It’s a Mirage: Web Video Lessons from “Sabotage”

Widely regarded as one of the greatest music videos of all-time (by everyone except for MTV, anyway), the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” is a breathless chase down the corridors and alleyways of memory lane.

A winking homage to 70’s cop shows, “Sabotage” takes viewers on a wild ride through botched drug busts, knife fights, and countless shots of dudes with moustaches running from other dudes with moustaches.

While some other videos from 1994 haven’t held up quite as well, 20 years later “Sabotage” still looks and feels fresh. It’s been remade countless times (with varying degrees of success), and could show up in your Facebook feed tomorrow and not look out of place.

So what’s the secret to creating web videos with lasting impact? Well, great performances and cinematography help, but it all starts with keeping it simple:

#1: Shot selection

Unless you count the impressive 70’s moustaches, no visual effects are used during “Sabotage”. Combining snap zooms and wild camera movements with frenetic editing, director Spike Jonze achieves his desired look without any post-production magic: helping the video hold up as production techniques continue to evolve.

#2: Classic costumes

Only hardcore Beastie Boys fans would recognize Mike Diamond beneath the silvered coif and mirrored aviators of “The Chief” Alasondro Alegré. Walking the fine line between corny and classic, the costumes in “Sabotage” inspired an entire segment of the costume industry. Never discount the impact that a few extra minutes in a costume shop can have on your video.

#3: Shockingly cost-effective

Believe it or not, MTV had issues with the shot at 1:54 (where “MCA” gets thrown off of a bridge after the climactic knife fight). Though obviously a dummy, the shot is shocking in its ridiculousness – meaning it plays perfectly in the context of the video. While it doesn’t work for every concept, using similar over-the-top techniques can add a touch of the absurd and help you make your video stand out.


Boom Unit is a Waterloo video production company, specializing in creating broadcast quality video content. Interested in hiring a video production agency? Drop us a line at info@boomunitvideo.com to light the fuse!

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