Musical feature films- studio vs live singing

Dave19
Broadway Star
joined:12/23/11
Today I watched the film version of Evita again for the first time since years and was blown away by how good it is. In my opinion the quality of the film is much higher than that of, for example, Les Miserables.

Every scene works and I think it has a lot to do with the cinematography and recording most of the songs in the studio. It was refreshing to see the high level of editing and craftmanship and the way it makes the songs work. I feel that many songs in Les Miserables should have been approached in the same way (studio) instead of the live singing (One day more etc) because it just lifts the scenes up. When a Miss Saigon film is made, I hope they will use the studio recording method for most of the songs too, especially for scenes like: The heat is on in saigon, The fall of Saigon, etc.

Here are 3 parts I especially loved:

http://youtu.be/A7it5Qebaic?t=29m3s

http://youtu.be/A7it5Qebaic?t=35m18s

http://youtu.be/A7it5Qebaic?t=1h39m33s







Updated On: 1/9/14 at 06:07 PM
Sally Durant Plummer
Stand-by
joined:8/15/13
The film of EVITA is quite good. The only flaw is Madonna.
Jeffrey Karasarides
Featured Actor
joined:11/27/11
I personally wasn't a fan of the Evita film because I watched it for the very first time almost a year ago and I was literally taken out by all the lip-synching, I could just tell every single line was pre-recorded, and the way the actors were mouthing the words looked so phony!

And I think you've got the wrong idea about live singing, it's suppose to make the performances feel more alive, I don't wanna hear those high pitched exaggerated voices, I wanna hear REAL EMOTIONS being put into a performance! Everything I've heard people saying about what they disliked about Les Miz is actually what I liked about, it wasn't some polished studio production, it really treated the material more realistically than it ever was before, especially knowing how unrealistic it is for people to suddenly go into song.

Updated On: 1/9/14 at 07:51 PM
Dave19
Broadway Star
joined:12/23/11
I agree that in some cases it can add something, when things are not supposed to be sung, but more spoken/cried. Mostly scenes where someone is dying benefit from it, with all the breaths etc.

In fact, madonna's final scene was recorded live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R0P1Bwzhug

It basically sounds the same as all the songs in the Les Miserables film and that is too much if you ask me. Imagine Madonna would sing the whole film like that. The problem is that that particular music (Les Mis, Miss Saigon) demands great singing voices and the uplifting notes and the placement of the sung notes create the emotion and storytelling too, that is what musical is. Especially combined with great editing instead of using just 1 close up for each song. Singing the first word of a sentence and then speak or sigh the last word of each sentence is not the solution of singing in a musical film (Although Hugh Jackman thinks so).

I believe that the scenes I posted above would have never been so great if recorded live. And vice versa, I think a lot of scenes in Les Mis could have been much better.

I see moviemaking as more than just putting a camera in someone's face and let him/her sing the song a couple of times. I can imagine that for example "The movie in my mind" from Miss Saigon can turn out very average if done that way, while with the right editing, cinematography and studio recording with the soaring notes, including singing along live for the acting can make this scene exceptional. Raw emotion for the viewer comes from other things too.



Updated On: 1/9/14 at 08:24 PM
philly03
Broadway Legend
joined:9/20/07
I think the music played a big part in why I'm mixed on Les Mis, the orchestrations were relatively thin sounding to me. The orchestrations and music in general sounds so much better in films like Dreamgirls and Evita -- and of course having people who are skilled singers helps a lot.
Mattbrain
Broadway Legend
joined:11/23/05
Yeah, I agree with a lot of what's been said here. There's going for a grittier sound and then there's just not being able to hit the notes properly. And the lip-synching is totally what takes me out of Evita. That and the static cinematography. Crane shots and tracking shots, Parker, ever heard of them?!
Butters, go buy World of Warcraft, install it on your computer, and join the online sensation before we all murder you. --Cartman: South Park ATTENTION FANS: I will be played by James Barbour in the upcoming musical, "BroadwayWorld: The Musical."
MrMidwest
Broadway Legend
joined:2/8/05
The Confrontation song was the worst for me in the film. Russell was just so flat. The Neil Patrick Harris/Jason Segal version is better sung and more compelling, no lie.

"The gods who nurse this universe think little of mortals' cares. They sit in crowds on exclusive clouds and laugh at our love affairs. I might have had a real romance if they'd given me a chance. I loved him, but he didn't love me. I wanted him, but he didn't want me. Then the gods had a spree and indulged in another whim. Now he loves me, but I don't love him." - Cole Porter
Updated On: 1/9/14 at 08:39 PM
Broadway Legend
joined:12/31/69
It is true that some pre-recorded, lip-synced performances are really alienating. It's gotten a lot better over the years, but there are some films where the transition from camera-recorded dialogue to pre-recorded singing is so stark it's laughable. And the lip-synching can be bad.

On the other hand, some live-singing performances can sound too thin for large numbers like "One Day More" and often appear to be of lower quality due to background noise on the studio lot.

Both extremes can be bad, so filmmakers should try to use their own discretion and pick and choose which numbers to studio record and which to record on the studio lot. I also think it would be nice to re-record some live-sung songs for the soundtrack album, although that may seem to defeat the purpose of the original live-singing.
Mattbrain
Broadway Legend
joined:11/23/05
Plus no matter how good a singer you might be, you end up with vocal fatigue after singing take after take. If there are takes of Hugh Jackman singing Bring Him Home better than what ended up in the film, I'll be pissed!
Butters, go buy World of Warcraft, install it on your computer, and join the online sensation before we all murder you. --Cartman: South Park ATTENTION FANS: I will be played by James Barbour in the upcoming musical, "BroadwayWorld: The Musical."
SweeneyLovett
Chorus Member
joined:8/16/13
I think there should be a mix. For example, look at "My Man" in Funny Girl. The emotional first part was done live and the rest was dubbed in later to hit all the right notes. The only issue with this approach is the shift in audio quality. There are ways around this of course, but typically, there's a slight switch.

I don't see why certain numbers can't be done live. In Les Mis, a pre-recorded track would have killed I Dreamed A Dream. I'm glad they went the live route with that, but for the bigger songs, they could have used a little studio finessing.
g.d.e.l.g.i.
Broadway Legend
joined:6/13/12
'Cause you just know they did it to Russell Crowe... (he has "tuning" in a few really obvious spots, I'd have to review my copy to say which for sure)...
Formerly gvendo2005
Broadway Legend
joined: 5/1/05

Blocked: After Eight, suestorm, FindingNamo, david_fick, emlodik
madbrian
Broadway Legend
joined:6/1/06
I much prefer live singing. Flaws and all. There are plenty of quality studio recordings that I can listen to, but for me, nothing can match the presence of an actor singing in the moment. In fact, I wish OBCRs were live recordings, although I understand that there may be technical and contractual issues that make that impractical.
"It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg." -- Thomas Jefferson
Dave19
Broadway Star
joined:12/23/11
"nothing can match the presence of an actor singing in the moment"

To me, most of the time the actors in Les Mis are not "in the moment" at all. The only raw thing I see is an actor struggling with the notes, which only takes away from the emotion. The emotion for the viewer lies in other things than seeing an actor having trouble with singing.

Some good points have been made here. Maybe the actors should fully live the moment on set, and then re-record their vocals afterwards. And pre-record the vocals for the real singing numbers. Because the real emotion lies in placements of notes, lifting of notes and words, not in throwing them away.

darreyl102
Broadway Legend
joined:8/23/08
Well, if they can’t sing the notes, then they shouldn’t be attempting it.
Darreyl with an L!
Jeffrey Karasarides
Featured Actor
joined:11/27/11
"it really treated the material more realistically than it ever was before, especially knowing how unrealistic it is for people to suddenly go into song."

I think both theatre and film should be treated differently, if they were both treated the exact same way, then what's the point?
Dave19
Broadway Star
joined:12/23/11
Here is a clip with some examples of how the Les Miserables film could have been. I feel the singing in the film should have been much less theatrical, more nuanced, more filmic, more like fine art, because that is the whole point of singing in a musicalfim. Acting through song. That creates emotions. Not the attempt of speaking, sighing, or groaning words instead of singing (Hugh Jackman's theory). Strangely enough other recordings are much more filmic. As you can see it lifts every scene to a higher level emotionally. Musicalfilmmakers need to think about what triggers emotion in viewers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0qQ_7RFGSc





Updated On: 1/10/14 at 11:11 AM
Jeffrey Karasarides
Featured Actor
joined:11/27/11
I've said it one and I'll say it again, try to imagine what would it be like if people actually did communicate through song in real life...
Wildcard
Broadway Legend
joined:6/21/06
I prefer a mix of studio and live singing. There are certain emotional scenes where live singing is necessary. Even in Evita, most of the singing in the end towards Eva's death were sung live. Madonna's acting really shone in those portions. Live singing works best in recitatives. I do wish Stars, Bring Him Home, and On My Own were pre-recorded. Then again, we wouldn't have gotten the marvelous performance from Anne Hathaway had I Dreamed a Dream been pre-recorded.
chinto1984
Leading Actor
joined:8/6/07
Theater and film are fake and we know they are fake. We buy into the magic. What if someone said we are going to do Lion King with real animals. Would that make it better than Julie Taymor's version? It would be different. Would the audience still go along with it to go on the journey of the story? Les Mis looked beautiful and I was impressed with Hugh. I wouldn't pay Broadway prices to see a professional Broadway performer with Anne's or Amanda's singing ability. To defend them by saying well they sang live. So did Judy Kuhn, Lea Salonga, Patti Lupone, Randy Graff, and every woman who's played that role. Good singer DOESN'T equal bad actor, and a performer who can't sing DOESN'T become a better actor or their portrayal is now definitive.
Debra Bryne I dreamed a dream
Jonwo
Broadway Legend
joined:3/16/06
I agree that a mix of live and studio recording would work for future films but I wonder would it cost more to do for a studio to do both rather than one or the other?
Jeffrey Karasarides
Featured Actor
joined:11/27/11
I would only want real animals if they were doing a live action Lion King movie. I'm not saying I dislike the way the songs have been traditionally performed, they're GREAT ON STAGE, but for a movie, it had to 'strip away the myth from the man' in order to create something fresh, if you don't like it to be realistic, sometimes the truth hurts.
Mister Matt
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
If it's a well-made film, I don't care one way or the other. I thought the live singing worked fine in Les Mis (with the obvious exception of Crowe), but the film missed the mark in many other ways. I thought the studio singing of Evita worked well, but the film missed the mark in many other ways. I think Dreamgirls was superior to both of them in terms of sound and vocals (though it had its flaws as well).
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
TheFoozle
Swing
joined:10/22/12
More than pre-recording songs for movies, I'd like to see POST-recording. I've heard multiple actors mention how they were "locked into a performance" before ever meeting their costars or seeing the set and so on, in some cases probably months beforehand. This leads to some choices being so out of the moment - the complete opposite of the Les Mis movie where everything was happening truly live.

I remember Helena Bonham Carter saying this about the Sweeney Todd movie - not that that movie didn't have other issues - but would be interested in seeing what would happen if a film let the actors live sing until they can then re-record over themselves for the final sound mix.
Dave19
Broadway Star
joined:12/23/11
The only way non-singers can make it work is in scenes of crying or despair. In all the other senes it does not work.
Broadway Star
joined:12/31/69
I think a problem with post-recording musical numbers like that would be matching the performances if they are particularly "in the moment."

I read once that Rex Harrison had to sing his MY FAIR LADY numbers live because every talk-sung take was different and they couldn't match the film with the recording. I don't know how true it is, but it's an interesting thing to think about.
chinto1984
Leading Actor
joined:8/6/07
Let's all take to remember the travesty of Pierce Brosnan singing in Mamma Mia!

I suggest reading Marni Nixon's memoir. She talks about how they dubbed King and I. She and Deborah Kerr worked together on creating Anna. Marni rehearsed basically with Deborah. It became seamless. She writes later this was not the case with either Woods or Hepburn. That the dubbing was sloppy. Execs misled the actors and basically wanted Marni to just sing over the film.

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