Monday, December 8, 2008

Attention Deficit Video

Category: Review/Rant

Tis the season for PBS fund raising, fa la la la la. The local PBS stations like to do that with wall-to-wall music on Saturday night. That doesn't necessarily pull my money in, but it does get my attention.

This past Saturday featured some great concerts by Victor Borge (without question one of the funniest things I've ever seen), Elvis Presley's gospel roots, and a 1977 concert by the Who that was filmed for the documentary The Kids Are All Right.

There was one other show, and it was an absolute pain to watch. It was a Steve Miller Band concert filmed in Chicago. No, it was not painful because of Miller's sometimes horrid songs ("Abra, abracadabra, I wanna reach out and slap ya"). What made this concert so impossible to watch was the nonstop switching of camera shots. In all seriousness, there was no shot on any member of the band for any longer than five seconds. Meanwhile, for every five seconds of band shot(s), there was about 15 seconds of audience.

There's something bad to be said about editors who think people want to have their eyes spinning around with this nonstop scene changing. Concert videos shouldn't be chop cut the way an MTV (sorry, VH-1...I forgot, MTV doesn't play videos anymore) video is. I tuned in because I wanted to see Steve Miller, not a five-second close-up of Norton Buffalo's hand followed by half a minute of audience footage singing along with "The Joker."

Austin City Limits (now if PBS wants me to donate, they can show THAT all Saturday night, along with old episodes of Soundstage) had audience shots, but I always dismissed those as a way of showing the viewer that they were editing something out of the show. ACL was great at showing the performer, and NOT at a ratio of three seconds to every ten of the audience. They also kept the camera on the performer instead of bouncing between angles as if they were following a tennis ball.

Perhaps people making concert videos need to watch the grandfather of concert videos, Stop Making Sense. That movie is all about Talking Heads, and that's the way a concert video/movie should be. It's not about the audience, and it's not about "how many camera angles can I present in ten seconds." It's about a band and their music, period.

I would like to see a Steve Miller performance (for some reason I liked him when I was a teenager, and he was part of the very first rock concert I ever attended [with the Eagles and Eddie Money]) presented as if the editor/director were interested in the artist instead of seemingly trying to present an attention deficit mentality.

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