mono-shot twins

text: Yegor Petrov


A spirit of sincere playfulness, eccentric moves and absence of professional gloss, so common for music videos, all led to this clip of OK Go becoming truly viral. “Here It Goes Again” got 50 million views, thus becoming the most popular music video on the Internet. It won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video and the YouTube Award for Best Creative Video, made Time magazine’s list of all time best music videos, and was even used in The Simpsons.

The unquestionable beauty of the idea and the seeming simplicity of its implementation created a wave of imitations, parodies and creative borrowings. The clip that stands out among this heritage is “Americanarama”, a 2010 work of the Canadian band Hollerado. They didn’t follow OK Go’s way literally, but rather did so conceptually: a static camera records a complicated comic choreography with a one-shot impartiality of a documentary.

In the video musicians play the song in front of a large structure comprised of twenty four sections with an actor in each of them holding up a poster with a specific symbol in a specific moment. As a result the posters create a huge puzzle that comes together forming lyrics of the song, guitar chords and episodes of 8-bit videogames. To synchronize all the participants the director Greg Jardin decelerated the song four times during the recording of this video. This allowed actors and musicians to receive instructions as to how to move and which poster to hold up.

Funnily enough, OK Go and Hollerado have another pair of one-shot videos with a significant rhyme. In 2011 the Canadians released a video for the song “Got to Lose” with a choreography based on umbrellas. And only three years later dancers with red umbrellas appeared in “I Won’t Let You Down” of OK Go.


OK Go – Here It Goes Again

Hollerado – Americanarama


Straight after the presentation of “You and I” in 2014, the participants of One Direction got accused of plagiary. An Australian video company Oh Yeah Wow released a statement, criticising One Direction for the use of the same effect as the one in “Everything You Wanted” of a Melbourne band Clubfeet, released eighteen months before.

The moment in question is when the band members enter their still copies and bring them to life. Oh Yeah Wow emphasized that they do not have anything against creative evolution, but in the case of One Direction they consider it to be more like theft. Especially considering that they created “Everything You Wanted” almost without a budget, and One Direction is one of the most successful bands in the world that does not have any shortage of resources to implement their ideas.

Some commentators expressed an opinion that technology used by Oh Yeah Wow is not so original and it is even taught in film schools. Never the less, “You and I” has too many similarities with the Australian video to believe such comments unreservedly. For example, the episode where a member of One Direction jumps up into the air of a box, put there by another member, is exactly the same in both videos.

“The technique is created using a number of well established VFX tricks. Our clip was the first to use these tricks in this conceptual context”, – said Oh Yeah Wow’s producer Seamus Spilsbury in his interview with the Daily Mail. Despite the scandal in 2015, “You and I” won the British equivalent of the Grammy (Brit Awards) in the nomination for Best British Music Video, and the director Ben Winston continued to collaborate with One Direction.


Clubfeet – Everything You Wanted

One Direction – You and I


The British director Grant Gee is one of the key people in current documentary filmmaking. His latest works – Patience: After Sebald and Innocence of Memories – have deservedly received critics’ praise and the attention of experts from international festivals. But for the 80s generation Grant Gee will forever remain first of all the author of a rockumentary Meeting People is Easy – an iconic movie about Radiohead.

The movie does not show the band in a grand or idealized way, as would be typical for the genre, but rather is full of touching and even awkward moments. For the purpose of this article, we are interested specifically in minute forty seven, where Grant Gee and Radiohead shoot the clip to “No Surprises”. The astronaut’s helmet on Thom Yorke’s head slowly fills with water. The song is played on fast forward, but even so it required a long apnea. So Yorke did not have to play out asphyxiating: it is clearly visible, how his breath becomes more and more convulsive with every take. This episode is probably one of the most popular making-of videos in history.

Seventeen years later an interesting variation on what Gee did in Radiohead’s clip was released: a video to Chet Faker’s “Talk Is Cheap”. Over the duration of three minutes all four seasons pass, and the singer’s face defrosts from a chunk of ice, comes to life for a fleeting moment, and goes back to eternity covered by autumn leaves.

The clip was created by Australians Toby Pike and Pete Stopniak, whose inexhaustible creativity is matched by a vast range of technical tools. For this clip they scanned Chet Faker’s head, printed a 3D model of it and shot how it defrosts from ice. This allowed them to apply an image of the dissolving ice over the real face of Faker. All the rest was achieved with makeup.


Radiohead – No surprises

Chet Faker –Talk is Cheap


This pair is the rarest case of familiarity among video clips. This time it is not about plagiary of coincidence, but the same person developing his own technical trick. This person is Michel Gondry.

For “Lucas with the Lid Off” Gondry built a lot of rooms on the set, through which the camera was moving, and the main character was running behind the camera making sure to get into the next frame. For some of the scenes, there were copies of the same areas, in order for the camera to shoot the same scene from different angles while shortening its way.

In “Protection” for Massive Attack the director continued to work with spatial illusions. A surreal house seems tall and multi-storey, while in real life the setting was horizontal, and actors and musicians had to be hung on walls. There was also a system of mirrors used in this shoot in order to create a sense of long corridors, and a projector to imitate the environment outside the windows. Some parts of the house could also move for the camera to fly between the rooms.

“Lucas with the Lid Off” won the Grammy in 1994 for the Best Music Video and next year “Protection” won the MTV Europe Music Award in a similar nomination.


Lucas – Lucas with the Lid Off

Massive Attack – Protection


Green Day’s “Redundant” is an open homage of the director Mark Kohr to Zbigniew Rybczyński’s short film Tango (1983 Oscar winner). The musicians play a song in a room that gets slowly filled by characters that move in a loop, as in Rybczyński’s work. While in Tango there are thirty six characters in the room by the moment of climax, in Green Day’s clip there are only thirteen, but one of them is Dita von Teese.

Similar loops and endless repetitions, but in a Parisian exterior, were used by the above-mentioned specialist in one-shot clips Michel Gondry. Talking about his inspirations for Kyle Minogue’s “Come Into My World” Gondry refers to a trick of the French illusionist Gérard Majax, who managed to fit 20 threads into one needle. To create the effect of people magically multiplying Gondry shot four passages of the singer through the junction, filled with background actors, every time slightly changing the participants’ trajectories. Then all the passages were overlapped and transformed into the final clip.


Green Day – Redundant

Kylie Minogue – Come into My World


The clip “Sea of Love” by The National came as quite a shock to the Russian audience: American musicians expressed their appreciation of “Zvuki Mu” by carefully replicating their 1995 clip to the song “Grubyi Zakat”.

The National’s guitarist Bryce Dessner later said that the video of Pyotr Mamonov’s band was sent to him by some French friends with eclectic taste in music. Americans tried to replicate Mamonov’s work in their clip in as much detail as possible. “It was all totally crazy. Basically you play in a basement with guitars that are plugged into an air conditioner, and 30 seconds later a boy comes into the frame and acts out guitar movements throughout the rest of the video. There is so much irony in it”, – shared Dessner in one of his interviews.

To achieve the necessary result they had to make eight of nine takes. The most difficult and important part – to repeat Mamonov’s expressive grimacing and movements – was up to Dessner. “It turned out to be really exhausting, – admitted the musician, – imagine running for four minutes with a guitar strapped to you, and again, and again”. But the musicians liked the result: Scott Devendorf even once called “Sea of Love” their best clip.


Zvuki Mu – Grubyi Zakat

The National – Sea of Love