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Interview: Rob Dunlop of Cosplay Fever

cosplay feverRob Dunlop and Peter Lumby are a team of comic book writers behind the multimedia sensation Cosplay Fever. They became interested in showcasing the world of cosplay and it’s talented inhabitants when they were making appearances at different comic and anime conventions. Cosplay Fever was launched with two books of the duo’s photography, and has evolved with a new series of “lip-dub” videos that are spreading fast across the internet. I had the opportunity to chat with Rob about their inspiration and future plans for Cosplay Fever as well as their current lip dub of “Let Me Entertain You.”

How did you guys catch “cosplay fever” and do you also cosplay?

Rob: We don’t cosplay, but if we did I’m sure our costumes would be utterly terrible due to lack of sewing skills! Peter Lumby (the other half of Cosplay Fever) and I used to make comic books, so we went to a lot of cons over the years and saw this unusual but strangely alluring pastime growing around us. The first time we witnessed cosplayers en masse was at the MCM Expo in London, October 2005.

Ari: What aspect of the art form of cosplay do you like the most?

Rob: The creativity and ingenuity involved in the design. What I really love is when the original character lacks detail (for example when the character is from an old video game) yet they come to life in costume form. The transformation is almost magical

Ari: Are you inspired more by Japanese manga as an artform or Western Comics?

Rob: I’m a lot more familiar with western art forms, so that’s more of an inspiration to me. I wish I had more knowledge of Asian culture but that’s something I aim to address

Ari: What was your favorite thing about making both books?

Rob: Meeting all the amazing, talented cosplayers! When we embarked on this project, we hoped that we would at least be tolerated by the cosplay community but we were bowled over by how friendly and open minded everyone was. These days most of my friends seem to be cosplayers. They are like superior lifeforms.

Ari: How do you think cosplay in the UK is different from the rest of the world? Or Is cosplay in the UK different from the rest of the world?

Rob: The relatively small size of the country probably makes the scene more intimate than in Japan or the US. You don’t have to go to many cons before you feel like you know half the people there, which adds to the experience I think. And although I’m slightly biased I do think that we have some of the most skilled, passionate cosplayers here in the UK, who help to infuse the community with energy and creative ambition.

Ari: How has the culture of cosplay changed since you have been documenting it? Or has the culture of cosplay changed at all?

Rob: I don’t think the culture has changed really, but there’s more people cosplaying now, and perhaps the standard of costume has got more impressive. There’s a competitive edge to cosplaying, but as far as I can tell it’s a positive thing – great artists inspiring each other to always keep aiming higher.

Ari: How was Aya Con?

Rob: Sublime! And tiring They played our “Raise Your Glass” video on the big screen during the masquerade and it was epic being there for that. So much positive energy

Ari What was the main inspiration behind the new lip dub for “Let Me Entertain You”?

Rob: “Raise Your Glass” was a song about the triumph of the underdog, and it’s a contemporary American track. “Let Me Entertain You” has a different tone, it’s more sexy and edgy, and it’s an old Britpop classic, so we thought it would make a nice change in pace. The song was actually suggested to me by a friend. We don’t want to do the same kind of track every time. After the Aya vid we shot a zombie / cosplay music video, to “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n Roses, so that’ll be VERY different, when we finally get round to editing it

Ari: What inspired you to start making lip dubs?

Rob: To be honest, it was a lot to do with the technology. I only recently bought a DSLR camera which could shoot video. Before that I had cheap camcorder, but the quality was mediocre at best. If you look at youtube, pretty much everything made before 2008 looks horrible compared with what people can shoot today with a budget DSLR. The shallow depth of field you get with a nice lens on a DSLR is hard to beat, so us little guys can finally make videos which don’t look like they were shot with a phone.

I’m also a big fan of Ackson Lee’s cosplay videos. He has a lot of imitators but there’s only one Ackson. He has a great eye and knows how to construct a shot and choreograph action with little or no planning. He started something of a revolution in terms of cosplay videos and he’s rightfully become something of a legend. I also knew that if we tried to do anything similar it would just be Ackson-lite at best, so with the lip dubs we’re going down a different route.

Ari: What is your creative process?

Rob: After we choose a song, we try to find a theme so we can plan the intro scene, and we look for any particular lyrics which might work for certain characters. We lucked out with “Raise Your Glass”, which had a couple of lines that were perfect for some cosplayers we knew. The actual shots are worked out on the day, as we don’t know exactly what characters will be available, where we’ll be shooting or what the weather will be like. The camera is generally on a tripod, so that once we’re happy with the framing we can film a few people in a row, to speed things up. It’s a video tripod, which means we can do smooth tilting and panning when the performer moves around. If there’s time, we’ll shoot close shots, which have nice blurry backgrounds, and wide shots, which show the cosplayer’s full costume. We often shout and wave our arms around during the filming, and even bust out some dance moves ourselves, which probably looks quite frightening. There are a few cosplayers who need absolutely no direction, and they are constantly coming up with great ideas. Being prepared to try something new and risk failing is a great skill.

After the shoot comes the editing, which is fun but grueling due to the amount of footage we get. This is the price we pay for including so many performers, who are often singing the whole song. To be honest, it’s not a perfect system, hours and hours of footage to get 4 minutes of final video very inefficient, and I’m sure we’ll refine it in future to make the editing more manageable.

Ari: Any plans to bring Cosplay Fever to other countries besides the UK?

Rob: We’d love to go abroad with Cosplay Fever, but right now we don’t have the budget for that. If we get a publisher on board for the next book, or a con wants to ship us over, we’d go in a heartbeat

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