By Robin Sindler, TODAY producer
For our series TODAY Goes Viral, we thought we'd join forces with the viral video kings -- the band, OK Go. They're the ones behind that treadmill dance, a YouTube sensation that helped make OK Go the most downloaded band of all time.
And lest you think the band is a one-hit viral wonder, think again. They have turned nearly a dozen videos into online sensations, attracting millions of viewers eager to share a few moments in their mad, mad world.
I'm not saying TODAY has never achieved viral status, but our YouTube hits are mostly born out of the unpredictability of live TV. You may remember one infamous clip of rowdy Ewoks assaulting Al Roker's leg. Yes -- that clip went viral. But it's not the same thing as creating something you hope will catch on.
So for this segment the idea was to shoot a brand new OK Go video starring our hosts and see if it would take off.
During breakfast and a brainstorming session, the band's frontman, Damian Kulash, told us the rule behind their videos: "It has to be a really good and simple idea." They often pull off an entire video in one shot, requiring meticulous planning, a tireless crew and countless takes. One of their recent shoots, which featured choreographed dogs, took 128 takes. Their Rube Goldberg video took 86. Another stop-motion project was done in only two takes -- but each shoot lasted 21 hours, which meant choreographing their sleep!
OK Go's approach posed a particular challenge for TODAY as the one thing our hosts don't have is spare time. We told the band we'd be willing to play along, but they'd have to shoot the entire video in three hours. In the realm of marathon OK Go video shoots, it's nothing. But that's an eternity in TODAY time.
we bounced around a few ideas and then Kulash had a flash. "Let's put the hosts in four Plexiglas cubes and fill the cubes with colored pingpong balls. We'll shoot it stop motion with a still camera so that the colors will magically appear and disappear, creating different patterns."
Though Meredith was worried about suffocation and other deadly consequences, she and our other intrepid hosts bought in after watching a few OK Go videos.
We had an idea and willing victims -- but how would we pull this off?
Enter James Kateridge, aka Jimmy the Carpenter. He's the MacGyver of NBC. You need a bookcase with a trap door, revolving windows and six cameras hidden inside? He's your man. He'll create it with nothing but Q-tips and a wad of old gum. Jimmy worked around the clock to build the cubes. We thank him.
We then calculated THAT it would take 20,000 pingpong balls to fill one cube. Since we wanted to fill each cube with several different colors of balls -- our final tally reached 250,000 pingpong balls!
Where do you find that many balls? One company, pingpongballs.net agreed to rent us the balls -- though it was the biggest order they ever had. They warned TODAY would put them out of business if anything happened to the stock of balls. Add that tot the list of things that'll keep a producer up all night!
The shoot was difficult and we got behind. The goal was to shoot 600 pictures in three hours. We'd edit that to about a minute-long video. We got through 200.
But such is the reality of television. If you don't get what you think you need, you make it work anyway. As they say in the business, "fix it in post."
How'd we do? Judge for yourself.