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As you may or may not recall, when Peter Jackson first officially announced that he was shooting his two “Hobbit” films at 48 frames per second instead of the 24 frames that films have been shot in for the last century or so, there were a lot of debate. I personally don’t know enough about the technical aspect of filmmaking to have a really big opinion on it, even though whenever I’ve seen films being shown at a higher frame rate (as on display TVs in stores), they’ve always come across as incredibly … artificial. Fake, even. Essentially, the idea of “cinema” is gone, replaced by this strange vibe of, well, reality TV. I originally just shrugged it off as me being used to 24fps all my life, but maybe I wasn’t so far off after all.
Peter Jackson has since revealed 10 minutes from “The Hobbit” at CinemaCon, and word around the Internet blogsophere is that, uh, it’s underwhelming. Not the footage themselves, mind you, but rather the higher framerate that the film is being presented in.
Slashfilm, a usually very industry-friendly site, was one of the blogs that got into the screening, and although they were initially blown away by the footage, all that excitement quickly fizzled:
Everything looked so… different. It was jarring.
The change from 24 frames per second to 48 frames per second is HUGE. It completely changes what every image looks like, the movements, the tone, everything is different.
It looked like a made for television BBC movie.
It looked like when you turn your LCD television to the 120 hertz up-conversion setting.
It looked uncompromisingly real — so much so that it looked fake.
IGN was equally unimpressed, and even less kind about 48fps:
In this reporter’s opinion, it looks like live television or hi-def video… It looked like an old Doctor Who episode, or a videotaped BBC TV production. It was as shocking as when The Twilight Zone made the boneheaded decision to switch from film to tape one season, and where perfectly good stories were ruined by that aesthetic. Here, there were incredibly sharp, realistic images where colors seem more vivid and brighter than on film, but the darker scenes were especially murky (and the 3D only dims that image even more). Frankly, it was jarring to see Gandalf, Bilbo or the dwarves in action against CG-created characters or even to move quickly down a rocky passage. The whipping of a camera pan or the blur of movement was unsettling.
While 48fps may create a more realistic, “you are there” picture quality, it actually works against The Hobbit from the 10 minutes of footage we saw. This undeniable “reality” kept pulling me out of the movie rather than immersing me fully into its world as the Lord of the Rings films did; the very fantasy element, the artifice of it all (whether it’s the wigs, fake beards or CG monsters) was plainly, at times painfully, evident.
Badass Digest felt the same way:
The 48fps footage I saw looked terrible. It looked completely non-cinematic. The sets looked like sets. I’ve been on sets of movies on the scale of The Hobbit, and sets don’t even look like sets when you’re on them live… but these looked like sets. The other comparison I kept coming to, as I was watching the footage, was that it all looked like behind the scenes video. The magical illusion of cinema is stripped away completely.
And you can’t blame it on bad projection or theater experience, either. Apparently the “Hobbit” was shown on CinemaCon’s biggest and “most advanced and best ever assembled” theater projection. So does this mean it’s going to look even worse when the high school kids at my local theater — you know, the numbnuts who can never seem to properly focus the picture — shows it?
The big thing to take away from this new 48 frames per second shooting style? It doesn’t look like the movies you’ve seen all your life. I don’t know if that means it’s better or worse, but it certainly means it’s different.
Essentially, when you finally see “The Hobbit” in theaters, it most likely won’t look like the trailer for the movie (which is rather ironic, but there you have it):