Peter Jackson easing 3D eyestrain for The Hobbit?
|NEWS - MOVIE NEWS|
3D headaches a thing of the past, perhaps...but can increased frame-rates survive the naysayers..?
We've written a fair bit about the health issues of watching 3D movies. No, you're not going to go blind, likely as not, but you might be one of the many who suffer splitting headaches or even not be able to participate in the 3D magic at all. Now Peter Jackson is determined to spare us any more cranial collapses by shooting the Hobbit cycle at 48 frames per second, bucking 90 years of filming and projecting tradition at only half that speed.
As Jackson himself observes, shooting higher than 24fps not only provides a smoother and more 'blended' mix of (more) frames, but has already been in commercial usage via the 60fps ShowScan format developed by VFX wizard Douglas Trumbull in the late 1970s, and which was used in Universal's Back To The Future theme-park ride in Florida, amongst other venues.
Shooting at 24fps is one thing, but until now the need to project at that rate would likely have called for a complete refit of the world's projection systems, a stumbling-block overcome by the increasing use of digital projectors.
"Now that the world's cinemas are moving towards digital projection, and many films are being shot with digital cameras, increasing the frame rate becomes much easier. Most of the new digital projectors are capable of projecting at 48 fps, with only the digital servers needing some firmware upgrades. We tested both 48 fps and 60 fps. The difference between those speeds is almost impossible to detect, but the increase in quality over 24 fps is significant. "
Presumably prints of The Hobbit which are destined for cinemas which cannot project at 48fps will be downsampled from the higher-rate versions, though Jackson himself admits that this is no minor matter as regards the distribution and marketing of the film.
"...while it's predicted that there may be over 10,000 screens capable of projecting THE HOBBIT at 48 fps by our release date in Dec, 2012, we don’t yet know what the reality will be. It is a situation we will all be monitoring carefully."
While this seems to be an effort to smooth out the rough edges of the 3D movie experience, the interesting possibility here is the wide-spread adoption of 48fps even in non-3D output. Only the relative few who have seen ShowScan and similar systems can really comment on the improvement in quality, but the theory of it is easy to understand and very promising.
Jackson himself augurs a few boos from the gallery from the 'old school', who were already busy criticising CGI and then 3D before this new-fangled 48fps came along...
"Film purists will criticize the lack of blur and strobing artifacts, but all of our crew--many of whom are film purists--are now converts. You get used to this new look very quickly and it becomes a much more lifelike and comfortable viewing experience. It's similar to the moment when vinyl records were supplanted by digital CDs.There's no doubt in my mind that we're heading towards movies being shot and projected at higher frame rates."
Blu-ray already operates at 60fps, and is therefore well-placed to benefit from the upgraded frame-count of The Hobbit, so at least, for once, this doesn't appear to be a clandestine industry attempt to force another round of consumer re-buying.
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