Op-Ed: The Hobbit at 48 FPS
Peter Jackson has offered a short rebuttal to criticisms of the new format:
“At first it’s unusual because you’ve never seen a movie like this before. It’s literally a new experience, but you know, that doesn’t last the entire experience of the film; not by any stretch, after 10 minutes or so. That’s a different experience than if you see a fast-cutting montage at a technical presentation.
“A couple of the more negative commenters from CinemaCon said that in the Gollum and Bilbo scene [which took place later in the presentation] they didn’t mind it and got used to that. That was the same 48 frames the rest of the reel was. I just wonder if it they were getting into the dialogue, the characters and the story. That’s what happens in the movie. You settle into it.” Jackson also stated “technology is going to keep evolving.” [from IGN]
Original Post -
There has been a lot of buzz around the interwebs recently following CinemaCon in Las Vegas, where footage of Peter Jackson’s upcoming film The Hobbit was screened to a select audience. You may recall that The Hobbit is my most anticipated film of the year, so this news is most distressing. I am known to have my qualms about 3D, but the way Peter Jackson was approaching the medium seemed like it would be just novel enough to work.
Well, if /Film, IGN, and many other reputable news sources are anything to go by, that’s not the case. The word on the street is that the switch from 24 FPS has exposed all of the costumes and effects from the film and made the whole production look and feel quite cheap, in addition to accentuating the contrast between computer generated images and reality, thereby hurting the film’s overall immersion. These findings seem to confirm my latent fears about upping the frames per second in theaters across the country, as per the wishes of James Cameron, would be a problematic paradigm shift for film.
My father’s high definition television was the first time I ever experienced a frames per second increase in a film, or at least the pseudo-48 FPS or 60 FPS done through interpolation on newer sets, and I hated it. It made The Matrix look like a soap opera, and I had to ask that my father turn off the Auto Motion Plus feature that was, in my mind, fundamentally ruining one of my favorite movies.
Two things I should point out, however:
a) My father knows his way around technologically and, while he’s not a totally obsessive cinephile like myself, he does have a good understanding of film. With this in mind, he claimed he had no idea what I was talking about regarding the weird, sped-up look of the picture and how unrealistic everything felt to me due to the “motion smoothing” – I had to chock this up to him adapting to his new television’s settings over time. I mention his ambivalence because if he did indeed get used to the new frame rate, then perhaps 48 or 60 FPS is a standard we as moviegoers might one day adjust to, as well.
b) Movies that came from a digital source, and more specifically 3D animated films like Up, suffered minimally from the interpolation setting. The sped-up feel of the dialogue (even though, as Mr. Peter Scrietta mentioned at /Film, is imagined and not real) was far less noticeable for Pixar’s film, and the “soap opera” look was negligible.
In either case (i.e. The Matrix and Up), the interpolation or simulated 48/60 FPS didn’t make the film look any better – and that makes the jump feel unnecessary at best and detrimental at worst. Again, this is all based on “fake” 48/60 FPS, and I haven’t been privy to the “real” footage in the theater yet, so take my words with a grain of salt.
IGN also noted the dimness of the footage, particularly in the darker scenes, which was predictably bad due to the 3D glasses and even worse because of the upped frame rate. This raises yet more concerns about 3D and makes it seem like 3D films will never find a production process that will yield resulting footage with comparable brightness to their 2D counterparts.
I’m really hoping this footage is either unfinished to the point where it is not a good representation of the final product, or that Mr. Jackson can do an about-face and fix what’s wrong before the December premiere. I really want to love The Hobbit, but it’ll be incredibly difficult if it feels like Days of Our Lives: Bag End Edition. The good news is that either way, we know the home video editions (i.e. Blu-ray) of The Hobbit will be downscaled to 24 FPS, in a similar fashion to the trailers we’ve seen so far – but it might be first if the best presentation of the film ultimately comes in the form of a disc, and not on the silver screen.
What do you think? Are you nervous about The Hobbit now, or are you still hopeful? Should we just stick to 24 FPS since it, you know, works? Sound off below!