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PRIDE IN THE NAME OF DUB
Forget standing in front of the bedroom mirror singing into a hairbrush. These days, lip-synching along to your favourite song is more likely to be done on a college campus surrounded by thousands of other giddy singers and dancers.
If you do a YouTube search for “lip dubs” you’ll see hundreds of high-concept videos of song and dance extravaganzas, often with a cast of thousands, created by students.
The phenomenon has become the latest way for ultra-competitive American and Canadian colleges to express school pride. The videos have made it across the Atlantic to colleges in Britain and Europe, too.
“Lip dub was the coolest thing I’d ever seen,” says Andrew Cohen, a geography student at the University of British Colombia (UBC) in Vancouver and also director of the latest lip dub success story, simply known as “UBC Lipdub”, to hit YouTube this month.
Lip dub videos feature people lip-synching to a song before the original audio of that song is then dubbed over the final footage.
But what’s special – and particularly difficult – about lip dub is that it is usually filmed in one single, unedited shot, meaning all participants have to be on cue, singing the right words and dancing the right moves at exactly the right time.
To get them right takes a level of planning, dedication and perfect-ionism that is probably only achievable by 20-year-olds looking for something to do instead of an 1 800-word essay on city planning. UBC’s video features underwater scenes, footage from a helicopter and a cast of more than 1 000 people in fancy dress, lip-synching to Pink’s hit Raise your Glass, UBC Lipdub’s student-made production attracted almost half a million views within four days of its release.
Made using almost $40 000 worth of corporate sponsorship from local companies, the video took six months to plan and five hours to film.
“I was fortunate enough to work on the opening and closing cere-monies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, so I modelled our system based on what I observed from them,” says Cohen.
Lip dubs modelled on the Olympics have come a long way since they first began springing up online in 2004, the most famous of which featured a middle-aged man dancing alone in his bedroom in front of his webcam – remember “the numa numa dance”? In 2007, Jakob Lodwick, co-founder of video-sharing website Vimeo, coined the term “lip dub”.
Since then, the “university lip dub” sub-genre has proved most popular, as videos have become longer, more inventive and more spectacular to try to outgun rival colleges.
So, rather than out-cheering a rival college’s football fans – or stealing their mascot – the latest battleground in school pride comes from who can produce the most ridiculous choreographed routine to Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance.
Taking inspiration from music videos and musical TV shows such as Glee, secondary school and university students have created an ad hoc lip dub culture which appeals to the competitive spirit of young people.
It was this competitive spirit that prompted Laura Fisher, an MA English and Theological Studies student at the University of St Andrews, to direct Britain’s first “university lip dub” last year, after watching a lip dub produced by L’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) in Canada.
Featuring 172 students and filmed to the Black Eyed Peas’ hit I’ve Got a Feeling, UQAM’s unequivocally feel-good video has racked up 8.5 million views since it was filmed and uploaded to YouTube in 2009.
Fisher says she created her video to show that “although St Andrews has no formal arts courses, we can still give universities like UQAM a run for their money”.
Fisher says she “had hoped a lip dub movement would follow in the UK”, but thinks “it hasn’t really taken off in the same way” as it has done across the Atlantic. She jokingly blames the “British stiff upper lip” for reluctance among UK students to “make fools out of themselves” (a necessary part of the lip dub experience), but still has faith that the concept will find enthusiasts in the UK eventually.
Unlike UBC’s big-budget production, Fisher created her own homemade steady cam to film 100 students on campus for her lip dub, which still received 25 000 views in its first week online.
Some of the of the best lip dub videos from around the world:
You Get What You Give by students at the University of St Andrews. Scotland’s oldest university may have been in the headlines for the exploits of two former pupils last week, but some of St Andrews’ current students did their best to step into the limelight last year when they responded to the US trend for lip dubbing with their own take on the New Radicals hit.
Bad Romance by the Netanya Academic College, Netanya, Israel. Lib dub makes it to the Middle East, as this video from late last year, created by students at an Israeli college, pays tribute to Lady Gaga (who else?) featuring jugglers, a Gaga lookalike, a good few men in drag, a Hitchcock-themed disco, a choreographed roller derby and a singing abseiler.
Harrison Lip Dub by students at Harrison High School, Georgia, US. Lip Dub goes to high school in this video created by American teens, uploaded at the beginning of April. Created in partnership with Sources of Strength – an organisation that helps depressed school students – the Harrison High cast sing along to songs by Jimmy Eat World and All-American Rejects.
Article by IOL