I think at this point, it’s fair to say that OK Go has yet to disappoint us with their videos. The last one for “This too shall pass” proved just how painstakingly involved the band works with artists and directors alike. For such high demand concepts, it’s really amazing that they have yet to fail.
We caught up with Directors/Choreographers Eric Gunther & Jeff Lieberman for their newest stop motion / timelapse video for the track End Love. Eric was in Switzerland and Jeff in Berlin, both setting up installations. But they were kind enough to share some insight on the music video.
From the looks of the video it has one continual shot, how long did this take?
Technically one continual ‘take’ (some people get fussy over specific vocabulary) – we had to use three different cameras to deal with the enormous range of time scales, more on that below. All three cameras shot at overlapping times [so they could be combined] but the action did happen continuously, over a roughly 18 hour period; starting right before sunset and ending around 11am.
How many attempts did it take you guys?
We ran the thing twice, although the first one was basically a strong rehearsal – we didn’t get enough of it working by then to have used the take (we had to plan, choreograph, and shoot the whole thing in ten days).
How did you sync the singing in stop motion?
This was the toughest part! It came down to a combination of techniques. In the first section we go from real-time into 4x (meaning every 4 seconds recorded becomes 1 second of playback)… at speeds like 4x you can play the music at quarter speed, and have the singing lip synced just by listening to it and singing slowly… this starts to fail around 8x where the audio starts to become unintelligible.
At this and slower speeds we used a variety of techniques – when it’s around 16-32x (where one minute recorded equals ~2 seconds of playback), we could take the rhythms of the singing and notate when each syllable should start – Eric was continually megaphoning out the cues to all the members, eg “five…. six… ok on eight damian begins saying ‘love’… seven… eight” – all this while also yelling out all the choreography cues! (Eric and I split duties during shooting where basically I managed camera and he managed choreography… was pretty crucial to be able to split those roles, too much going on).
At the slowest speeds even listening to a count becomes almost impossible – the sleeping bag scene is filmed at 512x, meaning every roughly 8 minutes becomes a second. A single line of singing took usually 45 minutes. To do this reasonably well, we filmed each of the band members singing their lines, and then slowed down the recordings to 1/512x. While they sat/slept (yes they really did sleep) in the sleeping bags, we played back the roughly 2 hours of film on a laptop in the park, where they could see where they should be with their mouths.
What software did you use, hardware/camera did you use… and how did you achieve playback?
We used a combination of three cameras. Most is filmed with the Sony EX3 which has hot-swappable data cards, so you can continuously record the entire 18 hours without stopping [hot swappable power as well].. this covers from real-time to 512x (and you can adjust the frame rate of recording as well to deal with excessive data). We used a Phantom high speed camera to do both of the high speed shots, the first at 500 frames per second, the second at 1500. (We used these on my show often so I was comfortable with them over some other options). Finally, the last shot pans off to the sunset, where we mounted a dSLR shooting one frame every few minutes for about a week…
Post processing was interesting! We cut the whole thing in Final Cut, using Motion for image stabilization since speeding things up like this tends to create an enormous amount of jitter (just as slow motion tends to smooth out shots). First we changed playback speeds, then worked on all the camera cutting to get everything in its proper speed, then camera work (we shot everything at 1080p to be cut down to 720p after image stabilization).
One of the aspects we were most interested in was making sure that pretty much anyone could do this at home, if they did the proper planning and spent the time. Besides the high speed camera, you can do all of this relatively easy – you just need to do some planning!
Any sort of technical issues you can share with us? framerates, shutter speeds, etc?
We went all over the place. Off the top of my head I think I can go through the framerates we covered (I’ll express them in ‘relative to normal 30fps, ie 1x is real-time, 4x means the recording is sped up 4x for playback, etc)..
Opening is 1x, suddenly into 4x for first verse – then slow motion (about 1/16x) for the lean, into 8x for the second verse, and 16x for the first chorus. Standing at sunset is roughly 10000x (about three hours in a few seconds), the candle scene is at 60x, the sunrise is similarly ~10000x, running around the park is 64x, the slow motion jump is about 50x, next verse 16x, chorus 1 out is 32x, chorus 2 out is 64x, and the out shot of the sun setting and rising accelerated from 64x to a max of about 170,000x (where a full 24 hours takes about 1/2 sec). In general, we were all over the place!
Thanks guys, and last comments for our reader?
You might want to see an earlier video where Eric and I first explored this idea, kind of an etude. All at 4x but let us explore the terrain and Eric (the subject) is a pretty sick dancer, in any time scale!
Directors: OK Go, Eric Gunther, and Jeff Lieberman
Producer: Shirley Moyers