How did you do this?
This video was shot in an airplane that flies parabolic maneuvers to provide brief periods of weightlessness, sometimes referred to as or “zero gravity” or “zero g.” To learn more about how that works visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduced_gravity_aircraft or see the answer to the next question, below.
The video is a single take, but there is some time removed to make that possible.
The longest period of weightlessness that it is possible to achieve in these circumstances is about 27 seconds, and after each period of weightlessness, it takes about five minutes for the plane to recover and prepare for then next round. Because we wanted the video to be a single, uninterrupted routine, we shot continuously over the course of 8 consecutive weightless periods, which took about 45 minutes, total. We paused our actions, and the music, during the non-weightless periods, and then cut out these sections and smoothed over each transition with a morph.
You can spot the moments in the video when we skip ahead in time because they are points when gravity briefly returns. This happens at 0:46, 1:06, 1:27, 1:48, 2:09, 2:30, and 2:50.
You might notice that these moments aren’t 27 seconds apart. That’s because the song moves in musical sections that are a little less than 21 seconds long, and it was important to us that the punctuations of gravity in our routine work musically with the song. To fit the 27-second periods weightlessness into 21-second sections of music, we performed our routine slightly slower than what you see here (the song is normally 92.5 BPM, and we performed it at 72 BPM), and later sped up the footage (28.47%) to bring it back up to normal speed.
Before and after each period of weightlessness, there is a roughly 20-second stretch when it feels like there’s increased gravity. These are most easily understood as the periods when the plane is throwing everyone up out of their seats into weightlessness, and then catching them again when it ends. (For a better explanation of parabolic flight, see the link above) In this video, the first scene, in which we sit waiting and then do the goofy laptop dance, was performed while we were experiencing double gravity, just before the beginning of the first weightless section. The first round of weightlessness hits at about 0:26, and you can see us all lift a little in our chairs when double gravity gives way to zero gravity. You can also see double gravity at the end of the video. When the last weightless period ends, at 3:20, the paint we’ve splattered all over the plane comes raining down with double force as we are all pressed into our seats.
Can you explain zero gravity flights in normal language?
Imagine throwing a coin up in the air and then catching it. While the coin is sailing through the air, the only force pushing against it (the only force it can “feel”) is the friction from the air that it’s rushing through. After it leaves your hand, even though it is still being pulled toward the earth by gravity, there is nothing but that air actually pushing directly on the coin until it lands in your hand again. So then imagine if you could throw the coin up in the air, but follow it with your hand, keeping your hand very carefully cupped around it, following the path of its flight without touching it. If your hand could shield it from the air it’s rushing through, there would be no forces on the coin at all. From inside your hand, it would seem like the coin was just floating there.
In parabolic zero gravity flights, the plane acts like your hand, and everything inside the plane acts like the coin. The plane accelerates upwards, and everyone inside is pushed hard into their seats. During this period, it feels like there’s double gravity. (The coin would also feel increased gravity while your hand is throwing it). Then, once the plane has gained enough speed upwards, it stops accelerating quite so hard. Everything and everyone in it keeps sailing upwards, but instead of the plane continuing to push, it now just sails along with everyone inside it, blocking out all the wind and external forces.
Gravity is still dragging everyone towards the ground, but we can’t feel it. We just follow the arc that we were thrown in (and the shape of this arc is a parabola — hence the name). So we sail up for a little bit and then level off and start dropping towards the earth. All the while, everything in the the plane, including the bubble of air around us, is flying in that same arc, so from inside the plane, we don’t feel any forces at all. Everything just floats.
Of course, the plane itself is rushing through the atmosphere, and all that air outside the plane causes lots of drag as the plane races through it. This means that for the plane to keep up with us inside it, its engines need to thrust against all of the outside drag, just like your hand would have to push through the air to keep up with the coin. So, after it’s thrown everyone up and we’re all sailing weightlessly back towards earth, the plane is actually accelerating through all that outside air, and as we fall, it’s got its engines engaged, racing towards the ground.
Then, like your hand catching the coin before it drops to the ground, the plane catches us. It pulls out of its dive, and inside the plane our weightless free-fall ends, and we all get pinned back in our chairs, or wherever we happen to land. Like the coin smacking into your palm, we then feel extra gravity as the plane pushes back against us. We’ve gained a lot of speed while we were diving towards the earth, and now the plane has to reverse all of that, so there’s a period of double gravity while we are leveling back out again.
Then the plane climbs back up and we do it all again.
Is this all one take?
Yes, it’s all one continuous take, but there’s a bunch of time removed. Again, the longest stretch of zero gravity we can get is about 27 seconds, and then it takes five minutes to reset to do it again. We wanted the whole video to take place in weightlessness, so we designed the routine in 27 second chunks, scenes that start and end right at the moments gravity is going and coming back. After we filmed a scene, when gravity returned, we stayed as still as we could for the five minutes of the plane climbing, and then began the next scene as soon as we were weightless again. When we were done, we chose our best take and cut out all of the long reset periods, so the routine is continuous and feels seamless.
Each full take of the video required 8 consecutive periods of weightlessness, and took about 45 minutes.
Did anyone puke?
The effects of zero gravity, and the double gravity you feel just before and after the weightless periods, can make people very nauseated. A lot of our crew got sick; over the 21 flights, there were 58 puke events. Luckily, this was a group of very committed adventurers, so we all soldiered through and eventually got accustomed to the crazy sensations.
Where did you shoot?
We were just east of Moscow, close to the the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center for ROSCOMOS, the Russian Space Agency, which is located in a place called Star City.
How long did it take to shoot?
It took months plan and set up, but we were actually on site near the Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia for 3 weeks. During that time we did 21 flights, with 15 zero gravity parabolas per flight, for a total of about two hours and fifteen minutes in weightlessness. For the first week we did test flights to figure out which ideas would work and which wouldn’t. How hard is it to control yourself? If you do a really cool flip once, can you repeat it? What looks cooler in zero gravity: a chain of a string of beads? Toothpaste or a shaken can of soda? How hard is it to place place a tablet in the air and just have it stay still? By the second week, we’d chosen our favorite ideas; we had our bag of tricks, and we assembled them into a routine and rehearsed it. The third week was proper shooting, we just ran the routine 8 times over 8 flights.
Who is S7?
S7 Airlines is a Russian airline, and they were our partners in making this video. Their mission is to empower people to chase their dreams, and together with their agency TUTKOVBUDKOV, they’ve supported us in doing just that. The motto for this project was a lyric from the song: “Gravity’s just a habit.”
The S7 Air Hostesses in the video – are they trained acrobats ? Where did you find them?
Tatyana Martynova and Anastasia Burdina, our S7 air hostesses, are trained aerialist acrobats. It was quite a challenge to figure out what type of performers would be best to work with in these very unusual circumstances. We considered several types of acrobats, dancers, gymnasts, and swimmers, because each of those fields has some overlap with the set of skills we thought we’d need. In the end, the pair of aerialists we chose were perfect for a few reasons. First, the routines they are trained to do usually involve a lot of very fast spinning in circles, meaning that they’ve developed incredible vestibular systems (the bodily system for balance). Most people get dizzy and sick from twirling around a couple times, but these ladies can spin around like the head of a power drill and not feel a thing. Second, they really know how to control their bodies using only their own strength and balance. Gymnasts push off the floor and swimmers push against the water, but aerialists have very little to push off of, so they develop incredible skills just using inertia and balance. Third, Tatyana and Anastasia were already friends and were great at working together and coming up with their own ideas. Since so much of our process is about experimenting with things and stumbling into new ideas along the way, we were excited to find a pair of performers who could jump right in, experiment together,and help us come up with the ideas. The coolest tricks they do are all moves that they came up with themselves, or with the help of our incredible Cosmonaut Trainers.
How big was your crew, and who were they?
The full crew was around 60 people. On each flight, we had 3 pilots/navigators, 8 cosmonaut trainers, and 14 film crew, including the band and our aerialist dancers. The directors were Damian Kulash and Trish Sie. They are brother and sister, and Damian is the singer in the band. Here is the full list of credits for the video:
Damian Kulash, Jr.
S7 Air Hostesses/Acrobats:
Directed by Damian Kulash, Jr. & Trish Sie
Produced by John O’Grady & Melissa Murphy for BOB Industries.
Director of Photography: Evgeniy Ermolenko
Line Producer: Vladimir Sigalov for Profilms
First Assistant Directors: Andrey Tomashevskiy & Anastasiya Chistova
Behind the Scenes shooting, editing, and production:
Geoff Shelton for Hank Films
Executive Produers: TK Knowles, John O’Grady and Chuck Ryant
Controller: Nancy Wilder
Staff Producer: Kathleen Custer
Production Coordinators: Natalie Richards & Nina Papadakis
Production Assistant: Chris Lipton
CEO / Executive Producer: Mikhail Gerasimov
Production Assistant: Maxim Svezhenets
Production Manager: Vladislav Derebasko
Asst Production Manager: Yuliya Chekhurdina
First Assistant Camera: Dmitriy Manannikov, Sergey Kirichenko, & Ivan Sushkov Video Techs: Alexandr Vermul & Viktor Bakay
Crane Operators: Oleg Borisov & Sergey Moguchiy
Gaffer: Slava Timonin
Electrician: Ageev Anton
Key Grip: Turov Ilya
Sound Engineers: Roman Mashkin & Maxim Starchenko
Art Director: Andrey Vargockiy
Props: Elena Duka, Anton Nemoytin, Viktoria Temnekova, Sergey Polishuk, & Maria Atamanenko
Stage: Vyacheslav Vaganov, Andrey Didenko, Maxim Sazonenko, & Maxim Kuzmin
Wardrobe Stylist: Justine Seymour
Costume Designer: Sabina Djalalova
Wardrobe Assistants: Ebgeniya Dolgun & Nicola Dunn
Make-Up: Maria Borodin
On Set Editors: Shatilov Alexandr & Konoplin Anatolia
Post Production, Therapy Studios:
Joe DiSanto, Margaret Ward, Meg Ramsay, Bob Curreri, Wren Waters, Rachel Moorer, & Geoff Stephenson
Post Production, Visual Creatures:
Anne Cuizon Pendola, Ryan McNeely, Tony Banik, Dustin Bowser, & Sam Winkler
Creative Agency: TUTKOVBUDKOV
Creative Director – Dmitry Tutkov
Account Manager – Sergei Polyakov
Agency Producer – Oleg Barinboim
Copywriter — Ena Shilyaeva
Art Director – Dmitry Kostuchenko
Photographer – Nikolay Ivanov
Drivers: Nikolay Akulinichev, Gennadiy Makedonov, Dmitry Shun, & Oxana Pshemysckaya
Catering: Irina Sergeeva & Elena Barteneva