Frame rate, my precious?
November 12, 2012 8:38 PM   Subscribe

What format should we see The Hobbit in?

My girlfriend and I plan to see the new Hobbit movie opening weekend (though not opening day) in New York City (though public transit accessible NJ wouldn't be out of the question if necessary). Since we're in NYC, we have options on format.

So the question is, what format should we see it in?

There's infamously an FAQ.

It says that the film will be released in 2D, 3D, IMAX, IMAX 3D, and High Frame Rate (HFR) 3D.

Some background: I'm a bit of a film nerd... I'm inclined to see it in HFR 3D for the technological novelty and out of auteurist ideas about directorial intent. I'm actually not a huge fan of 3D in general (though I'm super-excited for the forthcoming promised Top Gun 3D), but that seems to be the only way to see it in HFR. My girlfriend says she can take or leave 3d... probably leaning slightly towards preferring 2d.

As far as I can tell, it wasn't actually filmed in IMAX, right? I don't want to see it on a super-big screen just because I can if that's not its native format.

I wasn't a huge fan of the visual look of the Lord of the Rings movies, so I'd be pleased to have this look different.

(My current favorite movies are The Conformist, Army of Shadows, and On the Town; my girlfriend would probably say Singing in the Rain.)
posted by Jahaza to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, not filmed with IMAX gear.

I wouldn't expect a big change in the look of the film, seeing as it's the same crew and story and setting and such.

I have heard some complaints that the HFR makes things look like a soap opera, I assume they mean it looks like video tape, not sure though as I haven't seen anything.
posted by Cosine at 8:41 PM on November 12, 2012

I am going to start in IMAX 3D and work my way down, I think. I also have the fears about HFR making stuff look like a telenovela, though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:02 PM on November 12, 2012

Actually, I think that the cameras used to film the hobbit capture slightly better resolution images than IMAX, so yes, it would totally be worth it to see it on the super-big screen. It says here that the images are 5k, and imax is usually 4k (ordinary film is 2k). Go big!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:13 PM on November 12, 2012

Higher-than-24 FPS does tend to look cheap, the theory is that if the HFR video it is also in 3D your brain will be tricked into thinking what you're looking at is real, even more so than with regular frame-rate 3D.

Here's another way of thinking about it: when I see high frame-rate video I associate it with news programs and handi-cam video. I associate it, essentially, with depictions of Real Life. Regular film or TV that gets shown in a higher frame rate looks Real and so looks off — my brain thinks, "that is a set. there are lights and people with makeup." (This is why those Motion Smoothing settings on HDTVs completely ruin TV & movies for me.)

But High Frame Rate + 3D = what you see with your eyeballs all the time. The hope is that by bringing 3D to the equation you'll get the "this is Real Life" part but without the "looks cheap" bit.

I would love it if they could provide an example somehow, say in a preview to other 3D movies. It'd suck to pay the full price for the Hobbit in HFR and realize 20 minutes in that you're going to hate it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:32 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

To expand on that - it's some pretty exciting technology that's being used here, just as groundbreaking as IMAX has been. As a person who works in the film industry, I can't wait to see it! I think that the people who are complaining that it looks like a telenovela, or whatever, are just the same old stick-in-the-muds that will berate anything new. "oh yuck it looks too sharp" too sharp??? Looking at film close up, I'm often amazed by how much detail is lost due to atmosphere, or film grain, or colour correcting scenes very dark; The amount and quality of work that goes into a film like the Hobbit deserves to have every detail lovingly admired on screen.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:33 PM on November 12, 2012

It says that the film will be released in 2D, 3D, IMAX, IMAX 3D, and High Frame Rate (HFR) 3D.

Odd that it doesn't mention IMAX HFR 3D, because that is another option. Pretty rare though; on the short list of theaters that are screening it in HFR, only a handful are throwing the HFR up onto an IMAX sized screen. (When I went looking for one, I found that the closest one is a 3 hour drive away from where I am.)

From what I understand, the reason that there is only a shortlist of theaters showing it in the HFR 3D format was that most theaters balked at the upgrade costs to their projectors. The fact that HFR is only available in 3D lets the theaters who did plunk down the cash get to put the 3D markup on the tickets to help recoup that cost.

Purchasing a ticket for a HFR 3D showing is a way of telling the theater "Thank you for taking the financial risk to support innovation in the technical aspect of cinema." Framerates higher than 24fps are not a new idea, SFX wizard Douglas Trumbull attempted the same thing back in the 80s with his film Brainstorm, but couldn't get the theaters to buy in.

And even if you end up not seeing the HFR version because you've opted for 2D instead, I gotta agree with 5_13_23_42_69_666: go big! These days, theaters mainly exist for the spectacle of seeing something on a screen too big to fit in a room in your own home, and the size of an IMAX screen only helps to make your movie night even more of an event.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:34 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

High frame rate is a much bigger deal than 3D. Movies have been sitting at appallingly low framerate since forever - barely crossing the threshold needed to appear in motion, and glaringly bad if your eye tries to track anything in motion (that jarring feeling of being unable to focus).

High frame means everything is less (motion) blurred, always, which means genuine high definition (as opposed to lots of extra pixels but still usually a blurry image), your eye can track the action more naturally.

That plus novelty, plus directorial intent, all signs point to HFR as the way to go.

Worst case scenario: You learn you don't like it.
Go big - sample the future with a production that can make it shine, if any can.
posted by anonymisc at 9:52 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

What have you liked/disliked about 3D in the past?

I find 3D distracting in terms of being able to follow the story and think about narrative/character elements, or on the other extreme, if I get sucked into the important part of the movie (the story and characters!), I will forget I'm watching something in 3D. So I'm not going to see it in 3D, period -- either it'll be diminished or a waste of $5.

If you enjoy watching movies in 3D and they don't make your stomach lurch or otherwise detract from your ability to enjoy the film, go for 3D, why not?

(I might see it in IMAX, though. Because big is good. Big works. Nausea, not so much.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:00 PM on November 12, 2012

If you're afraid HFR might affect your enjoyment of The Hobbit and it's a movie you're more than just looking forward to I might err toward something more conventional.

But, if you're a cinephile looking to check out the new tech (like I am) and The Hobbit isn't a movie where not having that perfect experience first time around will bother you (again, like me) than definitely go for the HFR!
posted by dr handsome at 10:03 PM on November 12, 2012

Do you have one of those TV's that do the oversampling to 60 frames a second, and sort of "smooth out" the image? If you don't, I'm sure you've seen someone who has one. Do you like that, or not?

I can't stand it, since it does seem to make things feel cheap. It's not even that exactly. When I see the stuff in high frame rates, all of a sudden it's like I'm watching a computer game. It looks beautiful, but the aesthetic has changed. 24fps may be old and may technically not be so great, but as soon as you see a film, it feels like a film. When I see stuff in the higher frame rates, it doesn't feel like a film.

My suggestion would be this: If you are going because you want to immerse yourself in the story, and you are really excited to watch a work of art, see it in 2d first. If you want to see it as something fun and full of eye candy, give the 3D HFR a try. I agree with an above poster, though, that it would really suck if you paid for the HFR and then a short while into it realized you hated the feel of it.

All that being said, I'm definitely going to check it out in HFR at some point, because I want to see how it comes across when that was the vision from the start. I'm going to make sure to see it in 2D first, though, so I can enjoy the film as a film first, without being distracted by the different feel.
posted by markblasco at 11:39 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to be seeing it in HFR. It's going to be a new experience as a result of an experimental, bold, and potentially visionary choice from a director whose judgement I trust.

It could be meh, but I'm risk that for it's potential to be really really awesome.
posted by victory_laser at 1:22 AM on November 13, 2012

Frame rate used to be shockingly expensive. Like, $600 for 12 minutes of film. Going from 24 fps to 48 would have doubled that cost, and cut your maximum shot time down to 6 minutes so you would spend a lot of time switching reels. Today, you can buy a huge hard drive which is a little more expensive up front but is reusable.

On the projection side, the equation is the same. 48 fps would have meant a lot more feet of film prints, more work for the projectionist, etc. that would be repeated for every film. Now it's about a one-time purchase of hardware that can handle the new format. Current two-pass video encoding is so good at motion prediction that the difference between 24 and 48 isn't nearly double in terms of data rate, so it's really become, "what do you want the result to look like."
posted by wnissen at 9:57 AM on November 13, 2012

Does anyone know if the 'soap-opera' effect really applies to the 3D HFR? Has anyone other than Gizmodo made that claim? I hate that look on some 120hz TVs I've seen, but I assumed that was more a result of interpolation and sharpening technology. I'm hopeful that native 48hz video looks a lot different.
posted by stobor at 12:43 PM on November 13, 2012

but I assumed that was more a result of interpolation and sharpening technology.

that's my guess as well - I think that the HFR will look better because it has been filmed at that rate. Can't wait to find out!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:04 PM on November 13, 2012

24 fps, baaaaybeeeee!

I plan on seeing The Hobbit at a non-digital theater. 24 fps. And no 3D for me.

More and more movies seem to want to look like video games, and quite frankly, I don't get it. Unless it costs 50 cents and comes with a frigging joystick, I want a film to look like a damn film. Also, blah blah my lawn.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:44 PM on November 13, 2012

Response by poster: So the end of the story is that we tried to buy tickets for 2d, as my girlfriend doesn't like 3d. But we ended up just seeing it in regular 3d (which is kinda the worst possible option) as the theater's schedule was wrong. Even the ticket taker wasn't sure whether to give us 3d glasses. Other people in the theater had also come thinking it was 2d and were dissapointed. I was kind of meh about the movie overall and didn't end up seeing any of the fancy technology.
posted by Jahaza at 7:15 AM on May 14, 2013

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