WB is planning on a limited release of The Hobbit in it’s high-frame-rate of 48fps form. What’s that mean? What is HFR? Well, a movie is normally shot at 25 frames-per-second. It’s what we’ve all been seeing movies at our entire lives. The human eye though, can process images at 60fps. Some of you out there have those fancy televisions that have ‘motion blur’ technology, so that when you watch a sitcom it looks as though the actors are in the room with you. It’s jarring for the most part, and that’s what the problem is with the new Hobbit movie. Being shot at 48fps, means it is the closest we’ve come to seeing what the human eye can see, next to going to attending a stage production.
The studios showed footage of this in April at CinemaCon and the reactions were mixed to horrible. The 48fps were amazing when seeing the sweeping landscapes of Middle Earth, but once we saw the actors interacting, it became a different story. Many people thought it looked like a “made-for-tv movie”. The other big problem is the cost. The cost to show the movie in the intended 48fps would be a major rehaul or addition to the majority of theaters that only have 24fps projectors. There is also the cost to put a motion-blur on the film itself and drop the frames from 48 to 24 while still preserving Peter Jackson’s vision.
So, what’s all this mean for us simple movie-goers? Well, I personally want see The Hobbit the way it was shot. If it looks wonky, whatever. I’ll be seeing it 3 or 4 times anyway. I would even be willing to see it in a different market to get the true experience. But, that’s me. I’m a geek and I think its crazy that HFR is the future. It’s starting with Jackson, with James Cameron and others to follow. We already see what happened with Avatar. 3D EVERYWHERE; which is annoying for the most part. (ie; Alice in Wonderland, GI: Joe 2) but there have been gems (Prometheus, Amazing Spiderman) So, who knows, maybe HFR is the wave of the future. In 4 months or so, we’ll find out.
High frame rates will be the subject of an expert panel at the SIGGRAPH conference at the L.A. Convention Center at 11 Wednesday morning. Among those skedded to speak is Doug Trumbull, who pioneered high frame rates with his Showscan system and is now working on HFR for digital cinema.