Saturday, August 31, 2013

How to do a flashmob right

The first flashmob video I ever saw was the one for the Copenhagen Philharmonic in the Copenhagen train station doing Bolero. This is one of the best flashmob videos ever and gave me an unrealistically high bar against which to compare other flashmob videos. Because most other flashmob videos on Youtube are such crap.

I developed some rules for doing flashmobs and flashmob videos right.
  • Pick music that's at least three minutes long - don't do a string of different pieces in one performance.
  • Pick music that is dramatic, fun and/or well-known. With a driving beat.
  • Do the flashmob in a public location. Your school cafeteria is not a public location.
  • It has to be a surprise, not part of a line-up of shows. That's not a flash mob, that's just a performance.
  • The best flashmobs use live music. If the Copenhagen Philharmonic can schlep floor harps and music stands to the location, it's not too much trouble.
  • The flashmob participants should ideally be already part of the crowd, as in this Philadelphia Opera Company's Hallelujah Chorus flashmob at Macy's.
  • Or they should come out of the crowd as in this Bikini flashmob.
  • Most flashmobs build up from one or two people to a mob - don't let the one or two people hang there by themselves for too long - get the party going quickly.
  • Use decent video and sound equipment. And use at least two cameras. If it's worth doing a flashmob it's worth recording properly.
  • NO titles, logos, etc. Just jump right into the flashmob. You can always put titles at the end if you must.
  • When you edit the video, make sure you set the stage prior to the flashmob - show the public space before the flashmob begins. Otherwise you can't tell it's a flashmob and it just looks like a standard public performance.
  • Show distance shots to get the bystanders reactions as well as close-up shots of the performance.
  • The best flashmobs don't just have participants who are students at performing arts schools - they include a range of genders, ethnicities and ages, as in this Bollywood flashmob at the University of Oregon - probably the second best one I've seen, after the Copenhagen Philharmonic - which includes not only college students but teachers too. Ideally people wearing the uniform of their profession are included - the best part of this Food Court Musical is when the security guard joins in, and the I Love Lunch! musical when the cop joins in.

I don't think Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets credit for this, but the musical episode "Once More With Feeling" was the precursor of flashmobs.