Music Video: Pitch Perfect’s “Since You Been Gone”

Start with the fact this is generally an average-to-well edited movie. During the big dance numbers, we get plenty of closeups and glimpses of each character, especially when a character is starting to sing. Still, the overall action is always well-established enough so when it pulls back to a wide/master shot, the viewer is not disoriented, and the choreography of the whole group moving together is showcased.

On to this scene.

This 2:42 ‘music video’ is what Glee has wet dreams about.

First: a variety of body types, genders, races, and we’re going to (safely) assume sexual preferences.

Second: this is the first time we really meet most of these characters, and their personalities are displayed here. The sexpot, the nervous Ned/Nelly, the one who thinks he’s God’s gift in a fedora, the one who constantly expresses her body confidence. Etc.

Third: the full-out embracing of everything potentially stereotypically terrible about not only ‘music nerds,’ but movies and shows about music nerds. Some of this is inherent in the personalities; the emotive faces and air drums and verbalized passion and acting out everything – “you took the time” – so literally. But it’s also in the blown notes, the way someone counts ‘one two three four’ and suddenly it gels, the juxtaposition of casual belter and operatic bellower, the multi-screen.

Ah, the multi-screen. That brings us to the actual cut.

The angles are usually square-on or to the right varying degrees, and most characters in the center or in the right third of the screen. Nothing breaks the 180 rule; the reverse shots of judges listening are ever-so-slightly on a left angle, meaning if you think about it, the camera is set various places stage center and stage left throughout. Medium-wide shots are used when the singers’ body language is important to their personality, and mediums-to-close-ups when their faces are more important.

The cuts work in sync with the audio. At first they are made right after an additional audio layer has been heard, or with its beginning. Once the song starts fully into its flow, a specific character’s voice will come up in the mix – usually at the start of a line – and that’s the person we see. There’s almost no down time, as any rests in the lyrics are filled with characters saying or doing something. When a significant sound effect is bumped up in the mix, we get a single of that person. Cuts between people usually vary in closeness, save for the section of :58-1:11, which is the only real progression which remains uninterrupted/without gimmick/without major vocal effects. Once we know who’s who and what parts they have, it starts getting more complicated, showing multiple characters at once. 

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With the aforementioned one two three four, the video got into full swing, but it doesn’t just coast, it builds and then starts showing off. At 2:19-2:22, fedora dude’s box looks like he’s skipping over the same exact 10 frames of video. My favorite wink-nudge is 1:40-1:46, which is probably exactly how most karaoke singers react when they get up and hit this on a jukebox. Clarkson has a range, this song shows it, Jesse’s (Skylar Astin) first comment about how “this is high!” as he gasps a breath to hit the next line fits, but the second exclamation and its accompanying cutoff in audio and edit are just perfect.

The whole thing perfectly rides that line of good and knowingly bad – somewhat similarly to this recent video – and the editing does what it should: makes sure the viewer knows who is doing what and when; keeps everything visually interesting and yet internally consistent; and brings everything smoothly together into a coherent narrative.

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