This story was recently updated to include OK Go’s latest music video release, “Obsession”, from their 2014 album Hungry Ghosts.
It’s hard to imagine anyone not knowing of OK Go music videos. They are known for playing with varying film speeds, unusual machines, and many times are accomplished in only one take. Their latest video released in November of 2017, Obsession, garnered over 5 million views on Youtube within its first week of being uploaded.
Its often said that an overnight success is ten years in the making. This certainly proves true for OK Go. Every subsequent music video aims to top the last. For the most part this has been achieved, since almost every new music video they produce has outperformed their previous online releases.
“When something is poorly designed or poorly made, it’s like whoever made that thing didn’t respect the rest of us enough to do it well.” – Damian Kulash
If you’ve just recently caught on to OK Go’s brilliant work, allow us to give you some insight into the last ten years that brought them to the release of Obsession.
A Million Ways – Aug. 2005
From their album Oh No, this was the first song to be released as a single. It became the band’s breakthrough song because the accompanying music video went viral on the internet. For record keeping purposes, this video is the mile-marker which separated everything they had previously made and everything they have made since. Why?
OK Go has produced a few creatively commonplace music videos you might have seen on MTV before this. This is one static camera. All focused on the odd choreography. It makes you focus on their personality. It endears you to their weirdness.
Here It Goes Again – Sept. 2006
Here It Goes Again was the band’s only single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, until “I Won’t Let You Down” entered the Hot 100 in November 2014. This music video features the band dancing on treadmills and at one time was one of the most watched videos on youtube (over 52 million views).
The music video of the song is an elaborate performance of the band dancing on treadmills in a single continuous take. Choreographed and directed by Trish Sie and the band, it took a total of seventeen attempts to complete the video.
This Too Shall Pass – Jan. 2010
The band took the unorthodox route of creating two official music videos for the song, both of which premiered on YouTube.
The first video for the song was released to coincide with the release of the album and the single. Directed by Brian L. Perkins in South Bend, Indiana, the video is somewhat unusual in that it does not feature the album version of the song. Rather, it features an original recording that was actually performed live during filming of the video.
As the band members begin to march they are joined by members of the University of Notre Dame’s Marching Band (many of whom rise up camouflaged in ghillie suits). A children’s choir was cobbled together from two local South Bend preschools.
This Too Shall Pass (Again) – March 2010
“This Too Shall Pass” was directed by James Frost and featured a four-minute sequence of the song being played in time to the actions of a giant Rube Goldberg machine. The machine was built in a two-story warehouse from over 700 unique objects, traveling almost half a mile! The members of the band are seen singing alongside the machine while it operates.
End Love – June 2010
Directed by Jeff Lieberman and Eric Gunther, OK Go is featured in tracksuits dancing in Echo Park. Using time-lapse photography to create certain special effects like moving without walking, moving very rapidly, or super slow-mow as the dance in unison. The band performed their parts over an 18-hour period including an overnight segment involving the band members using sleeping bags, each member taking a turn to sing their part of the song.
The average time compression on the video for most of OK Go’s parts is about 270x from real-time, while the slowed down segments were 32 times slower than real-time. The skyline footage was compressed by 172,800 times, condensing each 24 hours into a 0.5 second shot.
White Knuckles – Sept. 2010
The “White Knuckles” music video was another partnership with lead singer Damian Kulash’s sister, Trish Sie. Trish says she thought, “Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if this time the guys were the machines and they’re enabling and operating the dogs?” The band considered this idea to be “absurd and awesome”.
12 dogs and a goat were all provided and trained by an animal rescue shelter called Talented Animals. Because, as usual, the video had to be captured in a single take, a total of 124 takes were made during the filming period; about 30 were complete takes, with 10 of those being considered “excellent”. The released version was Take 72, completed on the second-to-last day of shooting.
Last Leaf – Nov. 2010
A stop motion animation using 2,430 pieces of toast laser-cut with designs by the band and artist Geoff Mcfetridge. Shot on a Samsung NX100 iFn camera in 15 fps and intended to promote Samsung’s camera, this is one of the few music videos they’ve made that doesn’t feature a single band member.
All Is Not Lost – July 2011
The performing members of Pilobolus 7 and Ok Go are displayed in green jumpsuits for the uniquely geometric, “All Is Not Lost”. The group arranged the choreography on top of a plexiglass structure and the music video was commissioned by Google Chrome as an experiment in HTML5. Because the video started production right after the Tsunami in Japan, the band described the song as “a love letter to Japan”.
Needing/Getting – Feb. 2012
“Needing/Getting” was directed by Brian L. Perkins in 2012 (back from the Marching Band version of the “This Too Shall Pass” music video). The car in this video was built with numerous levers and other devices so that when it’s driven through the relay course the arms strike at various musical instruments aligned on the side and top of the road. It’s both shocking and fascinating to see the car striking pianos, guitars, 10 gallon drums as it drives by them.
The course used for the filing was 2-miles long and the whole project took 4 days of filming. It included over 1,000 homemade props and real instruments like 55 upright pianos and 288 electric guitars connected to 66 amps. The band developed a computer program that would dictate the speed that Kulash had to drive the car through the course to match the rhythm of the song; varying between 17 and 35 miles per hour depending on the portion of the song.
Skyscrapers – March 2012
In the video, director Trish Sie dances the tango across a brightly colored landscape with partner Moti Buchboot. Their colorful outfits match the backgrounds they dance against with each cut. The video was released in 3D on the Nintendo 3DS on March 29, 2012. Like Last Leaf, this is one of the only videos not featuring a band member.
The Writing’s on the Wall – June 2014
The four-minute video is shot in a single with the camera actually being moved around by the band through a warehouse of 28 stations built from everyday objects and the walls and floors painted in specific arrangements. Each station plays on the use of optical illusions once the camera is set in position. All the illusions were created completely with perspective, with no special effects.
The video for “The Writing’s on the Wall” was co-directed by Kulash along with Aaron Duffy and Bob Partington. It took 50 people 3 weeks to assemble the set. Band member Tim Nordwind’s shaved off half his beard to achieve an effect involving a mirror worn on his face to look like two different people. After 60 attempts at a single take, the final video is one of the successful takes performed in the midpoint of the filming process.
I Won’t Let You Down – Oct. 2014
The band members perform this video while riding Honda UNI-CUBs, personal mobility units that are controlled by the rider’s subtle shifts in weight placement. The video was filmed on a camera mounted to a octocopter drone, which enabled the final high-altitude (700m) pan of the surrounding landscape. The video was filmed in double time to allow them to fit in the complicated movements.
The final portion of the video views the band and dancers from far overhead and required more than 2,300 people. They had to practice the whole routine 60 times and it took them 4 days to complete.
Upside Down & Inside Out – Feb. 2016
This time, the band dances in zero gravity created by the parabolic flight path of a reduced gravity aircraft in concert with the song! They perform stunts which would otherwise impossible at normal gravity. He and his sister and the video’s co-director, Trish Sie, secured a S7 and made necessary arrangements over several months, the band traveled to Moscow to develop the video, spending three weeks of training and filming at the Roscosmos State Corporation center.
In order to maintain the appearance of single take in this video, the band enlisted the help of an Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft, which gave the band segments of about 27 seconds of zero gravity at a time. They had to slow down the song’s playback by 30% to get all the timing to match correctly. The choreography granted them a few segments where they could be seated when the craft was no longer weightless. In the end, this was pieced together with 8 different takes and 45 minutes of flight time. It caused a lot of motion sickness for the crew and front man Damian even passed our during one the segments.
The One Moment – Nov. 2016
The majority of this piece was captured at 20,000% real-time speed, the equivalent of 4.2 seconds, to match the song’s tempo. Paint filled balloons explode in time with the beat of the song. Kulash believed their song was “meant to make you think about those few moments in life that really matter”, and slow-motion would capture that “sense of majesty” they associated with the song.
It took seven weeks to work out the delicate timing of robotics and high speed cameras, sometimes broken into 2-millisecond measurable unites. Even though each shot was taken from the same period of time, they did have to take shots from more than one camera because one camera couldn’t actually move through physical space that quickly with the required precision.
Obsession – Nov. 2017
567 printers set the backdrop for OK Go’s latest music video, Obsession. The paper is timed in a grid according to the music and is a collaboration with Double A paper company. It starts out simple, white paper making basic grids, but quickly develops into an almost psychedelic explosion as the band members block their signature choreography and begin to float in front of the screens. And not one paper jam.
Like many of their other videos it is a mixture of real-time, stop-motion, and sped up footage. The higher resolution you’re able to watch the video in, the better, because there are some intricate details you’ll catch on larger screens, like words printed on the colored pages.
The band had to spend two weeks in Japan in preparation and 5 days of filming to get it all finished. It is also made clear at the beginning of the video that all the paper was recycled through a partnership with GreenPeace by the time the video was published. It was uploaded on Thanksgiving Day and had garnered over 1 million views in the first 24 hours.
We are individually pretty small drops in the bucket, but collectively we are all powerful.
OK Go’s influence as creatives has spread to partnerships with many different companies, including Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Macalline. These honorable mentions contribute to the understanding of the band’s cross-platform impact on online videos everywhere.
Muppet Show Theme Song -2011
A brilliant version of The Muppets Theme Song that parodies many OK Go music videos from “The Muppets: Green Album”
Three Primary Colors with Sesame Street – 2012
A video utilizing post-it notes and stop-motion from Episdoe 4,281 of Sesame Street
Red Star Macalline Commercial – 2015
Produced for Red Star Macalline and featuring a remixed version of OK Go’s song, “I Wont Let You Down”. It took just as much work as their music video “The Writing’s On the Wall” and utilizes many tropes the band is now well known for, like perspective and camera angle tricks and even a rotating hallway dance sequence!
Now you know. And now you’ll be anticipating what they think up next with the rest of us.