Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit @ 48 FPS

I saw The Hobbit in 48fps 3D today. The movie itself was enjoyable but too long and not nearly as good as the original movies.

But what I really want to talk about is what it was like to watch a 48fps movie. I'm generally pretty positive about the experience, but not completely:

  • The film feels extremely crisp and raw. By that I mean you pick up every detail in the actor's expressions, and you notice every imperfection in the motion of the camera. It feels like a veil has been lifted between you and the actors, and that you're right on set with them. Double the framerate means that your brain can pick out double the details. In many ways it felt a lot like watching live theater.
  • It took me about half an hour to stop being conscious of the increased framerate. After that it seemed pretty natural, with some exceptions.
  • There were a handful of shots of very simple things that felt oddly *fast*. For example, Bilbo closing a chest or picking up a quill pen, and I wanted to shout at him to slow down. Mostly that was at the beginning, so perhaps I just got used to the speed. I found the timing of some cuts to feel awkward at first, but quickly got used to it.
  • I thought that the high framerate made the 3D somewhat easier to watch. I usually feel slightly strained when starting to watch a 3D film, and I did not get that at all.
  • I did not feel at all queasy as some people have reported, although I'm not very susceptible to that kind of thing.
  • I thought that 48fps made both foreground elements and long shots absolutely stunning. Also I really loved all the silky-smooth, slow-motion battle shots.
  • I've heard some people complain that it makes the CG look bad. Personally I didn't think that the CG looked any worse than CG normally does.
  • Some people have complained that 48fps makes the sets look like sets, and I found this to be true in many scenes. It seemed to me that this was worst in scenes with a high range of depth -- that is, scenes with both near foreground elements and farther middle-to-background elements. The foreground elements look absolutely terrific, but I hypothesize that the 3D technology just can't give the farther elements enough depth to feel right, and so the combination of insufficient depth combined with very high detail makes the backgrounds feel like sets. I'd be really interested to see how the movie looks at 48fps in 2D, but there's no such version of the film right now.
  • 48fps certainly gives a sense of hyper-realism, but I'm not sure that's appropriate for a movie like The Hobbit. I can see it being really spectacular in a movie like The Hurt Locker where you really want a strong feeling of realism, but at times the realism felt out of place in The Hobbit. This was most prevalent in scenes with real sets, such as those in Hobbiton. I wonder whether additional post-processing to make those scenes feel more fantastical would have been appropriate.

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