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Peter Jackson Ready To Dazzle With 'The Hobbit' In 3D & 48fps, But Will Theatres Be Prepared?

by Charlie Schmidlin
April 19, 2012 11:19 AM
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Peter Jackson The Hobbit

Directors Peter Jackson and James Cameron have spent the past few years extolling the benefits of higher frame rates in film, with Jackson wrapping up “The Hobbit” in 48 frames-per-second and Cameron planning the same or higher for the "Avatar" sequels, but now exhibitors are finally getting a wake-up call as the first of these examples plans to hit theatres.

THR reports that High Frame Rates (HFRs) have been proposed to digital cinema leaders as ways to reduce or eliminate certain issues with 24fps, such as jutter or other motion artifacts. In theory, the concept of shooting on 48 or 60fps is fantastic, but the reality has been a bit harder to manage for those behind the scenes.

Digital cinema auditoriums worldwide are currently unable to support HFRs, but extensive work is being done to complete some by the summer, when a 48fps “The Hobbit” trailer is rumored to be released. Roughly 13,000 Sony 4K digital projectors exist across the globe, but Sony confirmed the majority of those only will be ready for the film's December release. Instead, the companies Barco, Christie, and NEC aim to have equipment by June, offering a 3D software upgrade for an estimated $10,000. Overall, tens of thousands theatres could be HFR-capable, but it is up to the hesitant manufacturers and exhibitors to make the final leap.

Those on the production side are stressed as well, since they've had to find solutions while simultaneously shooting on the upgraded formats. Jackson is shooting on the Red Epic in 3D, with completed footage taking up 6-12TB of camera data per day (the production's digital storage center was glimpsed on their video blog, and it is massive). At Park Road Post, where they're editing the film, they've just recently created 3D 48fps systems, while editing 2D 24fps in the meantime before converting over.

There is obviously quite a bumpy road ahead for production houses and exhibitors before HFRs are practiced everywhere. Some theatre exhibitors are even holding out on the process, claiming a wait-and-see approach as “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” opens on December 13th. However, if the results are as spectacular as Jackson and Cameron promised in the early days of their venture, those wary shouldn't remain so for very long.

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  • Callumq | April 19, 2012 2:51 PMReply

    This is just bad. We aren't meant to view films at such high frame rates. Right now we see films projected to us at 48 frames per second, however we are only seeing 24 of those, as the other 24 are just black frames. So essentially we are spending half our time in the theater, in darkness. We dont notice this though, as we need those 'moments' of darkness to process the images in our mind. With this new 48 FPS system, all 48 frames are being used to project images at us.

    That really leaves no time to process whats going on, it'll look all sped up even though its not. It just looks phony and unnatural.

  • Cde. | April 19, 2012 9:46 PM

    Wow, CallumQ, that's a load of nonsense. Does your brain explode whenever you go out in public and you see so many people moving around with smoothness beyond 24fps? How ever can your brain process what's going on before you without those moments of darkness breaking up the motion!?

  • Dan S | April 19, 2012 7:52 PM

    The main reason for the "black frames" is that a shutter in the projector drops in order to hide the transition between frames. Otherwise we would see the image move upwards or notice the black bar that separate frames (artifacts that are visible when film slips off of the projector spokes).

    Current televisions have frame rates between 24 and 60 fps. Computer monitors do even higher than that. Faster frame rates for film will make the transition between frames smoother and less noticeable. If anything, it will make the experience more natural and realistic.

  • Ken | April 19, 2012 4:05 PM

    I need to see an example of this. 48fps sounds wild. I wanna see what it looks like before I judge.

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