Peter Jackson Responds to Early 48FPS 'Hobbit' Footage Complaints
Last week's CinemaCon convention definitely left an impact on the movie industry, both good and bad, with some amazing presentations, and others that left a bad taste with many attendees. The biggest point of contention coming out is 48FPS and HFR (high frame rates), and The Hobbit footage/demo that not many enjoyed. While the Hobbit content itself looked great, even I admitted in our video blog that 48FPS didn't impress me the way I was hoping it would. As expected, Peter Jackson himself and Warner Bros have now responded in statements to EW's Anthony Breznican, and honestly they don't do much to quell concerns.
I fully expected Warner Bros and Mr. Jackson to instantly hear all of the negative feedback, not only from our video blog and tweets, but from many vocal members of the press complaining all across the internet. I want to love 48FPS and HFR, and I want it to look amazing, but the 10 minutes of footage we saw earlier this week didn't hit me the way I wanted it to. Just as my 3D-loving friend Jim Dorey of MarketSaw recently remarked, "at least dissing 3D is so 2011 now that HFR has taken over." Indeed. So what exacly does Peter Jackson, still hard at working filming the two Hobbit movies, have to say about this early 48FPS negativity?
"Nobody is going to stop," he said. "This technology is going to keep evolving." … "At first it's unusual because you’ve never seen a movie like this before. It’s literally a new experience, but you know, that doesn’t last the entire experience of the film; not by any stretch, after 10 minutes or so,” Jackson tells EW. "That's a different experience than if you see a fast-cutting montage at a technical presentation."
Yes, one of the rebuttals to all the complaints was that the footage we were shown included a lot of fast cuts that didn't really give us time to get soaked into the world and cinematography in the way he's shooting it. But, on the other hand, many complaints I heard were for brightly lit scenes that looked fake, or sets that seemed like nothing more than sets, not the lush world of Middle Earth we've come to know and love so well from Lord of the Rings. That said, Jackson doesn't have much to say to complainers/cynics. "I can't say anything… Just like I can’t say anything to someone who doesn’t like fish. You can’t explain why fish tastes great and why they should enjoy it." Did he really just compare watching movies at 48FPS to eating fish?
When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first half of the this two-part adaptation, hits theaters in December, I'm hoping that the 48FPS finished film looks spectacular, and they fix all the problems that I have with HFR (mainly the sped-up motion). Jackson is hoping for the same, making a poignant remark: "There can only ever be a real reaction, a truthful reaction, when people actually have a chance to see a complete narrative on a particular film." But that won't be until December, or whenever they start screening the finished film. In the meantime, one scene that did get some positive reactions he addresses:
"A couple of the more negative commenters from CinemaCon said that in the Gollum and Bilbo scene [which took place later in the presentation] they didn’t mind it and got used to that," Jackson says. "That was the same 48 frames the rest of the reel was. I just wonder if it they were getting into the dialogue, the characters and the story. That’s what happens in the movie. You settle into it."
I hate to say it, but the reasons why that scene worked well are because it was dark, it was fully rendered, and it was shot well (no cuts, no big camera movements). Sure, the characters like Gollum and Bilbo are great to see, but if he really wanted to have the audience get "into the dialogue, the characters and the story" and forget about the 48FPS they should've shown closer to 30 minutes, like Pixar's Brave, rather than just 10 minutes. Haven't they been shooting for almost a year already? They should have enough to work with.
Warner Bros, who is releasing The Hobbit this time around, still seems confident that everything will turn out great in the end and this is the future. EW.com also spoke with Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros, who said: "It might not initially be accepted by all, but eventually [Jackson] feels it will be and eventually it can only improve." He adds, "I think by the time he presents this film finished, the majority of moviegoers will accept it and be pleased." I hope that's the case, and maybe this CinemaCon presentation was the very first shock-and-awe moment in the history of HFR digital cinema.
Given how initially excited I was for 48FPS/60FPS movies last year after James Cameron's demo, I still want this technology to work like they promise, I still want the benefit of HFR (for 3D) to be the future, if it can be improved. Maybe we won't really get a sense of truly spectacular HFR until Cameron shoots Avatar 2 at 60FPS, just like the way he proved how 3D could really be an immersive experience with Avatar a few years after the 3D craze had already begun. Right now the HFR craze is just beginning, and this was only the world's first 10 minute glimpse. Maybe the footage will improve in the 8 months they have left until release.
To wrap up, it seems like the movie theaters are still all for converting their digital projectors to 48FPS as well. "Amy Miles, CEO of Regal Entertainment Group, said she hoped to upgrade between 2,500-2,700 of the company’s 3-D projectors to show films at 48 frames per second." That connects with the buzz we were reporting before CinemaCon, that movie theaters are being pushed to have their systems upgraded in full by December. But, for those still concerned or just not interested, don't worry they'll still show it in 24FPS, in every format, in addition to IMAX, 3D and 2D. For now, we'll have to keep our eyes open for more HFR updates, and any opportunities to see how, if at all, they're improving the 48FPS footage. Any thoughts?