Believe it or not, the making of a video for the song This Too Shall Pass by the band OK Go has lessons for would-be innovators. The creator of the video, Adam Sadowsky, said the process of creating the complex machine for the video was a lot like what entrepreneurs go through when developing a new product or service.
He gave the talk today at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. The video for the song was created by Synn Labs and it involved the creation of a Rube Goldberg machine, a very complicated mechanical device whose purpose is to do ridiculously simple tasks. The video was released on YouTube in January and it has been viewed more than 19 million times.
OK Go band members approached Sadowsky’s company in August 2009 with a request to create a machine that the band could dance with. The band had created a huge stir on YouTube with the video for its song Here It Goes Again, a 2006 song where the band acted out an intricately choreographed dance using eight exercise treadmills. That video has garnered 52 million views.
Creating the new video was a huge undertaking that spanned three months.
In doing the video, Sadowsky wanted there to be “no magic.” The audience had to see cause and effect with every mechanism. Furthermore, he wanted the bandmembers to be integrated and the machine’s action to follow the song’s feeling: As the song got more exciting, so should the machine.
But he also wanted the machine to be messy — for example, at one point paint flies around — because life is messy. The machine had to make use of a big warehouse and initiate the music. It had to be synched to the rhythm and hit specific beats. It also had to end precisely on time and actually play part of the song. Sadowsky wanted the video to be all one camera shot.
The result of these requirements? The actual video had a machine that had 89 distinct actions. The work was done in 85 takes and there were three successful runs where the machine worked perfectly. The team destroyed two pianos and 10 high-definition TVs. They visited Home Depot more than 100 times to get all of the material for the machine. Resetting the machine took a full hour.
Sadowsky’s lessons? The “small stuff stinks” but it’s extremely critical to getting the whole machine to work. And if you can, you have to isolate certain high risk functions earlier in the set-up process and the reliable tasks last. That way, if the process fails, you may only have to rebuild 5 percent of the machine and not 95 percent of it.
Does that sound like the recipe for a successful startup, too?
Here’s the video below.