magic glassesI met  friends at the cinema, for Phish3D!  The new Phish had a special 4/20 sneek peek screening at select theaters nationwide.   Phish3D is a film, in 3D (doh!) of Phish’s Festival 8, which was Halloween weekend 2009, at the Polo Grounds in Indio, California.Phish fans are just like you and me...




The movie was huge fun, worth seeing for Phish fans – and the Phish curious.  If you weren’t at the event, it will make you feel like you saw a lot of it.   It was a good bit of 3d filmmaking, and most all of the 3D worked – and there were glow-sticks and balloons  that faked me out a few times and made me duck (and made me think it would be fun to bring a few real baloons in to add to the effect).

The sound was excellent, and played at a good volume (unlike the “Crimson White and Indigo” screening).  Beautiful mix, enough bass to feel it, and loud enough that it filled the space and my ears, though not too loud.  Really ideal.  This was a newer stadium style theater – the kind of place Avatar and other 3D hits play in, so the system had really kickin’ sound!

image I liked the song selection, though I wish they would have done more from Joy , but the “Stealing Time from a Faulty Plan” was the only representative.  Highlights from the bands Halloween costume, The Rolling Stones  Exile On Main Street  set (“Happy”, “Shine a Light”, “Soul Survivor”), and from the acoustic set (“The Curtain With”, “Sleep Again”, Wilson”) – as well as a bunch of others.  I won’t spoil the whole list here, though it can be found online.   It was a good selection from the shows.  The highlight performance was the “Suzy Greenberg” encore after the Exile set  – which featured Sharon Jones  of The Dap-Kings  (vocals), Saundra Williams (vocals), David Gray (trumpet), David Smith (trombone), and Tony Jarvis (sax).

Visually it was stunning.  Really beautiful depth to many shots, crystal clear focus, and the 3D did make it feel like you were on stage with the band at times.

There were some audience shots that were also stunning, particularly the daytime shots, where you could see detail on all of us.  Like many, i searched for myself, and didn’t see me – there was one shot of a guy waving a white hat, maybe that was me, couldn’t tell for sure.  I wish there was MORE shots of the crowd, of  The Coil , of the various goings on.   And more of the people in costume! There were so many wonderfully creative individuals, and group costumes, I wish they were better represented in 3D.  and nothing of the camping or the scope of the event.  There was very little set up or back story, mostly just the show.

There was some good clips of the band rehearsing with the guest vocalists and horn section – that was fun, and we saw the pre Suzy work up.  It might have also been nice to have a few words from the band about the event.  

Though – the music is the thing, and there was plenty of it in this movie!

3D technology has come a long way, and it was very crisp and deep.  There were some glow-sticks being tossed, and Festival 8 in Indio, CA balloons and beach balls that were very fun.  In fact, if you go see it, I recommend sneaking in a few empty balloons, inflating them when the movie starts – and you will know when to toss them, and you’ll really crack people up!  I wish I had thought of that before I went… After the movie, a friend of mine did say she thought some of the balloons in the movie were not real, but added in post-production – or as she put it “I call shenanigans on some of those balloons that came at us!’”

 Streets named after songs, from possible Halloween albums. I wish there was a bit more of things coming in front of/out of the screen – not overdone cheesy effects, but a few times it could have been a fun. Like when Trey would turn to the right, to have the neck of his guitar swing out into our faces! Or the arms of a twirler.  And I can’t believe they did not get anyone hooping in 3D! Or some of the fire art?  So much to see and show, and I think they could have exploited the format more. 

I do have one complaint, and it is a major one.  3D films, because of  the depth perception, need to be filmed and edited with a  consideration of the viewers brains ability to shift perspective.  When depth shifts frequently, it can be disorienting. And when a moving camera is used, slower movements are better, because they allow us to relax into the depth we are perceiving and convince us of it’s reality.

Phish3D has lots of rapid cuts, frequently shifting depth and perspective.  I am a 3D aficionado – and some of the editing was disruptive to me having a flowing experience with it, and some of it made me a little disoriented.   There was no time to enjoy the lusciousness of the 3D, because it kept shifting and cutting from close up to long shot to fast moving tracking shot etc.  Of course, that is how concert films are usually made, as well as what is shown on the big screens at these huge festivals.   I wonder if the 3D footage was shot separately, or was it the same as the footage used live at the show?  Not that the edit was the same, but were the cameras?  Fire art and sculpture of Festival 8 would have been cool in 3D

Dramatic features usually have long shots that establish a scene, and then move in closer, hopefully edited at a pace that flows with our perceptions.  You don’t cut long/wide/close/long/close/ over and over – like a “music video”.   In a 3D film, the Director, Director of Photography, and Editor all work to make sense to our perceptions.  I found Avatar, even during flying and action sequences, to never betray my senses – I could follow the changes in depth, they were consistent and logical to my brain. 

Suggestion (not that anyone asked me for one, and it is too late now):
When creating a 3D concert film, the DP and Editor, coordinated by the Director, should approach it as they would a dramatic story, rather than as a concert this stuff deserves 3D! movie.  Stay on a scene, allow us to relax and be with the depth and perspective, to enjoy it’s as hyperrealism.  Moving camera shots should be slower overall, or at least more consistent in motion, and edits should be aware of the speed, and perspective of one clip to the next.  As a viewer, I want to feel like I am there cinematically.  Rapid cuts, alternating camera speeds, shifting depth perception all keep me from fully surrendering my disbelief – and for some it might even be unsettling to the point of nausea or headaches. The camera and the editing should be invisible.

Regardless, I am sure any Phish fan will be thrilled with it, and will want to see it more than once.  They may or may not agree with me on the edit, 3D aspects, but  the fans will love the music and the chance to experience some of Festival 8, whether for the first time, or to relive it.  I don’t think this film is the best entry point for someone who has never been exposed to Phish, but heck, drag them along anyway.

And bring some balloons to toss, for the 4D experience!  (no glow sticks, it would suck if something damaged the screen!)

Phish 3D opens in theaters on April 30th – check for more information.

Here is a clip from “Fan Reviews” that actually features a many of my friends, most of which actually went to Festival 8 as well.  Their response is very enthused!   And on most counts I agree, except as noted.