OK, here we Go again. In 2005, OK Go started their viral-video dynasty by sliding around on treadmills, and in the decade since then they’ve progressed through marching bands, massive Rube Goldberg machines, drones, car instruments, and so much more to this: zero gravity.
The resulting music video is amazing, but so is the science behind it. To put the band in zero gravity without actually going to space, OK Go partnered up with S7 Airlines, a Russian company that was willing to take them on a total of 21 flights into the upper atmosphere, climbing and diving in 15 giant parabolas each time.
The only way to truly experience “free fall,” as zero gravity is called, is in the vacuum of outer space. But escaping the Earth’s gravitational pull entirely is really expensive, so astronauts and thrill-seekers have to find other ways to go weightless. The cheapest way is by going underwater, but closest approximation is through parabolic flight.
Parabolic flight is exactly what it sounds like — a plane, with trainee astronauts, or in this case, band members, climbs into the sky at a 45 degree angle, pushing up to altitudes of up to 32,000 feet. Then, at the peak of its arc, it flattens out before starting a steep dive, causing the centrifugal force of the plane to cancel out the gravitational force pulling everything into the ground. It’s essentially the same sensation you get when your car goes over a sharp hill in the road at high speed, but in a gigantic piece of metal flying through the air.
Because planes have difficulty flying straight up or straight down (hopefully), the arc isn’t a true parabola, but both the steep climb and descent are enough to subject passengers to 1.8 times Earth’s normal gravity. And unfortunately for the people that had to clean up the plane after every shot, the weightless period only lasts about 20-30 seconds — not long enough to film a full music video in one take.
To get around this, the band flew eight parabolas in a row over the course of about 45 minutes, editing the takes together into one continuous shot.
At this point, OK Go have made themselves into a lot more than just visually creative musicians.
“It was nearly a decade ago that the world started buzzing about commercial space travel and exploration,” OK Go’s singer Damian Kulash, Jr. said in a press release. “It dawned on me that soon enough people will be making art in space. So for years, we’ve been looking for the opportunity to make a weightless video. I mean, what could be more thrilling that astronaut training?”
Not a whole lot, Damian. Not a whole lot.
Check out the full video for “Upside Down, Inside Out” below.
And don’t miss Stereogum’s behind-the-scenes video here, for more messy paint balloon fun.