MTV's Video Music Awards broadcast has become the channel's biggest award show franchise, and on Thursday night the ceremony brought together everyone from Rihanna and Miley Cyrus to Andy Samberg and the U.S. Olympic Fab Five at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. We asked some of the country's top event producers to weigh in on their favorite (and least favorite) details of the show. Here's what they said.
Overall: “I thought this year's V.M.A.s were strong. The presenter talent and performances were great, with many highlights. Kevin Hart did a great job of keeping things on track, and the production design was sophisticated and pushed the envelope in terms of visual diversity.”
What I Liked: “The performances were terrific, and the staging really managed to give each act a very different look and feel. Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj were on fire with ‘This Girl is on Fire.’ Green Day brought the energy, while Taylor Swift showed us all again what an amazing talent she is. Rihanna was simply amazing.”
What I Would Have Done Differently: “Frank Ocean's oddly staged fire-and-ice number didn't achieve the intimacy that his voice and talent warrant. The abundance of profanity took away from the evening, and I'm not sure why MTV chose to air the V.M.A.s on the final night of the Democratic National Convention and on Fashion's Night Out.”
Idea I'd Steal: “We don't believe in stealing ideas, ever, but I enjoyed the giant LED pyramid DJ platform, the use of the confetti blizzard combined with video projection, the laser sequences during Rihanna's performance, and the tweet counter.”
Grade: A- “Well done, MTV!”
Miller, president and C.E.O. of event and entertainment production company Empire Entertainment in New York and Tokyo, produces hundreds of major corporate, nonprofit, and private events each year, including President Obama's U.N. General Assembly head of state reception, the Webby Awards, and the Gotham Awards.
What I Liked: “The show demonstrated a very effective marriage of stage, scenic [design], and lighting. Too often, such elements appear as if they were designed by teams who had never spoken to each other. In this show, it all came together and worked really well. Some of the segments, such as the outdoor scene—with real fire, no less!—translated especially well on TV, with subtle lighting and carefully orchestrated camera shots. Even the straight-down spinning camera angle on Green Day was a lot of fun. The show gave us a nice mix of approaches from start to finish.”
What I Would Have Done Differently: “Flying sequences are difficult. The one with Pink felt a bit awkward, as most flying sequences do. The show also used a ton of flash and trash. It's MTV, so it wasn't inappropriate, but it would've been nice to have some newer flashy lighting looks in the show.”
Idea I'd Steal: “The entire set, if someone could just distract the producers for a moment.”
Glickman is the owner of Glickman Productions, an event production company in Orlando that produces an average of 20 high-profile events each year for businesses and organizations across the U.S., including Gaylord Resorts, JetBlue Airways, and the Orlando Magic.
What I Liked: “The lighting was spectacular. It was hip, fresh, colorful, and added excitement to the overall show. Energy! Energy! Energy! The strobes and lasers were a great touch. It also helps with a larger-than-life video screen in the background to help enhance the overall look. The lighting helped mask some of the performances. It was the most memorable thing of the show. I liked the scenic design. All of the shapes throughout the arena tied together. It made it very contemporary. Having the fans standing on the entire arena floor was a great idea. The fans were onstage, surrounded a lot of the musical numbers, and were definitely a big part of the show.”
What I Would Have Done Differently: “I thought the video effects on the taped packages, sponsor billboards, and lower thirds were distracting. The video tear look seemed out of place, especially when it was against the live arena shots. It was too much, sensory overload. At times it seemed like it was a video mistake. I would have made the transitions and wipes a little simpler, as not to fight with the backgrounds. The opening monologue was too long. It went on for a bit and could have been cut in half. You need to get right to the show—the audience wants to see stars, music, and awards. A three o'clock opening is fine. It reminded me of Clint Eastwood at the R.N.C.—went on way too long!”
Idea I'd Steal: “The lighting and scenic packages. The white elements of the set took color beautifully. It was a winning combination. Adding a DJ booth to a show—that brought a whole new dimension of excitement to an award show.”
Grade: B+ “It was a beautiful-looking show. The lighting designer deserves a raise. Not sure what would be considered a memorable performance in years to come.”
Best, president of JM Best Entertainment, is a two-time Emmy Award winner. Some of his productions include the National Cherry Blossom Parade, the 4th of July Parade in Washington, and the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade.
What I Liked: “I loved that the awards supported young talent that is not nationally well known yet, like Frank Ocean, Rita Ora, and the Wanted. MTV made an effort to be progressive and global, and it really showed.”
What I Would Have Done Differently: “I would have never had the awards on the same night as Fashion's Night Out, Obama's speech at the D.N.C., and the opening of the Toronto Film Festival. The excitement and buzz over the awards got completely lost.”
Idea I'd Steal: “Rihanna and Calvin Harris for anything and everything. They are pure magic, and truly take a event to the next level in every single way.”
Starr is co-founder and partner of BMF Media Group, an experiential marketing agency focused on brand marketing, event production, music supervision, sponsorships and promotions, and talent management and booking.
André Anthony Wells
What I Liked: “The lighting was dynamic and changed with speakers and performers, which kept the energy of the show going. Also, Kevin Hart was hilarious.”
What I Would Have Done Differently: “The background visuals were a little overwhelming for some performances, taking the attention away from the stage. I would have toned that down a little. I thought it was a little long and difficult to keep the focus of the audience. I would have shortened it about half an hour and perhaps showed a portion online.”
Idea I'd Steal: “The set design this year was amazing and included the audience, and used different parts of the room for performances. That's definitely the idea I would steal.”
Wells is the founder and CEO of Events by André Wells, a nationally recognized event planning firm based out of Washington, DC, which is a full service, avant-garde event planning firm catering to high-end/high profile clientele. Wells has coordinated 4,000-plus events over the last eleven years and some of his clientele include Walt Disney, BET, PBS, ABC, NBC, Vanessa Redgrave, Patti Labelle, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Robert Johnson, Charles Rangel, Debra Lee, and President Barack Obama.