In the first frames of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the camera briefly lingers on a pair of hands in close-up as they light a candle. As the small flame flares, the camera pulls back to show the aged Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), and the seemingly mundane sequence concludes with a shot that might be unlike anything else you’ve ever seen in a theater.

Peter Jackson shot The Hobbit on digital cameras that captured images at 48 frames per second. That 48fps speed, which we’ll refer to as High Frame Rate (HFR) from here out, is twice the long-held industry standard 24fps. The benefits of HFR include reduced or eliminated motion blur, and a notable increase in general clarity. The downside is that HFR doesn’t look exactly like cinema, or at least not like anything typically projected on film screens.

With those downsides noted, consider this, too: that first shot of Ian Holm as Bilbo has more visual information than any shot of the actor in any other film. He appears to be in the same room with the audience. Details of Holm’s hair (a wig), his prosthetic ears and well-designed wardrobe are impossible to miss. It feels, at first, as if it’s impossible to miss anything, so clear is the picture.

Weird, that such heightened clarity should anger so many cinephiles. Read More »

Advance tickets for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey are now on sale, and anyone buying has a big question to answer: how do we want to see Peter Jackson‘s latest J.R.R. Tolkien film? The choices are plentiful: 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D or HFR 3D. Then you have a preview of Star Trek Into Darkness to factor in, too.

Peter Jackson certainly hopes you’ll choose the format you’re least familiar with. The Oscar winning director took to Facebook to explain his reasoning behind shooting the trilogy at double the frame rate of every other movie, and to explain the historical significance of the technology. After the jump, you can read his Q&A on that as well as about mounting controversy about animal deaths on set, and more Hobbit news. Read More »

How to sell a new, and visually different film technology to audiences? 3D was pretty easy, as it has been around in various permutations for years; the challenge wasn’t in telling people what 3D can do, but that this version of 3D isn’t as lousy and/or cheap as the tech used through the ’80s. Jury’s still out on that argument.

High Frame Rate (HFR), used by Peter Jackson for all three films adapting The Hobbit, is slightly different. By capturing 48 frames per second rather than the film industry standard 24, a movie using HFR has less motion blur and increased clarity. The easiest comparison is to a modern TV display with a high refresh rate (120hz or higher) turned on. The downside is arguably the same as the downside to that display setting, in that the result doesn’t look like “cinema.”

Serious movie fans understand the difference, but what’s the best way to get a general audience to check out an HFR presentation? Warner Bros, MGM, and New Line, have assembled a FAQ sheet to promote the HFR presentation of The Hobbit. It’s not quite as good as the old cheat sheet made to help audiences with Dune, however. Read More »