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The Hobbit and 48 Frames Per Second

Monday 24 December 2012, 12:00

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

The release of The Hobbit has prompted a debate about 48 frames per second. I asked Dave Norris - the UK's leading projectionist - for a definitive answer on whether it solves the problem of light loss in 3D...

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    Comment number 22.

    As a huge Tolkien fan, I too was skeptical when first hearing that The Hobbit had been split into three separate parts, but now having seen the first of this trilogy, I understand why they did it. I, for one, loved the film. I absolutely loved it. It was as good as, if not better than, one of the films from the Rings trilogy. I'm tempted to consider it a masterpiece, as it far exceeded my expectations in every field (direction, acting, cinematography, art direction, special effects, costume design, editing, music, etc.). Therefore, I disagree with you, Mark, on the film's length and opening act. For a three-hour-long film, I found it immensely entertaining. Had I not known that it was three hours long when I saw it, I probably wouldn't have realized it after watching it. It never felt its length. Also, I didn't think that the first bit felt baggy at all. It was just very true to the source material; nevertheless, it was still very entertaining. Why does everything need to be immediate? Perhaps it's not the film but you yourself, and your weak sense of patience? It's astonishing how as intelligent of a critic as yourself could find gripes with a film like this (and, in his review of it, ignore all the spectacular aspects of the film) but find nothing wrong with the Twilight saga (yes, those "films" are terrible!). Regarding your comments on it looking like a set, are you sure that that's not just the film itself and the way it was lit? Films these days are lit that way. Not just that, a lot of it is due to the new camera lenses that they're using.

    On the subject of the 48 frames-per-second, I saw the film in IMAX (which looked amazing) with 3D (which I was forced to have) and, like the user Tom Kelly said, it didn't affect the experience in a positive or negative way. The frame rate didn't bother me, but neither did it improve the disadvantages of 3D (30% color loss, the dimness, etc.). I share your feelings towards 3D, and, quite honestly, the stereoscopy didn't add to it at all. It was so ineffective that I forgot that I was watching it in 3D. And when you forget that you're watching a film in 3D, not only does it prove that the 3D isn't working but that the film is working.

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    Comment number 53.

    D-Box is an interesting development. Especially taking on board the comment that kids will drive the takeup of new 'gimmicks'. Many will have experienced something like it at Theme Parks simulator rides. I would imaging though rather than each individual seat being motion driven (as in the impression given on the D-Box website), an entire block of seats would move, as all the seats would have to move in the same way anyway.
    That sets up an interesting situation. Your own motion senses will be telling you you're moving, the screen action will be telling you you're moving but any glimpse of the seats around you will tell you you are not, as they are all moving with you. This will be like being on a bus. Put this together with 3d headache and I predict many cases of motion sickness and pretty smelly auditoriums. Why no problem at Theme parks then? Well there are but the rides only last a few minutes. 90 minutes or more of being jostled around or worse coupled with the habit of ingesting fizzy drinks and popcorn I somehow think will lead to an immersive experience of a kind not to be looked forward to. Like being immersed in the vomit of the person seated behind.
    However, if such a system is installed at home, then its likely that there will be only one or at most few seats (independently moving and a lot more of the 'room' to move against) and all that will not be such a problem. Though like I said earlier, if the Cinema target audience can get a better and cheaper experience at home.......

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    Comment number 54.

    I'd have thought that if the picture's too dim at 24fps, then it'll still be too dim at 48fps. Beyond that, though, it seems to me that for all the technical analysis and academic criticism concerning 48fps, viewer reaction to the format is entirely subjective. Some people obviously, sincerely hate it. Other people equally obviously love it. That must just have to do with how their eyes and visual cortex are wired up. I saw The Hobbit in HFR 3D at the Odeon, Leicester Square, and I thought it looked magnificent, the most startlingly glorious imagery I have ever seen on screen in three decades of frequenting the cinema. I thought that it had precisely the lucid, dreamlike quality that is perfectly suited to fantasy and yet that many critics have claimed that it lacked (it didn't look at all "like a movie set" or "like actors in make-up" to me). Whether that puts me in the majority or minority doesn't really matter because I can't very well argue against the quality of the experience that my own eyes were feeding me. So, I wonder, could there be a physiological reason why some people prefer 24fps, and other people prefer 48fps?

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    Comment number 55.

    'could there be a physiological reason why some people prefer 24fps, and other people prefer 48fps?'
    Yes, ignorance. The same ignorance that prefers 'Vinyl' to Cd. And even-do you remember- 405 line TV to 625 line. Yes folk actually prefered the high contrast-low detail 405 line picture to the more subtle, smoother 625 line (still in black and white!). I remember thinking so myself, it was for me perhaps the earliest of the tech 'upgrades' I was to experience. However even then I tried to understand what was happening. As especially, the 625 line test transmissions before BBC2 officially started (one day late due to a miner's strike) were exclusively broadcast film.
    I reasoned the film itself couldn't change depending on how it was broadcast so what was going on. Surely the extra lines would improve clarity but it appeared as if it didn't. The picture was less clear, or so it seemed. What was going on was that the change from VHF to UHF transmission frequencies allowed more detail in each line as well as more lines and the corollary was that a more subtle gamma (the transition from dark to light) was possible. So the image had less 'punch' but more shades of grey, ie more detail.
    In time, the 405 line look passed into history, but you sometimes still see it, even on modern colour sets when archive tapes (not so much film telerecordings) are played.
    Now surely no one now would say the 405 look was better.
    And I emphasise again- Film running at 24fps is NOT an ideal speed. Its speed was chosen because of the transition from 16fps silent standards, and THAT was chosen for practical and economic reasons. The parameters were not chosen for QUALITY.

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    Comment number 56.

    Genius - I love it! Dave Norris should have his own show.


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