If ideas from William Gibson and Cory Doctorow got mashed up, and the resulting technology was stolen by the music industry in a desperate attempt to reinvigorate their bottom line, then you'd end up with U23D, the 3D concert movie of the future. io9 took a look at U23D this week, and the experience was flashbaked into our brain matter. Find out why.

We weren't really sure what to expect going into this movie, because every 3D experience we've been promised has been fairly "meh" in quality. The recent Beowulf CGI meets 3D experience wasn't bad, but the promised third dimension still felt like all the 3D films we'd been seeing for years. Namely, a few things loom out of the screen, but it feels like a gimmick instead of something organic.

Enter the U23D concert film. We've seen concert films before, but never like this one. From the first shot of a packed arena that opens up like a pop-up book, to the long zooms from the audience right up into Larry Mullen's drumface, or the Edge's guitar, it feels like an otherworldly experience. You're literally right there with the band, experiencing something 1,000 times better than the view you'd get from a front row seat. You can see Bono's setlist tossed down on the edge of the drum platform, a couple of cups of coffee next to water bottles, the stitching detail in their clothing and so on. It looks so realistic that at times it feels fake, like you're looking at a VR concert, or action figures in a plexiglass block. Extremely surreal.

In Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, there's a group of ad-hoc theme park workers bringing a new technology to Disneyworld called "flashbaking". They use it in the Hall of Presidents to bring "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" to new life by cramming the experience, smells of gunpowder, sounds of his era, photos, etc, into your cerebral cortex. It makes you feel like you're right there with a living, breathing Lincoln and a stretch of time within minutes. This film is as close to approximating that (albeit without the smells, the added into, and without any baking of our grey matter).

Some people will decry that it's not a true concert experience, since you aren't being battered around by sweaty people, crammed towards the stage like sardines, straining to see over the heads of those in front of you, and being charged astronomical ticket prices. But, we won't miss most of that. True, there's a lot to be said for the human experience during a concert, but we're excited about the possibilities this technology brings. Virtual concerts for the masses, priced for you wholesale.


The film was shot during their "Vertigo" tour throughout South America over several dates, but it's been assembled into a seamless experience. Shot with over 18 cameras and using the 3ality 3D technology, this is the first time zoom lenses have been used in 3D, and the first time they've done layered visual effects in 3D. The movie premieres at the Sundance Film Festival next week, but you'll be able to see it starting January 23rd at theaters all over.