Seeing The Hobbit this weekend, I was curious to experience the new 3D HFR technology in action. Traditional movies are projected at 24fps (frames per second) and 3D HFR (high frame rate) doubles that to 48fps. You can search the web for more of a breakdown of the technical details of the technology and it’s pretty entertaining to see the people for it and the many people against it. Director Peter Jackson has some thoughts on it. As well as many critics chiming in on the look of HFR.
How you react to the new look may depend a lot on your current television setup at home. For those who have upgraded their TVs in the past few years, and have a high refresh rate toggled on (120hz or higher), they will adapt the quickest. Those with older TVs may have a little more trouble. The 48fps digital projection shows twice the amount of frames and eliminates the blur from motion we’ve associated with movies for the past many decades. This allows much more detail and crispness, making the picture much more vivid. Some have called it the “soap opera effect” because it recalls the TV from the 80s where afternoon soap operas were shot on standard definition video. Soaps did not look like film and they most certainly looked like video.
So how does the movie look in 3D HFR? Beautiful. The look was crisp and clear, and while it does not look much like traditional film, it does have a vibrance that is not matched by traditional 3D. I’ve gotten used to higher refresh rates so it looked pretty much as I expected it to look. Some have said there is almost too much detail, but why would you not want that type of detail in an epic movie like this? The HFR technology is most noticed when there is action on screen, when the camera is panning and whipping around. The typical blur is replaced by rock solid imagery. I can certainly see why it would be jarring for some, it definitely has a different look to it. In fact this was the first time I went to my local theater to see an FAQ posted on the front door.
As for the movie itself, I have not quite decided my final verdict. It is definitely long and scenes extend well beyond what they need to. It’s a nearly 3 hour movie that could have easily been told in under 2. It’s also very violent for young kids and when it tries to inject the weighty world issues from the earlier “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, into essentially a lighthearted and simple adventure movie, the film looses a bit of its focus. When the next sequel comes out, I’ll decide to see it (the movie does end with a cliff hanger) but I do hope it is a bit shorter and more focused on story/emotion as opposed to dazzling effects. Having said that, I was never bored during The Hobbit, and it was pretty fun. It also had more humor than past movies, which was a welcome change.
As for 3D HFR, I think it is here to stay. Modern TVs are already adopting the technology and HRF does boost the level of detail especially for these types of movies. But check it out and see what you think. It is a different look, but a good one, and it looks like the future of cinema.