HFR Projectors Likely to Be Implemented for 'The Hobbit' in December
Get ready for the birth of a new acronym in Hollywood - HFR. It stands for High Frame Rate, referring to high frame-rate projectors capable of showing 48FPS or 60FPS, and they're coming soon. The first film to be released in 48FPS will be, of course, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, breaking ground with technology once again. Leading up to the industry convention CinemaCon next week, THR has posted an article discussing the exhibition world's attempt to get projectors upgraded to 48FPS in mass by the time Hobbit is released in December this year. It may be a fairly tough challenge for the typically hesitant-to-evolve theater chains.
While THR initially states that "most manufacturers—at least publicly—are taking a far more conservative wait-and-see approach," there is certainly pressure and demand to get them implement. Not only by December, when The Hobbit is released, but even earlier in as many locations as possible. They drop this tidbit: "some upgrades might be needed even sooner, since there is speculation that a 48 fps trailer for The Hobbit might be released as early as this summer." Maybe on The Dark Knight Rises, perhaps? But, of course, this may just be a test. If people go crazy for it, they'll be everywhere by the time Hobbit is out.
So what is needed to transition projectors to HFR? Oh, not that much besides a ~$10,000 chipset upgrade called an "integrated media block" (IMB) that provides 48 fps (and 3D) support. That's if you have a "Series 2" project from Barco, Christie or NEC, built using Texas Instruments technology. So essentially they don't need to change out the actual projector, just pay for an upgrade piece. Which is good news, but bad because it still costs. There are also roughly 13,000 Sony-built 4K projectors worldwide, and "we expect the majority of those screens to have high frame rate support enabled by the time The Hobbit is released," Sony told THR. Good to hear, let's hope everyone follows in suit, as long as it really looks as stellar as we're hearing.
Speaking of which, many people I've heard from seem a bit hesitant about 48FPS, or unsure of whether or not it'll even be a noticeable/worthwhile difference. While we've quoted people like Peter Jackson before (and I've seen a James Cameron-lead demo of HFRs and it looks stunning), our friends at Collider got The Hobbit star Luke Evans to talk briefly about the 48FPS Hobbit footage he's already seen: "Even if you're not a nerd you can absolutely see the difference, it's extraordinary." He continues about what he saw:
"Yeah, I've seen myself in action and it's incredible. It really is. It's the closest to your own eye speed that we've ever seen on screen. And it takes a while, when you first put the glasses on, to just appreciate what it actually is that's going on. Because you're eyes are not deceiving you, there is no blur, it's absolutely so effective. Especially for the lack of blur, which is something that we've always had to deal with in shooting in 3D, and now we don't. So, yeah, we're making history with technology as well as with film."
Who couldn't trust what Bard the Bowman has to say? I think we all need to see it for ourselves to believe it, and really see it perfectly projected the way it's meant to be seen. And what better way to showcase that then identify some 48FPS theaters to show a special Hobbit trailer? Then again, that's just introducing another confusing choice for moviegoers, who are already choosing between 3D, 2D, IMAX, XD and now HFR, too. But then again, maybe audiences will appreciate the 48FPS more than the 3D leap, though The Hobbit is combing both of those technologies for a fully immersive experience - and I can't wait for that experience.
I'm sure this is only the first of many industry updates we'll be hearing about 48FPS and HFR. There are a few presentations from studios like Warner Bros planned at CinemaCon, so who knows, we could get a 48FPS trailer demo next week. In the meantime, keep an eye out for updates, and learn the details on 48FPS from our CinemaCon recap last year, the Hobbit video blog on filming in 3D, or straight from Peter Jackson himself. I'm excited to see what the future of cinema looks like in 48 (or 60) frames. What about you?