U23D at IMAX

One good thing about living in the society of the spectacle is that every once in a while it produces something truly mind-blowing. In this case, a U2 concert movie filmed in a new 3D technology, playing on the huge IMAX screens. Unbelievably good.
The experience is nothing like previous 3D movies. This is absolutely convincing, beautiful and glorious, with presence and immediacy. Band members exist in 3-space, walking around, moving toward and away from you. The drum kit looked especially impressive, with a depth and lighting that you just have never seen on screen before.
The technology is produced by 3ality Digital. Here’s a semi-technical article on the production from Film & Video magazine’s January issue. Even better, this companion article on software post-production has a lot of interesting details:

The toolset also allows for multiple convergence points. “This is something that doesn’t make sense at all in 2D,” says Postley. “You can have not only multiple 3D layers, but each one of the layers has a different focal plane or convergence point. If I took a shot of Bono, a shot of Edge and so on into editing, I can cut up the images and layer them to make them look like they’re standing in the same depth in the screen. It’s a 3D effect for which there is no 2D corollary.”

Here’s a page written by a guy hired to do the Stereoscopic Depth Balancing:

Because so much of the project was edited in fast paced, “MTV” type cuts, and almost every scene involved multiple layers and special effect composites, we were faced with continuous alignment and dynamic artistic placement issues. This gave us opportunities to experiment with and learn from freely floating objects, people and backgrounds in a “dream-like” visual montage. We learned to “hand off” changes of depth from near to far and back again, smoothly guiding the eyes from scene to scene. The result is comfortable viewing through disolves and quick cuts, and an 84 minute movie that doesn’t strain the eyes or induce headaches.

The sound also rocks hard. The clarity and auditory spatial focus seem to follow the visual focus. And the lighting is very dramatic. Crisp everywhere, with lots of variation and shading, as well as the usual knockout punches that concert light can deliver.
It’s simply a tour de force of concert movie immersion. I certainly want to see it again and get the perfect seat, half-way up in the center. Kathryn and I saw this in Baltimore and sat low, in the 3rd or 4th row, far off to the side – pretty bad seats, and it was still impressive.