Mathieu Gerard: Steel Life

For his master thesis at Arts et Technologies de l’Image, Mathieu Gérard created “Steel Life,” a breathtaking tapestry of textures and light that evokes themes of genesis and rebirth.

While there’s no obvious narrative, the film uses abstract realism—lovingly rendered imagery inspired by nature—to build an associative network of ideas. The lush soundtrack, composed by Mathieu Alvado and performed by the Star Pop Orchestra, adds a dramatic arc to the film.

Also check out the breakdowns in Gérard’s making-of film.

“Steel Life” will be screened at F5.

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About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.



Wow, that was beautiful! And the soundtrack is amazing, perfect! I gots teary eyes now.
Looking forward to watching it on the big screen at F5. :-)


Beautiful piece…well done!


Hmm…why the tears? Yes, it’s nice rendering, yes, the sound has a production value, but other than that…reminds me of digging through some old test files, finsih them up, render it out nicely, nice camera included, then get a bombastic orchestral atmo. Ok. You can do that. Me personally, I can’t really see a deeper connection in the different shots other than what I mentioned earlier. Sorry, but there’s gotta be more..


it feels like an extended ad for world peace and renewable energy. also interesting is how the musical credits take up the majority if not the whole part of the (lengthy) credits. was it necessary? we already knew the message was transcendental.



replying “tonypolygoni:”
I understand your point but I think you should see beyond the technical point of view or do not analyse just bits separately. I think the whole piece ( the renders + the music + the apparently lack of connection ) makes the whole thing beautiful and it jumps out from the ordinary ,what everyone is doing.

Thumbs up!


actually….”jumps out from the ordinary” is the point i cannot, under no circumstances, in any way understand, because the whole thing is exactly’s ordinary…because its lacking of character. like…a damn lot… but this is totally subjective. i just think its nice to watch (as a TD reel), i hate when u use a hollywood-like orchestral shit like this instead of spending your budget on a real talent with skills that are creative instead of doing the ‘hollywood-system’ and please…..don’t use the empire state building just because it was a model that u had on your harddrive. it is just to obvious that you play around with realflow..and sure, it looks nice to fill up a piece of glass with liquid, but that doesn’t make a film….neither does the rest. because they are all just tests. TD tests….so where is the love? in the music? i don’t think so


Oh and shake things up, I think it’s a shame that this is screened..
because its basically just a reel


ok..I just watched it again. Just wanted to make sure if I got it right. The whole thing is just a bunch of nice looking shit with stupid music.Is there anybody out there on motionographer who shares my opinion? You can simply NOT accept this as a film with any kind of message or any type of abstract flow at all! . Why is this supposed to be recognized as a film?
It’s a reel damnit! A reel with ‘nice’ music….


one word for you…..



i surrender. you got me. ‘steel life’ and ‘Koyaanisqatsi’…..of course


The visual tone poem contains neither dialogue nor a vocalized narration: its tone is set by the juxtaposition of images and music. – wiki

A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music in one movement in which some extra musical program provides a narrative or illustrative element. -wiki


I second your opinion, I found this very dry. Its something you can only watch once, and neevr want to watch ever again unless you want to break down some of the technical elements. Asides from the fact that it does look beautiful. Lets move beyond aesthteics and have some content in you work hunh?? Though generating ideas is a struggle for most people I think he should of pushed this idea harder considering it was his thesis project. didn’t he learn anything his first year of art education??


was that liquid stuff washing over the ground done in pflow? what app was used to do that?

Marc B.

There are some nice moments but every time I see realflow I cringe.

Please people if you can’t pull of realistic fluids don’t do it. I’m not saying I can do it but there’s nothing worse than seeing generic looking realflow fluid simulations.

Helio Vega

This guy is a Fantastic Fx man! Nicely done. The track match perfectly with the visuals.


I saw the words “Masters Thesis” and got my hopes up. It just felt like a rushed final project…despite knowing how long those renders take.


I agree. It reminded me of Planet Earth (mostly because of the music), but minus the animals and lacking continuity.


Pretty and meditative, but agreed (less vitriolically) with the comments above about it essentially being a loosely stitched pastiche of test renders.

Mathieu Alvado


thanks for the comments, the nice ones and the not so nice ones.

For the place taken by the musical credits, I think it’s normal, cause all those people came and record the music for free. The sound engineers work on it many, many hours. It’s basically the idea of credits : thank the people involved in a project.

To Tonypolygoni : I understand that you disliked the movie but using the term “stupid” and “shit” is a little rude I think and not really respectful for the people who worked on it. As I said above, there wasn’t any budget so we couldn’t spend it in better ways :-). And please, consider that orchestral music exists since the 17th century so don’t reduce all to hollywood’s style. I think I’ve spent more time studying Mozart and Ravel than Hans Zimmer. We thought that that style of music was the most appropriate for the movie. If we thought that electro or sound design were better for it, we would do that (as on other short movies I’ve composed for).

We know that the movie is pretty hard to understand and open to different meanings, but it didn’t mean that it’s just a bunch of test renders. Most of all it’s done with sincerity and great involvement from many people and for that reason, deserves a little respect, even from people who hate it.


Sorry for the rude words. You are totally right, that wasn’t necessary. I was a little buzzed at that time ;)

But on a more constructive level…figuring out that you actually used a GI/FG test model in that tree shot (the house), which can be simply downloaded by anyone, is not very convincing. To xpez2000: That’s like using common stock footage in ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ ( which, in my opinion, is something totally different than ‘steel life’).
So, other then my rude behavior (my apology for that again), I am still pretty sure that this is a reel. Which is nothing bad, I actually think it’s a very good reel. I just don’t find it interesting or remarkable as a film, especially not as it was declared ‘non narrative and experimental’. I think it fails especially in these categories.

Mathieu Alvado

No hard feelings from me Tony :-)

I’m sorry but I can’t answer your questions, cause I’m just the composer and not the director. But maybe Mathieu Gérard will answer it if he reads the discussion.

I understand that some people watch it and think it’s just a reel. I won’t give some clues cause I don’t want to fix one meaning. I’ve red many interesting interpretations of Steel life, and I think it’s a good point that different people see different things in it (even thoes who see nothing in it). I just can tell you that the music was composed on the shots and It’s not the music which gives the “tempo” of the movie; this tempo was in the first editing that Mathieu Gérard showed to me, and the structure also. More than that I think that I couldn’t compose on a reel, cause there isn’t a direction on a reel. There was one on Steel Life. On our first meeting for the music, Mathieu asked me what I’ve understood, I answered him, but I’m pretty sure that he had an idea more elaborated than what I’ve said, and that’s why he asked me some little changes on the music.

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