Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Hobbit Debuts 48 Frames Per Second Footage (Updated)

Yesterday Warner Bros showed off about 10 minutes of footage from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at a packed house for CinemaCon that is being held in Las Vegas. The footage was the first to show a film running at 48 frames per second instead of the typical 24 frames per second for the last 80 years of film history. According to Hobbit director Peter Jackson in a pre-recorded intro, the doubling of frame rate "gives you much more of an illusion of real life; in 3D it also offers much less eye-strain." According to Deadline, the 10 minutes of footage at 48 fps brought a variety with one comparing it to IMAX while another thought it had "the look of a soap opera." Dark Horizon compiled a cross section of critic reviews over the clarity of the filming at 48fps here. It seems fine tuning is needed but I suspect the average move goer will be pleased with the clarity and not notice some of the critic complaints.

Oddly, chances are most people that go to see The Hobbit are not likely to experience the 48fps version of the movie or even know if they are as many theatres are not set up for it. The Hollywood Reporter says that most theatres are taking a "for more conservative wait-and-see approach" on upgrading. However, there are 13,000 screens worldwide that use Sony 4K digital cinema projectors which can easily handle the 48 fps change. As of now it seems that only new theatres or those that have upgraded in the last year or two will be able to play the film as Peter Jackson intends. Still the film is 8 months away from debuting and a lot can change in that time.

Update: IGN posted an article about the 48fps second footage, providing a decent description of what was shown (below). They too also found the more "realistic" look to be a problem as it made everything look as fake as it really is.
The best sequence shown was one between Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gollum (once again played by Andy Serkis). The latter is his old, split personality self as he debates between killing Bilbo or helping him out. Bilbo finally agrees to play a game of riddles with Gollum. If he wins, Gollum will show Bilbo the way to Bilbo's destination. If Gollum wins? Well, it makes you wonder if Hobbit tastes like chicken. One reason why the 48fps wasn't as distracting here was that it was an extended sequence, the longest by far of the clips shown from An Unexpected Journey today. The CG-ness of Gollum was more evident in this digital format than it was on film back in the LOTR trilogy, but you'd be hard-pressed not to feel goosebumps seeing Serkis back in deceitful action as Gollum.

Also back in action in the footage screened today? Orlando Bloom's archer Legolas and Elijah Wood's Frodo Baggins, although we only got a few glimpses of those two characters. There were also scenes shown between Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown, as well as an action-oriented one seeing Bilbo imperiled by three giant troll-like monsters before Thorin Oakenshield and the dwarves come to his rescue. There were some moments of Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo, life in the Shire, and the heroes' journeys across the snow-capped mountaintops of New Zealand, er, Middle-earth. Jackson stressed in his intro that the footage was unfinished, and this was evident in many of the green screen backdrop scenes we saw, such as the Rivendell one between Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel.

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