For most of their musical career, OK Go has built their reputation on inventive, ambitious and highly choreographed music videos. They have worked enormous Rube Goldberg machines, danced on treadmills, and even shot videos designed for specific web browsers. Now, in their latest music video, the band boldly goes where no band has gone before: the Vomit Comet.
The music video for the song “Upside Down and Inside Out” features the four band members flipping, spinning, and floating through the air. The band kicks off the surreal video by nonchalantly tossing a set of laptops over their heads, which suddenly drift about the compartment. Soon enough, after a few mid-air acrobatics, the cabin is filled with floating balls, piñatas, paint, and two acrobatic airline attendants.
"What you are about to see is real," according to the text at the beginning of the video. "We shot this in zero gravity, in an actual plane, in the sky. There are no wires or green screen."
The effects may be astounding, but OK Go didn’t travel into space for this video (sorry, boys, but Chris Hadfield has you beat there). The video was shot in an airplane designed to simulate microgravity, which the media dubbed the "Vomit Comet." The plane earned this moniker for its nausea-inducing acrobatics—it flies in parabolic arcs to allow astronauts to train for their trips into space. In fact, for three weeks leading up to the shoot the band members trained at the Russian space agency Roscosmos before boarding the plane, James Eng reports for NBC News.
“The band were on pretty heavy anti-nausea drugs — none of us actually puked, though,” frontman Damian Kulash tells Gemma Lacey for Redbull.com. “Of course, given roughly 25-30 people on the plane and over the course of the 20 flights we did, we think there were 58 times that people puked. So it was averaging two to three per flight.”
If you watch closely, it’s easy to see the points when the band took brief breaks while feeling the effects of gravity, but the overall effect is pretty remarkable. Each parabolic arc gives the riders about 50 seconds of simulated weightlessness, which meant the choreography had to be arranged so that it could be performed in discrete segments and edited together into a whole that worked with the song, co-director and choreographer Trish Sie tells Lacey.
“We wanted this video to be a complete choreography, rather than a montage of awesome things that can be done in zero-g,” Sie tells Lacey. “That was the first big hurdle.”
To be fair, the video was shot in microgravity, not zero-gravity—a spacecraft would need to put a lot of distance between itself and the Earth to get away from its gravitational pull. Even astronauts aboard the International Space Station aren't entirely free from the Earth's pull.
In any case, given the current trajectory of commercial spaceflight, it’s not unreasonable to imagine this video being one of the first of many future artworks that take advantage of microgravity, whether it’s simulated or real. As for the future, Kulash hopes that one day the band will actually make it into orbit, Eng writes.
"I'd love to make a video in space! It's not top secret, if you know anyone who has a spacecraft they'll let us borrow definitely give me a holler," Kulash tells Lacey.