Cannes spectacle: 3-D film has ties to Baltimore

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore helped rock the 60th Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night with a screening of the U2 concert documentary U2 3D, produced by former Baltimore Ravens President David Modell and his brother, John, and co-directed by Baltimore native Mark Pellington.

Declaring "Happy birthday, Cannes!" on the red carpet, singer Bono led U2 in a mini-concert for a crowd of 5,000, by David Modell's estimate.

"As far as I have been told, this performance was the first and only one on the steps leading to the Palais [des Festivals] in the sixty-year history of the Cannes Festival!" Modell writes in an e-mail from the French fest. "Needless to say, 'cool' does not even come close to describing this scene."

U2 3D, "5/8th completed," grew out of an NFL 3-D project that David and John Modell and John's business partners, Jon and Peter Shapiro, had been developing with Steve Schklair. A Hollywood cinematographer with an affinity for 3-D, Schklair ended up "actually inventing the technologies that enable all this to happen," writes Modell.

When the NFL project slowed, Peter Shapiro pursued Catherine Owens, the creator of visuals for U2's Vertigo concert, to win the group's approval for filming the tour. As main director, Owens shares credit with Pellington, who boasts a big Baltimore football connection himself -- his father was famed Baltimore Colts linebacker Bill Pellington. But Pellington's involvement grew out of his association and friendship with U2 and Owens, dating to his work on MTV in the early 1990s.

After the Modells and their partners secured U2's consent to make a 3-D movie of U2's Vertigo tour, they formed the 3eality Digital company to develop state-of-the-art 3-D technologies "for groundbreaking live-action digital." Then the crew went on the road for the South American leg of the tour, which culminated in a full shoot of U2's two shows in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in March of last year.

On Saturday, producers screened about 55 minutes of film; the final version will run about 75. Cannes audience members watched "through special glasses that resemble ordinary sunglasses, rather than the red-and-green 3-D specs of old," the Associated Press reported. The band "appeared to leap off the screen."

"My personal reaction was and still is awe. I sat mouth agape with tears running down my face for most of the show," Modell writes. "U2 fans have something special in store for them."

No screening date or venue has been set for Baltimore.

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