1. The video, which promotes OK Go‘s fourth LP Hungry Ghosts (out now on the band’s Paracadute label), debuted Oct. 27 on NBC’s Today. It opens with the band dancing on UNI-CUBs, Segway-like wheeled stools steered by body shift that Honda, which funded the video, invented. OK Go broke through with 2006’s “Here It Goes Again” video, which features the members boogeying on treadmills. “There’s a goofy joy in watching the four of us try to dance,” says singer Damian Kulash.
2. OK Go roll outside (the video was shot at an abandoned mall in Chiba, Japan, outside Tokyo), and the camera suddenly shoots upward to give a bird’s-eye view of the Los Angeles-based band, now joined by dancers dressed as schoolgirls and twirling umbrellas. Director Morihiro Harano used a camera-mounted drone called an octocopter, customized by Honda and controlled by GPS and remote. “It’s 15 seconds of really good surprise,” says bassist Tim Nordwind.
3. The dancers assemble into precise geometric shapes through the video, thanks to a Japanese choreographer known simply as Airman, who was inspired by legendary Hollywood director-choreographer Busby Berkeley. “One of [Airman’s] deputies would shout something to this whole battalion of schoolgirls, and they’d run like they were in military school and nail it every time,” says Kulash. “It was a real treat to behold.”
4. The elaborate video was shot in one continuous take; it took around 10 days of rehearsals, 10 days of shooting and 50 tries to get right. “With a long take like this, the stakes are so much higher,” says Kulash. Heavy winds — which made spinning umbrellas, steering UNI-CUBs and flying the drone even more difficult — complicated matters. “We’d be getting blown out of the shot,” says Nordwind. “One wrong move ruined the whole take.”
5. In another sequence, the camera flies back up and even more dancers enter the frame, opening and closing their umbrellas in perfect time with the song. The video was helpfully shot at half-speed, which “allowed for more precise movements, even with the complicated choreography,” says Harano. Nonetheless, “we were straining to keep up,” explains Kulash. “I was just trying to remember, ‘It’s umbrella on five — not four!'”
6. A rep for the band wouldn’t disclose how much Honda spent on the video, but judging from the final two minutes, a whole lot. The camera keeps rising to an altitude of almost half a mile, revealing hundreds more dancers — 2,324 total. Mimicking digital pixels, the umbrellas open and close to form moving shapes, song lyrics, Japanese type and the faces of OK Go’s members. “The dancers were like automatons,” says Kulash.
7. At the end of the video, the camera pans over Tokyo during 70 seconds of silence. Harano says he was inspired by The Beatles‘ outros: “In some of their albums, a bonus track starts to play. I wanted something that packed more entertainment even after the main part was over.” Viewers certainly seemed entertained: The video racked up 6 million worldwide YouTube views in two days and sent the song to No. 1 on the Billboard/Twitter Trending 140 chart.