Music: director and choreographer Trish Sie tells Dezeen about how she worked with US band OK Go to create the gravity-defying stunts in the music video for the track Upside Down & Inside Out (+ interview).
The video sees the four-piece rock band perform a routine choreographed by Sie while experiencing weightlessness inside a moving plane.
The band members and a cabin crew release colourful objects and disco balls, before popping paint-filled balloons, all while under zero-gravity conditions.
"What's the most fun thing you can do with an airplane? Fly around in zero-gravity, of course!" Sie told Dezeen.
Sie is the sister of OK Go's vocalist Damien Kulash and has worked with the band on many of its music videos.
Her choreography and direction for the video filmed on treadmills that accompanies the 2006 track Here It Goes Again won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video.
For Upside Down & Inside Out, the duo revisited a zero-gravity experience they had at Florida's Cape Canaveral.
"We loved the idea that an entire video might be made in a weightless environment," said Sie.
When Russian airline S7 approached the band to collaborate, Sie and Kulash pitched the idea and the company surprisingly went for it.
"It was incredible that S7 had the open minds and the guts enough to say yes and to let us do it," Sie said. "They were very progressive and brave, allowing us to experiment, play, and approach this entire thing with a highly unorthodox process."
The plane achieves zero-gravity by flying a manoeuvre that tosses passengers up in the air and then follows then down as it descends, creating up to 30 seconds of weightlessness.
"It's akin to the feeling you get if you jump really high in an elevator as it descends," said Sie. "In this case, it just happens on a much bigger scale."
For the shoot, the team transformed the interior of the industrial military aircraft to look like a passenger jet by adding overhead bins and bus seats.
During the video, piñatas filled with rubber bouncy balls wrapped in cellophane and small plastic farm animals explode to create colourful chaos in the weightless environment.
The effect appears seamless, but Sie explained that filming was somewhat challenging.
"The crew was all floating and drifting around as soon as zero-gravity hit," she said. "It took quite a bit of experimentation. We ended up slowing the song's playback by exactly 28.47 per cent so that the musical phrases fit neatly inside the length of a weightless period."
Upside Down & Inside Out is taken from OK Go's album Hungry Ghosts, released in 2014.
Read the full interview with Trish Sie below:
Dan Howarth: Who's idea was it to film in zero gravity?
Trish Sie: Damian and I came up with the concept back in 2012, when we flew on the US zero-g plane in Cape Canaveral. We loved the idea that an entire video might be made in a weightless environment, although the obstacles were daunting. It seemed like a fantasy – highly unlikely but worth dreaming about and imagining.
Dan Howarth: How did the team manage to pull it off?
Trish Sie: S7, a Russian airline, approached OK Go about collaborating on a video project, and we pitched them this idea. It seemed like a perfect fit – what's the most fun thing you can do with an airplane? Fly around in zero-gravity, of course. Everybody wins!
It was incredible that S7 had the open minds and the guts enough to say yes and to let us do it. They were very progressive and brave, allowing us to experiment, play, and approach this entire thing with a highly unorthodox process. They were a terrific partner, and it never would have happened without them.
Dan Howarth: What equipment/technology was used during filming?
Trish Sie: Since we couldn't bring a generator up there on the plane with us, we had to power everything off the plane's battery power. That was a challenge. And we wanted movement, so we needed a crane to achieve very controlled camera moves. But space and power was quite restricted, so we had to get creative with lighting and stabilising the crane.
Our director of photography, Evgeniy Ermolenko, created a brilliant rig that essentially wedged the entire crane between the floor and ceiling of the airplane. We weren't just in zero-gravity, we spent a fair amount of time in double gravity as well. So keeping the camera in place was a big hurdle, since even huge cranes are subject to the forces of gravity, and lack thereof.
Dan Howarth: Can you describe the filming process in as much detail as you can?
Trish Sie: The plane flies in a manoeuvre that simulates weightlessness by effectively tossing you up in the air and then following you as you sail back toward Earth. For about 25 to 30 seconds, you feel weightless. It's akin to the feeling you get if you jump really high in an elevator as it descends. In this case, it just happens on a much bigger scale.
The big restraint is that you are only weightless for those 25 to 30 seconds at a time. So creating a dance that feels continuous and well-structured – as opposed to a montage – is tough.
So we divided the song into chunks that would fit into a period of zero-g, and we stopped and started the music when gravity disappeared and returned. We would stay perfectly still between weightless periods, waiting for the plane to regain altitude so we could start the music and pick up where we left off.
Communication between the team of pilots, flight engineers, cosmonaut trainers, film crew, and band, was of paramount importance. While the language barrier was a challenge at first – our crew was entirely Russian and most spoke very little English, and none of us speak a lick of Russian – we established a system that worked so that we could count on weightlessness setting in right when the music kicked back in.
It took quite a bit of experimentation. And we ended up slowing the song's playback by exactly 28.47 per cent so that the musical phrases fit neatly inside the length of a weightless period.
The crew was all floating and drifting around as soon as zero-gravity hit, of course, so another consideration was simply keeping everyone out of frame and making sure we could all do our jobs when no one had their feet on the ground.
Dan Howarth: What else was interesting about the video's production?
Trish Sie: The inside of the plane is actually a very industrial military aircraft designed to transport heavy equipment. It looks nothing like the passenger plane set that we built inside it. Those windows are all fake, lit from the back with LEDs.
The overhead bins are built by our set designer and art director, Andrey Vargockiy and his team. They had to be easy-release for quick operation in weightless conditions, but they also had to stay shut when there was no gravity! Also, the plane's seats were actually bus seats. There are no seats in this plane, except at the front where the engineers sit.
Dan Howarth: What's inside the piñatas?
Trish Sie: We tried candy, and that was a mess, since the plane was soaking wet all the time, as we hosed it down after every take and it never dried. So when the piñatas bust open, you're seeing rubber bouncy balls wrapped in cellophane and lots of little plastic farm animals coming out.
Also, disco balls were hard to source in Russia, especially small ones. Our Russian producer, Vladimir Siglov, was up until the wee hours every night gluing little mirrors onto silver Christmas ornaments so we could have our disco balls.
Directors: Damian Kulash Junior and Trish Sie
Producers: John O'Grady and Melissa Murphy for BOB Industries.
Line Producer: Vladimir Sigalov for Profilms
Director of Photography: Evgeniy Ermolenko
First Assistant Director: Andrey Tomashevskiy
Second Assistant Director: Anastasiya Chistova
S7 Air Hostesses/Acrobats: Anastasia Burdina and Tatyana Martynova