This weekend, Peter Jackson kicks off his ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel trilogy with its first installment, the eagerly-anticipated ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’. In addition to bringing fans back to Middle Earth, the director is also using this opportunity to debut the new (and already divisive) 48 frames-per-second photography process. Will you seek out screenings of ‘The Hobbit’ in 48 fps, or will you stick with traditional formats? Vote in our poll today.
Even since a ten-minute excerpt from ‘The Hobbit’ was screened for attendees of the CinemaCon conference earlier this year, fans have expressed dismay at reports that the 48-fps footage suffered from so-called “Soap Opera Effect,” similar to engaging the frame interpolation features (MotionFlow, Smooth Motion, Ultra Motion Plus and so forth) on an HDTV. Many viewers who saw the presentation left disappointed, claiming that the clips looked less like a movie than like behind-the-scenes footage shot on the set of that movie.
At the time, the studio attempted to downplay this reaction by reminding fans that the footage was screened in an incomplete form, without finalized color grading, visual effects or other post-production refinements. Peter Jackson insisted that the problem was simply that viewers will need more than ten minutes to get used to the 48 fps effect, and that even skeptics will be won over by the end of the film’s three-hour run time.
Well, here we are close to release, and members of the media have finally seen the completed film. Unfortunately, many (including our site’s own Michael Palmer and Aaron Peck) returned with the same impression as those CinemaCon attendees: The whole movie still has the Soap Opera Effect, and looks like a TV with MotionFlow turned on.
The question still remains whether this is necessarily a bad thing. Is our predisposition toward the “film look” of 24 frames-per-second photography just a generational bias? Will younger viewers raised on videogames and YouTube videos notice or mind a different appearance in new movies?
Are you still curious to check out 48 fps for yourself, or have you decided to see ‘The Hobbit’ in a standard 24 fps format?
For a list of theaters that will show ‘The Hobbit’ at 48 fps, see this page or this page. Unfortunately, the sites do not specificy exactly which auditorium(s) in each theater are equipped for High Frame Rate.
The IMAX web site has an additional list of theaters that will show the movie in both IMAX and HFR 3D.