Last week Peter Jackson unveiled ten minutes of footage from his forthcoming two-part adaptation of The Hobbit at the Las Vegas Cinemacon. To say that there was a mixed reaction would be an understatement-not because of the film looked bad, but because the film didn’t look like film.
Jackson was giving exhibitors at the convention a look at the film which has been shot at 48 frames per second, rather than the traditional 24 frames per second, a standard for nearly one hundred years. This higher frame rate helps reduce motion blur, it adds clarity and it makes 3D cinema less painful on the eyes. However, it also gives a digital film quality that jarred with many who saw it, those who are used to a more cinematic image.
The Lord of the Rings director has defended his use of 48 fps by saying: “It does take you a while to get used to. Ten minutes is sort of marginal, it probably needed a little bit more. Another thing that I think is a factor is it’s different to look at a bunch of clips and some were fast-cutting, montage-style clips. This is different experience than watching a character and story unfold.”
However, others were not on the same boat, with Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci wrote: “The Hobbit looked like to me: a hi-def version of the 1970s I, Claudius. It is drenched in a TV-like – specifically 70s era BBC – video look.”
I haven’t seen the footage, but I know exactly what he is talking about.
Faraci went on to write: “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.”
Although Jackson does state that the ten minutes of footage isn’t the final product, with THR reporting a quote from Jackson which says: “It is very clean. On a 5K camera you are seeing very crisp pictures. Part of the digital grading will give those incredibly sharp pictures a texture and a feeling that we want the film to have. We haven’t done that yet. What you saw [at CinemaCon, in terms of “crispness”] is partly due to the lack of motion blur (from the high frame rate) and partly due to the camera (in terms of resolution).”
Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffery Wells is very positive about the new technology, he wrote : “The state of cinema as most of us know it changed radically today when 10 minutes of footage from Peter Jackson’s 48 frames-per-second 3D The Hobbit were shown on the huge Collisseum screen inside Caeser’s Palace today. 48 fps 3D is such a startling and game-changing thing that it’s like the introduction of sound in 1927, CinemaScope in 1953, and high-end 3D with Avatar. I was knocked back in my seat…open-mouthed. This is the most startlingly “real” form of cinema I’ve ever seen.”
Wells went on to enthuse: “Believe it or not but I, Jeffrey Wells, a Peter Jackson and Rings trilogy hater from way back, am looking forward big-time to The Hobbit now. I really am. This is going to be amazing. Shallow Hal that I am, I’m now into it big-time.”
I haven’t seen the footage, but my old-fashioned mentally makes be believe that I’m going to be on the negative aide of the fence when all is said and done. I love movies, I like the cinematic quality that removes us from reality. It sounds like this might be a war that rages on and on, but if Hollywood puts its might behind it (and with James Cameron already there) then we know who the winner is going to be.
Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Badass Digest & Hollywood Elsewhere