Last September, independent filmmaker James Kerwin criticized Peter Jackson’s announcement that he would film and display “The Hobbit” at 48 frames per second, far faster than the standard 24 frames per second that we see in nearly all films.
“This is a foolish path,” Kerwin, who wrote and directed the 2008 indie feature “Yesterday Was a Lie,” told his Facebook followers last September. “The films will look like videotaped news broadcasts — too real — and audiences will lose their suspension of disbelief (called the “uncanny valley” concept). It’s happened every time directors have tried going over 40 fps.”
Jackson wants to create a more realistic experience, he has said in the past, and the faster the film speed, the more real it will look, and he charged forward despite some of the initial industry criticism.
However, Jackson recently showed about 10 minutes of footage of “The Hobbit” to a theater owner convention audience, all at his 48 fps, and audiences were not impressed. In fact, it has created so much negative attention that Jackson is now defending his use of 48 fps (with a desire to some day increase it to 60) with Entertainment Weekly.
“At first, it’s unusual because you’ve never seen a movie like this before,” Jackson told the magazine last week. “It’s literally a new experience, but you know, that doesn’t last the entire experience of the film — not by any stretch. [Just] 10 minutes or so.”
Jackson is unwilling to give up on the technology because he sees it as the future of filmmaking, and can actually help boost the 3-D, which has started to wane a bit with audiences. Higher frame rates, the director said, is less stressful on the eyes, and allows someone to enjoy a 3-D movie for far longer, and with less discomfort.
Some of the backlash might actually be more about the cost to upgrade theaters than the technology itself. The people seeing these images were those who will be asked to spend thousands of dollars to update projectors to allow the film to play at 48 fps. While larger chains aren’t balking too much at it, the smaller more independent theaters have already expressed a lack of interest in spending the money.
Not all the response to the 48 fps was negative, however. Clifford Broadway from the Lord of the Rings site TheOneRing.net, actually felt the opening scenes through the clouds and sky of New Zealand (where “The Hobbit” was filmed) was groundbreaking.
“For a breathless moment, I felt rather like someone in an audience seeing their first color film after endless years of only black and white photography,” Broadway wrote. “Someone had lifted the glass off the windshield and you were looking at something real and in three dimensions.”
If the 48 fps doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that the film will fail. When it’s released on Dec. 14, “The Hobbit” will be available in both 48 fps (in theaters where such technology is available) as well as the standard frame rate. It will also be available in 3-D and IMAX, as well as 2-D as well, giving moviegoers plenty of options.