MadonnaTribe had the chance to meet the creative team at STEELE, for a great chat on the post production work on "Future Lovers", the opening video sequence of Madonna's latest live show, the Confessions Tour. Dim the lights, sit back and enjoy this interesting interview.

MTribe: Hi Monique, Jerry and Brian and welcome to

Sometimes it happens that the name of an artist comes into the public's eye for a recent work, while the same artist has been hard working with the best clients in the industry for years.
The name of STEELE has become popular among Madonna fans for your work on the opening act of her "Confessions Tour", but this wasn't the first time you worked for her, right?


Jerry: Right, I first worked on a music video called "I'll Remember". It was a beautiful piece where we really developed and finessed our trademark style for beauty and finishing.

MTribe: Let's talk about the "Paradise (Not For Me)" video interlude for Madonna's Drowned World Tour.
Was that one your first work to be featured on a Madonna live show?

Jerry: Yeah.

MTribe: The video was directed by Dago Gonzàlez at Veneno, Inc and has a subtle and not easy to get storyline filled by haunting images and an amazing visual strength.
What was STEELE's contribution to this video?

Jerry: Firstly, I would like to say that we were extremely happy to once again have the opportunity to offer our talents to the incredible Madonna.
STEELE was responsible for the Digital Online, Visual Effects and Compositing, various beauty requirements and multiple format deliverables.

MTribe: Having a look at your studio reel I was impressed by how products that are so different - music videos, commercials, tv interludes and so on - have all a particular feel. Do you think there's some sort of "trademark" STEELE quality that we can find in your works?

Jerry: Creatively, we offer a gamut of styles, from photoreal CG character animation to green screen compositing, each of which is tailored to the specific job at hand. Over the years, however, we have developed a reputation for adding the final gloss to all the imagery that comes out of our facility. Part of that stems from our ability to make sure all of our music video client-artists look as beautiful as they can be and that products in our spots, such as cars, have that sizzle factor.


MTribe: Do you remember when were you contacted for working on the Confessions Tour?

Brian: That was a couple months before the tour kicked off.

MTribe: Time schedules may be tight when it comes to working for Madonna. How did it go this time for you? How were you asked to work on "Future Lovers" and did you have some time left to sleep at night?

There definitely were some sleepless nights, as we were essentially putting together multiple videos for the same song - one for each screen with different edits in each.


MTribe: The entire opening sequence of the Confessions Tour is really unique.
"Future Lovers" is not simply a video, but an elaborate performance that starts from the main screen - moves to the smaller stage where the disco ball lands and Madonna performs the most of the song before eventually getting back to the main stage.
Were you aware of how the action was going to take place on the live stage while you were working on the video?

Brian: Yes, we were very involved in how everything integrated from the beginning. Before we even started our part, I was given an animatic, or a rough 3D rendering, of how the arena and sets and screens would be placed in relation to one another in the arena. This was important for us to visualize where and how our video would play within the show. Then I went to the arena as the sets were being built and during rehearsals in order to get a more visceral feel of the show in a live format.


MTribe: I noticed that the lighting designers worked in a brilliant way, successfully driving the crowd's attention from the back to the front of the scene. Has anything in the video projection been set up in a similar way, meaning that the images have a different "quality" when Madonna appears from inside the mirror ball?

: The image "quality" and style do not change. We did, however, have to do a bunch of testing during rehearsals to make sure that the brightness levels of the video worked with the lighting design in the arena, all of which is automated for specific musical cues. Everything in Clark Eddy's brilliant cut was designed to time exactly with all of the stage action. We met with Jaime King, the show's director, early on at the Forum in L.A. to make sure the video played in sync with the action, so that the spectators would be taken on a specific journey.

The cool thing about Future Lovers is that as the opening act, it's the only video of the entire show that plays on it's own, even before Madonna appears. So the audience is fixated on the images, which really builds anticipation in the arena, before the disco ball's descent and Madonna's appearance.

: Monique, you were the lead artist for the "Future Lovers" video and created and composited the sequences in which horses rise from the Earth and descend into the ground at the end.
I understand this was quite challenging and there's a lot of work from the original footage to the final result we saw on the screens. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

Monique: Each horse was filmed individually in slightly different environments. So, each horse had to be cut out from its original background and composited into the final scene, which was originally completely absent of horses and dust. As the horses emerge from or descend into the earth it was important to maintain the dust and dirt from their original surroundings and incorporate it into the new environment. Then the blowing dust from another scene was blended into the final composites to add to the mystery of the appearance or disappearance of the horses.

How was the original footage by Steven Klein prepared and transformed for the larger scale?

Monique: The original footage was transferred 720x486 pixels, a typically shaped 4 x 3 aspect ratio frame. I then cropped each stream - there was one for every screen in the arena - to the particular aspect ratio of that screen, some of which were very unconventional in shape. All of the screens were then composited back into one 1920 x 1080 frame with a matte over the top, creating a collage, which the playback personnel decode and thereby send each stream to a separate screen. Because all the streams start out on the same screen on our end, this is why they can't be off by even a pixel, or the wrong information will be sent to the individual screens in the arena, where a pixel could be a foot in size.

MTribe: And how was working with Steven Klein on this project? Did you have to work on different cuts of the video or your job was more straight forward?


Brian: Working with Steven was great. He's an accomplished photographer, and he gave us stills to reference to how he wanted the color grading and certain framing requirements. For the horse descent, he gave us a still composite of how he wanted the layout to look. As far as the cuts go, there were constant revisions everyday, so Clark, the editor, would post them for Steven and Madonna, and they would give feedback from Clark and us to incorporate into the offlines and onlines on a daily basis, right up until the last couple of days.

Jerry, I understand that technology is no the less state-of-the-art in "Future Lovers", as often happens with anything Madonna does on stage. Six streams of video were play back at once on giant screens, moving together to form a single picture. This for sure doesn't allow any space to imperfection, how did you work to accomplish such a flawless, breathtaking result?

Jerry: Attention to detail is paramount when working on any piece. STEELE has built a industry-wide reputation for perfection in finishing and has backed it up with many flawless demonstrations on a whole host of different projects. In this particular case the methodology of presentation was definitely unique and presented us with some interesting challenges but our team was more than able to meet and overcome them with ease.

Brian: We didn't leave anything to chance. Once things started to roll, I went to the arena to watch playback during rehearsals, so that we could make any adjustments necessary.


MTribe: Which kind of software have you been working with, and is there a specific technology you used that made possible something that was not achievable in a different way?

Monique: This project was conformed in Final Cut Pro using the editor's project file. Because of its complexity and the time constraints, this was the most efficient way to pull all the pieces together. The footage was then transferred over to Quantel's EQ and Henry, where the final composites and effects were completed.

MTribe: The presence of video screens was very relevant in Madonna's Drowned World Tour and became massive in the re-Invention tour. The Confessions Tour went even further with a combination of multiple screens that have become one seamlessly, and the central screen which was not only shaped as a half cylinder, but was also semi-transparent and see-through.


How does the use of such elaborate technologies reflect in your own job, and how is it different to design a video that is going to be shown on such a particular kind of screen?

: Our job is to use whatever we can to do whatever we can to do a great job.
Technological advances occur everyday, it is important for us to be tightly adhered to those changes, constantly updating and relearning our skill-sets on ever-changing platforms.
One of the most critical elements of the job was the ability to create different sized and shaped streams on the same platform without having to constantly manage media. This was possible using the Quantel EQ, a new ultra-high-tech piece of hardware from the UK.

Brian: On the Confessions Tour, certain screens are curved, which gives false impressions, so we typically have to account for that by squeezing the picture just a bit in order to maintain perspective and eliminate the distortion.

MTribe: That's why you performed tests during rehearsals - to check the result of your work on the actual screens and to tweak something if necessary?

Brian: Yes, as I mentioned, we were delivering video to the arena on a constant basis. This is how we learned what levels were needed to match the lighting design and how colors were reproduced on the LED displays. We had to do a final color correction in effort to match the color temperature of the LEDs to match our studio monitors, and the only way to verify these things is to test the picture under actual concert conditions.

MTribe: Did your involvement with the Madonna tour stop when the "Future Lovers" video was complete, or did you provide more of your services when the crew started traveling around the world?

Brian: STEELE's role was finished once the tour started.


MTribe: This is the second time that a Madonna tour is opened by a video segment - and video projections are almost taking the place that was once held by scenarios and stage design. This must be exciting for visual artists like you, how does it feel to see your "role" becoming more and more central in a live show?

Brian: It's always exciting to work on mixed media. This kind of stage show allows us to stretch creatively and challenges us to think in different ways. Typically, we finish a job in our studio and then see it on TV in our living rooms. For this job, our entire staff went to the opening show at The Great Western Forum, and it was a huge thrill to see thousands of spectators' reactions to our work in a live setting. I'll never forget that experience.


Brian, part of your work is also being a link between the creative team and your clients. Was working for Madonna different?

Brian: Not really. The basic client relationship was the same as for any job at STEELE. My job is to interpret what the artist and director want and pass that along to our team of artists to make sure it happens. Along the way, Jerry and Monique and I make our own creative judgment calls, as a team, on how certain things should be executed, and hopefully our clients agree with our decisions. Typically, they do, and that's why they hire us in the first place. There's a lot of trust involved, which is based on our history and experience. But ultimately, my job is foster that communication on a daily basis to ensure everyone is happy, creatively.


MTribe: Did you have a chance to discuss your work on the video with Madonna?

We had an initial discussion with all of the key creatives, and then a final consult, but during the meat of our job, most of our communication occurs with Clark Eddy, offline editor, and Hagai Shaham, the production company's producer.

MTribe: In your production reel you picked up images from two Madonna videos dating a while back, "I'll Remember" and "The Power of Good-bye".
What you did you do on those videos and were there other videos featuring Madonna you had worked on?

Jerry: "I'll Remember" had multiple projection screen fills and classic theatre atmospherics (like smoke haze and the flickering light beams from a projection booth) added. The theatre walls and ceiling had digital enhancements.
A sound booth was completely created from scratch to accompany a crane shot down to Madonna. All the movie inserts were treated to appear to be within the theatre and all Madonna's close ups and medium shots were individually treated for facial beauty enhancements.

The second video, "The Power of Goodbye" had much less set embellishments but had more beauty work required.
At about the same time that we did "I'll Remember" I also worked on a pair of commercials for a Japanese sake featuring Madge as a mythical female samurai atop a mountain controlling the weather and additionally defending an glowing orb from a huge possessive golden dragon!

MTribe: Oh yes, the amazing Takara Jun commercial!

MTribe: Even if you are visual artist, music must have a great role in your job. What about music in your everyday life?

Monique: Music plays a huge role in my everyday life. I can't work without it. It stimulates creativity and motivates me. Without music the late nights would be unbearable.

MTribe: Can you tell us something about working at STEELE. How is your studio like, how many people are part of the team, how's a typical day like?


Monique: Working at Steele is like being a part of a family. We have an incredible group of artists. We all support and complement each other.

No day is the same here, depending on what we're working on. We have an amazing core staff, which grows, as the job requires. Our studio is broken into three main creative areas: animation, which includes CGI, design, which includes titles and graphics, and visual effects online editorial/composite. The artists at STEELE are so talented, and Jerry is an inspiration to all.
On any one day, we could be working on several commercials and music videos at once and developing an in-house project for R & D purposes.


MTribe: Back to "Future Lovers", you were mentioning that you had the chance to see the video during the live show.
It must be quite an experience to feel the crowd roaring and cheering, responding to something you created, and of course, you can tell how much the Madonna fans are loud!

Brian: Yes, as I previously mentioned, seeing the opening show was a very memorable experience. The best part for me was seeing how much gratification our creative staff - especially Monique - got from the audience reaction to their work. There's nothing like the instant gratification of the live show, and you can be sure the reaction is honest. There's no bullshit from a packed arena.


MTribe: Was there anything else that made your job on "Future Lovers" something to remember?

Brian: This is the probably the single most creative team, as a whole, we've ever worked with. Starting with Madonna, of course, the list goes on and on, but Jaime King as the show director, Steven Klein director of "Future Lovers," which was shot by Academy Award winning DP Janusz Kaminski, edited by Clark Eddy, costumes by Gaultier…. We are very proud to have been selected to work among such creative industry leaders.

MTribe: It's almost impossible to number the artists you worked for and the projects you contributed to, but if you had to pick one you cherish the most, what would he be?

Monique: Without a doubt this was the most rewarding and challenging project I have ever worked on.

Brian: I'd have to agree.

Jerry: This was a highlight for our whole company for sure.

Every job presents us with different pleasures, pains and fulfillments, but we are the fortunate few who can say that our occupation is our hobby and by definition we offer our all to every project. Our passions reflect in our work
and we leave each job thinking it was our best one yet.

MTribe: And what's boiling in the cauldron at STEELE at the moment, which is the most challenging upcoming projects you are working on?


Brian: We've been working on an in-house sci-fi character animation piece that we're very excited about. It showcases the full skill set of our CGI division.

MTribe: It sounds exciting!

Monique, Brian, Jerry, thank you so much for sharing your time with our readers, we whish you all the best for your upcoming projects and hope to see again the STEELE touch on Madonna's future projects soon!


Special thanks to Monique Eissing, Brian Adler and Jerry Steele.

Be sure to check out to know more about the talents, the skills, the art, the technology
and the people behind the amazing productions by STEELE.

This interview © 2006 MadonnaTribe.
All pictures © 2006 MadonnaTribe except the STEELE logo and where otherwise stated - All rights reserved

News Forum Interviews Magazine Features Tour Italia Email