FORT KENT, Maine — Once upon a time, first-year university students were welcomed to campus with shiny brochures, student handbooks and information posted on bulletin boards.
Today’s tech-savvy collegiates find themselves in a brave new world turning to online streaming, Facebook and Twitter for what they need to know.
Welcome to the digital age.
Three students at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia — or “Dal” as it is nicknamed — have embraced that technology, creating a four-minute video aimed at the incoming freshman class.
“I kind of brought up the idea of doing it last March,” video co-director Sarah Bouchard of Fort Kent, said in a phone interview from Halifax. “We started planning and got other people to volunteer and the whole thing just kind of ballooned.”
In the virtual world, however, things do not “balloon.” The so-called lip dub, performed to the song “California Gurls” by Kate Perry, instead went “viral” after its posting on YouTube last week at www.youtube.com. It can be found by searching for “Dal ifornia Gurls.”
To date, the students’ version with their twist had logged close to 12,000 hits.
Newly popular on college campuses around the world, a “lip dub” is a performance video combining lip-synching and audio dubbing by large groups of students who place their theatrical spin on the material.
In the Dalhousie case, Bouchard said, the word “California” was morphed into “Dalifornia” on camera and “west coast” became “east coast” in recognition of the university’s maritime Canadian location.
“The idea is to do the whole thing in one take,” Bouchard said. “The entire shoot lasted eight hours and we did it five times.”
Working with Bouchard as co-directors were fellow students Gillian Fung and Logan Astle.
The three serve on Dalhousie’s Student Union and its events’ committee, which oversees student orientation in the fall.
“We really had no idea how this would work,” Bouchard said. “We spent four months just brainstorming and looking at what other universities had done.”
The fourth year political science and religious studies major said the trio logged hours of time on www.universitylipdub.com. They agreed a lip dub by students at the University of Quebec in Montreal to the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” was the best technically and aesthetically, and they aimed for that level of quality.
From April to June the three walked the campus visualizing what shots would work in different locations.
“We had a list of things we wanted to do, lists of costumes and lists of actions,” Bouchard said. “A lot of what we did were literal takes on the song.”
On the day of the shoot, 40 students showed up to take part in the production.
“That was the interesting part of the whole day,” Bouchard said. “No matter how much planning and how well broken down we had it, it all really depended on who showed up.”
They also learned to roll with the punches.
When a student cast as a “merman” suffered an injury during production, he went from walking through his scene to being wheeled around on a pushcart.
“He tore his ACL running down the stairs on one of the takes,” Bouchard said. “He was like, ‘it’s okay, I’ll go to the emergency room after we’re done.’”
While happy with the finished product, Bouchard said she and her fellow creative crew are blown away by its success.
“We had no idea it would be this big,” she said. “All we can figure is it is the No. 1 song of the summer and you can’t turn on the radio without hearing it.”
The video is now the first thing students see when logging on to the university’s orientation website.
“We posted it there last Friday and it just went viral from that point,” Bouchard said. “It’s been posted on Facebook, people are tweeting it, we were on the CTV news and local radio stations have contacted us.”
Fame aside, Bouchard said the point of the project was to get new students excited about their choice of university.
“Dal kind of gets teased a bit because people say we don’t have a lot of school spirit,” Bouchard said. “We are hoping this shows people students are proud and happy to come here.”
The project had the full support of the campus administration and even parents got into the act.
The pirate character appearing in several scenes, Bouchard said, is actually the father of the student union president.
“He’s a part time clown and had the costume,” she said. “His son is the one in the video juggling fire.”
Not content to rest upon their viral laurels, there already is talk of a follow-up lip dub.
“It would be so much fun to do during the school year when we have 16,000 students here,” Bouchard said. “It would mean that much more input and variety.”