Kinematics is the study of objects in motion. One uses math to analyze distance, displacement, speed, velocity, and acceleration. It even finds a use in music videos
“The One Moment” is from OK Go’s 2014 full-length, Hungry Ghosts
Background notes and full credits for “The One Moment” Video by OK Go.
Damian Kulash, Jr. (director and singer)
The song “The One Moment” is a celebration of (and a prayer for) those moments in life when we are most alive. Humans are not equipped to understand our own temporariness; It will never stop being deeply beautiful, deeply confusing, and deeply sad that our lives and our world are so fleeting. We have only these few moments. Luckily, among them there are a few that really matter, and it’s our job to find them. (We had no idea when we wrote the song that we’d be releasing its video in such critical moment for our nation and the world. It’s one of those moments when everything changes, whether we like it or not, so the song feels particularly relevant)
For the video, we tried to represent this idea literally — we shot it in a single moment. We constructed a moment of total chaos and confusion, and then unraveled that moment, discovering the beauty, wonder, and structure within.
Most of our videos have sought to deliver wonder and surprise, and this one is no exception. But usually our tone has been more buoyant, more exuberant. For this song — our most heartfelt and sincere — we wanted the sense of wonder to be more intimate and contemplative…
How did you do that?
We used very precise digital triggers to set off several hundred events in extremely quick succession.
The triggers were synchronized to high speed robotic arms which whipped the cameras along the path of the action.
Though the routine was planned as a single event, currently no camera control systems exist which could move fast enough (or for many sections, change direction fast enough) to capture a movement this long and complex with a single camera, so the video you see connects seven camera movements.
How long did the routine take in real time?
The first three quarters of the video, from the beginning of the song until I pick up the umbrella at the a cappella breakdown, unfold over 4.2 seconds of real time. Then I lip sync in real time for about 16 seconds (we thought it was important to have a moment of human contact at this point in the song, so we returned to the realm of human experience) and we return to slow motion for the final chorus paint scene, which took a little longer than 3 seconds in real time.
How many things happen in it?
It sort of depends how you count “things,” but the there are 318 events (54 colored salt bursts behind Tim, 23 exploding paint buckets, 128 gold water balloons, etc.) that were synchronized to the music before the breakdown. After that there are only 9 digitally triggered events.
Just how slow is this, and is it all one speed?
It is not all one speed, but each section is at a constant rate, meaning that time does not “ramp” (accelerate or decelerate). We just toggle from one speed to another. When the guitars explode, we are 200x slower than reality (6,000 frames per second), but Tim and Andy’s short bursts of lip sync (Tim twice and Andy once) are only 3x slower than real life (90 frames per second). The watermelons are around 150x, and the spray paint cans are a little over 60x.
How did you plan all this?
The whole point of the video is to explore a time scale that we can’t normally experience, but because it’s so inaccessible to us, our tools for dealing with it are indirect. The only way we can really communicate with that realm is through math. The choreography for this video was a big web of numbers — I made a motherfucker of a spreadsheet. It had dozens of connected worksheets feeding off of a master sheet 25 columns wide and nearly 400 rows long. It calculated the exact timing of each event from a variety of data that related the events to one another and to the time scale in which they were being shot. Here’s a screen shot of just the first few lines, to give you a sense.
Example of a high speed robotic camera arm