Trending: The First Great Zoom Music Video

By David Schonauer   Tuesday May 19, 2020

Maybe you’ve been using Zoom for virtual cocktail hours.

The indie folk-rock band Thao & the Get Down Stay Down has gone much farther, using the video-conferencing app to create what The Washington Post recently called “the first great Zoom music video.”

And The Post is not alone in its praise. Colossal also spotlighted the video, explaining that with its tour paused and everyone stuck at home, the Oakland-based band decided to shoot a music video for its new single, “Phenom,” that begins with Thao Nguyen, who leads the indie group, starting a Zoom call.

“At first we didn’t know if we would even release the song because it’s about people unifying,”  Nguyen told The Verge. “So it was never an option for me to shoot the video solo.”

But then her manager had an idea. What if they shot the music video entirely within Zoom?

“[T]he resulting one-take music video was filmed without any of the collaborators ever being in the same space together,” added The Verge. “Directed by Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux and Erin Murray (who also provided choreography), produced by Victoria Fayad, and featuring Thao alongside eight dancers, the ‘Phenom’ video went from concept to completion within a week. There was one pre-production meeting, one five-hour rehearsal, and one shoot day, all of which took place on Zoom."

"If we were going to do such a thing and commit to it," said Thao, "we had to do it really quickly because it is so of the moment.”

Nguyen told The Verge that no one involved in the project was a Zoom power user prior to making the video. But as things clamped down, she found that it became a part of her life in ways she hadn’t expected. Her partner recently organized a birthday party for Nguyen on Zoom, and last week, she used it to take a yoga class. “I was late to the class,” she said. “It was weird.”

“I want people to go, ‘Wow, how did they do this?’ ” Nguyen told The Post. “So I basically recorded myself on a laptop webcam and pasted it into a grid, to find out what would work in that format.”

Making it look so easy required a lot of work, added The Verge, noting that co-director Schaulin-Rioux gave himself a crash course on the software and acted as mission control while recording. Meanwhile, Murray kept watch on the choreography and called out cues for different segments. Everyone had a copy of the song and a list of their respective instructions, laid out by count for the dancers and by lyrics for Nguyen. “There was a click track before the actual song started. So we all would clap on the fourth beat to make sure everyone was synced up,” said Nguyen.

One other detail: The production team made sure that everyone involved had a really strong WiFi connection.


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