Photo: Warner Bros. / MGM
When “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” debuted in experimental 48 frames per second (FPS) reports came out that the new technology was making audiences sick, causing headaches and dizziness. If you’re unfamiliar with the high-frame rate vernacular, films are normally distributed at 24 fps. With Jackson’s distribution of 48 fps in select theatres, viewers are processing double the amount of images on images on screen in the same amount of time.
When initial reviews of the high-frame rate came in some directors including Bryan Singer of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” delivered initial jealousy:
Photo: Twitter / @BryanSinger
And, critics revealed a mixture of praise and dismay at Jackson’s decision to film at 48FPS.
Variety’s film editor Josh Dickey was blown away:
Photo: @Variety_JLD / Twitter
“The Book of Eli” and “The Walking Dead” screenwriter, Gary Whitta seemed sceptical:
Photo: @garywhitta / Twitter
And, then there was Slate’s review:
Photo: Twitter screencap
Sure, the high-frame rate wasn’t perfect.
Quick motions on screen looked too fast. If people scurried too hastily or if too many moving subjects were present up close in the foreground, it delivered a slight jolt to the visual cortex.
Love it or hate it, high frame rate movies aren’t going anywhere.
At the least, Jackson’s two impending Hobbit sequels, “The Desolation of Smaug” and “There and Back Again” will also debut at the high frame rate.
Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, told Business Insider 48FPS is just the beginning of what we can expect to see on the big screen in the next few years.
“We haven’t begun to see the potential in high frame rate on film,” said Gomez. “In the years to come, possibly even with Cameron’s second Avatar film, we’re going to see creatures and other computer generated characters move completely naturally, without that animated “judder” or almost subliminal strobing motion that tells us that what we’re seeing is somehow fake. ”
More than a month prior to “The Hobbit” release, Jackson said in a Facebook post the shift to 48 fps is simple.
“We haven’t begun to see the potential in high frame rate on film,” – Jeff Gomez, CEO, Starlight Runner Entertainment
We’ve been watching films in 24 fps for more than 80 years. Science tells us that humans see the world in 66 frames per second (though the amount of what we can actually perceive is estimated to be closer to 40 moments / frames per second). Jackson says his high-frame rate experiment is to evolve the movie-going experience to provide what he refers to as an “illusion of real life.”
Chief technology officer at projection company Christie, Paul Salvini, told Fast Company while HFR certainly isn’t necessary to a film, it will become an option directors will have—like 3D—to expand and aid to the storytelling process.
“It’s a new opportunity to do things in a new way and a better way,” says Salvini. “It’s not something that you have to use. It’s something that when it makes sense you have the creative freedom to use and over time we will see more directors and more cinematographers understand the medium and explore the medium.”
Like the eventual transformation of silent films to include sound and black-and-white to colour, high-frame rate films still have miles to go technologically, but, in time, can be utilized more frequently.
“The ‘soap opera effect’ that some people are complaining about won’t be as prominent as filmmakers learn how to light, stage and process their shots,” said Gomez. “On the contrary, the combination of technologies like HFR, 4K (which is a quantum leap in terms of picture resolution), 3D, and advanced computer generated imagery will bring us these stunningly detailed vistas that ultimately will look photorealistic. No stylization needed.”
And, if you think 48 frames per second is too much to handle, there are still others who back shooting in 60 and even 120 fps.
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