Friday, February 26, 2010
The city’s high school rivalry is something we deal with all the time at the Journal-World.
Reporters can’t cover an event at one school without parents and administrators from the other aggressively griping about equal attention.
But when it comes to my own personal column, let me set the record straight: I don’t care.
I didn’t go to either high school. I don’t have kids who go to either high school. And I have nothing but positive feelings for both schools. So two weeks ago, when I wrote about a Web-centric video shot by Lawrence High School folks, I wasn’t really thinking about the equal time continuum regarding Free State High School.
However, that changed when I was sent an advance copy of a new FSHS project. At that point I needed no convincing to devote a column to it because, like the aforementioned LHS one, it’s so ambitiously awesome.
In early January, both schools independently set about developing a student “lip dub.” This term refers to a video that combines multiple participants lip synching to a song, customarily shot in an unbroken take with no edits.
Since the FSHS senior class and StuCo chose this year’s theme as “Earth, Wind & Firebirds,” they decided to base their lip dub around “Let’s Groove” and “September” by the great ’70s funk band Earth, Wind & Fire.
“We were well into our own pre-pro when we heard that our counterparts at LHS were planning a lip dub of their own — which, by the way, was very well done,” says Scott Smith, a film, media and broadcast teacher at Free State.
“It’s a different animal than LHS’s video. Ours is a school-spirit theme — about 80 percent of the school’s teams, clubs and organizations are represented in it.”
A different animal indeed. Free State’s piece is shot in reverse.
Taking inspiration from a near million-hits YouTube video courtesy of Shorewood High School (Shoreline, Wash.), Free State faced many technical and creative obstacles.
“The big enchilada was figuring out how to decipher and learn two songs worth of lyrics completely backward,” Smith explains.
Student Eric Studley conquered this by singing the lyrics on camera, then transcribing the sounds after running them in reverse. He then dubbed DVDs of himself performing the bastardized version for dozens of students to learn the words.
For the shoot, Studley also rigged a homemade, handheld Steadicam apparatus from $16 worth of parts. With student Alek Joyce at the director’s helm, the camera crew and principal singers practiced an elaborate route that marched them (backward, of course) throughout the halls and classrooms. Finally, throngs of students were assembled. As with the LHS lip dub, it took three entire takes, with the last one being the keeper.
Because of the sheer number of people and props utilized — coupled with the surreal novelty of the reverse effect — it’s almost impossible to process the amount of “stuff” the camera captures. But highlights of the six-minute video include a memorable intro courtesy of the swim team and a great throwaway shot in the art class that involves pottery magically springing to life. Perhaps the standout moment features a singer taking a detour onto an elevator, where the music briefly shifts to that easy-listening staple “The Girl From Ipanema.”
“I heard so many kids gushing that day, things like, ‘That was the best day in high school ever!’ It was the most ultimate adrenaline rush for the entire building. And the fact we got most of our school clubs, organizations and teams involved was amazing,” Smith says. “There’s still a buzz around this place.”
Now I can only pray that the students of Veritas don’t attempt a lip dub of their own.
— Entertainment editor Jon Niccum explores facets of pop culture that have established a unique niche on the Internet in Net Worth. He can be reached at 832-7178.