It’s an understatement to acknowledge that a lot tends to happen in an OK Go music video — those trippy, creative spectacles that have seen the band pull off things like dancing in sync on treadmills, filming themselves with drones and performing in zero gravity in support of their trademark brand of perfectly pleasant pop.
Such examples only scratch the surface of the reason the string of viral videos has fashioned the group into a Web sensation since debuting on YouTube way back in 2006. And now we have a new video the band released today on its Facebook page — for the song “The One Moment,” off the band’s most recent album Hungry Ghosts — which plays with the formula a little bit. Because this time the whole thing spans, like the song says, just one moment.
It’s still very much the product of a typical OK Go video shoot. The impressionistic visual insanity — swirls of color, exploding guitars, bursting balloons and flipping pages of a book that show pictures of lead singer Damian Kulash singing along with the music. The gimmick this time is the shoot was built around an intricately calibrated, quick succession of more than 300 big and small events that all trigger off of each other — and the bulk of it took a grand total of 4.2 seconds to unfold.
One moment, in other words.
The band slows that real-time footage down — way, way down. The resulting slow-mo ballet not only now lasts a lot longer than just a few seconds; it’s stretched out to accompany the duration of the song “The One Moment.” And the effect of watching it leaves viewers, once they finish gawking at all the far-out effects, to yet again to wonder just how in the world the band managed to pull this one this off.
(Answer: A lot of math. And Kulash keeping a detailed spreadsheet, one that was 25 columns wide and almost 400 rows long.)
BGR caught up with the singer as the band was preparing to tape a performance for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” When your band’s official YouTube channel has racked up more than 234 million views since its launch at the time of this writing, it might feel natural to think about the quartet as video-makers who also write and play music, as opposed to the other way around — an assessment Kulash has always pushed back against.
In reality, he tells BGR, the band is trying to do different versions of the same thing with its music as well as the videos.
“We actually don’t ever think about the videos when writing the music,” he said. “It’s already so hard to write a good pop song. The thing with music, for me at least, is it really is alchemy. It’s magic. And anyone I know who’s tried to parse it into patterns – the best pop songs I’ve ever heard are, like, the exact same chord progressions as the worst pop songs I’ve ever heard.
“I love music theory and the science behind it. But none of that will ever tell you how to make something good. The moment it works is when you put two chords together, and instead of getting a third chord you get lust or sorrow or melancholy or joy — all those things wrapped up in a ball together.”
It’s an “arc of emotion” he says the band is trying to build and get you, the listener, to ride over the course of a song. That’s also the same way they see their effects-packed videos.
“There’s a system for getting there,” Kulash says. “With music, it’s like — we go into a room and play until we’ve landed on something that seems magical and bigger than ourselves. Once we’ve got that record together, then we start a new process of figuring out how to do that same thing visually.”
That process this time around was a doozy. Indeed, it took a “m-f’er” of a spreadsheet, according to press materials sent out in support of the new video, to film “The One Moment” and keep all the moments in it straight.
In the video, several hundred events were set off in quick succession and were synchronized to high-speed robotic arms that keep the cameras moving along the path of the action. That’s cameras, plural, because Kulash said there aren’t any camera control systems fast enough at the moment that could capture the complexity of motion in this video on a single camera, so several camera movements were combined.
The first part of the video — again, you the viewer see it slowed down — occurs in 4.2 seconds of real-time. Then Kulash can be seen lip-synching for about 16 real-time seconds at normal speed, then things return to slow motion for the final scene.
This time around, OK Go also teamed up with Morton Salt to create an interactive version of the video that has a slightly higher purpose than supporting a song. That clip, available at MortonSalt.com/WalkHerWalk, salutes several people spearheading initiatives to help others. It ties back to the video, and the song — the message is “a lot can happen in a moment.” So, the band seems to be saying, do something interesting with yours.
The new vide release caps another busy year for the band, which earlier this year put out another music video — one that showed the band members performing stunts and dancing in zero gravity in a plane while flying over Russia. As far as what’s next, one thing Kulash mentions is a VR production the group is working on for the Oculus headset.
“It may not even be a music video,” he muses, before heading onto the Colbert set to perform “The One Moment.” For now, the band is certainly enjoying theirs.