The Hobbit in 48 Frames Per Second
I was doing my usual mid-morning tech geek-out internet research session and stumbled across something quite interesting. I was not yet aware of this bit information and was also slightly shocked by it. It has to do with Peter Jackson’s new film “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”.
We all know Peter Jackson as a writer/director that likes to push the boundaries of technology. The same can be said for writer/directors like George Lucas and James Cameron. In fact, we can attribute much of how we see and hear films today to the technological advancements made by these imaginative people and their crews. Peter Jackson has continued this tradition by choosing to do the unthinkable: shoot “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” at a frame rate of 48 FPS. He has also chosen to show the film at 48 FPS in theaters around the world that are capable of doing so.
So what is 48 FPS? What does this mean? How will it affect my viewing experience?
Firstly, film cameras and projectors have traditionally operated at a speed of 24 FPS. This means that the camera captures 24 individual images every second. During playback in the theater, we see the film projected at 24 FPS as well. This is the way the film industry has been operating for more than sixty years. This frame rate is fast enough that our brains actually fill the gaps for us between each still image so that we see it as one continuous image. Connect the dots so-to-speak.
48 FPS doubles this. There are twice as many frames in every second. Therefore, our brains have to do less work to fill the gaps between each still image. This makes the image look smoother to us. This has been aptly dubbed “the soap opera effect”, because soap operas historically have been shot at higher frame rates and tend to have the same look.
But, is this look too smooth for the cinema? Is it too “real”? This is what many movie-goers and film critics are complaining of. I urge you to find out for yourself. Find a cinema that features digital projection that is capable of 48 FPS. This information can usually be found by calling your local AMC, Mann Cinema, or Showplace Icon and asking to speak to a projectionist or manager. I will be doing the same. I tend to stand on the side of 24 FPS. I’ll be interested to see what others think.