Does 48 FPS Improve The Hobbit?
Ever since its first showing at ComicCon earlier in the year, most of the talk regarding The Hobbit has been about the ground-breaking 48 frames-per-second technology it uses. Heralded by Peter Jackson as the future of cinema, we’ve seen critics completely split by the format. Now that the long wait for the film is finally over, viewers have a chance to see it and decide for themselves if the ultra-realistic frame-rate is the way forward or not. If you’re unsure about seeing it in 48 FPS, a couple of PixelPedlum writers went along to watch it and gave us their view.
Ben Tyrer -Yes, it makes the 3D look great.
The Hobbit should have been about Peter Jackson’s triumphant return to Middle-Earth, a land of majestic fantasy that we’ve all day-dreamed about visiting. So, it’s rather ironic then that the majority of debate that has sprung up around the film is about how real it looks. Jackson did himself no favours though, using one of the biggest films of the year as a showcase for his 48 frames per second technology – or HFR as it shall be called from now on – that is designed to make footage look more realistic.
If you’ve been living inside of the Lonely Mountain, you should know that pretty much everyone hates the 48 frames of doom, with an avalanche of critics dismissing it by saying it looks like the best BBC soap opera ever produced and that the CGI looks glaringly out of place when the rest of the film looks so realistic. For the tech, all this has been a right old kick to the baggins.
I’ve had some experience with disillusionment with the picture quality of films. As much as I loved Steven Soderbergh’s ‘The Informant!’, I struggled to not be put-off by his use of ‘Red Cam’, a high-definition camera that, for me, made the film look like it was a student’s project. Picture quality is the sort of thing I usually pick up on.
Honestly though, the HFR is what you make of it and complaining that the film looks too realistic seems to be negating the fact that’s what it’s meant to do. The earliest scenes in the movie benefit tremendously from this, as the sharp, crystal-clear images combined with the 3D make it feel like you’re peering into Bilbo’s house, rather than watching a film. The sensation of the Shire looking better than I ever thought possible stayed with me well after the final credits rolled.
While we’re thinking of that third dimension as well, you know what’s really guff about it? Motion Blur. So, one of the best things about the HFR presentation was that it seemed to eliminate most of the motion blur from the key action sequences. I can’t even begin to describe how refreshing it was to actually pick out details in an action scene where either characters or the camera are moving quickly, instead of getting the hard to define splash of smudged colours that usually accompany an action scene in 3D.
The Hobbit has its problems, but that comes down to choosing CGI over practical effects or actors – you know, the lesson The Lord of The Rings taught blockbuster movies ten years ago. Still, let’s not even touch that subject; let’s stick to the one that matters. You should go see The Hobbit in the HFR, if only to make up your own mind. For me, the greater picture quality, the smoothing out of motion blurring and the overall possibility of the format make it a worthwhile investment, even if it’s just to compare and contrast to the ‘normal’ one.
Callum Alexander – No, it’s simply not needed.
I have to admit I was nervous before seeing The Hobbit in HFR. My initial plan was to see it in good ol’ fashioned 2D before watching it the way director Peter Jackson wants us to. As a massive LOTR fan, I didn’t want any negative thoughts about the new technology getting in the way of my enjoyment of a film I have waited almost ten years for. In my opinion the original trilogy still holds up incredibly well, so more of the same would have suited me fine.
You’d imagine my anticipation when the group of friends I was seeing it with had booked a 48FPS viewing. The mixed reactions to the frame rate emerging in reviews, such as making it seem like a high end TV production, definitely worried me.
In all honesty, I came out of the film pleasantly surprised. Within a few minutes of returning to The Shire it was obvious I really didn’t mind the frame rate at all and thoroughly enjoyed the film. The thing is though, I don’t think the new technology added anything either. Peter Jackson has, despite the criticism, always been a firm defender of the format, calling it the future of cinema. He claims it makes the experience truly immersive, essentially removing the screen and making the cinema a window into the world of Middle Earth.
Whilst at times this was true, the beauty of film means that suspending your disbelief already completely immerses you in the experience. I was just as involved with the fate of Gandalf and co watching LOTR in 2D at 24 FPS as I was The Hobbit, the higher frame rate and 3D simply didn’t add anything to warrant the hype or extra admission cost.
Although I have mentioned I was pleasantly surprised that the frame-rate didn’t stop me loving The Hobbit, there were times when it stuck out like a sore thumb, mainly due to the film’s heavy use of CGI. One of the reasons the LOTR films have aged so well is that all of the Goblins, Orcs and Uruk-Hai were people in costumes, making the fights feel almost tangible and the look organic. In The Hobbit this is replaced with all enemies being fully animated. It’s a debate for another time but the problem is certainly made worse by the new format, as some scenes felt very computerised and almost metallic. Whilst this look works for sci-fi films like Avatar, it felt out of place in Tolkein’s world.
I shall definitely be viewing The Hobbit again. The long run time didn’t bother me, nor did the slow start or scenes added from the expanded lore. I will, however, be choosing to watch it in 2D. Not because I hated the 48 FPS, just because it doesn’t need it. Avatar was a technological marvel that was a joy to watch in 3D at the cinema, viewing it on DVD exposed the fact that without the visual wonder it was a long and pretty bland film; the Hobbit doesn’t need such visual gimmicks to aid the viewing. The wonderful characters, beautiful settings and stellar performances (Martin Freeman and Bilbo especially) are enough to make it a great film, no matter the frame-rate. 24 FPS maybe old but that doesn’t mean it’s dated.
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