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Super-clear format can puncture 'Hobbit' fantasy

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 7, 2012 at 3:55 pm •  Published: December 7, 2012

It also means that some details remain too blurry to be seen, helping hide imperfections and making life in the movies appear somehow better than reality.

The traditional frame rate also leaves in some so-called "artifacts" that most people nowadays subconsciously accept as part of the movie experience, Lude said. Credits can seem to roll up the screen in dozens of little hops, and quick pans of a restaurant can seem staggered. It's one reason why filmmakers focus on passing waiters in such shots, so we're not distracted by these flaws, he said.

"What (Jackson) did was eliminate an artifact that has been present in all movies since the 1920s," Lude said. "Now it looks more real. Some people say, 'I don't want it to look more real.'"

Jackson compensated for some of the increased clarity by purposely leaving the shutter open longer than normal, adding back some of the lost blur. Still, the images are sharper than before.

Jackson has said on his Facebook page that this adjustment gives his high frame rate version a "lovely silky look" while also making the traditional 24 frames per second version "very pleasing."

At a press tour in New York on Thursday, Jackson said it will be up to audiences to decide.

"As an industry, we shouldn't really assume that we achieved technical perfection with motion pictures back in 1927," he said. "There are ways to make the theatrical experience more spectacular, more immersive and that's what we're trying to do."

Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., which is distributing the movie, is being conservative with the new format, careful not to bet too heavily that audiences will love it.

The studio is releasing higher-frame versions only in 3-D, not 2-D, partly because the perceived benefits are better in 3-D. And it's limiting such screenings to about 450 locations in North America, a little over 10 percent of the footprint of most major wide release movies. About 1,000 screens in the world will show "The Hobbit" in higher-frame 3-D. That's far fewer than the tens of thousands of screens that projector makers Barco Inc. and Christie say are currently capable of showing the format worldwide.

"Nobody wants anyone to feel like this is something being shoved down their throats," said Carolyn Blackwood, an executive producer on the movie and executive vice president of the Warner Bros. division New Line Cinema. "People don't always embrace change."

She said the studio's strategy is to give fans a choice.

"If people are interested and want to see what we're talking about, they'll seek it out and they'll find it and it'll be available," she said. "If they're filmic kind of people, they can go and see it in standard 24 frames per second and be happy."

U.S. theater owners aren't charging extra for it, saying they want to give people a chance to experience something new for free.

"We believe this will deliver great value to our guests," said Ken Thewes, chief marketing officer for Regal Entertainment Group, the largest theater owner in the U.S.

And despite the increased clarity, 48 frames per second is not the limit. Cameron has said he's considering shooting the sequels to "Avatar" at a rate as high as 60 frames per second.

Barco demonstrated for the AP footage of training boxers shot at 120 frames per second. The impact is a stunningly real picture that makes it seem as if you're looking through a giant window onto the real world.

Not all filmmakers will choose to shoot this way, but they'll increasingly have the option to create different moods. Think of how slow-motion scenes can seem more dramatic, or intentional strobing as seen in "Saving Private Ryan" or "Gladiator" can relay a sense of confusion.

"That's where the creatives will have these options and tools at their disposal and decide whether they're going to capture and present at 48, 60 or maybe 120," said Patrick Lee, Barco's vice president of digital cinema.

David Mullen, a cinematographer who has shot movies such as "Jennifer's Body" and "Akeelah and the Bee," said higher frame rates could be better for authentic settings, but could make the artifice of fantasy tales "more obvious rather than more believable."

One solution, he said, is "just do everything better in terms of stage craft and post effects."


Associated Press writer Nicole Evatt in New York contributed to this report.



Where to see 'The Hobbit' in HFR 3D in North America: