X Factor 2013 Week 9 Staging and Lighting Watch

This post seems somewhat redundant, in that the point of these staging and lighting reviews is to look for clues about who’s favoured and who’s not – and at this stage, does anyone doubt that producers would happily cut off Scotland’s phone network if they could? Still, though, we’ve done the first eight weeks, let’s not give up now.

In the comments, Fudd wondered if the backdrop behind the “little boy from Devon” was gold and sunny (good connotations) or a fiery explosion (bad connotations). I suppose the point is that if we can’t figure it out then it probably isn’t having much subliminal effect. After watching twice, I’m tempted just to file it under “Windows 95 screensaver”.

And any ideas on what those lights were supposed to represent? In close-up they looked like slow-motion flashing lights on emergency response vehicles, in long shot they resembled pelican crossing poles:


Time now for another game of “Where’s Nicky?”

week9_Nick_1_wideAnd another backdrop that’s a bit of a Rorschach test. Pincers? Venus flytrap? Prison fenceposts? Once again for Nick, though, everything turned gold later on.


“Told you he’d never hit that high note!”


Chandeliers for Sam Bailey for the second week in a row – the connotation, presumably, is class? She gets another Windows 95 screensaver-style backdrop of floating blue debris, and she gets lighting that you could see as all over the place (something we were told was seen as a warning signal by last year’s acts) but which didn’t come across as distracting, more like having a twinkly star effect:


This is what you’d call distracting lighting, even more so when you get the strobing effect:


As with last week for Rough Copy, it was a game of two halves – it seemed to be staging and styling in the first song with an eye to post-show positioning, and in the second round with a view to reassuring Middle England.  Of course, they’d also had terrible staging in week 7, when they hit the bottom two and were saved. On which subject, Daniel texted me a Betsfactor-style observation on the styling – he remembered that in that week 7 performance, they’d had camo gear and Timberland boots:


This week, camo gear and – in one case – Timberland boots:


Phew! They’ve located the bottom of Sam Bailey’s staircase:


We had speculated in the show review post about whether shuffling the order (mixing up Nick and Luke, and Sam and Rough Copy) might have been intended to have some marginal effect on the votes by confusing a small proportion of voters into voting on second round performance order rather than first. Happy to be put right on that one by Chatterbox5200, who was in the audience:

Watching from the studio audience, I noticed how long it took the team to assemble the staircase staging for Nic’s second performance. They needed all the time of an advert break and a VT to do so. To take it apart, and remove it from the stage, also took the about the same time. As Luke’s staging for his second performance was minimal, and the time allocated was only the time left from a VT (no ad break) after removing Nic’s staging I truly believe that that this was the reasoning for the change in order, rather than any intention to confuse the audience with the voting numbers.

As Cade said in the comments, “Those were some insane wide shots for Nick. They barely focused on him.”


It wouldn’t be Nick staging without some gold spotlights, though. And that’s a nice little visual representation of their treatment of Nick throughout – so much that’s not helpful, but never a full-on assault, always leavened by something that is helpful.

Luke did indeed get minimal staging for his next performance, as Chatterbox said. He had his hair worn back for the first time since he was busker-from-Devon-ed in week 5. He got an inverted-V (in close-up) or an X (in long-shot) of light, which pulled back midsong, and another screensaveresque backdrop of what looks like slowly turning cogs:


As Fudd noted apropos Rough Copy, “The staging for the second song at the start was questionable, sitting back to back as though in disagreement”:

week9_RC_2Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Perhaps we should have been reminded of this image of District 3, which we used in our first ever headlong foray into this subliminal messaging malarkey last year:

D3Still, this image is much worse – the cage of light adds to the sense that District 3 are trapped and running out of options, whereas Rough Copy look more like they’re the centre of attention at a cocktail party.

Their backdrop was leafless trees festooned with lights. Christmassy? Or, in retrospect, perhaps a bit too bleak midwintry?


Onto Sam’s pimp slot for ‘Candle In The Wind’, and you could certainly make a case that this isn’t helpful, couldn’t you? Big plinth, lights everywhere:


The plinth question is interesting. The reason we have speculated – and it remains pure speculation – that plinths are generally unhelpful is that it gives a kind of disconnecting sense of “who do they think they are, up there”. If that’s the case, perhaps you could argue that there comes a point when plinths become helpful, when they are used to bestow a winner’s aura – perhaps the equation is whether, in viewers’ minds, it seems the act has deserved the right to be elevated so.

As for the lighting, it was moving slowly – unlike in Rough Copy’s first performance – and the overall effect was a dreamlike swirl of purples and blues, towards the end resembling a supernova:


Do let us know your staging theories from the semi, and generally share your news and views as the final buildup continues, in the comments section below.

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29 comments to X Factor 2013 Week 9 Staging and Lighting Watch

  • great article.
    I watched the results in full today (since I don’t live in the UK and they weren’t available yesterday). I dont understand why the guys from Rough Copy were crying like hell during the verdict… im not sure if it is 1)they didn’t think it was fair for them to leave 1 week before the finals (maybe understood the producer’s manipulations to get rid of them?) 2)on the contrary, they were happy to leave and were satisfied with their long journey in the XF 3)they were crying cos Luke was crying. I just cant decide

  • Jessica Hamby

    I thought the strangest part was when one of them ask the audience to shout out if they believed in God. Maybe he was just a bit overcome by the whole thing and didn’t know what he was doing.

  • yea that kinda came out of nowhere… also, when RC finished singing their song, one of the guys wouldn’t show his face and I saw a glimpse when his eyes met Lukes and they were laughing..it was all very emotional but sometimes their reaction was a bit strange

    • Chatterbox5200

      I also thought that Sterling (the main singer of Rough Copy) was laughing once they got eliminated, but only closer inspection, it does seem that he was actually emotional/crying. The thing that I caught was how they kept saying to each other “We’ve done it”. I’m not too sure what they meant by that. Maybe finishing fourth guaranteed them a record deal?

  • Gamblebot

    A supernova is a star that exploded. Did TPTB know that?

  • Ben Cook

    I’ve never agreed that plinths are deliberately used to dampen an act. Whether they do have any negative effect is up for debate though I struggle to imagine that anyone thinks, consciously or otherwise, that it makes viewer think they are being looked down on. It might sometimes be a bad thing though because it limits them from moving.

  • sycamore

    I’ve noticed with the camera angles for Luke’s recent performances and especially on Saturday night that they show him in shots with the studio audience more than the other contestants, which does seem to reinforce what the judges say about him being such a performer and connecting so much with the immediate audience.

    First really noticed it in the sing off v Tamera, after he’d dropped the guitar and was right at the front of the stage, and it was a really powerful image of him singing so passionately and the audience so clearly responding. That I believe was completely spontaneous and unchoreographed, but they repeated that camera angle (below and to his left with both him at the front of the stage and the audience in shot) for the later part of the Elton song. Luke’s Beyonce song had him going into the audience in the second part of the song, again showing him going towards them and connecting with them. Rough Copy’s Elton song started with them in the audience and then walking away from them (losing connection?), while the ‘crowd’ in their Beyonce song was distracting dancers and contrived, artificial, not ‘real’. Meanwhile Sam and Nick were on their plinths/staircases and totally removed from the audience and might as well have been performing to an empty room.

    But then, when they were showing the numbers when the lines opened after the first songs, Luke wasn’t even visible in his clip as he was on the runway behind the judges with the number obscuring him, while the second performance was a dull dull song, USP hair tied back and red and black clothes. *Shrug* mixed messages?

    Sorry for the essay, I hope it’s not too nonsensical! I love this site and wish I’d found it much earlier.

    • Glad you’ve found it now, sycamore!

      *Shrug* mixed messages? pretty much sums up my general feelings since week 6.

      Great points on Luke. I especially like the idea of the contrast between starting on the stage and going into the audience and vice versa, as Rough Copy did. It mirrors a debate we had earlier this series in these posts about starting on a plinth and coming down, versus starting at ground level and ending high (as with Shelley’s week 1 cherrypicker and SamC in the week he went out). Maybe just coincidence but makes a certain amount of sense to me.

  • AlisonR

    Slightly off topic, at the end of the series can we see which of the Sofabet community had the most accurate 1-12 prediction before the lives?

    If we lose a point for each placing we are incorrect by, and a correct placing scores zero?

    So for example I think I predicted Luke as 12th, so I would get at least minus 9 there. Tamera I had 4th I think, so that would be only minus 1.

    • Mech

      It’s all in hand…Though I don’t have you on my spreadsheet – I must have missed your post on the original lists, and the search function isn’t immediately forthcoming. I’ll look a little harder for your predictions and add you in.
      I am pleased to report at this stage that unlike last year, almost everyone is doing better than random chance!

      • Mech

        Ok, I’ve found your predictions, and I think I’ve caught up with any others I missed.

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        Any chance of a slight refinement: bonus points for forecasting any of the top 3, and in particular the winner correctly? – as the pre lives 12-1 prediction forecast is primarily betting-wise used to indicate on which selection the money is going down on for the outright winner, and the outright EW selections.

        For instance, I had Tamera as finishing 5th (which transpired to be correct), but my EW bets on Nic and my win bets on Sam B was where my initial outright bets went and are fingers crossed going to be the area that will provide me with good returns.

        I think correctly forecasting, for example, 1st, 2nd and 3rd is going to be of more use and potential profit to people than correctly forecasting, say, 11th,10th and 9th.

        Also, 11th,10th and 9th would have been much nearer, whereas 1st, 2nd and 3rd are the largest number of twists and turns away.

        As a rule of thumb, the further you try to forecast into the future, the higher the degree of difficulty.

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          For example, 2 points for correctly forecasting 3rd, the same for 2nd, and 3 points for 1st?

          (or should that be -1 point for 3rd, -1 point for 2nd and -2 points for successfully predicting 1st?)

          Whatever system you settle upon: great work, Mech.


    • sistermym

      This is my prediction on the 8th of November which mostly everyone disagreed with:

      My finishing order goes like this

      Mrs O to win with Sam B
      Louis second and third with Nick and Luke ( or vice versa)
      Gary just edged out of the final with Rough Copy
      Nicole loses all of her acts one by one ( probably Hannah first then Abi and Tamera)
      Louis and Mrs O colluding to save Sam C for as long as possible

    • R

      That was a great idea, here are my predictions from pre-lives:


      Guess/ result/ points:

      W1: Lorna/Lorna/0
      W2: MD/ Shelley/-1
      W3: Shelley/MD/-1
      W4: Luke/KR/-6
      W5: Sam C/ Abi/-1
      W6: RC/Sam C/-3
      W7: Abi/ Hannah/-2
      W8: Hannah/ Tamera/-1
      W9: Tamera/ RC -1
      F1: KR/ assume Luke/ -6
      F2: Sam B/ assume Nick/-1
      Winner: Nick/ assume Sam B/ -1

      Total preliminary score: -24

      Actually impressed myself with this. With MD & Shelley possibly switching because of MD’s health scare this could have been even better.
      Also got Luke/ KR the wrong way round, but not surprising given how weak Luke’s vocals were during Judges’ Houses.

    • Gamblebot

      Is it too late to join? I still have my predictions from the morning of Week 1. 😀

      1st: Tamera Foster
      2nd: Nicholas McDonald
      3rd: Sam Bailey
      4th: Hannah Barrett
      5th: Rough Copy
      6th: Sam Callahan
      7th: Shelley Smith
      8th: Abi Alton
      9th: Luke Friend
      10th: Miss Dynamix
      11th: Lorna Simpson
      12th: Kingsland Road

      My biggest mistake is definitely Luke.

      • Gamblebot

        if Luke is third:
        score = 4+2+2+1+1+4+6+1+3 = 24

        if Luke’s second, Nicky wins:
        score = 4+1+2+1+1+4+7+1+3 = 24

        if Luke’s second, Sam wins:
        score = 4+1+2+2+1+1+4+7+1+3 = 26

        if Luke wins, Nicky second:
        score = 4+2+1+1+4+8+1+3 = 24

        if Luke wins, Sam second:
        score = 4+1+1+2+1+1+4+8+1+3 = 26

  • Natasha

    Of topic sorry! Does anyone think SPOTY will have an effect on xf votes this weekend? I tend to think not as SPOTY would be watched by men generally and we all know women are more likely to vote on xf anyway?

    • Fudd

      The issue with SPOTY could be the Scottish vote – will the patriotic go vote for Andy Murray ahead of Nicholas? And if they’re only willing to make one call in the house/only watching one show that could limit the vote further.

    • stoney

      I don’t see it having much affect seeing as usually the final is won on the Saturday night. And SPOTY is on Sunday

      • Natasha

        Thanks. Stoney, do you think the Scotsman could take this over Sam B? I noticed on his twitter someone had tweeted a picture showing they have phoned and votes 2000 times and another showing they had voted 4000 times! Thats f*****g crazy man!! I know candy is the lamest song for a finalist ever, but I think Arms of an angel will redeem him and put him back i the race. What are your thoughts?

        • stoney

          I’m actually suprised they are letting him sing the arms of an angel. My only thought at this stage is that his % was at his lowest following this song. It’s quite a depressing song, and I know for a fact that religious songs don’t have a very good track record voting wise. Does this fall into the same category? Who knows at the moment. Well I covered myself last week with a sam bailey nick 1-2 in the straight forecast. So ill just behappy with them in the final 2. But if nick wins I’ll win twice as much. Yeah he can Definately win

  • Natasha

    Thanks. Thats something I didn’t think of and wasn’t aware of, it’s good to know though. It definatly makes sense!It would be a slap in the face for TPTB if we have a repeat of BGT where they called Jai McDowell as the winner when everyone expected Ronan to win. Simons face was a picture! Millions of people waiting for Dermot to call out Sam Bailey as the winner of XF 2013 and then BOOM……………..Nicholas McDonald!! Nothing against Sam B of course but to get one up on TPTB would be like sticking two fingers up to the manipulation fest that is xf

  • in that case why didnt they say that last week when they were called through to the semis?”

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