Friday, December 28, 2012

Forty-Eight Frames per Second

Last night I went to go see The Hobbit again, this time in the special 48-frames per second version.

For those unfamiliar, film gives the illusion of movement by put a series of still images in rapid succession, usually at 24 still frames per second.  When filming The Hobbit, director Peter Jackson increased the frame rate to capture the images at 48 frames per second.  The idea was to get a higher resolution image.

I have heard a lot of people describe their experience seeing this new version.  It has generally been a polar spit: you either loved it or hated it.

And I am here to tell you that I loved it!

The best approximation I have is to imagine watching a Blu-ray movie on a 1080 HD tv.  There is a lack of blurring in this format that makes your brain think that you are watching video, like on the local news or on a soap opera, instead of film.  And since we know that video has less quality than film, some people felt like the quality of the visuals was diminished.

I found the trick is that since your brain (or at least my brain) automatically makes this lower resolution association, you actually have to consciously tell your brain that what you are watching is higher quality (much like the guy in the video above suggests).  Scan the screen to pick out the thick textures and rich colors.  There is an added tangibility to this format.

You should also prepare yourself for the difference in movement.  For the first few minutes, it felt like the characters were sped up as the walked around the screen.  At first this was jarring.  But after 5 minutes, this disappears.  In fact, half-way through the film I tried to notice the jerkiness of movement and I could not.  My eyes adapted

When I first saw The Hobbit, I thought the CG characters felt flat.  In 48fps, they come alive.  It is the most photo-realistic computer graphics I have ever seen.  This is the way 3-D should be seen.

I used to say that Avatar was the best 3-D I have ever seen.  The Hobbit if 48fps blows that out of the water.  I audibly whispered "wow," several times while watching.  I am now only going to see the other 2 Hobbit movies in this format.

Thank you, Peter Jackson.

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