I have seen the future of entertainment a few times already this millennium.
1. The Simpsons Ride. Just do it.
2. On August 15, 2004, I watched Phish’s emotionally wrenching Coventry swan song in Manhattan’s Regal Union Square Cinema, where it was simulacast. I’ve seen Metropolitan Opera simulcasts since then at the same theater, but they hold no candle to the sturm and drang of that weird and grim August day. Unlike the live audience, I was warm, dry, and clean. I was also a little boozy from beers consumed during setbreaks, when the audience shuffled out into the streets only to return for more dark musical drama played out in intense video closeups and pristine digital sound. This wasn’t only the next best thing to being in Vermont, it was in many ways so much better. Simulcast performances seemed the wave of the future that weekend. I still don’t know why they haven’t caught on.
3. For music fans averse to large crowds, simulcast seems the way to go. The only thing that would make it better, I discovered last year while watching U2 3D would be an extra dimension. The world’s first live-action digital 3D film, U2 3D was shot by 3ality (whose owners include HeadCount board member Peter Shapiro). I don’t love U2’s bombast rock but the movie blew me away anyway through sheer spectacle alone. Why can’t all concert films look like this? Maybe it was a tad cold and removed, but it certainly beat standing among 100,000 people in a South America soccer stadium (even though they seemed to be the 100,000 most attractive people in the world). Subsequent 3D concert films include Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds and The Jonas Brother: The 3D Concert Experience, which were also released in 2D.
While I continue to await simulcast 3D, the AEG Live management-booking organization and Action 3D are seizing the reigns of live digital 3D with and rolling out the first of a series of concert films. On December 11, Larger Than Life…in 3D will hit 300-400 U.S. screens for a week. (Watch the trailer here.) Shot at a trio of festivals this summer, the film is a mini concert experience starring the Dave Matthews Band along with Ben Harper and the amazing gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello.
All these groups, not coincidentally, are handled by Red Light Management, whose roster includes Phish. In fact, those were Action 3D’s you may have noticed at the band’s Festival 8 over Halloween weekend. And that’s only the beginning. As Variety reports:
AEG claims to have the largest library of 3D music concert content, which, in addition to Matthews, includes a number of leading artists currently in negotiation with the producer. It has already been reported that AEG filmed several 3D live sets of Phish from Festival 8 in Indio, Calif., in late October. According to Rubey, the company plans to roll out “best of” edition from Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits as followups to the Matthews feature in 2010.
Since partnering in the spring, AEG and Action 3D have already compiled footage from 56 artists from five different festivals, with the goal of upping that figure to 150 artists in 2010. The strategy has been to pinpoint fests like Lollapalooza, All Points West and Austin City Limits, allowing the filmmakers to film multiple artists over the course of one event.