So, what do those words I just typed mean? In his epic quest to cure 3D headachyness and do a crazy technology thing, Jackson has opted to shoot The Hobbit at 48 frames per second, rather than the good ol’ fashioned 24. High-frame rate movies are utilized in some theme park rides and James Cameron is an advocate, which I think is reason enough for film snobs to dismiss it. Basically, 48 fps looks crisper, whil 24 fps has a subtle motion-blur quality and has been standard since the 1920s.
Jackson posted a lengthy entry on his Facebook about his decision. Even his Facebook updates are epic:
We are indeed shooting at the higher frame rate. The key thing to understand is that this process requires both shooting and projecting at 48 fps, rather than the usual 24 fps (films have been shot at 24 frames per second since the late 1920′s). So the result looks like normal speed, but the image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness. Looking at 24 frames every second may seem ok–and we’ve all seen thousands of films like this over the last 90 years–but there is often quite a lot of blur in each frame, during fast movements, and if the camera is moving around quickly, the image can judder or “strobe.”
Shooting and projecting at 48 fps does a lot to get rid of these issues. It looks much more lifelike, and it is much easier to watch, especially in 3-D. We’ve been watching HOBBIT tests and dailies at 48 fps now for several months, and we often sit through two hours worth of footage without getting any eye strain from the 3-D. It looks great, and we’ve actually become used to it now, to the point that other film experiences look a little primitive. I saw a new movie in the cinema on Sunday and I kept getting distracted by the juddery panning and blurring. We’re getting spoilt!
So, to summarize, all films before The Hobbit were shot for chumps and idiots. In 3D, 48 fps kicks ass, you just don’t know it yet.
Film purists will criticize the lack of blur and strobing artifacts, but all of our crew–many of whom are film purists–are now converts. You get used to this new look very quickly and it becomes a much more lifelike and comfortable viewing experience. It’s similar to the moment when vinyl records were supplanted by digital CDs. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re heading towards movies being shot and projected at higher frame rates.
…and comparing 24 fps to vinyl records is the final stab in the heart. Throw the old frame rate into the volcano, folks. You can read the full opine here, and check out some less-than-epic set photos in the top left corner and below.