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Office Drones, Lip-Sync Your Heart Out

By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 11, 2007

They've given us some great laughs, but YouTube and other video-sharing venues have also smothered cyberspace with homemade bosh and bunkum. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a little online refinement via the concept of "office lip dubs," music videos made by 9-to-5ers from offices around the world.

The videos are filmed in one long camera shot with the song dubbed over the footage during editing, which lends theatrical heft and volume to what would otherwise be a routine lip-sync. The concept fell into our laps when we received a link to a video made by the staff of AOL France, which, like its counterpart in Dulles, is laying off some of its employees. About 40 people at the company made a "souvenir video" during a recent office party (which may have been their last), according to a design director at AOL France who spearheaded the project (and wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons).

The result: One company, one song, one shot ( http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3a60z_lamour-a-la-francaise-lip-dub-aol-f). As "L'Amour à la Française" by Les Fatals Picards plays, the staffers strut and sashay through their offices -- weaving among cubicles, down stairwells and finally outside the building, where they run in place and dance with bittersweet joy in front of a giant sign that says "for rent" in French. It's a casually exhilarating viewing experience.

The term "lip dub" was coined by Jakob Lodwick, 26, founder of Vimeo, a video-sharing venture that, unlike YouTube, supports high-definition video and allows only user-generated material. In April, Lodwick organized the first office lip dub using "Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger at the New York office of Connected Ventures, which owns Vimeo (view the maiden creation at http://www.vimeo.com/173714).

"It's kind of the bridge between amateur video and actual music videos," Lodwick says. "And it's packaged so that other people can share the concept. . . . Any impression that this was an elaborate, carefully choreographed, thought-out piece is inaccurate. We really just threw it together quickly. It's the kind of thing anybody can do."

The concept was noticed by the staffers of Heaven, an online digital marketing company in Paris, who made their own video dubbed to Weezer's "Undone (The Sweater Song)" to artistically respond to Connected Ventures.

"It got us quite a buzz in France," says Heaven founder and chief executive Arthur Kannas, 37, speaking on the phone from Paris. "It's been fun for us to make it. Really fun." Heaven then launched OfficeLipDub.com, which now features nine office lip dubs, and Vimeo has its own lip dub site at http://www.vimeo.com/lipdub (where you don't have to be part of a workplace team to post).

Lodwick loved AOL France's video, which offered further proof that a corporate setting is actually an ideal place to stage a musical number. In AOL's case, the pain of being threatened with a pink slip was creatively redirected into something exultant; in the case of Heaven and Connected Ventures, a couple of hours of horseplay after work did wonders for the companies' images, Kannas and Lodwick say.

"We got hundreds and hundreds of résumés," Lodwick says. "It put us on the map because you wouldn't expect a company to produce something like that. The video shows how young we are, how much fun we're having. It challenges the notion of what a company is."

Join the Dub Club

If you want to produce an office lip dub, Jakob Lodwick and Arthur Kannas offer this advice:

You need a director, someone in charge who can conduct, corral people and give orders. This is a group effort, but the director should assign people their lyrics and places to stand.

Don't worry about screwing up . Many people are inexperienced with filmmaking, but that shouldn't stop you from trying. Just do it, make mistakes and soldier on. "The joy of seeing the final product will outweigh any qualm or detail that wasn't quite perfect," Lodwick says.

Don't think you need expensive equipment. Even basic technology can yield a good product. Lodwick shot the first office lip dub with a Panasonic DVX100 camera, but a small digital video camera or the video function on a point-and-shoot will also do the trick. And all the editing can be done with the iMovie software program.

Don't dawdle or hesitate. There's no need to have an exhaustive series of meetings about shooting the video, and don't spend a whole workday doing 50 takes. "You need to capture the spontaneous spirit of your company," Kannas says. "You don't capture that by doing many takes. In our case, it was only two takes."

-- D.Z.

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