LOS ANGELES Almost 200 acts survived their first encounters with Simon Cowell on "The X Factor", but this week's boot camp episodes of the TV singing contest will sort out the weak from the strong.
"X Factor" creative director Brian Friedman said the aspiring singers went through several days of tough vocal, dance, performance and style training in Los Angeles before they were whittled down to 32 acts.
"It was very long days," Friedman told Reuters. "They are having to do this without being at home. It was very draining and you see a lot of people crumbling under the pressure. They really are weeded out in every area of performance."
The boot camp episodes air on Fox on Wednesday and Thursday as the new talent competition moves closer to what judge and creator Cowell says is its most entertaining and distinguishing feature -- the four judges competing against each other as mentors to different groups of contestants.
But before then, Friedman said those who made it through the initial nationwide auditions are mentally and physically challenged at boot camp.
"They had to sing multiple songs that they did not know. They had to dance and that is a challenge we have not seen yet," he said. "We want to see what they are going to do if they are at the Grammys or performing at the MTV awards. They have got to learn how to work the stage."
But no-one is thrown out at this stage just for forgetting the lyrics or because they have two left feet, Friedman said.
"If you forget your lyrics, what are you going to do to survive? How do you make up for it? How do you handle your mistakes," he said.
"You may not be able to dance, you might be overweight, or off rhythm but you can definitely make it. It just depends on how strong a fighter you are. You have to have something memorable about you," he said.
By the end of the boot camp stages, the remaining contestants will be separated into four groups of eight -- girls under 30, boys under 30, men and women over 30, and groups -- and the mentoring process really gets underway.
The public finally gets their say when the show goes live on Nov 2, building to its climax on December 21 and 22 when the winner will receive an unprecedented $5 million (3.25 million pound) prize and a recording contract.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant, editing by Christine Kearney)