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Although most of them are probably unaware, U2 fans are well-acquainted with Catherine Owens’ work.
The Irish artist has been the visual content provider for the band’s most recent tours — Pop Mart, Elevation and Vertigo — creating the wild images that served as a backdrop for their groundbreaking live performances.
But at the start of the 2006 Vertigo tour, Owens approached the band with the idea of somehow incorporating 3-D into their concerts.
Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. were intrigued, but ultimately it was decided the technology was too raw to be used live.
But filming the band and producing a concert film of the South American leg of their tour was another story.
The result is U2 3D, the first live-action digital film of its kind utilizing three-dimensional cinematography, bringing the 22-time Grammy winners to the movie-going masses.
“It was more of an experiment,” Owens tells Metro. “There’s this nice medium, let’s see how it looks and go from there.”
It would be Owens’ second opportunity to direct the band after helming the video for Original Of The Species from their latest album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, one that combined live action shots and cutting-edge digital animation.
As with any of the band’s often ambitious projects, Owens’ work on U2 3D would be a collaborative effort, this time involving herself, her directing partner Mark Pellington, their crew and the musicians themselves.
“Larry wanted to be very sure of what the overall process was,” the director recalls. “In meetings he wanted to be sure of, what are we really doing here and why are we doing it?
“Then with Bono,” Owens continues, “it’s all about the believability of the performance. He would sit there and say I’m not sure I believe that guy ... Of course he’s talking about himself.”
To call such a painstaking cinematic undertaking a logistical nightmare would be an understatement. Roughly 18 digital cameras and up to 140 crew captured U2 over a month’s worth of performances, with the band even performing several tracks audience-less to allow Owens to shoot difficult closeups.
A total of 13 tracks of the 26 filmed, ranging from older fare such as New Year’s Day and Sunday Bloody Sunday, to more recent recordings including Miss Sarajevo and Vertigo, made the final cut.
While the skills necessary to produce a film like this are unique, Owens credits the unsung aptitude of one member of the band with making the project feasible. “We could only make this film because of (drummer) Larry’s consistency,” she says of the editing nightmare of cutting together songs from various performances. “3-D is an extraordinarily difficult medium in post-production and Larry’s ability to keep everything virtually perfect in terms of timing was key to this film working.”
U2 3D is playing now.