Bruce Rodgers: Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show

Bruce Rodgers of Tribe Inc designed an eye-catching production for the XLVI Super Bowl Halftime Show starring Madonna. Live Design caught up with Rodgers after the show for a Q&A about the design:

What was your general concept for the production design... how much input, if any, did Madonna have?

This type of show design is hard work and the process can be the most challenging of any design field. The main challenge is finding a way to design something impressive that installs in a rapid time frame and yet provides a proper iconic base for an artist such as Madonna. Having designed her Drowned World Tour years ago I offered the Halftime team what I knew about her demanding process, her work ethic, her attention to detail, the wild ride she takes in her processing and rehearsing.

Our director Hamish Hamilton had experiences with her as well and we new we had an artist in Madonna to channel everything through, and that's the path we took. With Madonna comes not only her desires to create the best presentation art but also her entourage of creative artists, choreographers, costume designers, visionaries, dancers, accountants, and advisors. We as a halftime production team, under the steady hand of executive producer Ricky Kirshner, also count ourselves fortunate with a very experienced team of producers, creatives, choreagraphers, visionaries, staging experts, accountants, and advisors highly skilled at five-minute installations and 12-minute live half time show performances in front of massive television audiences. We are definitely two camps addicted to performance at a really high level, so the process of creating the concept over the course of two months was a high-impact collision of two missions that somehow came together as one great show. The real story of all the details is larger than life. Once Madonna had confirmed that she would perform we had a series of early high-concept creative meetings, she represented by her creative director Jamie King and his team. King presented initial ideas, input, and desires he developed with her before coming to the meeting, so in that first meeting we learned a lot about our two ways of thinking. In a very real way we enlisted Madonna's initial concepts in the development and I pushed a path of form following function.

Without going into the multitude of ideas we studied, eliminated, finessed, we eventually refined the stage show into one that not only made me and our team happy but satisfied most of Jamie King's and Madonna's early desires and sort of worked within our live football show challenges. It was a designer's dream process with a few nightmares mixed in, but all-in-all a very satisfying experience with the concept being developed thru a lot of hard work and input from many fun, creative and dedicated people from both sides. Can you imagine not only sitting at the design table again with the NFL and the people who produce the show year after year such as, Ricky, Hamish, lighting designer Al Gurdon and many others, but now adding Madonna, Jamie King, Cirque Du Soleil, costume designer stylist B Akerlund, and the great artists at Moment Factory: The result was one of the largest most technically challenging halftime show designs with the largest cast, the most lift effects, biggest projection and lighting rig, the fastest installation and strike, the biggest field projection, and the best creative casting and costuming coordination ever in Super Bowl history.

Can you describe the various sections of the set and what all the various video surfaces were: the floor, the field, etc.?

Previous to this show we experienced the scale and complications of The Who halftime design where we employed a single type of video technology in approximately 48 carts. On this design for Madonna we created a massive cross shaped form that employed not only high res LED tiles, but also rigged down projection on a deployed field cover, and embedded LED lighting and other electric effects in the mix of over 58 carts. The Who design took 8 1/2 minutes to install with a six-person band and Madonna's cross took under five minutes with a cast of approximately 520 cast performers in the mix. This is a testament to experienced design and engineering, and the great fabrication skills of All Access of Torrance, California.

Madonna's set design consisted of a central main stage which employed a record of five hidden lifts, an upstage dance bleacher with an escape system, four corner band positions, a slackline acrobatic rig at the downstage edge, and left and right ramped performance wings. Downstage of the built set was a huge 149'-wide x 90'-high white fabric field cover which was strategically deployed after Madonna's entrance, giving Moment Factory a canvas for their amazing imagery...and finally the entrance which consisted of a custom built Jimmie Martin-designed gold-leaf throne mounted atop a rolling barge equipped with imbedded lighting and push bars pulled by 150 gladiators, with Madonna being hidden initially and then revealed by amazing giant wings created by the Michael Curry Design studio. You might imagine the various discussions that occurred between us, the NFL and Madonna's camp regarding this entrance… but as we all witnessed it was a pretty amazing opener imagined by Michel Laprise of Cirque du Soleil and executed by the combined team.

What was the biggest challenge, other than time?

The challenge to create a perfect show. The opener, which we called the 'Procession' was the biggest challenge. The set was buildable, and the stage performance was able to be rehearsed and delivered...but the opening procession had to be worked out in the few days before Super Bowl Sunday using a huge cast of trained volunteers, 150 untrained 'gladiators', and the meshing of various visions.

How did all the pieces come together on the field and how much time did it take?

The secret to installing a Super Bowl halftime show is a closely guarded series of solutions and tactics, employing inspired local volunteers trained in a series of boot camp style drills over the course of two weeks. Our staging experts, led by Halftime show veteran Cap Spence, work with us in the design phase and teach the volunteer team to push these 2000lb and 3000lb hi-tech carts through stadium tunnels and onto the fields in front of the stadium audiences, and build the set during a commercial's old school coordination meets modern technology and it's truly one of the highlights of the live audience experience.

Stay tuned for more of Live Design's in-depth coverage on the Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show design aspects, credits, and gear lists.

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