NEW YORK — “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is the first wide-release, major-studio film to be shot and projected at 48 frames per second, twice as fast as the traditional standard of 24 frames. The movie will open Friday in High Frame Rate 3-D (HFR 3-D) in select theaters, as well as in 2-D and 3-D formats and on IMAX.
Technicians say the major benefit of HFR projection is to provide the film with smoother, more realistic motion with reduced strobing. To the average moviegoer this essentially provides a more pleasant viewing experience, especially in 3-D, where the higher speed helps to correctly synchronize the images for each eye.
In a news conference presented by Warner Bros., director Peter Jackson downplayed the cutting-edge nature of the technology and said that it was mainly another cool tool of the moment for filmmakers to play with.
“I had seen a couple of high frame rate movies. I remember going to Disneyland and seeing the Star Tours ride that George Lucas did, which is a high frame rate film,” Jackson said. “And I had a direct experience with it three or four years ago when we did a King Kong attraction for Universal Studios in California, which was 60 frames a second 3-D surround film. And I just thought, wow, this is so cool, I wish we could do a feature film like this.
“But, of course, all of the mechanical projectors in cinemas around the world were locked into 24 frames, and it was an infrastructure since the 1920s that existed and was never going to change,” he continued. “It was the advent of digital projectors that allowed all this development to happen. And as we were in development, our film editor said, ‘you know, if you're interested in high frame rate I think the moment in time has arrived' because the projector manufacturers can probably do it and cameras are going to be able to do it.
“So we decided to take the plunge,” he said, “even though on the first day we started shooting ‘The Hobbit' at 48 frames you could probably say that there wasn't a single server in the world that could project the movie in that format. And so it was a leap of faith.”
While Jackson acknowledged that some moviegoers have complained that the hyper-clarity of HFR makes them feel queasy, he said for older audiences it just might take some getting used to.
“I'm tending to see that anyone under the age of 20 or so doesn't really care and thinks it looks cool and doesn't really even understand it,” Jackson said. “They just say the 3-D looks really cool. I think that 3-D at 24 frames (per second) is interesting, but it's the 48 that actually allows 3-D to come to almost lifelike dimensions because it's less eye strain and you have a sharper picture which creates more of a three-dimensional world.”
— Dennis King