely. It's the most exciting routine, a/v speaking.
In summary, NSYNC gives a perfectly fine performance (aside from the vocals appearing less than live), while the Large Format coverage of this concert flick plays back appallingly monophonic. That said, the four teens sitting behind me were screaming at the screen in hysteria, and later commented, "It was better than being at the concert - and we've been to two of them."
This 50 minute movie was filmed on the "No Strings Attached World Tour," and includes "Bye,Bye Bye," "Digital Get Down," "It's Gonna Be Me," and "Tearin' Up My Heart."
ADDITION (April 2001)
After reading my review, executive producer Linda J. Nelson invited me to a proper screening at the California Science Center in L.A. to hear the reel as it was intended. I met with Linda at that screening, she assured me that there was no lip-syncing or sampling assists to aid the guys on stage. Enthusiastic and classy, Ms. Nelson added that the film was doing great wherever its presence was known - selling out shows.
Though, unfortunately, I found the sound on the second screening to be only slightly improved; I did enjoy the added stage light effects. Two modest lighting units, one placed on each side of the bottom of the screen, popped like camera flashes or purple/blue panning rays. This complemented the "Live" feel of the program, bringing the viewer one step closer to being there. This lighting display will be made available to theaters showing the film, but not all venues will choose to utilize them. Therefore, I suggest you call your local large format theater and ask about that before attending (especially if you have a choice of theaters).
If you didn't already know - "Nsync" comes from the last letter of each of their first names. Pretty cool, huh? (The second "n" comes from "Lansten" - and the "c" - "J.C.") "Bigger than Live" has a running time of just around 50 minutes, it was filmed primarily at Pontiac, Michigan in July, 2000 and Hershey, Penn. Other locations included Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
IMAX® is a registered trademark of IMAX Corporation.
Copyright (C) 2001.
Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com
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