Peter Jackson Talks at Length About Using 48FPS for 'The Hobbit'
And so it really begins. To stir the pot, as one might say, director Peter Jackson has taken to Facebook to explain in length defense why they chose to shoot The Hobbit in 48FPS (or frames-per-second), as was revealed recently by DP Andrew Lesnie. This is a very fascinating response to see coming from all the debate that's been happening recently regarding James Cameron and shooting at 48/60FPS instead of the standard 24FPS and what that means and so on. I really love how transparent Peter Jackson and co are begin in regards to all of the production details on The Hobbit, it's really making this even more fascinating to follow.
Jackson jumps right into it, so we'll jump right into it without delay. Here's what he explains about 48FPS:
"We are indeed shooting at the higher frame rate. The key thing to understand is that this process requires both shooting and projecting at 48 fps, rather than the usual 24 fps (films have been shot at 24 frames per second since the late 1920's). So the result looks like normal speed, but the image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness. Looking at 24 frames every second may seem ok--and we've all seen thousands of films like this over the last 90 years--but there is often quite a lot of blur in each frame, during fast movements, and if the camera is moving around quickly, the image can judder or 'strobe.'"
So Jackson is basically rehashing, pretty much verbatim, what James Cameron explained at CinemaCon a few weeks ago. Basically how, the visual style of the movie, or the "realistic" feeling of it, can be tweaked in other ways stylistically. Instead, the advantage to shooting at 48FPS is, as he says, "hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness" - which is exactly what we saw during James Cameron's presentation. Jackson continues:
"Shooting and projecting at 48 fps does a lot to get rid of these issues. It looks much more lifelike, and it is much easier to watch, especially in 3-D. We've been watching HOBBIT tests and dailies at 48 fps now for several months, and we often sit through two hours worth of footage without getting any eye strain from the 3-D. It looks great, and we've actually become used to it now, to the point that other film experiences look a little primitive. I saw a new movie in the cinema on Sunday and I kept getting distracted by the juddery panning and blurring. We're getting spoilt!"
"None of this thinking is new. Doug Trumbull developed and promoted a 60 frames per second process called ShowScan about 30 years ago and that looked great. Unfortunately it was never adopted past theme park use. I imagine the sheer expense of burning through expensive film stock at the higher speed (you are charged per foot of film, which is about 18 frames), and the projection difficulties in cinemas, made it tough to use for 'normal' films, despite looking amazing. Actually, if anybody has been on the Star Tours ride at Disneyland, you've experienced the life like quality of 60 frames per second. Our new King Kong attraction at Universal Studios also uses 60 fps."
"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."
Again, more of the exact same stuff that we heard Cameron say at the presentation. As I felt then, and as I feel now, if only I could show you guys what he showed me, and I'm sure Peter Jackson can't wait to show us The Hobbit, but it'll look amazing. Trust in Cameron and Jackson - they're geniuses! If these guys really think going to 48/60FPS is the next technical step up, then I believe them and trust that what we'll see will be amazing. Here's a cool shot of the clapperboard/marker via Facebook before we continue with more.
Here's where Jackson gets into addressing and more importantly defending those who don't like the jump to higher framerates. Plus, he adds some good thoughts about how by the time The Hobbit will be released, we'll already be up at 10,000 (digital) screens that will hopefully be able to show 48FPS naturally. Read on:
"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."
Warner Bros. have been very supportive, and allowed us to start shooting THE HOBBIT at 48 fps, despite there never having been a wide release feature film filmed at this higher frame rate. We are hopeful that there will be enough theaters capable of projecting 48 fps by the time The Hobbit comes out where we can seriously explore that possibility with Warner Bros. However, 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. I see it as a way of future-proofing THE HOBBIT. Take it from me--if we do release in 48 fps, those are the cinemas you should watch the movie in. It will look terrific!"
Honestly, I'm curious - no I'm very very anxious - to see what The Hobbit in 3D in 48FPS looks like come late 2012. During the Cameron presentation at CinemaCon, he actually mentioned that because of Jackson's stomach illness, he didn't think they had time to sort out the framerates and were just going to shoot at 24. I was worried, because I was wondering why a set of movies that are supposed to be at the forefront of cinematic technology wouldn't be using what is supposed to become the new standard. Thankfully that's not only not the case, but it's great to hear Peter Jackson himself defending 48FPS and promising us two movies that will look incredible. We'll keep you updated on all things The Hobbit! Also make sure to Facebook P.J.