Moment Factory

Montreal based agency Moment Factory is the one who designed Super Bowl Halftime Show and MDNA Tour! And those guys are amazing!

We are talking to Julie Armstrong-Boileau, head of communication and spokesperson in Moment Factory. Yes, you've already heard about them! This Montreal based agency, famous for creating multimedia environments, is responsible for amazing collaboration with Madonna at her Super Bowl Halftime Show and the MDNA Tour.

Hi Julie! Thank you for this little chat with Polish fans. Let's start from the beginning! The Super Bowl Halftime Show was your first Madonna experience, wasn't it? How did it come to this collaboration?

Yes, the Super Bowl Halftime Show was indeed our first experience with Madonna and because it went so well, she wanted to continue working with us. We were involved in both projects because of Cirque du Soleil. Cirque du Soleil is from Montreal and we've been working a lot with their people at different events.

So what was your first thought when you've found out you are going to work with Madonna? You know, it's Madonna!

It's really, really, really an honour to work with her. She's very creative, a fantastic human being and very complete artist. So for us it was a true honour.

As far as the MDNA Tour is concerned can you tell us how the whole process started? Did you receive a setlist from Madonna and talked about her vision or was it done the other way?

We got a first draft of the setlist and Madonna and Michel Laprise gave us overall ideas and themes for the show. We knew we were going to work on 12 songs but at first we didn’t know which ones. As the choreography and staging developed our mandate became clear. We had a back and forth with Michel Laprise and with Madonna to clearly state what would be the main emotion and the main context for each of the 4 acts. Each song is very, very different.

Girl Gone Wild, courtesy of Moment Factory

We suppose Madonna wanted to see some options, didn't she?

Yes – she loves options! She'd like to see different kinds of approaches. For the first song “Girl Gone Wild” we created a photo realistic church universe we bring the audience to. So we proposed different kind of churches, atmospheres and colors. Once Madona and Michel Laprise saw all these options, they started to choose and tell us what is yes, what is no, what needs more work or developing. So it's really a back and forth and Madonna is very involved. We did feel that we could propose a lot and she let us be very creative. But our work was really to magnify what Madonna had in mind and creating the visuals for her universe.

And did you meet her during the collaboration?

Yes, we met Madonna. Sakchin Bessette, the creative director and co-founder of Moment Factory, sat down many, many times with her. The whole team: multi-media directors – Pamela Rocks for the Super Bowl and Melissa Weigel for the MDNA Tour as well as Producer Johanna Marsal – they both got to meet Madonna, also few animators met her. We spent one month with her and the rest of her team in Long Island to practice everything, fine-tune every song and to make sure each song goes well with the rest of the show. The visuals had to go well with the costumes, lighting design and choreography.

Ok, but the MDNA Tour setlist contains 22 numbers (including interludes) and you worked only on 12 of them. So did you cooperate with other teams to make a cohesive show from the first to the last song?

We collaborated intensively with show director Michel laprise, set designer Mark Fisher, lighting designer Al Gurdon, production manager Jake Berry, video technical director Stefaan Desmedt and choreographers Rich + Tone.

Although in general we didn’t collaborate with the other video content providers, there were a few moments where this was necessary. For example, the footage of Nicki Minaj we use in “I don’t Give A” was shot by Jonas Akerlund, edited by Danny Tull and then composited into a 3D background by our team. So of course, we had to communicate artisticly to make it come together.

And were there other songs you've started working on but they didn't make the final cut?

The way we work with Madonna was really step by step. Sometimes it would take 2 or 3 concepts before we all felt it was the right one. However, nothing was produced and cut later. Once Madonna choses a direction, she doesn’t change often change her mind. Everything went really well and fast.

Celebration, courtesy of Moment Factory

So which one of those 12 is you favourite or the one you are the most proud of?

This is very tough question. Johanna Marsal, the producer, is proud of the last song “Celebration” which is very crazy and full of 3D effects. And Melissa Weigel loves “Vogue” because it captures a classic Madonna expression; the black and white graphics are simple but were created to move perfectly with the choreography. My favourite is “Express Yourself” as it's very simple, 2D, cartoonish, very funny. I really love this.

Express Yourself, courtesy of Moment Factory

Yes, we also like “Express Yourself”! Warhol-esque, pop-art backdrop for this song is really funny and interesting...

Yes Madonna really pushed us hard on this one so that we could find the right tone and sense of humour. All of the songs have a very deep message and the way we conveyed it was to surprise the audience. For “Express Yourself” the look was very simple, pop-art and catchy but the message behind it touches more serious themes.

Revolver, courtesy of Moment Factory

And which one was the most difficult?

Another tough question! None was really more difficult than the others. Of course “Girl Gone Wild” was a challenge but each song was very demanding.

The shoot for “Revolver”was challenging to get the right lighting for the tone on tone effect and the super slow motion surrealism. Madonna wanted a weapon assembly line so we built one instead of making it in CGI because we felt it would give a better artistic result.

The main stage surface is made up of 36 motorized LED cubes. These cubes allowed us to create really different and interesting visuals and effects throughout the show, meaning the stage is constantly transforming. For “I'm a sinner”, we filmed from the back of a train in India. The magical landscapes from the train-ride footage became the backdrop whilst the moving LED floor needed to transform into the shape of 3 trains. Madonna is standing on the central train while the dancers jump from one to another. The template for this can get complex.

I'm A Sinner, courtesy of Moment Factory

Speaking of visual effects, you use some spectacular visual techniques in your projects. You already mentioned 3D effects in “Celebration” but you also use projection mapping, don't you?

Actually there was no projection mapping in the MDNA Tour. It's all video content presented on LED screens. We used projection however on the Super Bowl halftime show. We projected some video on the big surface in front of the stage and stage itself was covered with LED screens.

To sum up – could you give us some MDNA Tour numbers?

Well the Moment Factory team was 12-15 people – including graphic designers, illustrators, motion designers, multi-media and creative directors, producer and technical specialists.

It took 4 months to create the whole conception of this show and videos for 12 songs. For The Super Bowl we created 12 minutes video and it took us 4 months. For the MDNA Tour we had the same time and we had to be much quicker as there was approximately 70 minutes of content to produce.

Give Me All Your Luvin', courtesy of Moment Factory

On YouTube there are many amateur videos of MDNA concerts from all over the world and you can often hear people saying "Wow!" or "Oh my God!". It looks like mission complete! In your opinion what are the most important wow factors when it comes to designing modern music tours?

The most important thing is that the all the artistic departments were able to work together to create one immersive experience and Madonna is really good at leading that vision, and creating a collaborative spirit around her. It’s no use we make a spectacular video but it doesn’t fit with the lighting for example. At Moment Factory we think it’s important to work closely with all the departments on a show in order to achieve that amazement factor for the audience.
Our motto is “we do it in public”. As soon as we have people gathering together and saying wow, we love it, cheering, writing us on Facebook and Twitter, telling us good things about the show, even if they don't know Moment Factory... for us it's mission accomplished. Our goal is giving people a reason to go out of their houses and to come together and experience something new, something strong, something very human and warm.

Have you ever thought about directing a music video

We’ve had opportunities in the past but we choose instead to focus on creating experiences that bring people together out of their houses and far from the personal devices and screens.

So what about your current projects? When we can see your creativity now?

We've just created a 15 minutes sound & light show for a fasade of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. We are really proud of creating that show. It was projected only 3 days, 4 times a day or night actually. It was 3D mapping and that surface was really crazy to map as it's very complex. Antoni Gaudí's architecture is really crazy. It was a big accomplishment.

Is there anything to announce?

No, there is nothing to announce for now. That's how we work. Sometimes we do many projects and some of them are confirmed, some of them are not. There are some shows coming with different artists and projects for different urban spaces but we are not allowed to talk about them yet. They are permanent or temporal installations, projections for events and video content, interactive installations, interactive experiences. Let's keep in touch and we will let you know what comes up for us.

Ok! It sounds perfect. Thank you. Would you like to say something to our Polish community in the end?

Yes, Poland is a nice country! I was there 2 years ago and I have some friends there! And I also thank you so much – it was a pleasure to answer your questions.


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