Based on massively viral past hits like OK Go’s "This Too Shall Pass," Syyn Labs has earned a reputation as the go-to production company for mind-blowing Rube Goldberg machines. Their latest video, which debuted yesterday on YouTube, takes the skill set to a whole new level: It features a Rube Goldberg machine that’s not only life-sized but also powered by Red Bull athletes.
The video, shot at a former Marine Corps base in Irvine, Calif., combines the spectacle of extreme-athlete stunts with the distinct whimsy of a Rube Goldberg contraption. Eleven athletes perform different stunts, each triggering a sequence of mechanisms that leads to the ensuing stunt. Skydiver Sean MacCormac leaps from a plane, trials bike rider Danny MacAskill scales a three-inch pipe, Olympic athlete Lolo Jones runs hurdles. The chain reactions unfold until the final step—axes breaking a block of ice to reveal a can of Red Bull—is complete.
Syyn cofounder Adam Sadowsky directed a 23-person crew of NASA aeronautical engineers, mechanical engineers, and former Disney Imagineers. They worked closely with athletes to devise stunts that were visually interesting, though overly extreme moves were generally avoided—they would have risked a high rate of failure and reshoots (reshoots get tricky when you have to re-create a highly specific chain of events). "The athlete reliability was actually pretty high," says Sadowsky. "In some cases [the stunt] was well within their skill set. Or it was sort of a life or death scenario—it just had to work."
After a month of devising stunts and mechanisms, Syyn shot the video in four hours. They filmed continuous takes with a RED camera mounted on a Mercedes SUV, meanwhile capturing additional angles and close-ups with 40 GoPro cameras placed around the set. The final video stitches together the best shots. "We tell our stories with kinetics," says Sadowsky. "It was an exciting opportunity to put together a machine that does honor to these extraordinary athletes."