Peter Jackson shot the two films in his adaptation of The Hobbit on state-of-the-art digital cameras, and in native 3D. But the big technical push with the movies was the frame rate, as Jackson shot with intent to project the movies at a frame rate of 48 frames per second, rather than the film industry standard of 24fps. The upshot to that projection change being that audiences would be able to see far more detail than is typical in a “normal” projection.

When Hobbit footage was first shown at CinemaCon earlier this year, the reaction was strongly biased against the new look, with many (including our Peter Sciretta) commenting that the presentation looked like video, and sometimes “cheap” video, at that. It was likened to watching a film on an LCD television with the 120hz or 240hz mode enabled, which are meant to eliminate motion blur when watching sports and video games.

With Jackson and Warner Bros. planning to show off footage from The Hobbit this Saturday at Comic Con, we’ve wondered if we might get the 48fps presentation. And now we have the answer, as Jackson has decided to project The Hobbit only at 24fps at Comic Con.

Speaking to the LA Times, Jackson sounds a bit defensive when talking about projecting footage from his latest film at Comic Con.

I think it’s more about protecting the downside, rather than helping the film in any significant way. There is a huge audience waiting to see “The Hobbit,” and any positive press from Comic-Con will truthfully have little impact on that. However, as we saw at CinemaCon earlier this year, with our 48 frames per second presentation, negative bloggers are the ones the mainstream press runs with and quotes from. I decided to screen the “Hobbit” reel at Comic-Con in 2-D and 24 frames per second, so the focus stays firmly with the content and not the technical stuff. If people want 3-D and 48fps, that choice will be there for them in December.

Defending the 48fps presentation after CinemaCon, Jackson said that the difference might seem unusual to viewers for a few minutes, but the eye and mind quickly adjust to the different “look.” And that may well be true, but writing off the criticism as nothing more than the press cherrypicking attention-getting quotes from negative writers seems to ignore the fact that the unease over the 48fps showing in April was widespread.

As for Comic Con, the Hall H audience is an easy target for all things Middle-Earth, and presenting the footage in 2D and traditional 24fps is a safe bet that will do just what Jackson says: allow people to concentrate on the content. But some of the 48fps criticisms suggest that the content is seen in a very different way under the new system, and while it is somewhat reassuring to know that the film will be projected in 2D and 24fps when it hits theaters on December 14, I’m a bit disappointed that Jackson isn’t deciding to promote the technical advance as part and parcel of the Hobbit experience.

More than anything else, I was hoping to get a chance to see 48fps Hobbit footage this week, because I’d like a chance to see for myself what the furor was about at CinemaCon. That will have to wait until later this year, it seems.

 

 

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