Shooting style makes Hobbit extra smooth

Last updated 08:40 28/11/2012
MAGICAL: Sir Ian McKellan as Gandalf the Gray in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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The Hobbit will seem more realistic and "fluid" than previous films as it is the first movie shot using high-speed 3-D cameras that capture twice the normal frames-per-second.

Matt Cowan, chief scientist at United States 3-D cinema projection company RealD, which helped Peter Jackson shoot the film, said the technology should prevent the motion sickness that people can experience when watching 3-D films. However, some film buffs fear that may come at the cost of making the film less "cinematic".

Since 1927 motion pictures have been shot at 24 frames-per-second (fps), meaning each second of the film comprises 24 still images that create the illusion of movement when shown one after another. The 3-D HFR (high frame rate) used for The Hobbit doubles the frame rate to 48 still images for each second of film.

According to Tolkien fan site, 20 New Zealand cinemas have modified their projectors to support the new format, as have about 500 of the 38,000 movie screens in the United States.

RealD said New Zealand had the highest number of HFR-capable cinemas for its population. Other cinemas will be showing literally half The Hobbit at the conventional 24 fps.

Cowan said movie-goers should notice the HFR difference, particularly during action scenes.

"What you will experience is smoother motion. The effect you get for things like explosions is much more real.

"It is a grand experiment and kudos to Peter Jackson for doing it."

Victoria University film lecturer Miriam Ross said the movie industry would be watching to see whether film-goers warmed to the technology which "overcomes one of 3-D's last remaining technical difficulties".

Film-makers had tried to avoid the sickening effect of "strobing" by altering the way they filmed action scenes "but blockbuster action films need to have fast motion in them", she said.

3-D HFR could make films look more like television, which has a similar frame rate of 50 fps, she said.

Wired magazine said HFR's "extra- crisp image" had met with mixed reviews during Hobbit previews.

But Ross noted Jackson had said the clips were not the finished product and Cowan played down the concerns. "When the world switched to colour from black and white there was a view colour was too realistic and you couldn't tell a 'real story' in colour."

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Jackson himself has compared HFR to the switch from vinyl to CDs.

Film-maker James Cameron has promised the sequels to 3-D blockerbuster Avatar will be filmed at an even higher 60 fps, close to the limit that can perceived by the human eye.

  • Conventional 3-D films are screened at 24 fps. There are two projections (one for each eye) and each still image is flashed on screen three times, in alternation, before moving on to the next still. With 24 frames for each eye flashed three times, a total of 144 images are displayed on screen each second.
  • 3-D HFR films are screened at 48 fps. Each frame for each eye is displayed twice, in alternation, so 192 images pass across the screen each second. In 2-D The Hobbit is shown at 24 fps.



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