For those of us old enough to remember Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, Lionel Richie’s video for Dancing On the Ceiling, or Fred Astaire’s performance in Royal Wedding, Billie Eilish’s performance during the Season 45 premiere of Saturday Night Live was something we had seen before decades ago. But, watching the 17-year-old pop star effortlessly walk on walls and the ceiling during a live performance of her chart-topping song Bad Guy had a lot of shocked people on social media asking the question: how did she do it?
Since she injured her ankle earlier this month, Eilish was wearing a leg brace. But, that didn’t keep her from nailing the unique performance that had people talking, calling it “epic,” “dope,” and “sick.” Still, people had questions.
— Tamara (@yogurtgarol) September 29, 2019
“I need an explainer video on how the walls are moving and how the cameras are working in this #BillieEilish performance on @nbcsnl,” wrote one fan, while another asked, “How’d Billie do that walking on walls & the ceiling thing? Was it trick photography? Was a magnet in the shoes?”
They achieved the optical illusion with Eilish performing in a slowly-rotating set with an attached camera that remained still. At the end of the performance, NBC gave viewers a peek at the set by zooming out, but Justin Theroux shared a short behind-the-scenes video on his Instagram Stories to give fans a better look on how they were able to pull it off.
The square box set that Eilish was in featured sketched tiles on the floor and window panels on the walls. As the set rotated, it was difficult for many viewers to figure out what was going on.
Joining Eilish during the unique performance was her older brother Finneas O’Connell, who wasn’t inside the rotating set with his sister. But, he did wear a matching black and neon outfit as he stood on stage.
Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time they have used a rotating set on SNL. Back in 1986, Penn and Teller performed a magic trick where the duo appeared to be standing on the stage while the items in their hands magically shot upward after they let them go.
How did @billieeilish do that?! 🤯
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) October 1, 2019
At the end of the sketch, the camera zoomed out to reveal that they had been hanging upside down the entire time.
The rotating set technique has been used in numerous films – especially ones that take place in space – to show performers defying gravity. It was also used in the Christopher Nolan film Inception during the memorable hotel fight scene that featured Joseph Gordon Levitt navigating his way through the hallways.
New episodes of Saturday Night Live air Saturday nights on NBC.