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MTBS U2 3D Review!





John Stubbs (Chief Strategy Officer, 3ality) left,
Neil Schneider (President & CEO, MTBS) right


When I was at CES 2008, I had the opportunity to see a full-length preview of the U2 3D movie, an S-3D spectacle of U2 in concert made by 3ality Digital. Furthermore, I had the privilege of seeing it in multi-story IMAX 3D at the Luxor Theatre.

The first thing I noticed when the movie started was how LOUD it was. Ear deafening LOUD! No doubt, 3ality wanted the theatre to not just look like the U2 experience, they wanted it to sound like the concert experience too. Watching the movie, you can’t help but get caught up in the energy of the crowd, perhaps the strongest 3D effect of all, watching them jump up and down and seeming to pop out at the audience with volumetric shape and excitement.

U2 played all their best hits like "Streets With No Name", "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", "It’s a Beautiful Day", etc, and the staging of the concert was perfect too. There were special audience stage paths that let Bono walk in to the crowded pools of adoring fans; a very good feature in an S-3D environment. I have to say that with the exception of AC/DC and The Rolling Stones, I can’t think of any other bands that can command that much energy and excitement, and make it blast through the 3D screen.

Some of the most effective shots for me were the top view of the drum kit, the guitars peeping through the screen space, and the jumping crowds. It was the naturalness of the experience that was most intriguing, and I think the most effective parts of the film were the simplest.

There were some caveats that took away from the experience for me. U2 is a very political band. That’s their nature, and I’m all for it. In the last quarter of the concert, Bono starts talking about the Middle East, and starts to lecture about how everyone should get together, and he puts on a bandana with a Star of David, a crescent, and all kinds of religious symbols, and tries to push the message to coexist. It’s a positive message, and had I been at the concert, I wouldn’t have been bothered by it. However, in stereoscopic 3D, with a close-up of Bono talking and motioning to the audience with his hands reaching out to my personal space, I felt trapped. Like I had no choice but to listen to this street corner minister who was telling me that the world is going to end. It didn’t help that at the Luxor, you are belted down by a security bar - the same they use when you are in a rollercoaster.

There was another scene where the Declaration of Human Rights was being shown in the background, and a monotone Asian woman was reading it word for word. In concert, it was probably cool. In the theatre in S-3D, I felt trapped and forced. It was as if Bono was talking to his 20,000 minions, and I was the odd one out in the crowd. It just seemed odd that it felt like a scene from the books 1984 or Brave New World, when U2 is about everything against that kind of imagery.

What I walked away with is that less is more in S-3D, much much more. U2 needed the spectacle for a 2D environment, they needed the spectacle for a concert of thousands of people, but at times, the same spectacle resulted in overkill in S-3D; twisting the message to uncomfortable levels - at least for me. It will be interesting to see if the movie has a similar effect at smaller IMAX 3D, Real D, and Dolby screens. I mean, at the over-sized Luxor IMAX 3D, you can visualize helicopters flying around Bono’s head trying to knock him off the Empire State Building. This may not have been the exact experience the movie was designed for.

That said, I recommend you see it, as I think the movie will be very successful. The film was filled with so much energy, the music was thoroughly enjoyable, and it was without a doubt a visually stunning experience. Even beyond the movie, the ramifications are clear. We now have mass market proof that live events can be recorded in S-3D with the same flexibility as traditional 2D.

In the coming years, I want to see 3D sports like boxing, live concerts transmitted to theatres and 3D consumer screens around the world, and other types of event art that have never even been considered yet. Very exciting stuff indeed.

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