The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema

By Debra Kaufman, Creative COW Magazine

Sony Imageworks 3D supervisor Rob Engle saw a screening of The Hobbit in HFR (High Frame Rate) 3D just days before the U.S. premiere. “I was astounded by one scene in Bilbo’s home, early in the film,” he says. “It’s very intimate and at one point, I saw a dust mote cross the frame. And I thought to myself, I’ve seen that in 3D, but it had such a strong sense of being there. Clearly, one of the benefits of HFR isn’t just more frames per second, but more detail.

While there are those who may decry the HFR aesthetic, I love the fact that directors like Peter Jackson are experimenting with new filmmaking tools and techniques,” Engle adds. “We can’t advance without people trying things.” Forget the critics. Forget the reviews. HFR is here and it’s here to stay. Although early viewers — mainly critics — have largely been lukewarm about the look of HFR (with some notable exceptions), the market forces behind HFR 3D have already spoken. Peter Jackson decided on 48 fps, while James Cameron has suggested he might make Avatar 2 in 60 fps. That’s all it took for the industry — from the studios and distribution companies to the projector manufacturers and hordes of exhibitors eager to reverse the trend of sagging attendance numbers — to jump to attention.

Much has been written about the fact that Warner Bros. has released The Hobbit in “only” 900 screens worldwide, 400 in the U.S. and the rest worldwide. It’s instructive to recall that when Disney debuted its first CG 3D film, Chicken Little, in 2005, it played in a mere 84 theatres in 25 markets nationwide. Similarly, the adoption of every new technology from talkies to HDTV and Digital Cinema was far from an overnight phenomenon.

“I remember getting negative responses to HD,” recalls John Galt, Panavision Senior Vice President of Advanced Digital Imaging and a pioneer in HD imaging. “It used to be that whenever we’d roll out new technologies in cameras, people would say, Well, what does it look like on film?”

Still, there’s a tendency to regard the limited debut as modest or timid, with many people linking what they perceive as a small number of cinemas to the largely negative feedback to 10 minutes of The Hobbit shown at CinemaCon 2012. “To be honest, given the initial tepid reaction when they did the pre-screening this summer, I’m surprised that The Hobbit will show in as many as 400 screens in the U.S.,” says Galt. “Rather than compare it to 24 fps screenings, it’s more like IMAX if you like, and how many IMAX screens are there? To me, a release on 400 screens for a single movie for what’s really a big experiment really isn’t bad.” [more...]

Source: Creative COW

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