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Peter Jackson Talks at Length About Using 48FPS for 'The Hobbit'

by
April 11, 2011
Source: Facebook

Peter Jackson - 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.

The Hobbit clapperboard

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.

Peter Jackson - The Hobbit

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  • http://film-book.com/ Film-Book.com
    If 48fps makes The Hobbit look better, I am all for it.
  • http://twitter.com/ModAmericanMan Modern American Man
    I think anything Peter does to improve a film is a smart move. You can't argue too much with someone who's lived in and around the industry most of their life.
  • Anonymous
    I have but one question: How much more is it gonna cost me?
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      Nothing! That's the best part about all of this. The theaters just need to upgrade their projectors to the latest software.
      • Dukephoenix
        The cinemas will find a way to monetize this. Mark my words.
        • Anonymous
          That's my guess. More often than not any "improvement" in something means raising the price...
      • Tony Allen
        You mean like 3D, oh wait..
  • Inzider
    Alex so did the footage still "feel" like a movie even with the increased framerates? Even though there is no judder or strobe, does it feel less magical? I don't want to watch a movie that looks really crisp but with a behind the scenes of a movie digital camera higher framerate feel. The most important thing is does it still feel like a movie?
    • Anonymous
      "The most important thing is does it still feel like a movie? " Okay, two questions...
    • http://twitter.com/ModAmericanMan Modern American Man
      I've read there were a battery of tests done before deciding to take the film this route. Jackson wasn't sold on the idea until he got to film something himself and see it on screen. If he's sold, I'm sold.
  • Mark
    Oh, this is going to be so awesome!
  • Anonymous
    Sounds interesting makes me wanna see it even more now.
  • Anonymous
    Will blu-ray be able to play 48fps? And what about size? A 24 fps 2-3 hour film fills a 50 GB blu-ray, 48 fps probably needs 100 GB blu-ray, which isn't available.
    • Lucky
      I am not sure, but would also like to add, wat abt the HDTV? Are they able to "handle" 48fps? After all, once the film is off cinema, the major profits for movie studio comes in the form of blu-ray and dvd...
    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1133360491 Derek Bissett
  • Marty Martin
    This MAY apply well to 3D films to make them more lifelike, afterall 48fps is closer to the natural eye's framerate than 24fps, BUT normal films would look very "video camera-ish" in 48. I know from shooting a LOT and I get a gag reflex whenever the numbers 48 or 60 are thrown out. This isn't like the progression from BW to color films. It's simply a different tool that has its purpose. I for one do not support it at all and I personally like my films to not seem like they were shot on a super quality camcorder. Faster the framerate, the more something will look like video. Not my cup of tea.
    • Richie G
      exactly, most of the time we want the blur. The camera is supposed to mimic what the human eye does and during a fast pan the human eye looses clarity. I think this could result in less "realistic"
      • Mark
        The human eye sees roughly 100fps. 48fps will still have blur, and will be closer to what the human eye sees.
        • Lucas
          The human eyes sees a continuous stream. There is no fps assigned to the human eye.
          • AJ
            You get less blur at higher frame rates because more points in time are captured as distinct images, instead of multiple points in time being captured onto the same frame and creating a blur. 48 frames per second should technically create less blur, but blur isn't the only thing that results in a movie-like look. Also, if you don't believe the human has "fps", try the following experiment; 1. Hold your hand about two feet in front of your face. 2. Wave it back and forth rapidly. Unless your brain interprets sight more quickly than most people, your hand will become blurry and you might even see multiple hands. This is caused by your hand moving faster than your brain/eyes are able to refresh your vision. That is a very similar concept to the way a camera captures moving images, which are affected in a similar way by FPS. It should be interesting to see how the movie turns out, but as you approach 60 FPS (60 progressive frames per second OR 60 fields per second), you lose the dramatic motion of film's low frame rate and it starts to look like reality (e.g. news footage, vacation footage, and soap operas).
    • Richie G
      exactly, most of the time we want the blur. The camera is supposed to mimic what the human eye does and during a fast pan the human eye looses clarity. I think this could result in less "realistic" visuals
      • http://twitter.com/Matthew1987 Matthew1987
        The human eye will still see a natural motion blur.  This will make it less jerky. You can be sure that this will result in MORE "realistic" visuals.
  • Ryderup
    He should have "futureproofed" LOTR and not digital graded part 2 and 3 to hell.
  • ate
    I hope he knows what he's talking about because those HDTVs that use motion interpolation to add frames makes the image look pukeworthy. If I wanted to watch real life or fake video life I wouldn't go to the cinema.
    • Mark
      That's because the frames added are artificial. Most HDTVs run at 200Hz... which means your eye only gets to see an actual frame of the film 12% of the time. The other 82% are interpolation composits with poor motion blur and linear motion (which is why it looks kinda robotic). Do yourself a favour and turn that stuff off. It ruins movies, especially animation. 48fps won't have this effect. It will have all the subtleties that motion interpolation profoundly lacks.
      • rodrigomalnati
        Hi Mark, your comment is very relieving but are you sure that 48 fps will not make movies look like like video? 'cause apparently video's mere 6 extra fps is what makes it look like "video", i would imagine that 48 fps would make this "lifelike" effect more pronounced. I'm thinking that in a movie theatre where the blur is a lot more noticeable - probably because of the  large screen area - 48 fps might make the image sharper like on an hdtv, but i'm thinking on an hdtv these movies will probably have that soap opera feel that the artificial interpolation gives them. 
        • AJ
          It's not the extra 6 frames that makes TV look so much different than film, it's the 36 extra video samples per second.   Typically, Standard Definition video does record about 30 "frames" per second (actually 29.97 since the invention of color TV), but each frame is made of two "fields" that consist of odd or even lines of pixels, captured one after another.  Since each field is captured at a slightly different moment in time, about 1/60th of a second apart, and then displayed similarly on the TV screen, the motion is very similar to 60 frames per second.  The motion appears much more realistic as a result, but the image is less crisp and there's a slight flickering effect that most people don't consciously notice unless they're looking for it. This method of capturing and displaying video is called "interlacing". Film displays 24 ACTUAL frames per second, which is really not enough to capture smooth motion, but cinematographers usually shoot at a shutter speed that stays open long enough to blur some of the frames together so it looks smooth enough.  When they use a high shutter speed, you can see how choppy that frame rate really is (e.g. "Saving Private Ryan" or "Gladiator"). 30 frame per second "PROGRESSIVE SCAN" (rather than interlaced) captures 30 ACTUAL frames per second, and really only looks a little bit better than film as far as the motion is concerned, but there's more resolution per frame so it looks sharper and you can pause it without getting that weird jittery effect you see when you pause VHS tapes. I've seen 60 progressive scan frames per second, and it looks great.  Very smooth and realistic.  Perfect for news and live TV.  But it doesn't look like film.  Film's slighter jitter and motion blur just make things look more impressive somehow.  Although, I will agree, I hate how everything turns into a mess when the camera pans at 24 frames per second.  I also agree that the 60 fps simulators on HDTVs make things look like soap operas.  It de-movies my movies!  Just looks like people standing around reciting lines.  Although sometimes it's interesting to watch bizarre special effects at such a lifelike frame rate, as I've happened to spot at the local electronics stores.  It's uncanny to watch big blue aliens jump off an exam table or see someone fly away in a realistic frame rate!
  • Wølk
    As I understand it, the 48fps version is for 3D only. So that means that for a conventional 2D presentation of the film - it would be converted into a 24fps version, looking exactly as a traditional film would look. It just skips half the frame rate out of the 48fps(every second frame). That means that it's entirely up to you to decide which version you'd want to enjoy. And as to the "video" look, I'm quite certain it wont look anything like that - I think it will look more like traditional film - but in 3D (24fps for each eye) than how 3D is currently experienced now in theaters (12fps for each eye - choppy and strobe'ish, and not very "film like").
    • Krisbee
      This is nonsense, BTW.  3D in the theaters is most certainly 24fps for both eyes now, that is why when you take the glasses off you see a blurry image - they are both projected together through polarized filters.  If they were not, it would be a jerky back and forth like the Wang Chung "Everyone Have Fun Tonight" video.  Both are eyes are shown at 24fps and your filtered glasses seperates out what you are meant to see.
    • Krisbee
      This is nonsense, BTW.  3D in the theaters is most certainly 24fps for both eyes now, that is why when you take the glasses off you see a blurry image - they are both projected together through polarized filters.  If they were not, it would be a jerky back and forth like the Wang Chung "Everyone Have Fun Tonight" video.  Both are eyes are shown at 24fps and your filtered glasses seperates out what you are meant to see.
  • Bltzie
    bah Peter Jackson should have never got on the 3D wagon. Leave that to Cameron and Lucas.
  • Angry Cheif
    Ha! Is that one screen in the last pictureof Jackson showing us our first unofficial screenshot of the Hobbit?! I may be missing the point. As a budding filmmaker, I am a little concerned with the switch to 48. If of truly can convert purists, then how will my fms, and every other up and comin director's films be seen as? Antiquity?! Hahaha. We shall see how the higher rate turns out. Though I would like to see it used it on non 3D films first. Thanks for posting this Alex. This seemingly unimportant detail that some would skip over as technobabble is something of extreme interest to a handful of us firstshowing readers.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      You're totally welcome, just happy to focus on this anyway as Cameron won me over at CinemaCon and FPS are becoming an important element of filmmaking anyway. Glad to hear we're keeping you well informed!
  • Moif
    All the gimicry in the world didn't make 'Avatar' a good story and it won't help Peter Jackson as he butchers 'The Hobbit' either
  • Hattori Hanzo
    The Hobbit and Peter Jackson goes together like, well, The LOTR's and Peter Jackson. I'm not the least bit concerned over anything he does with The Hobbitt. Bring on December 2012!
  • Bubbab
    This is Garbage, this strange frame rate change will be to cinema as HDV was to consumer digital video cameras, just ridiculous.
  • Anonymous
    as long as there is a 2-D option I'm down.
  • Anonymous
    I don't understand the vinyl analogy. Most people would say that the quality of music -- both sonically and artistically, has gone down since the CD took over. Just because it sounds louder and "cleaner" doesn't mean it's better. And most people who use digital to record spend their time trying to capture that old vinyl sound anyways! I'm sure at first everyone will be captivated by the smoothness of higher frame rates, but in a few years people will miss the magic of 24 fps. When movies had a purpose other than just escapism.
    • Noneofyourbusiness
      very good point, just because it moves on doesnt mean its better. You mention escapism - which is why we love the 24fps look, its not real, its cinema and not video but it seems the world is now obsessed with 'reality', reality tv generation will most likely accept this 'future' but what a sad day that will be.
      • http://twitter.com/Matthew1987 Matthew1987
        48 fps and reality TV are two completely unrelated things. 48 fps isn't necessarily "real" in that sense.  In fact, "The Hobbit" is a fantasy movie. It just looks better and makes the motion smooth. It's like the change from SD to HD resolution. You can be sure that I don't "love" the 24 fps look.  When I've seen movies, I've noticed their jerkiness.  I have long wished that the industry standard for movies would be increased to at least 30 fps (which is already the industry standard for television). And as far as "reality", one general criticism that I have of most Hollywood movies is that they're too artificial.  There are many movies that would have been more effective if they were realistic. For example, anyone remember the opening sequence in "Ghost Ship", where the group of people on the deck is cut in half by the cable?  That scene was sooo fake. If they had shown what would actually happen if a group of people was suddenly cut in half by a cable, that WOULD have been shocking.
        • Krisbee
          Only the industry standard in US/Japan for NTSC systems - and it was done as a conveinence - 60hz AC system cut in half equals 30 - so the clock rate was easily made by the power line.  In Europe where the power system is 50hz, guess what?  TV is 25fps.
  • http://www.josemiguelvasquez.com Jose Miguel Vasquez
    Like many film fans I've seen films from the 1920s and films like Avatar and Peter Jackson's King Kong. there is no doubt that the visual experience will develop to present a remarkable experience of storytelling. I am thrilled to see what films will look. Working in film, makes news like this, a reason to remain jovial about the craft and I cannot wait to learn more.
  • thorin's gold
    I like the natural strobing and shudder of film. Any motion smoother than that looks fake and unpleasing to the eye.
    • Anonymous
      I think you're not taking into account the fact that they would most likely still be using a '180 degree' shutter speed (1/96th shutter). Effectively at double the framerate and half the shutter speed, you're capturing almost the same motion, but the display of that motion is twice as smooth. Because your eyes accumulate light over a significant amount of time, the experience would be much smoother, but still feel the similar in terms of the actual image characteristics.
  • Noneofyourbusiness
    keep in mind that sony and other big companies (involved in both movie production AND tv production) will be loving this as they are basically making your current tv set obsolete as quickly as they can (same as they tried with 3d and failed). This is ALL about the money and nothing to do with what is BEST for cinema fans.
    • Anonymous
      Nope present TVs already go up to 200 mhz at least. That's 200 fps before you'd need a better TV.
      • email
        200MHz would be 200,000fps... (unless you meant mHz, in which case it's 1 frame every 5 seconds) TVs can't really display 200Hz, it's marketing tripe, and even if they could it's only through internal processing - HDMI and other inputs don't support that much bandwith, and even if they did the TV manufacturers would have to release firmware updates to support it. Why do that if you can sell someone a new TV? Even the technologically trivial matter getting 48fps input added is highly unlikely.
      • http://profiles.google.com/mattias.svensson.exists Mattias Svensson
        Wrong. No tv on the market can recieve higher than 60Hz and afaik no TV accepts 48Hz today. Thw 200Hz you are talking about is the output which is something completly different.
        • Test
           Nope, check with sony or even bestbuy you will find Samsung 51" Class - Plasma - 1080p - 600Hz - Smart - 3D - HDTV
          • JustPosting
             A standard video signal is actually a series of still images, flashed on screen so quickly that we believe we are watching a moving image. The typical frame rate used in North America is 60 frames per second (60Hz) meaning that a TV would display 60 individual still images every second. Sub-field drive is the method used to flash the individual image elements (dots) on a plasma panel. For each frame displayed on the TV the Sub-field drive flashes the dots 10 times or more, meaning that the dots are flashing 600 times per second (600Hz) or more. (Example: 60 frames per second x 10 sub-fields = 600 flashes per second). It all boils down to TV manufacturers using some science to trick our eyes into perceiving a better picture.  The television shows you the image at the same refresh rate but fires the individual pixels faster so the images appear smoother. But I can see how this can be confusing. Source panasonic
  • http://twitter.com/Matthew1987 Matthew1987
    To the people criticizing this: Do you realize that 30 fps is, and has long been, the standard for television? NOBODY complains about that. There is absolutely no reason to object to 48 fps video.  It is purely an improvement; it can't even reveal unsightly details, like HD video can with close-ups. I think that whenever a technology is introduced that improves cinema, there is a tendency for people to reject it at first, calling it a "gimmick", until they get used to it.  That is what happened with sound, color, and now 3D. This is especially true if the technology is poorly used, which has been the case with most of the 3D movies released so far.
  • Krisbee
    As I posted up before: 30fps is only the industry standard in US/Japan for NTSC systems - and it was done as a conveinence - 60hz AC system cut in half equals 30 - so the clock rate was easily made by the power line.  In Europe where the power system is 50hz, guess what?  TV is 25fps.
  • Benjamin "Reticuli" Goulart
    Anyone who wants to defend 24fps is an idiot and not worth talking to.
  • Benjamin "Reticuli" Goulart
    The reason video looks so much different (besides the lack of moving, "living" film grain, dead shadows, and overall different dynamic ranges) is the way the exposure is so much longer at 360 degrees (full exposure per frame that is possible in video... see Public Enemies for the icky results of that) and this exposure is abruptly on & off. Mechanical shutters are 1) limited to 180 degrees and less, and 2) are only at full luminosity when the shutter is in the middle of its rotation. It tapers in the beginning and end of the exposure period in a non-linear fashion. This makes film blur from even longer exposures less pronounced and more organic looking.  With video, the longer exposure and/or the linear "canned" nature of the exposure luminosity are/is subtly picked up by the brain as looking more artificial than film.  This has nothing to do with the framerate or the lack of film grain, though. Increased framerate can only improve the image, particularly whenever there is motion of disparate fine detail on screen.  The finer and more numerious the detail and the faster the motion, the more lower fps (of course projected at that fps) suffers.

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