OK Go: How They Made Their Zero-Gravity Video
© Courtesy of Paracadute Records
OK Go's Damian Kulash and co-director Trish Sie tell us how they made "Upside Down & Inside Out."
Since “Here It Goes Again,” OK Go videos are always hotly anticipated for their unique combination of creativity and innovation. Their new video, “Upside Down & Inside Out,” is no exception. This time, though, they’ve gone bigger and arguably crazier than ever, creating the first video shot entirely in zero gravity. It's completely mind-blowing, and in true OK Go form, they didn't rely on wires or green screens to make it.
Damian Kulash, frontman for OK Go, directed the video with Trish Sie, who has previously collaborated with the band several times, including choreographing the treadmill routine for their Grammy-winning video "Here It Goes Again." Here, Kulash and Sie give us the inside scoop on making the video for "Upside Down & Inside Out" and the history of their creative collaboration. Forgive them if they finish each other's sentences — they're also brother and sister.
RedBull.com: This video is probably your most ambitious yet in terms of making it, how did it come about?
Trish Sie: Damian and I went to Cape Canaveral [in Florida] and flew on NASA's version of the "Vomit Comet" back in November of 2012. We were excited to have the zero-g experience, of course, but we also wanted to see if there was music video potential there. We were left pretty bummed out about the possibilities, to be honest. It felt so promising, and yet so insurmountable at the time.
Damian Kulash: This video in particular — it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and when Space X and Virgin Galactic started coming into the public eye around 2007, 2008, I remember thinking, “Oh my God, people are going to be making art in space soon, and I wanna do that!” Then I met with people from [Russian airline] S7 at a media event at the Cannes Lions Festival in France, and that’s where the adventure began.
Sie: When Damian told me that a Russian airline was dead serious about funding our dream video, I thought I was hallucinating. In fact, until we were on our way to Moscow — and maybe even long after that! — I still couldn't quite wrap my head around the fact that we were actually getting to make this thing.
Given roughly 25-30 people on the plane and over the course of the 20 flights we did, we think there were 58 times that people puked.
So this was a long held dream for you both then?
Kulash: Definitely, especially because it seemed so unlikely, in terms of the logistics. Looked at from the lens of our other videos, all of those have been weeks or months of setup and rehearsal — that wasn’t an option here. To get three-and-a-half minutes of zero-g we’d need some time to practice up there. Once we had the airline on board and enough flight time, I worked with an agency for logistics, and it became clear that we could do this. Then Trish and I started brainstorming what we could actually do. Then we went there for a week and started playing and testing.
What was the trickiest part of creating this?
Sie: We wanted this video to be a complete choreography, rather than a montage of awesome things that can be done in zero-g. That was the first big hurdle.
Kulash: Because what we didn’t want to do was a bunch of cool stuff and edit it together later. It’s very much not our style, like where’s the challenge? Suddenly you’re just doing something fun and documenting it rather than building something that we’re proud of.
And how did you get around this?
Sie: First of all, we broke the song into chunks that could be fit into a single period of weightlessness, but we wanted the shape of the dance to emphasize the structure of the song, not fight it.
Kulash: We also came up with a system for doing a single take over eight parabolas. In each flight you have 15 parabolas and in each parabola you have 20 seconds of double gravity, then 50 seconds of weightlessness and few minutes of setting it all up again. So to make it one take, we took eight of these in a row over 40-45 minutes.
Sie: We also we slowed our playback of the song down a bit (28.5 percent, to be exact) and performed each portion of the dance a little slower. This way, the 21 seconds of song fit neatly into the 27 seconds of weightlessness. The pilots — there are 10 OF THEM flying the plane at the same time, by the way — pull out of the parabola when the plane has enough downward speed and momentum in order to "scoop" itself up out of the downward acceleration. It's a complex mathematical equation that isn't to be f--ked with, believe me. And it seemed like this whole adventure was death-defying enough as it was. So altering the length of the parabolas was not an option.
When Space X and Virgin Galactic started coming into the public eye around 2007, 2008, I remember thinking, “Oh my God, people are going to be making art in space soon, and I wanna do that!”
That sounds pretty intense did anyone get motion sick?
Kulash: To start with it was extremely nauseating, the band were on pretty heavy anti-nausea drugs — none of us actually puked, though. Of course, given roughly 25-30 people on the plane and over the course of the 20 flights we did, we think there were 58 times that people puked. So it was averaging two to three per flight.
Looking to the song, was this written specially for this piece or did you instinctively know which track would work once this came about?
Kulash: We never write our songs thinking of a video idea first. The things we write songs about and are most exciting to us visually often do line up. It's so unlikely we’d ever get to do this, that when the opportunity did come up it was amazing we had a song that was so relevant, like it actually is about discombobulation and gravity being subjective, which is perfect.
I’d love to make a video in space! It’s not top secret, if you know anyone who has a space craft they’ll let us borrow definitely give me a holler.
You and Trish are brother and sister too, how long have you collaborated creatively for?
Kulash: Pretty much since I was born. We developed these ridiculous routines for our morning carpool.
Sie: Yes! The K.A.S. ... Kulash Alarm System. We meticulously worked out this insane Kraftwerk-esque, human-machine dance number on the stairway outside our house. We timed it perfectly so that we'd swing into action the moment we spotted Mrs. Ferguson's car coming up the hill to pick us up. And it would end with us presenting ourselves to the door of the car just as it pulled up to the curb. And weirdly, the carpool never said anything to us about it. We just climbed into the car and left for school when it was over.
Oh wow! So you started early, when did it become more of a thing
Kulash: Ten years ago when the band started making our own videos it was a total thrill to involve my sister and make videos with her. Over the last 10 years we’ve made about 15 videos, Trish has collaborated on four of them and made one she directed entirely by herself. It’s really fun and in creative collaborations there’s no one you can have that transparency with other than family. We finish each other’s sentences and we know how each other thinks.
The K.A.S. ... Kulash Alarm System. We meticulously worked out this insane Kraftwerk-esque, human-machine dance number on the stairway outside our house.
Sie: Way back in 2004 or 2005 or thereabouts, I choreographed OK Go's "A Million Ways" dance so they could perform it on stage as an encore after their live shows. I guess that was the first time we "worked" together in any kind of official capacity, but it was more like me doing something fun with guys I had known my whole life. Tim, Andy, Duncan, Damian and I all went to music camp together as kids and were often spontaneously collaborating on various weird endeavors. So this just felt like another one of those kinda things. The treadmill video was a little more obviously a "work thing," but even that felt like one of those, "Hey guys! I have an idea! Wanna come over?" sort of things. Maybe that's why we have such a special work relationship — it's never really felt like work. It's just what we always do.
What’s next? Do you want to make a video in space or is that top secret?
Kulash: I’d love to make a video in space! It’s not top secret, if you know anyone who has a spacecraft they’ll let us borrow definitely give me a holler.
Sie: I don't think I want to film in space! I want to keep my feet firmly on the ground for a while and do something totally different next time. Instead of focusing on geometry and math and technical puzzles, I'd like to tell a good story…