Posted on Saturday, April 28th, 2012 by Angie Han
One of the biggest — and unhappiest — surprises to come out of CinemaCon this past week was the underwhelming reception to the ten minutes of The Hobbit footage screened at the event. The film is notable for having been shot at a higher rate of 48 frames per second instead of the usual 24, and though there’s no denying that the rate increase makes a noticeable difference, not all attendees were convinced it was a good one. Our own Peter Sciretta likened it to “a made for television BBC movie,” noting that “It looked uncompromisingly real — so much so that it looked fake.”
But director Peter Jackson doesn’t seem too concerned about the criticism just now. In his view, moviegoers will come to accept 48 fps — they just need to get used to it first. Read his comments after the jump.
In a conversation with THR, Jackson acknowledged that 48 fps “does take you a while to get used to.” In fact, he wonders if viewers might have responded better had they seen more of the 48 fps footage. “Ten minutes is sort of marginal, it probably needed a little bit more,” he said. “Another thing that I think is a factor is it’s different to look at a bunch of clips and some were fast-cutting, montage-style clips. This is different experience than watching a character and story unfold.”
Speaking separately with EW, he pointed out that some of the critics seemed less bothered by the higher frame rate in a scene between Gollum and Bilbo, which was shown later in the presentation. “That was the same 48 frames the rest of the reel was. I just wonder if it they were getting into the dialogue, the characters and the story. That’s what happens in the movie. You settle into it.” He insists that people will adjust in time. “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.”
In his personal experience, he said, “You get used to it reasonably quickly.” “We have obviously seen cuts of our movie at 48 and in a relatively short amount of time you have forgotten (the frame rate change). It is a more immersive and in 3D a gentler way to see the film.” Indeed, he told THR, when he sees 24 fps footage now, “I’m very aware of the strobing, the flicker and the artifacts.”
Still, the jarring difference between 24 fps and 48 fps has Jackson planning to release the trailer at the lower, more traditional rate. “”I personally wouldn’t advocate a 48-frame trailer because the 48 frames is something you should experience with the entire film. A 2 1/2 minute trailer isn’t enough time to adjust to the immersive quality.” He asked that audiences give the new technology a real shot before rushing to judgment. “There can only ever be a real reaction, a truthful reaction, when people actually have a chance to see a complete narrative on a particular film.”
And if some moviegoers, after sitting through three hours of a 48 fps film, decide they still don’t care for it? “I can’t say anything,” he conceded. “Just like I can’t say anything to someone who doesn’t like fish. You can’t explain why fish tastes great and why they should enjoy it.” The studio, of course, is prepared to cater to audiences on both sides. The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey will hit theaters this December in some six different formats: 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D, each in 24 fps or 48 fps.
However, Jackson believes that the change in rate will eventually prove to be a positive step in film technology. “A lot of the critical response I was reading was people saying it’s different. Well, yes, it certainly is,” he told THR. “But I think, ultimately, it is different in a positive way, especially for 3D, especially for epic films and films that are trying to immerse the viewer in the experience of a story.” He was even blunter while speaking to EW: “Nobody is going to stop. […] This technology is going to keep evolving.”