U23D logoLast night I was invited to a private screening of a new 3D movie coming out soon that could well become a ‘killer app’ for 3D movies.
Shot during U2’s Vertigo tour in South America, U23D is possibly the best entertainment experience I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve been trying to think of something that tops it… and I can’t. It really is that awesome.
The movie is a partnership between U2, National Geographic and 3ality Digital, the producers of the film, and uses techniques never before used in 3D cinematography. For example, it uses the most number of 3D cameras used at one time, and a spider cam that hovers over the crowd. It was shown at an IMAX cinema last night in Las Vegas and it blows away anything you might have seen in 3D before.
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The reason for this is the way the movie is shot and the content itself. It’s all very nice to watch a 3D film of the Titanic or 3D animations of dinosaurs, but a concert is something way cooler and much more familiar. It’s pop culture, it’s contemporary, and it’s amazing to see it in 3D.
I’m not a huge fan of U2, although I do enjoy many of their bigger tracks and have a great deal of respect for their achievements. Seeing them in 3D, and hovering over the band’s shoulder as they go through their set, however, was a moving experience that changed many of my preconceptions about them. Being so close to them and with such incredible resolution, you see every last tiny detail, movement and emotion that they go through during the concert. This makes the film very humble and revealing. While such deconstruction might actually put off the odd fickle fan, I came away with a profound new respect for the band. There is simply no hiding their phenomenal talent – four guys, no support, on stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
The movie itself is unpretentious, as (it turns out) are the band, and the concert is allowed to play out without fanfare or gimmicks – one concert track after another, with just a little bit of filmed creative at the beginning. As a viewer, you are taken on a journey with the four musicians as they go through their set from a range of different camera angles. Hovering over the drums, the point of view of the band as they look out over the crowd, among the crowd, in front of the crowd (bouncer vision?), flying over the crowd, it’s all there. Some creative use of dissolves at different 3D depths, and one part where animation is added to Bono’s hand movements are the only tricks in this movie – any more and they would have detracted from the overall experience.
In one wide-angle shot, the entire crowd is jumping up and down, ever so slightly out of sync. The effect is like people bouncing on waves on the sea and has to be seen to be believed. In another great shot, Bono is out among the crowd on a stage extension, with bass guitarist Adam Clayton in the foreground on another. For the first time you really get the geography of the stage and how everything relates to one another. You really feel you are hovering over the concert with the perfect view.
At one point during Sunday Bloody Sunday, you are so close to Bono (he is right in front of your face) that the very best VIP seat in the house couldn’t come near to the same experience. Watching the 3D film of the concert is actually better than the real thing.
If you get the chance to see this movie, don’t hesitate. In fact, be proactive about it. It’s only on a limited release so you’ll have to do your research. The official website currently has listings for the US and Canada.
Apparently there’s two versions of the film, one running on regular film and a digital version being shown in special digital theatres. One of the producers of the movie told me after the screening that the digital version is better… to be honest, what I saw (the analogue version) was mindblowing enough.
U23D is released January 23rd in the USA and February 22nd in the UK. Don’t forget to take a lighter…

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