A few months ago director Peter Jackson screened footage from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at CinemaCon in the actual frame rate the film was shot in, which is 48 fps. For those of you not in the know, for the last 80 years or so, films have been shot at 24 fps (frames per second). At 48, things like motion blur seem to be non-existent and footage appears to be more “real” than ever before, according to those who have filmed at this frame rate, such as Jackson.
San Diego Comic-Con is happening as I write this, and yesterday Jackson commented to the LA Times that he would not be screening The Hobbit footage there at 48 fps this time around, because of all the negative responses last time around from various news outlets and bloggers who claimed that the footage looked like video, sort of like what soap operas or sporting events look like in HD. They essentially claimed the footage almost looked fake. Jackson says that, by screening the footage at 24 fps at the Con, people will report more on the film’s content, performances, etc., and not be distracted by things they may find not so appealing, such as 48 fps.
After his comments to the LA Times were made public yesterday, some bloggers made the accusation that Jackson is trying to cover up how “bad” the footage looks at 48 fps, as if Jackson got cold feet. However, the acclaimed film director has released a more detailed response via his Facebook page addressing in full his decision to screen the footage at 24 fps. Read on to see what he had to say!
Original Peter Jackson quote from the LA Times:
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.
Peter Jackson’s more detailed explanation:
Just about to jump on the plane to Comic Con
Looking forward to giving fans a glimpse of the Hobbit, answer questions and share a few stories about our return to Middle-earth.
For those of you who won’t be attending Comic Con, we have several things in the pipeline to share with you over the next few weeks. Our new video will be ready very soon – in fact our video blog crew has already left for Comic Con, and we’ll be capturing a behind the scenes look at our experiences there. We’re talking about possibly including a few clips from our Hobbit reel in the blog.
We are also working on our next trailer, which you should expect to see sometime in September.
Lastly, let me give you more detail about my decision to screen the Hobbit Reel at Comic Con in 2-D and 24 fps. My LA Times quotes are brief and the topic deserves a little more detail than that. We have conducted many private screenings of Hobbit footage in the US and several international territories, running the same reel twice – once at 24fps, and secondly at 48fps. This has allowed distributors and exhibitors direct comparison of the two formats. The response has been universally strong for the higher frame rate of 48fps.
When we screened only the 48fps reel at CinemaCon a few months ago, some bloggers focussed stories, not on the content, but on their negative reaction to 10 mins of high frame rate footage. This reaction convinced me that the only fair way to experience 48fps, is to sit down and watch a complete feature length movie, with a narrative, not quick trailer cuts. Do I want the ComicCon Hobbit stories to be all about 48 fps? Of course I don’t. I want to present footage from a movie we’re all proud of, with terrific performances and I’m looking forward to seeing what you think.
I’ve always been happy to bet on myself, and for me the experience of watching the full Hobbit movie in 3-D and 48 fps is something really special. Fully immersive, like stepping into Middle-earth. The screen disappears, and you enter the world of the movie in a vivid way. I love it.
The subject of high frame rates has serious film industry implications, and it’s important that it’s judged in the fairest possible context. I’m afraid that a presentation of a short clip reel in a huge convention center is simply not the way to do it. I’m sorry if people attending Comic Con were hoping to see a glimpse of 48 fps, but let me say that in December, if you choose to see the Hobbit in a great cinema, projecting the higher frame rate, you will be in the best place to make up your own mind. And you will have the choice – there will be plenty of cinemas screening both versions.
Here’s my prediction: this time next year, there will be several movies shooting at 48 fps. As an industry, we have to push the current technology to provide more spectacular and immersive experience in the cinema, on a nice huge screen.
Peter Jackson is no idiot. Personally, I think this is the right move. The logic makes sense. In general, showing footage out of context really does not give the viewer a proper understanding of how a film will actually feel when watched in its entirety. That’s why sometimes we get trailers for films that look terrible, but the film itself ends up being great, or vise versa. It is even worse to show something in a brand new film format that most people just haven’t experienced before, and expect viewers to understand and appreciate it, without a story to embrace while watching.
I could be wrong here, but I think Peter Jackson is on to something when he says that we will have to watch the film as a whole to appreciate the new format. It will take time for us to really adjust to it. When fully immersed into the story and its characters, I expect that 48 fps will fade into the back of our minds and won’t be nearly as big of a deal as it is when watching random scenes out of context that don’t really allow us to enjoy what we’re really supposed to be enjoying, which is the story. It just takes time for people to get used to anything new, especially after we have been treated to 80+ years of film being a certain way.
What do you think?