OK Go approached training company Talented Animals with an idea for a video in which dogs would be the stars. For the band’s track White Knuckles, they wanted something “magical and charming,” according to Talented Animals’ Roland Sonnenburg, “something that has never been done before.” Sonnenburg replied that anything that was physically possible could be done by dogs, so yes, there was no problem with that idea.
“something that has never been done before.”
It was then when Damian Kulash—OK Go’s lead vocals and guitar—told him that the video should be done in one single take, no cuts whatsoever. Sonnenburg thought it was impossible:
“For those of you who have never worked an animal on film, we use cuts and optimal camera angles for everything. They are the tools that let us succeed. Without cuts, the animals would have to all work at the same time with their trainers far away, and we would need to get each dog and trainer and band member and crew member to nail every single behavior all in the same take. Not bloody likely.”
“Without cuts, the animals would have to all work at the same time with their trainers far away”
Sonnenburg explained to Damian that it was going to be the most difficult video with animals ever made, requiring 12 dogs and 12 trainers (and a goat) to be perfectly synchronized to pull through three minutes and thirty-six seconds of intense choreography between the canines and the four band members.
“We had 12 trainers, two furniture movers, 12 dogs, one goat, 38 buckets, and a bunch of furniture, all of which needed to move around and be in the right place at the right time without anyone stepping in front of camera. We ended up with stuffed animals, spreadsheets, flow-charts, and recorded audio instructions, and for many hours we tried various configurations until we finally found one that worked. And then we practiced and practiced.”
And practiced they did. The training team rehearsed the routines for weeks, with each dog practicing his or her moves with each own trainer, using unique cues for each of them. When things started to look good, the band came in and got integrated with the dogs, tweaking the choreography until it was exactly what they had in mind. They only had a few days to go of the complete four week schedule, the dogs were ready to be put together and do the whole video choreography with the band for the first time… but only at half the speed.
Time passed and they kept rehearsing until there were only four days to go. It was time to film. It wasn’t until take 49 when things clicked, dogs, band, and music all in perfect synchronization. It was on take 60 when new problem appeared: The dogs were doing it perfectly and enjoying it. But they were enjoying it so much that they started to do it faster than than the music. They had to correct that and, with just one day to go, everything really worked out for the first time:
“they were enjoying it so much that they started to do it faster than than the music”
“First thing on the morning of the third day, we began Take 72, and by about the midpoint, we could all feel that it was going really, really well. Each piece had been solid, and the rhythm and timing felt great. Everyone was fresh and looked good. This might be it….. As we ticked off each challenging moment it felt more and more like this might be it, and by the final scene when all the dogs were lying on tables next to the band, there was a silent vibration in the room. None of us were moving, or breathing, as Damian finally lifted his head and said, ‘We got it!'”
At the end of the four week schedule, they had 124 takes, 30 of them complete.