Inspiring Innovation – The Making of OK Go’s Music Video Needing/Getting

This is my favorite music video and I think it has a number of great inspirational lessons for kids. I know this video has been out for a while (it released in February 2012), but it still doesn’t cease to amaze me. If you have not seen it yet, please watch it below before reading on.

After watching this for the first time, I had some trouble believing that this was all real with no camera tricks or without the sound being recorded and added back separately. But knowing the band’s previous track record of pushing the limits of music videos, I knew there had to be something extraordinary going on and decided to dig deeper.

Needing/Getting was shot at a canyon ranch outside of Los Angeles on a 2 mile rally car course. An idea of this scale would need a big budget and a specially outfitted car to ‘play’ all of the instruments, so the band approached Chevrolet at a time when the company was looking for new advertising ideas. Chevrolet provided warehouse space for two months for the band to work on their instruments with the aid of Noah Vowter, an acoustic engineer from MIT. They also provided 2 Chevy Sonics with modifications to add extender bars and pneumatics.

The barriers to making this video are significant, and I use this video as a lesson to our kids that with the right skills and the unwavering commitment to see a vision through, there is no telling what is possible. First they had to make instruments that could withstand two months of abuse as the course was built and perfected. There were 55 pianos, 288 guitars, 66 amps, and 1157 various homemade instruments (plastic drums, glass jars, …) used in the video. Creating instruments that were both robust enough to handle the abusive conditions and pleasing enough to recreate the song was a long meticulous process. Once complete, each instrument needed to be sampled and loaded into a computer so that the band could recompose the song with the new instruments before construction of the course could begin. The high desert winds often tipped over the instruments, and every fourth or fifth take, one of the rods or arms would break off the car and need to be replaced. Lead singer Damian Kulash needed to take stunt driving lessons to avoid using body-doubles. There he learned the art of hand-brake turns, how to maintain a constant speed on the course, and how to stop on marks.

Keeping the pace accurate was a challenge of it’s own. The band developed a program to dictate the speed (ranging between 17 to 35 mph) to match the rhythm, there was a metronome in the car and a series of marked beanbags were dropped as the car drove through the course. The filming took place over four days. Ultimately it did prove too difficult to get everything perfect in one take, so the final video is taken from multiple takes and some post-editing was required. However, the finished product is a remarkable piece of art and engineering.

To get a look behind the scenes, follow the link to the Need/Getting playlist from OK Go’s Youtube channel.


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