Had a great chat with CBC stalwart Eli Glasner about the vagaries of frame rates in Peter Jackson’s latest Tolkienian opus (flash required).

Here’s the text from their site:

Questioning The Hobbit’s faster frame rate technology

Will audiences flock to or flee from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit in HFR 3D?

Peter Jackson has been making the rounds in defence of the faster frame-rate technology he’s adopted for his much-anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — and film writer Jason Gorber warns “it will freak you out.”

Still, unlike the host of fellow critics, colleagues and movie industry insiders who have also seen the movie, the Toronto-based writer is a fan of Jackson’s use of High Frame Rate (HFR) 3D for his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel.

“It’s a completely new experience,” Gorber, who writes for online movie site Twitchfilm, told CBC News.

“It frees up the image in a way that I think is disruptive for some people — certainly off-putting — but once you actually get into it and sort of accept the images that you’re seeing [as] being very different, you absolutely embrace the world.”
Doubles standard frame rate

With HFR 3D, films are shot and projected at 48 frames per second, double the standard rate of 24 fps. Proponents argue that the increased rate is much sharper and closer to what the human eye sees. However, early murmurs of discontent emerged at a preview of The Hobbit for theatre owners this past spring and earlier this month, as film reviewers began to take in preview screenings.

Gorber has seen the HFR 3D version of The Hobbit (there is also a standard version) twice now, including at a recent U.S. film event where Jackson himself introduced the screening and immediately acknowledged that some people in the audience “will hate this.”
Though he knows some ‘will hate’ The Hobbit in HFR 3D, Peter Jackson backs the technology and defends using it for his new film.Though he knows some ‘will hate’ The Hobbit in HFR 3D, Peter Jackson backs the technology and defends using it for his new film. (Evan Agostini/Associated Press)

However, Gorber did not and he sees the technology being adopted more widely in the next few years. He described the new, boundary-pushing technology as a change in presentation — albeit a dramatic one — no different than the difference between IMAX and 35mm film. Also, he feels that HFR 3D’s doubling of the standard frame rate better blends elements popular in large-scale blockbusters — like computer-generated effects — with traditionally shot live action scenes. The CGI character Gollum “looks tremendous” alongside Bilbo Baggins, for instance.

“In terms of the integration of the character playing against Martin Freeman [as Bilbo], 48 [frames per second] and 3D do a remarkable job of tying those two together,” Gorber said.
What will audiences think?

Even actor Elijah Wood, who starred in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as Frodo Baggins, has admitted that it took several screenings of The Hobbit before he became a fan of and accustomed to the faster frame rate. Whether audiences will flock to or flee from the movie will be seen this week, when it debuts in cinemas Friday.

“As a theatrical experience, this is the way to see The Hobbit,” Gorber concluded, adding the caveat that “it may not be the way to first see The Hobbit.”

“It will take some time for people to figure out,” agreed Paul Salvini, chief technology officer for Christie Digital Systems Canada.

About 85 per cent of Canadian movie theatres use the Kitchener, Ont.-based company’s digital projectors, he said, and the bulk of those projectors are capable of showing HFR 3D.

Ultimately, “it’s about telling a story, fundamentally trying to tell a great story and trying to use all of the tools and techniques available to make that viewing experience as incredibly immersive and powerful as possible. High Frame Rate is simply one more tool for the filmmaker,” Salvini said.