The theatre was packed. I like to sit center – especially in IMAX & 3D presentations. So we sat front row center. That's pretty darned close. It was also pretty cool, though you might want to bring one of those neck pillows.
The production opens with a major wow factor. The band members feel like they're right in your lap. The film brings you on stage. While the wow factor fades considerably, this is still a great way to see a concert. More of concern, the 3D is not rock solid. I experienced pretty consistent ghosting. Other minor imperfections – the sound mix goes bassy on one song – don't recall the title, but it's the one where the drummer comes out to the front stage. Lastly, I'd have much preferred priority camera on "The Edge" while he's soloing. In fact, as one of the premier guitarists in rock & roll, I greatly enjoyed the big shots of him doing his thing – and I wanted more.
That said, and despite these imperfections, U2 3D is still a pleasure. A lot is done right. To start with, U2 is a great band. The music mix overall is clean, the vocals are clear for the most part and each instrument is distinct and up to level. I greatly appreciated the slow tracking shots and the absence of the over-rated handheld shaky cam-thing. I also appreciated the longer than MTV durations between cuts and or dissolves. I would have liked to extend those durations. As for image resolution, if there was an actual IMAX in the camera mix, it didn't impress me with great detail. I was left with the feeling that most of this was shot on a lesser format. (Note the blur to white of the band members from medium to wide shots.) Still, the mix of various angles and distances made for a healthy comprehensive representation of the event.
But, again, despite imperfections. This was a pleasure. I want to welcome and encourage IMAX presentations of musical presentations. "Where the Streets have No Names" and "One" were particularly hypnotic. Overall, a very strong B+.
Ray Hannisian, the 3D Stereographer/depth balancing artist on this film, emailed me after reading this review. He wrote: "You did yourself and the 3D in U23D a dis-service by sitting in the front row. We optimized this for the center seat in a 50 foot screen theater. In fact, the closer you move to the back of the theater, the more dynamic (stretched) the 3D becomes. ... There is
theoretically one distance from the screen where each shot can be an
accurate representation of the "real world", but in practice, we try to give
the audience a "fun" experience. Up close or off to the sides still gives a feeling
of depth, but also introduces various distortions."
He invited me down to 3ality Studio in Burbank California to demonstrate not only how the film should have been seen, but also some tricks of manipulating 3D footage.
First, Ray showed me software that makes possible correction in digital 3D footage. Both eye images are displayed on the computer monitor. Ray explained vertical disparity between frames is difficult on the eyes and this new software allowed him to isolate and correct it without offsetting other elements on the U23D film. He also demonstrated how various subjects could be pulled toward you or away at the will of the software operator (in this case him). "When one scene transitions to the next, we have to hand off the depth to the next center of interest -- it's easier on the eyes." (I paraphrase)
I've been quite interested in 3D for many years and shoot 3D stills on my SLR, so I know through trial and error what works, or more to the point what looks good in three dimensions and what doesn't. But I'd not given thought to corrections and manipulations of 3D in post. These are some powerful tools Ray is playing with.
Next we watched the U23D in the studio's screening room -- a 20 foot screen using the "RealD" circularly polarized format. We viewed from the back, the middle, the front. This was Ray's whole reason for inviting me over -- so that I could see how his footage should look when displayed properly and viewed properly.
Ray prefers to view 3D productions from the back third of the theatre. He explains that the depth of the picture expands the farther you are from the screen, additionally, there are fewer geometric distortions. Lastly, less eye fatigue because your eyes aren't asked to fuse objects so far apart (as they are when you're up close). That's why, he tells me, it was a questionable idea to sit in the front row when I viewed his film.
While I agreed with him about the depth improvements from afar, I couldn't help but enjoy sitting really close and looking up at the picture in this small screening room, it felt so there, so live.
Actually, we stepped out of the screening room and then viewed the footage again on a special 3D HD Big Screen TV. Strangely enough, I think I liked it even better there.
There's a great picture of Ray and the 3ality TS2 cameras used to shoot U23D at his website: http://www.ray3d.com/U23D.html
For more info on 3ality go to: www.3alitydigital.com
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