Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Hobbit and the High Frame Rate Experience

This post is more about the High Frame Rate 3D experience than it is about a review of the Hobbit. I really like the Hobbit and I definitely have opinions about it as compared to the Lord of Rings Trilogy, but I want to talk about the new technology applied to it.

So, unlike the original Lord of the Rings trilogy the Hobbit was shot in 3D and in certain theaters you could view it in 48 frames a second, which is twice the frame rate of all movies you've probably ever seen in your lifetime. That's certainly true for me.

The Not-So-Good.
Watching the Hobbit at the high frame rate was incredibly bothersome to me, especially in the beginning of the movie. As you may know just like the Lord of the Rings the first half of the movie is a lot of talking and exposition. What was so bothersome?

Unnatural movements
At the high frame rate, it looked like everyone was movie twice as fast, even though everyone was moving at a normal pace. If you didn't see it for yourself, trust me it just looked weird.

Unnatural clarity
I just saw the Hobbit yesterday on film (not digital) and although the clarity was not very good, I didn't care. I think partly because I'm accustomed to seeing movies like this. Now that I'm watching most of my movies at digital projection theaters, movies still look like they are movies and that you're watching a pristine print of the movie.

The high frame rate looked too clear. Almost as if you're on the sound stage with them. And that's my point, it feels like you're on a sound stage and not in the actual Shire, which is what I hoped they wanted your experience to be. I remember watching old Dr. Who shows and they were shot on a nice clean sound stage. The problem is that it just looks unnatural.

Here's what I liked. After the 90 minute mark, I got used to the new format. The scenes in the underground caves and caverns, where freaking amazing. The clarity worked so well in these dark environments as opposed to the bright locations of the Shire and Rivendale. It's definitely worth seeing the second half of the movie in this format.

Should you go out and see it at 48 frames a second? If you want to try something new, yes do it. If you want a traditional movie going experience, definitely not. My complaint about 3-D movies today is that after 10 minutes, I don't care if I'm watching 3-D. With HFR, you notice problems right from the beginning and these imperfections become noticeable all throughout the movie. It's not bad, but it's different and noticeably different.

Let me also make a final important point. This is the first movie to incorporate the high frame rate technology. I would not say that this was a failure. I can definitely see that the technology can improve over time. I'm hoping that my complaints will be address in the second movie.