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Gaga-Sci: A few words of wisdom for scientists producing Lady Gaga videos…

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Photo via Amy Henry at youthbeat.com

She’s outrageous, bold, wacky, ridiculous…say what you will about the persona of Lady Gaga, but her music speaks for itself.  It seems that science labs across the world are tapping their technical toes to the various melodies of Gaga – and there are a multitude of parody videos to prove it.  From geneticists to ecologists, chemists and physicists, you’ve made an eclectic set of works (see my top 3 list below).

Based on the sheer number of Gaga-Sci videos out there, I thought it worthwhile to provide a few tips to those of you with projects still in production.  I’ve perused the excellent, and the not so excellent video selection out there and here’s my best advice:

  1. Composing your own science-based lyrics to various Gaga tunes is an excellent idea; however, make sure your audience can understand what you’re saying!  The scientific jargon for any given field is certainly second nature those involved, but not for viewers outside the area.  This really isn’t too big of a problem – after all, the scientific lyrics are what make these videos awesome – you can easily dub your sound over in post production (high recommend) or, even simpler, just put the words on screen so that your viewers can read along. It’s imperative for your story to be told through your lyrics, and if your audience can’t make them out they’re bound to click away to another video.
  2. Lab lighting is generally terrible for any kind of video shoot.  Try to let in as much natural light as possible, and bring in some halogen lighting to replace the flourescent illumination that comes in the lab. Mix it up by taking some shots outside, or in areas that are more visually pleasing than your lab bench.
  3. Get a variety of shots – it makes for a much more ‘watchable’ production.  If you’re dancing (and many of you are), shoot yourselves from the front, from the back, and from a corner or two.  This way, you can use the best from each take – and you avoid the monotony and awkwardness that naturally results from creating a quirky video (and of course from filming people who do not usually dance in front of the camera)
    :)
  4. Tell a story – great advice for any video or film-maker.  You’ve got your great scienc-y lyrics, your dancing, your lighting, now frame a story around your Gaga-Sci production to add to the interest and make sure that your audience doesn’t tune out after 30 seconds (see top pick #3 for a great example of storytelling).

Keeping some of these tips in mind may allow you to create the next ‘viral’ Gaga-sci production. As the following examples show, a great video to a great tune can bring you views that number in the millions. Here are some fantastic examples:

My first pick comes from a group of neuroscience PhD students from the University of California at San Diego, who created this parody of ‘Poker Face’ for the Society for Neuroscience meeting last fall. There are several reasons why this video is a winner, from excellent cinematography to their very clever uses of lighting and costumes.  I completely adore the neuron dress/hat combo worn by their heroine (whom they affectionately call ‘Lady Gaba’) with the flashing lights – extremely Gaga-esque and Neuro-esque at the same time. You can see our primadonna presenting her neuroscience poster at 3:26 – an experience that most of us had during grad school. This production is a hilarious spoof on the entire process.

Our next Gaga-sci video was produced by Martyn Littlewood from the UK, a digital media designer and gaming guru.  His spoof of Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’ is based on the building technology game ‘Minecraft’, and he manages to give us an introduction into what the game is about while keeping us entertained with great lyrics and entertaining graphics.  Martyn created the 3-D content using Blender, which is user friendly and downloadable for free.

My last pick tells the story that most of us faced while in grad school – the wrath of a bad project.  In a parody of ‘Bad Romance’, members of the Zheng lab at Baylor College of Medicine take a light-hearted approach to their story, and it works on a number of levels.  From their smiley dance numbers to the huge variety of shot angles and B-roll, there’s a lot going on in this video, and it makes for a fast-paced and extremely enjoyable production.  This is a great example of how pacing in a video can make the imperfections charming rather than annoying.

So scientists, let’s keep the Gaga-Sci videos coming…I can’t wait to see what you do with songs from her next album.  Send me your links!

Carin Bondar About the Author: Carin Bondar is a biologist, writer and film-maker with a PhD in population ecology from the University of British Columbia. Find Dr. Bondar online at www.carinbondar.com, on twitter @drbondar or on her facebook page: Dr. Carin Bondar – Biologist With a Twist. Follow on Twitter @drbondar.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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