The Hobbit: An Unexpected Masterclass In Why 48 FPS Fails

Peter Jackson, a terrifically talented filmmaker and pioneer of new cinema technology, has given the world of cinema a very important and perhaps unintended gift with his latest film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, as we wrap the year 2012.

MORE: The Hobbit Review: An Unexpected Disappointment

Tonight, I went to see his latest film in all three flavours of its release: 3D HFR, Standard 3D and in 2D.

On one end of the spectrum I had one of the most disappointing cinematic experiences in recent memory, and on the other extreme I fell into the film and enjoyed it very much — all watching the EXACT same film mind you. Here's how they compared, and why it matters.

I recommend any filmmaker out there try doing this — as it will reaffirm so many of the things that make film "magical" and ultimately what differentiates the medium from all other forms of entertainment and visual media. For some, HFR will be a potential a new tool in their arsenal for telling certain types of stories in a new and exciting way, while others will be reminded of why the 2D format at 24 fps has stood the test of time for so long.

With his latest film, Jackson shot the film not only in 3D, but also at twice the normal frame rate or "HFR" which stands for High Frame Rate — in an effort to make the film feel more "immersive" in his own words. Ironically — I think this new technology accomplished just the opposite for me, in terms of becoming immersed in the narrative and connecting with the actors on many levels.

In my opinion, film is not necessarily about WHAT you see — but it's almost more an exercise in what you DON'T or CAN'T see. The best directors and DPs show you only what is relevant to the story and never introduce a random shot or character if they can at all avoid it. I've always preached that a director or photographer should INCLUDE elements in a frame or shots that add to the story, and EXCLUDE elements or shots that detract from it.

The reason the standard film projection rate of 24 frames per second works so well, is that it's just a few frames faster than what the brain needs in order to be tricked into seeing what are effectively still images, appear to move on screen — it's called the "Persistence of Vision Theory." In tandem with that important theory, he motion blur you get by shooting at 24 fps and (on a standard 180 degree shutter) at 1/48th of a second, is just as important in making something look "cinematic" as the lack of depth of field we get by using larger sensors, and bright lenses at large apertures. This is precisely why one should shoot at 1/50th of a second on their HDSLRs and use ND or neutral density filters to makes sure they don't have too much depth of field and can also ensure they aren't forced into shooting at higher shutter speeds.

In the past few years we've been pushing the technology envelope pretty hard — trying to get higher frame rates, greater resolution, more dynamic range, more bit depth, more throughput/bit rates and RAW.

Yet for some reason, many top cinematographers and even directors out there still prefer shooting in 2K or 4K/5K…and why is that?

Well I'll try to address that in a bit, but first an anecdote:

In the opening hour of The Hobbit shown in 3D HFR — I don't recall hearing a single sigh, or laugh. Not one. When I went to see the exact same seen with an audience of the same size on a 2D projection — I heard regular chuckles and laughter... why? Again more on that in a bit — but this was palpable and very interesting for me to witness. All of the jokes seems to be falling flat or being missed in the HFR projection.

First — let me discuss the 3D HFR projection. For those of you who don't know, Peter Jackson shot The Hobbit with dual RED Epic cameras on a 3D rig — and he chose to shoot it at 48 frames per second (twice the normal rate) in an effort to render a sharper, more "realistic" image if you will, notably when motion is involved. With 48fps comes a new shutter of 1/96th of second if shot at the traditional 180 degree shutter — or an image with an image that has half the amount of motion blur relative to shooting at 1/48th at 24 fps and of course twice as many frames projected every second. You can read more about this process here and another great article on FXGuide here. With The Hobbit ,Jackson shot at 1/64th of a second on a 270-degree shutter to split the difference if you will and get a bit more motion blur (and light).

Many of you are likely aware that when a motion picture camera pans or moves too quickly — it can be painful for the audience's eyes. In fact on a 10-15m screen it can be impossible to see a sharp image or for the audience to lock onto something with their eyes if the movement is too fast. This is something filmmakers and experienced DPs keep a very close eye on — in fact there are tables that show how fast a camera can move given any given lens before this blur happens.

Therefore Peter Jackson decided to shoot The Hobbit in 48 fps to try to counter this effect, and to render a more realistic or what he deems "immersive" 3D experience if you will.

And he has indeed accomplished that — but in doing so, he's killed a lot of the magic of what makes a film entrance an audience if you will, at least in my opinion. I did find myself become more "immersed" in the three dimensional environment and all of these details — but to the detriment of the film and the narrative itself.

I should say there are indeed a lot of fans of this out there...I'm just not one of them. The opening numbers for the movies this past weekend are record breaking — but I don't think that speaks to HFR at all. These are fans of one of the most anticipated releases and extremely successful film franchises that would have gone no matter the format it was shot in.

Now before I go ahead and criticise 3D HFR — keep in mind that almost all of these harsh criticisms I'll state below were eliminated when I saw the film in 2D. And if you think I'm harsh — read a series of the harshest reviews from critics that I think I've ever read. This must have been tough for even Jackson to stomach.

And before I criticise the method — I would be remiss if I didn't applaud Peter Jackson for sticking his neck out there, and putting it all on the line to try this new method in filmmaking out. Without people like him pushing the envelope — we would never get anywhere. Although HFR combined with 3D is a failure to my senses — I was a very necessary experiment to carry forth, in an effort to try to cure the above mentioned issue with motion blur and 3D.

3D HFR:

I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw the MGM logo move even before the first frame of the film was ever projected. And then I proceeded to spend the first 30 minutes of the film trying to figure out how to describe the "Monday Night Football" viewing experience that was so clearly not cinematic to me…

I came up with a few:

1. It's like being on a film set in person: all of the magic is lost. You get to see behind the curtain and you're no longer under the spell…

2. It's like being on a Universal Studios "4D" Ride ...where everything is painfully fake, but at least THERE you're moving fast enough on that ride to forget that and you can let yourself be distracted by the thrill of the ride.

3. It was like watching really, really, really atrociously bad state run TV show... a bad Canadian, British or Chinese TV series that just looks plastic (I'm not trying to offend any of those nations — many are shot at high frames rates on small sensor-sized cameras and just look horrific despite the acting, etc).

One of the first things that struck me: the lighting looked awful — almost amateurish (I'll very quickly back away from that statement right now, by saying that it didn't at ALL feel that way in 2D. The lighting, tonality were actually quite gorgeous — I still don't truly comprehend why my mind reacted the way it did and blamed the lighting as much as I did initially. I think it had something to do with the fact that in person and on set, you can look at lighting and see of all it's faults... but when you frame something up, you experience a small section in a completely different way in terms of dimension, compression, angle of view and of course depth of field.) Keep in mind that at 48fps at a 270-degree shutter they lost two-thirds of a stop of light, with the mirrors they used on the 3D rig another stop, so their Epics that they shot at 800 ISO were in effect rated at 250 ISO which is SLOW — a lot slower than the film stock they were shooting on 10 years ago on the last film and that had to be a factor as well. That being said it looked beautiful in 2D to my eye.

Second, every costume, makeup job, set and VFX element was more front and centre — out there naked, for everyone to see that this filmmaking biz was nothing but an elaborate hoax. Kind of like what you feel when you see the models or costumes from your favourite films in a museum or on the walls of ILM... the magic is all gone. But that's the point: they look far too real and artificial. The makeup wasn't as as terrible as some people say, and most of the VFX were stunning but not all. When I saw them in 2D however — it was almost like seeing another film. My attention wasn't drawn to them ...As I was focusing on central action. That challenges the "Suspension of Disbelief" theory that we all need to believe what we are seeing on screen and to get lost in it...

One of my main problems with 3D has always been that the director (with the use of convergence) forces you to look in one specific spot — looking elsewhere in the frame can actually be painful to your eyes. When I see a 2D image I have the choice of where I can let my eye wander — and I find that relaxing and it allows me to get lost in the film much more quickly.

In 3D HFR — I actually found myself having a VERY hard time looking at any ONE thing for any period of time. Looking into someone's eyes was painful at times — and I found my eyes dancing around the frame. Looking at every little detail around the scene, and having my visual cortex overwhelmed with the three-dimensionality of the environment and the movement of the camera. So in effect 3D HFR succeeded in getting my full visual attention — but not allowing me to get immersed in it passively or with free will. I was being taken on a ride and being told "look at the entire screen and all of the details" at all times…

What was the most important thing lost?

I had absolutely NO CONNECTION with the story

I didn't identify with the characters at all. I didn't care about them. I didn't listen as carefully to they were saying or how they felt.

And more importantly I didn't feel ANYTHING.

I was just too visually engaged to worry about that "stuff". And I think that's why people weren't laughing as they watched the dinning scene — not laughing at all. They weren't connecting to the characters or paying attention to the dialogue as much. They weren't being allowed to. Needless to say this was FAR from a controlled study of course (two different audiences of the same size is all I can claim as a fact) - but the difference was palpable.

It also felt like there was far too much depth of field... all "appeared" in focus. The depth was overwhelming. I can honestly say I found it visually repugnant at times (harsh words I know — but you have to realise I almost RAN out of the theatre within the first five minutes).

Yet when I saw the exact same scene in 2D guess what? I loved the lighting. The depth of field wasn't there anymore. The image was cinematic. And this was with the exact same scenes...shot with the exact same lenses, camera moves, lighting and f/stop. These were the IDENTICAL takes shown without the 3D HFR!

And guess what else? I connected with the actors. I was left to let my eyes wander and tunnel vision if you will to the detail or actor that I wanted to "listen" to or see. I caught every joke and chuckled. I became immersed. And I found this absolutely fascinating — even stunning to the point that I had to ask myself (even though I knew the answer) whether the same scene had been re-light and re-shot in 2D (it wasn't — they simply used only one of the two cameras they shot with.) And this is coming from someone who has been studying lighting and the visual medium for 22 years. I had two polar opposite reactions to the lighting and visuals of the EXACT SAME MATERIAL.

AND I FOUND THAT TO BE FASCINATING.

I then saw the same scene towards the end of the film with Gollum in all three formats. In 3D HFR — I couldn't stand the scene — everything felt plastic, overlight and far too sharp.

In 3D — I got into it and I actually liked it just fine. The 3D was so well done that I almost didn't even notice it was in 3D after the assault on the senses that 3D HFR can be.

In 2D — I made the closest connection with the actors even though one was but a CGI character of the pioneering and amazing actor Andy Serkis who's defined motion capture.

The first battle scene was also fascinating and in many ways a death blow to 3D HFR for me. The purpose of HFR is supposedly to make these very fast moving scenes much easier to see. I felt like I was watching a XBOX 360 animation at the start of a video game. Every thing was in focus and semi-sharp — but I didn't know where to look. I found it horrendous.

The same scene in 2D was easy to follow, very dynamic and poignant when the severed king's head rolled by at the end of the battle. Why? Because of the motion blur...the head and left pan were fast enough, and there might have been a little slow motion thrown in there...to make it more dramatic. It worked. The 3D HFR. Not at all.

When Richard Armitage's character Thorin picked up a sword to cut the main opponent's forearm off — I couldn't make out the sword in the 3D HFR at all ironically — and this was confusing as he had been fighting the creature with the trunk of a tree which had been split in two...I didn't know how he'd managed sever an arm with half of a tree trunk. In the 2D version — my eye was able to "punch" in on the wider frame and easily catch him picking up a sword.

So with all of this here's the "Master Class" that I took away, and that Peter Jackson shared with every filmmaker out there that is willing to study these three versions of the same film:

1. Film is just as much about what you DON'T show the audience as with what you DO. Shallow depth of field, motion blur, lack of sharpness and movement all help to create movie magic. If images are too sharp and you see too much detail... that's not always a good thing. The Canon 5D MKII showed us that in many ways — it's large sensor and resulting lack depth of field combined with what was a relatively "soft" image (relative to video cameras) made it what it was when I shot Reverie.

2. High frame rates belong on bad TV shows and perhaps sports. 24 fps is here to stay in my opinion — at least for cinema. That is unless this next generation of video game players change the rules on us of course. I can see this working for animation, sports and nature films though. I'd also like to see it used on only certain moves (fast ones) in a film perhaps and not the entirety of a film.

3. 3D combined with HFR is a total non starter for me. It highlights the weaknesses of both techniques exponentially. It's far too real and it's almost impossible to hide makeup/sets/VFX, etc. In fact just yesterday afternoon a VFX friend of mine said, verbatim: "Motion blur is extremely important to what I do... that's how I hide all of my mistakes and make VFX/CGI look more real."

4. This latest technological "advance' reaffirms one of my key beliefs: We're far too focused on technology these days we are creating a lot distractions to what can make a film truly powerful. So many of these new technologies threaten the magic of film by making the experience a little too "hyper real" if you will. Having only one of 8 characters in focus during an important soliloquy, or another person crossing frame out of focus and motion blurred can be a good thing to make the audience become more immersed in the film... they don't need to see EVERYTHING to become "immersed" in my opinion... Something to think about.

5. I can honestly say I had a harder time hearing some of the dialogue in the 3D HFR version than in the 2D... I wonder if this a combination of not being able to focus my eyes on the lips when things were tough to hear in the 3D version, or if I was just being overwhelmed visually and couldn't refocus my mind on paying attention to the dialogue... I notice this on the scene with Gollum pretty acutely as he was hard to understand at times.

And a few ideas for the future:

1. As we invariable move towards 4K — directors will need to make sure that things looks as "real" on set as possible. I see 4K posing an uphill challenge to all green screen, CGI, and VFX work. It's damn hard to hide your cheats... I'd like to (selfishly) think that this will lead us to shoot things more practically than with effect shots... but I'm probably just dreamin'

2. With 4K+ as well — any camera move that is too fast, is unforgiving as is any slight focus error — there's no hiding it. That can also prove limiting for filmmakers as they may have to chose to limit how fast they move the camera and or how fancy their moves are in terms of speed and degree of focusing difficulty. That being said if the film is projected at 2K — this isn't an issue. Most films shot on the RED Epic at 5K (such as Fincher's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) have only been finished in 2K — which is why people aren't really talking about this that much out there yet. I have seen more than a dozen 4K projections: when the production value of the film is high, the makeup and wardrobe good, excellent lighting, and excellent focus pulling skills with attention to not moving the camera too fast: it looks STUNNING. If you fail to do any of the aforementioned: it can be deadly. Absolutely unforgiving.

3. Filters that soften images, or lenses that are not quite as modern and sharp... will likely find a second life with 4K+ cameras. While you can hide a fake looking set with negative lighting and lack of depth of field... you can't hide makeup or facial prosthetics with an extremely sharp lens. So those new Panavision lenses they're touting may be 4K ready, but one my want to go with the ones that were made 15+ years ago that are more "forgiving" which is a polite way to say they're not as sharp and less optically perfect.

4. I found another thing that was very interesting: it was clear that the 3D HFR version of The Hobbit was graded in away that took into account the light loss and colour shift we all experience when we wear 3D glasses. A pet peeve of mine is to see 3D films that are graded mostly for the human eye (without the glasses) — and that gets a noticeable colour tint and is just "dark" when you put on said glasses. In this case they may have overdone that a little bit. I felt like I was watching three different films in terms of grade when I watched the same projection with and without the 3D glasses, and in 2D. The 2D was perfectly graded. The 3D HFR felt blown out at times with the highlights and the colours weren't as warm.

So if anything — I thank Peter Jackson and all of the crew and cast in New Zealand — for helping me re-affirm many of my opinions for myself on what I like and don't like as a filmmaker, and for teaching me quite a few things by going to all three of these projections in one night. I think it's fair to remind you of the obvious: these are but one person's opinions and observations. I have seen a notable difference in opinion already in the Twittersphere and web with people in the under-30 age group. Many of them seem to very much like HFR.

I should mention that I saw these at the Archlight theatres in Los Angeles where they have state of the art projectors.

I would also love to hear some day what Peter Jackson himself TRULY thinks of all of this and if his first (and THE first HFR) film lived up to his expectations or if he saw how much more challenging it is that he might have initially expected…

I know he and his team will keep working on perfecting the process over the next two films for all of our benefit. Obviously we can all choose to go to either the HFR, 3D or 2D versions!

The only loss is that you can still notice the sharper image on the 2D version (given the faster shutter speed used. But there IS software that can add motion blur back in…but it can of course be time consuming and cost prohibitive to run this process on a 2+ hour motion picture of course…)

How much of this is "Legacy Association" some might ask... in other words how much of this is due to our "old way" of seeing films, versus what younger viewers might think...

Well one example came to mind: If you look at the opening scene of the Wizard of Oz and realise that it was all shot on a stage, and that if you look really carefully at the black and white section at the start of the film for example, you can see that every set extends out 5-20 yards and then ends with a large matte painting that perfectly finishes the perspective lines in an ultimate "trompe l'oeil"... it's pretty amazing. And when you stop to think that the film was shot under incredibly hot lights to expose the very low ISO colour film emulsion... and that yes you can more clearly see the matte paintings in colour than you could in the monochromatic opening...you start to think of how things eventually evolved. One important factor is that while matte painting achieved new heights in films such as Star Wars and E.T., just to name two, at the same time smaller cameras allowed filmmakers to step away from the studio lot and to go out on actual location!

That being said — my final argument to this is: I got lost in the story of the Wizard of Oz when I was young and still do today. Only when I started to analyse the film did I notice the above details. For me the techniques never overshadowed the content, the story or the acting. And that is pivotal.

For now, and I think for a while, HFR takes me out of the film and is too much of a show stealer. It grabs your attention at the expense of the sound design, lighting, music and most importantly the acting and the connections we make with the actors/characters. And that is a mortal flaw. If the audience can't identify with characters or story — a film has no chance.

My final answer: if HFR does become more of a standard, then we'll all stop paying attention to the new technique, and perhaps be able to refocus on story. The points I make above about being able to choose where I look, and what I choose to focus on and getting lost in any part of the frame, and becoming more immersed by seeing "less" do ultimately make me doubt this will happen until the 3D process as whole gets much much better.

And lastly I'll leave what has turned out to be a bit of an "epic" (in terms of length) blog post with the New York Time's A.O. Scott's review:

The Hobbit is being released in both standard 3-D and in a new, 48-frames-per-second format, which brings the images to an almost hallucinatory level of clarity. This is most impressive and also most jarring at the beginning, when a jolly dwarf invasion of Bilbo's home turns into a riot of gluttonous garden gnomes.

Over all, though, the shiny hyper-reality robs Middle-earth of some of its misty, archaic atmosphere, turning it into a gaudy high-definition tourist attraction. But of course it will soon be overrun with eager travellers, many of whom are likely to find the journey less of an adventure than they had expected.


Vincent Laforet is a French-American director and photographer based in New York City. He shared the Pulitzer for Feature Photography in 2002. This post originally appeared on his website VincentLaforet.com.


Comments

    Old habits die hard. We are all used to seeing @d 24fps, with its strobing and lack of clarity.

    Perhaps we will get used to 48fps high def?

      We've had decades to "get used to it" already. The only new part of the equation is the 3D aspect. :)

      I'm writing a blog that gets into great detail about why framerates that work well for film don't necessarily work well for games and vice-versa, but the long of the short of it is that there is much more than "getting used to it" in play here. :)

    What this article says, quite clearly, is that the writer was too concerned with the technology and not the movie itself. He has made a simple error because he is not used to seeing 3D HFR.

    The second time that he saw the movie he was able to look at what he was seeing as a movie, regardless of the processes used. And that happened even more by the third viewing, because he was used to the technology and did not have to consider that.

    What he must do now is to go back and see it again in 3D HFR and he will be able to see the whole process in a better light.
    It may be that he will need a third viewing in 3D HFR before he can accept the movie, without being concerned with the tecnology.

    And then write a better review.

      I saw the first part of the film originally in 2D at 24 FPS and then in 3D at 48 FPS. I had not read this article before viewing.

      My own experience largely mirrored the author's. Except I was actually wincing and uncomfortable at certain points because of how distracting the effect was. And that was over 2 hours into the movie.

      You have to understand that (as I mentioned in another post) for someone that works with this, you don't have to consciously try to focus on these things to get distracted. It's more like when someone with perfect pitch listens to music. As long as things are in tune, you can get lost in it. But if the are pitch issues, you are painfully distracted - you can't pretend you don't hear it.

      HFR content felt different to me than 24 FPS when I was a kid, and it bothered me in movies back then, too.

    I completely disagree with your assessment and you risk coming across like a Luddite. First off 48FPS is not new and has been used in film since the 80's. Second, I think you should go back and see it again. The experience is much like the first time you see HD media. Your brain is getting twice the information that it would get from 24FPS. Our brain renders images at 60FPS. I can not wait for Avatar 2 in 60FPS!

      It's great that you enjoyed the film and there have been several people that mentioned on here that they did, too.

      But Vincent Laforet's experience and observations are no less valid and they mirrored my own experience in watching the movie before reading his article. Except I saw a chunk of the film in 2D 24 FPS before I saw it in 48 FPS 3D.

      I've shot and animated at various framerates for years. I disagree with your analogy about the similarity between HD and HFR. I never disliked HD, even the first time I saw it. I disliked narrative 2D HFR in my very earliest memories of it (which would be in the 80s in Sweden). I often like video games with HFR but for different reasons and I don't want my games and my movies to share the same framerate because they'll both suffer (and yes, I know that 60 FPS is more common than 48 FPS for games but you get the idea).

      And for the record, our brain does not render images at 60 FPS. Our brain compiles images using a combination of snapshots taken in rapid succession (more like image chunks than frames) at a frequency higher than 60 times a second.

      But if we want 60 frames per second content, it's all over TV. Sports and live events are showing it all the time. People can make up their own mind if they want movies to look like that and I'm glad that it works well for you. It would be very disappointing to the people that created the film if their hard work did not find an audience.

      As for myself, I found the 3D HFR version distracting but enjoyed it more in 2D 24 FPS.

    I plan to go see it in gold class first, I assume that won't be in 48fps. If the IMAX in Melbourne is showing the 48fps version, then I'll go a second time to see it for curiosity purposes.

    Speaking as someone who associates 24 fps with eye-strain headaches (I also get headaches from florescent light), watching this movie in 48 fps was like a soothing balm. It's the first time I've ever left the theater without having to go to the bathroom to wait for my brain to stop throbbing before I can drive home. That alone makes HFR a welcome addition.

    But beyond that, this movie was gorgeous. I had ordered my tickets advance and then I started reading articles like this and was feeling intrepid going in. What a bunch of self-important hooie. From the last preview until five minutes into the film, I was aware that the motion had changed. After that, I didn't even notice it. I was completely entranced, and while maybe I did let my eye wander from the action (how could I help it? everything was so clear and beautiful), I found that I didn't lose track of what was going on and never lost the sense of immersion. It didn't look like a set, or fake, or "more real," as some people suggested. The best explanation for me is I felt like I could see.

    I appreciated being able to see more of the performance (which were really good) and I connected to the characters just fine. My cheeks hurt from grinning by the time it was over. I don't know what was up with the audience you were watching with, but there were plenty of times the audience was chuckling where I was sitting.

    So all this "hyper-reality" (really? this is still 12 fps short of actual reality) ruining of magic and calling the HFR a failure its first time out...I really hope the studios ignore you all and keep making this option for the rest of us who want more.

      Glad that it solved that problem for you. I can only imagine what a positive impact that would have on the viewing experience.

      My own experience was less positive. For me, 24 FPS was much more immersive since I don't suffer the ill effects from the format that I'm sorry to hear you have to suffer through.

      But I think my most important comment is to clear up the misconception that 60 FPS is "the way we process reality". Actually, it's not. Our eyes construct what we perceive through a rapid series of micro-snapshots, each of which only gets a fraction of the image and the sampling frequency for that handily exceeds 60 FPS.

    This article is hilarious. It describes the experience of someone who is so obsessed with the technicalities of filmmaking that he simply removes himself from objectivity--simply based on expectations. If you dwell on the fluidity of imagery of course you're going to ruin it for yourself! I found the images to be really easy to look at for once in my life at the theatre. It's just different, not bad. It's a new aesthetic.

      Eric, I'm glad you had a positive experience and I don't think anyone should dismiss that. That's why it's sad to see you dismissing LaForet's experience.

      Essentially, what you're saying is that someone with perfect pitch should just "ignore things being out of tune". Except they can't - that's what perfect pitch is.

      LaForet is high profile blogger, photographer and director that's been at the forefront of digital filmmaking for the last few years following a longer career in professional stills photography. You think he can avoid thinking about differences in the way things look while is watching a movie? Seems pretty difficult to me.

    Read it in Comic Book Guy's voice. It's much better.

    IF YOU WILL

    Your description in layman terms of how cameras work is shockingly bad, and shows your lack of knowledge on this topic.

    Stating incorrectly that usage of 4K will mean that cinematographers will need to make sure they do not move the camera too quickly is laughable - actually, beg my pardon, you said 'filmakers' which is so broad it's almost a sword.

    Please do not ever comment on this topic ever again, just because your romanticism of old technology and inability/lack of brain power to appreciate the new age, is the only thing that hurts my eyes and my brain; not this movie.

      I'm not sure who you're referring to but if you're talking about the author of the blog, he's a respected filmmaker, photographer and blogger that had access to new cameras from RED (who made the cameras used in the film) before most other people in the country, as well as from manufacturers like Canon, etc.

      Since many full-time working professionals that make their money have voiced their support for his opinions, experience and work in the past, you might want to think about what aspect of your own experience gives you the right to dismiss his.

        You're dead right. No one else has a right to an KPI ion because he's an expert - even when he said things that were just plain wrong...

    Interesting how Laforet can be exactly right, and not quite know what he's talking about at the same time.

    Yes, high frame rates don't work, partly for the reasons he mentions, and also in part because they tend to make performances that play perfectly fine at 24-fps look theatrical and hammy, even at a 30-fps U.S. video frame rate. I don't know that there's anything that can be done about it except hope that audiences will eventually get used to the new regime (though I doubt it, and very much hope I'm right and this experiment proves to be nothing more than that -- an experiment that will be judged a failure).

    Laforet does neglect to relate the history of the 24-fps speed that has been the standard in world filmmaking since the advent of the sound era (with the exception of a few 30-fps films shot in the mid-1950s in the Todd-AO process, such as "Around the World in 80 Days" and "Oklahoma!" [which rendered the performances a bit, yes, theatrical and hammy]).

    During the silent-film era speeds for photographing and projection varied a bit because cameras and projectors were both hand-cranked, though the standard was 16 frames per second. It was a speed born of convenience, because 16 frames of 35mm film equaled exactly one foot of film -- sixty feet per minute -- making it easy (in the U.S. and Britain) to calculate film lengths, running times, raw stock costs and most of the nits-and-bolts mathematics of filmmaking. When the RCA Photophone and Western Electric sound-on-film processes supplanted Warner Bros. proprietary sound-on-disc Vitaphone in the late 1920s, it was found that 16-fps did not allow enough film to run through the sound recordist's and projectors' exciter lamps (which read the variable-density optical soundtrack) to provide the necessary dynamic range in the recording. As a matter of convenience, the cameras and projectors (which by now were driven by precise crystal-synch electric motors) were set at a standardized speed of 24-fps, or one and one-half times silent speed, making the mathematics only a little more complicated: 1 1/2 feet of film per second, or ninety feet per minute.

    And so it has always been...until Peter Jackson got it into his head that the world is ready for something different.

    Laforet's also right about an extra-sharp frame's being distracting; from film's earliest days, cinematographers learned how to draw the audience's attention to what they wanted them to look at -- and nothing else -- by use of shadows and manipulation of contrast via filters, intervening media, such as smoke, or focus. One of the problems, in 48-fps or 24-fps, is that few, if any, modern cameramen know how to manipulate shadows as their forebears did during Hollywood's Golden Age.

    As for Laforet's confusion, I'd like to draw your attention to two passages. The first:

    "This is precisely why one should shoot at 1/50th of a second on their HDSLRs and use ND or neutral density filters to makes sure they don’t have too much depth of field and can also ensure they aren’t forced into shooting at higher shutter speeds."

    I've always been a bit mystified by this love of narrow depth-of-field, and how many modern digital still cameras are lauded for being able to achieve this effect.

    If it's so indispensable, how then does one account for the brilliant (and lauded) deep-focus cinematography employed by directors like Orson Welles and John Frankenheimer, and cinematographers like Gregg Toland? Any director can learn to compose a frame, and block his actors' movements within the frame, left-to-right and top-to-bottom, but only a truly superior director also knows how to exploit the frame front-to-back.

    The other is purely a mistatement of fact:

    "If you look at the opening scene of the Wizard of Oz and realise that it was all shot on a stage, and that if you look really carefully at the black and white section at the start of the film for example, you can see that every set extends out 5-20 yards and then ends with a large matte painting that perfectly finishes the perspective lines in an ultimate 'trompe l’oeil'… it’s pretty amazing. And when you stop to think that the film was shot under incredibly hot lights to expose the very low ISO colour film emulsion… and that yes you can more clearly see the matte paintings in colour than you could in the monochromatic opening…"

    Laforet isn't referring to matte paintings, painted on glass (or at MGM in the 1930s-'40s, illustration board) which are a purely special-effects technique, but CYCLORAMAS, huge paintings on canvas hung behind sets to extend those sets or provide a background that would otherwise require location shooting, something that Hollywood studios in their heyday, that relied on vast back lot sets and the total control over every technical aspect of filmmaking that are otherwise compromised, to one degree or another, when one ventures out into the "real" world.

    All this said, there's no real financial incentive for shooting at higher frame rates, other than to entice curious film-goers into sampling the product in hope that it catches their fancy and will become a reliable selling point. While it increases the digital files that must be downloaded to theaters by fifty percent, that has little if no impact on the costs of distribution and exhibition, as would physical prints running at 48-fps.

    We don't need it, "The Hobbit" doesn't need it, posterity doesn't need it. I think that Jackson's already proved in his other films that he doesn't need it, either.

      Great contribution to the discussion!

      I would only add that it might be worth mentioning Douglas Trumbull earlier work with Showscan, as well as our frequent exposure to narrative (and non-narrative) content at 60 frame per second on TV in recent years (as well as 60i before that).

    Interstingly, I had my first experience with theis type of "behind the curtain, magic is lost" HD viewing in a JB HiFi, watching an episode of Sesame Street... think of that what you will.

    The purity ofvision is so realistic that it becomes more like standing in a theatre than watching a movie. Which is fine for certain content, but when it requires a little 'magic' I feel it just falls flat.

    2D for me!

    Good review, and very thorough. I also went to the 48 FPS 3D version first, then the 2D 24 FPS. Absolutely agree, and I thought being able to catch Thorin picking up the sword in 2D 24 was just because I was seeing the film the 2nd time so that was a very interesting point. Watching Lord of the Rings a little again, I also wonder if it is only 48 FPS which makes the colors and costumes look artificially bright. Or is this just another area where Jackson and his folks choose technical obsession over story-telling.

    Speaking of telling, it is very telling that Jackson seems to response to questions about the technology in short interviews by saying it's just there to serve the story. I didn't see the nasty reviews of 3D FPS or his responses, but the criticism must have stuck in his craw. And after all, he spent years on this and pulled lots of other people into it, some of them in their precious twilight years (who have the fame and money to have enjoyed a more leisurely life than the rigor or making a film).

    But then, this is where I disagree with most reviewers who say that Jackson was brave to try. As a guy who works in software (a market full of technology-driven, humans-cast-aside disaster) I have for years observed that anyone with any experience - regardless of their approach - always does a representative sample of the project in a prototype. That way they get the chance to say "hmmm, this sounded like a great idea but now I see some of the shortcomings, let's fall back on something less risky".

    One throwaway comment by the author worth picking up on was the comparison to video games. I suspect younger people who don't really care about acting and stories and are used to games may like 3D 48 FPS. And that leads to another thing nobody has commented on in any review I've seen. What does it even mean to say the film is 3D 48 FPS when so much of it is CGI? If you are creating the film in a computer, you can have as much (digital) light, depth, detail etc as you want. But then that raises another problem with the film which I supposed was argued over already (in the form of the Lord of the Rings - though I missed that); all those computer graphics may be impressive but even Gollum doesn't look real and in the same way distracts from the "immersive" quality you want from a film.

    I wonder what 48fps looks like in 2D. Maybe the artificial look people are reporting here is due to the 3D aspect at this frame rate. Maybe that will improve. Like to see what 48fps 35mm looks like. By the way, by "bright lenses" do you mean faster lenses that admit more light? and by "large apertures" do you mean smaller apertures (and larger f-stops) that allow for more depth of field? Persistence of vision is irrelevant to the retinal/ cortical mechanics of the motion picture experience, regardless of how many times this error is repeated in print and online and in film school classes.

    You are all ridiculous! I have now seen it in 48fps 3d and standard 24fps 2d. Jackson is a visionary for dogging this. Makes the experience that much better. This article is so, so wrong!

      I don't think that's really fair. You having a different experience doesn't make his opinion wrong anymore than his having a different experience makes your opinion wrong.

      Glad that you enjoyed the experience. For me, it felt more like in-game cinematics by video game directors that hadn't fully thought about how to get the most out of their framerate in comparison to other framerates than the video game directors that had made the game technology look the most cinematic. I saw portions first in 2D than in HFR 3D and I was distracted at various points by the technology from the start to the end - though there were some scenes that were directed in a way where the technology was not so distracting to me.

      None of us is wrong - we just had different experiences.

    I for one saw it in 3D HFR. I saw nothing wrong with it. When I went, there was heaps of audience reaction, even clapping at the end. honestly, I don't get what all the fuss is about. It's like looking into a window through to Middle-Earth. Seriously, who wouldn't want that. Really, most of these people who write this crap, either didn't get used to the HFR, or just didn't like the film.

    I've watched the Hobbit in 3D a few times now. This article is FULL OF CRAP!!! The lighting in the Shire was a little over exposed, and some special effects could have been a little better. But ... The resolution was amazing! It's the first 3D movie my eyes didn't hurt from watching. I also felt none of the usual motion sickness.
    I think most of the descriptions are poor and come from those that worship "valve amps" and "vinyl records". It was more like a documentary and a live stage show than the other poor descriptions I've read.
    Now the other piece of garbage I heard was that no one laughed because they were over stimulated by the amount of detail ... What utter horse shit. People laughed throughout the movie at all of the right times.
    There was also the supposed missing depth of field so that viewers didn't know what to focus on. Maybe I need to provide that turkey with a Wikipedia link on DOF.
    And as for not being able to relate to characters: each to their own.
    I for one thoroughly enjoyed the HFR. There were a few gremlins (inc. a possible issue with the frame rate for the first 30 seconds). However, this article is filled with crap. I can only assume the author is a technophobe who loves distortion and low res...

    I saw this movie today in 3D HFR and I was totally immersed in the story, I loved the cinematic experience and found it totally absorbing, funny and awesome. I am just a punter not someone that analyses everything about a movie. But I am going to watch it in 2D as well later and see how it differs. Really though I think a lot of the issues you find with this movie to be subjective to your opinion which is fine but after watching the movie in 3D HFR myself I don't share your opinion on the contrary, I thought it was an awesome experience.

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