Friday, April 02, 2010

Friday frivolity

My blog-friend JES is a bottomless well of Web-sourced delights. He finds so much wonderful stuff that sometimes he just buries something at the end of an already 'stale' comment-thread on a post a week or two old.

Hence my rather fortuitous introduction this week to the American band OK Go. They might not quite be the best band in the world (though many of their songs seem agreeably catchy and upbeat), but they do almost certainly make the best music videos in the world - for example, this one where they blow things up in slow motion (Jeremy Clarkson would surely approve); or this hilarious 'homemade' one where the four lads dance and lip-sync in their back garden; or this one which makes far better use than usual of blonde dancing girls; or this one where they do quite remarkable things with the most rudimentary of video 'ghosting' effects.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen this one, Here It Goes Again, before, when it first came out, although I didn't remember the band or the song: an intricately choregraphed dance routine featuring the four band members and six treadmills, which looks as though it's done entirely in one take (if it's not, heaven knows where the cuts are). I gather it won some awards three or four years ago, and it seems to have since become a popular routine for American high school kids to copy in talent shows.

However, their crowning glory seems to have come with the song This Too Shall Pass, from their latest album Of The Blue Color Of The Sky. The original video, which looks as if it was made on a fairly slender budget, is pretty damned good (camouflage seems to be one of their particular interests). But then, it seems, they managed to get some sponsorship to do something much more elaborate: "OK Go vs. the Rube Goldberg machine". Stunning.

[Rube Goldberg is the American equivalent of England's Heath Robinson, a contriver of wondrously complex and improbable mechanisms such as those in the Mouse Trap game which we all used to play when we were four.]


JES said...

Glad you liked that.

There's a "making of the OK Go Rube Goldberg video" video around, too. At one point one of the guys was discussing how many tries it required to get it all in one take; he said they didn't even count all of the attempts, because something would go wrong so early in the take that it didn't really feel like a re-take.

They also mentioned how the device has to be set up with all the really complicated stuff earlier on, gradually becoming simpler to execute -- because you didn't want to get (say) 75% through and risk blowing it on some fantastically complicated bit. Counter-intuitive, that -- sort of an anti-narrative, with the climax at the start and then all downhill from there.

Froog said...

I might have to go back again and look for that. I only saw a very short 'making of' that didn't really have any commentary at all.

I do not believe it's one take. The bit in the tunnel, for example, could obviously have been used to mask a break; but I suspect there are also a few subtler ones, where the camera passes behind pillars or scaffolding for a moment. And there's surely not enough time at the end for everyone to get in position for the 'firing squad' - there must be some kind of chicanery going on just before that, I think. But it's very, very clever how they managed to make it look like one take.

Froog said...

I sent the link to this video to several friends in America and the UK. Some of them were imprudent enough to show it to their children, and are now facing demands of "build one for me".

My old college buddy, Ned, a physicist with a bent for engineering, has already knocked up a modest "Mk 1" in the playroom. I predict that Mk 4 or Mk 5 will probably occupy - and perhaps involve the demolition of - most of the barn next to his farmhouse.

What have I started? What have you started, OK Go?

Froog said...

OK Go have posted this video on their website, interviewing the producer, director, and cinematographer involved in making the 'Rube Goldberg' video. It's a jokey affair, and they fight shy of addressing the question of how much of the finished video might be from a single continuous take, but they do admit that they shot over 80 partial takes (the machine, unsurprisingly, kept failing).