Getting in The Hobbit of Filming at 48 Frames Per Second
It seems a little strange that the movie version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic, The Hobbit, would come out years after the release of The Lord of the Rings, for in the literary timeline it was the other way around. Not surprisingly, The Hobbit seems poised to take advantage of such technologies that weren’t popular when The Lord of the Rings was released, such as high definition and high frame rate 3-D movie technology.
Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit.
Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings and now the director of The Hobbit as well, recently announced that he would be shooting the movie at a rate of 48 frames per second (fps). This may not mean much to the average person, but consider that the usual movie or film runs at 24 frames per second. Just about all the films we’ve watched in our lives runs at 24 fps, and this isn’t surprising, considering that this has been the frame rate that has been used since the 1920s. Thus, we’re all familiar with such things as cinematic blur during fast movements and shudder during camera movement, which we may or may not have noticed, and which, if we have noticed it, we regard as an ordinary part of the experience of watching a film.
Peter Jackson contends that filming at twice the regular frame rate would result in greater clarity and smoothness, reducing visual blur. Consider, for example the difference when watching an American cartoon and a Japanese cartoon. Japanese cartoons are not always animated at 24 fps, which accounts for the occasionally jumpy movements that can be noticed in animé, while movement is generally smoother in Western cartoons.
Given that The Hobbit will be shot for 3-D release, Jackson feels that the higher frame rate is easier on the eyes where 3-D is concerned, noting that, at the higher frame rate, “We often sit through two hours worth of footage without getting any eye strain from the 3-D.”
This increase in frame rate poses a technical challenge for theaters, since all have projectors designed to run at 24 fps. While digital projectors may only need an upgrade, older film projectors won’t be able to handle the higher frame rate. Also, there are those who claim that the higher frame rate alters the movie watching experience, saying that the blurring effect seen when watching a movie is part and parcel of the viewing experience, in the same way a painting of a particular scene would differ from a still photograph of that same scene.
The first edition of The Hobbit. (Wikipedia image)
Whatever one’s preference, The Hobbit is bound to be a technical step up on its cinematic predecessors. Everyone will want to see things in The Hobbit movie as more realistic even if film fans may protest it’s deviation from the usual film look which viewers have gotten used to. But that’s technology; there will always be room for improvement with new tools.