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STEELE Gives Duran Duran the Star Treatment in New Video

STEELE, Inc. used an ingenious mix of computer animation and compositing techniques turned pop icons Duran Duran into stars all over again, for the group’s new smash hit video, What Happens Tomorrow. With just three days to prep the job and a mere two weeks to execute it, the studio’s team of artists completed more than 40 intricate visual effects shots in which singer Simon LeBon and his bandmates appear as animated constellations in the night sky. The project has earned STEELE a nomination for a Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Music Video.

What Happens Tomorrow, directed by Smith ‘n’ Borin of [email protected], is the hit release from Duran Duran’s new album, Astronaut, on Epic, the band’s first studio release with its original line up since 1983.  It also kicks off the band’s new North American tour.

The video intercuts the band inside a star, in a distant galaxy with shots of a young man and woman in a parking lot, staring up at the night sky. The young couple reach toward the stars and appear to rearrange them into the forms of the band. They then watch in delight as the animated constellations rock the heavens.

The production company approached STEELE, seeking a way to pull off the novel effect of the animated stars within the constraints of the video’s all but impossible deadline.  “Our initial thought was to employ motion capture, but there simply wasn’t time as the band was only available for one day, including the shoot, ” explained Brian Adler, visual effects supervisor for STEELE. “Ultimately, we decided to dress the band in black suits patterned with hundreds of small rhinestones and had them shot against green screen.  In post, our team then keyed the performers to produce the silhouettes.”

STEELE artists Jerry Steele, Monique Eissing and Dave Neuberger, using Quantel’s EQ and Henry, enhanced each individual rhinestone so that it was clearly defined and sparkling. “We also manually tracked and composited scores of additional stars in order to evoke the individual performers’ facial expressions and routines,” explained Steele. “We then melded the animations into the night sky background, which we also enhanced. We shot smoke elements against black and composited them into the constellations to give them added shape and texture.”

Drummer Roger Taylor and keyboardist Nick Rhodes were first filmed performing without their instruments.  Separate passes of the keyboard and drum set were then shot from which STEELE artists created star patterns representing the instruments in Adobe AfterEffects and PhotoShop.  The elements were then composited with the performers using EQ. A particularly flashy effect, where stars appear to be flying off Rogers’ twirling drumstick, was produced by Patrick Murphy using Combustion.

CG artist Wayne England also got into the act, using Lightwave to create a spectacular sequence near the beginning of the video. The shot is a camera push beginning in the parking lot on Earth and travels several light years through space before settling into a close up of a white hot star where Duran Duran has made its new home. “We fly through a starry, asteroid filled sky and past cloudy nebulae and planets in the space of about five seconds,” England said.

Despite the time crunch,  STEELE’s team welcomed the opportunity to create effects that were both unusual and integral to the concept of the video. “It was extraordinarily challenging, but also extraordinarily rewarding,” concluded Adler. “It is almost unprecedented in videos today to have so many effects shots. More importantly, the quality of the execution serves the dramatic purpose beautifully.”

Credits for STEELE  INC.  go to Brian Adler, executive pProducer/visual effects supervisor; Jo Steele, senior executive producer; Jerry Steele, supervising visual effects artist; Monique Eissing, Dave Neuberger and Patrick Murphy, visual effects artists and Wayne England, CG srtist.

STEELE Inc. is located at 1437 Seventh Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401. For more information, call (310) 656-7770 or visit

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