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The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema

COW Library : Cinematography : Debra Kaufman : The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
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CreativeCOW presents The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema -- Cinematography Editorial


Santa Monica California USA

©2012 CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


The technology wizards of the film/TV industry have been talking about High Frame Rate cinema for a long time; indeed, Douglas Trumbull's Showscan at 60 fps presaged the current interest over 30 years ago. But it took director Peter Jackson to take the plunge for mainstream cinema, declaring he would shoot The Hobbit in 48 fps to get momentum going. In about a year's time, manufacturers made the gear, theater exhibitors updated their movie theaters, and the studios prepared for one of the most audacious technology debuts that cinema has seen. Creative COW goes behind the scenes to see what it took for you to see The Hobbit in 48 fps.



Sony Imageworks 3D supervisor Rob Engle saw a screening of The Hobbit in HFR (High Frame Rate) 3D just days before the U.S. premiere. "I was astounded by one scene in Bilbo's home, early in the film," he says. "It's very intimate and at one point, I saw a dust mote cross the frame. And I thought to myself, I've seen that in 3D, but it had such a strong sense of being there. Clearly, one of the benefits of HFR isn't just more frames per second, but more detail.


MARTIN FREEMAN as the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo by Mark Pokorny
48 fps can give a much more intimate portrait to the audience. Rob Engle, Sony Imageworks 3D supervisor notes that at a screening, he could see a dust mote float across the frame. Photo by Mark Pokorny.


While there are those who may decry the HFR aesthetic, I love the fact that directors like Peter Jackson are experimenting with new filmmaking tools and techniques," Engle adds. "We can't advance without people trying things." Forget the critics. Forget the reviews. HFR is here and it's here to stay. Although early viewers -- mainly critics -- have largely been lukewarm about the look of HFR (with some notable exceptions), the market forces behind HFR 3D have already spoken. Peter Jackson decided on 48 fps, while James Cameron has suggested he might make Avatar 2 in 60 fps. That's all it took for the industry -- from the studios and distribution companies to the projector manufacturers and hordes of exhibitors eager to reverse the trend of sagging attendance numbers -- to jump to attention.

Much has been written about the fact that Warner Bros. has released The Hobbit in "only" 900 screens worldwide, 400 in the U.S. and the rest worldwide. It's instructive to recall that when Disney debuted its first CG 3D film, Chicken Little, in 2005, it played in a mere 84 theatres in 25 markets nationwide. Similarly, the adoption of every new technology from talkies to HDTV and Digital Cinema was far from an overnight phenomenon.


(L-r) IAN McKELLEN as Gandalf and HUGO WEAVING as the Elf Lord Elrond in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
(L-r) IAN McKELLEN as Gandalf and HUGO WEAVING as the Elf Lord Elrond.


"I remember getting negative responses to HD," recalls John Galt, Panavision Senior Vice President of Advanced Digital Imaging and a pioneer in HD imaging. "It used to be that whenever we'd roll out new technologies in cameras, people would say, Well, what does it look like on film?"

Still, there's a tendency to regard the limited debut as modest or timid, with many people linking what they perceive as a small number of cinemas to the largely negative feedback to 10 minutes of The Hobbit shown at CinemaCon 2012. "To be honest, given the initial tepid reaction when they did the pre-screening this summer, I'm surprised that The Hobbit will show in as many as 400 screens in the U.S.," says Galt. "Rather than compare it to 24 fps screenings, it's more like IMAX if you like, and how many IMAX screens are there? To me, a release on 400 screens for a single movie for what's really a big experiment really isn't bad."


(L-r) MARTIN FREEMAN as Bilbo Baggins and IAN McKELLEN as Gandalf in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM.
Gandalf the Gray speaks with Bilbo Baggins about the long and winding road to great adventure.

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO 48 FPS
To understand how Warner Bros. reached the point of choosing those 900 theatres, let's take a close look at how HFR became a feasible format for the release of a major commercial motion picture.

Wendy Aylsworth, Senior Vice President of Technology for Warner Bros. Technical Operations and a member of SMPTE's HFR Committee.
Wendy Aylsworth, Senior Vice President of Technology for Warner Bros. Technical Operations and a member of SMPTE's HFR Committee.
At Warner Bros, the person responsible for shepherding The Hobbit into those 900 theatres is Wendy Aylsworth, Senior Vice President of Technology for Warner Bros. Technical Operations and a member of SMPTE's HFR Committee. [Creative COW has already published pieces by SMPTE HFR Committee co-chairs David Stump, ASC and Michael Karagosian.]

Aylsworth's direct involvement with HFR began at NAB 2011 where she happened to be when she heard the news that Peter Jackson would make The Hobbit in 48 fps. "There had been discussion and buzz about it before," she recalls. "James Cameron had been talking about making a movie in HFR. The industry knew it was coming and manufacturers were talking about it. Peter Jackson's announcement drove home the need for all the manufacturers to see what they could do in the timeframe."

Immediately after NAB 2011, says Aylsworth, the information exchanges began informally at SMPTE and the Inter-Society Digital Cinema Forum (ISDCF). "Later on in the year, we started having more planned dialogue with each company about what they thought was possible to be achieved," she says. "I'd say it was somewhere in between feeling frantic and confident that they could do it. Some of the manufacturers felt they could eke out more on the equipment already deployed and others new they'd need to build new IMBs (Integrated Media Blocks). Other manufacturers building IMBs for the first time really focused on completing this design, quickly."

Because Aylsworth has also been involved deeply in Digital Cinema, from the beginning she constantly networked to make sure as much as possible was being done to bring it along. "The real effort of calculating what the world looked like started about a year ago," she says. "We had to determine what percentage of the existing deployment would be able to be upgraded via software versus what percentage would be upgraded through hardware, which is more expensive, versus a deployed base of very, very early Series I projectors that can't be upgraded."

The good news is that less than one-third of the installed DLP projectors needed to be replaced in order to display HFR. "After that, it was evenly split between those who needed software and those who needed hardware," says Aylworth. Although she does not interface with exhibitors, her take from CinemaCon was that "the entire industry was excited and interested in trying to make it happen."


IMAX Chairman/President of Filmed Entertainment Greg Foster
IMAX Chairman/President of Filmed Entertainment Greg Foster
BRINGING HFR TO A THEATER NEAR YOU
If you're a fan of IMAX 3D, you're in luck. According to IMAX Chairman/President of Filmed Entertainment Greg Foster, "Ten to fifteen percent of [IMAX] theatres are showing in 48 fps. Our point of view is very consistent," he says. "We support the vision of trailblazing filmmakers and that's the thesis of everything we've done for the last decade, whether it's the first mainstream 3D movie like Polar Express, the initial conversion of movies from 2D to 3D which we started with Bryan Singer's Superman Returns or shooting with IMAX cameras for the 2009 Dark Knight or exploring HFR like Jackson is doing with The Hobbit. Our mantra is to support the vision of the best filmmakers out there." [Find an HFR theatre showing The Hobbit here]

Getting ready for HFR 3D cinema was a matter of upgrading the software and the server, the latter, which had to handle the doubled frame rate. "I've seen it, and it works very nicely," says Foster. "HFR is particularly compelling in the big action sequences. When you have 3D and you have a sequence with big pans left to right, 24 fps can create motion blur. When you have HFR on fast whips from left to right, the eye automatically catches up with it in real time, so the blur doesn't exist."

Foster says IMAX will figure out a way to do 60 fps if that is ultimately what director James Cameron shoots for Avatar 2. "The ones who give us the directions are the filmmakers," he says. He also notes that critics of The Hobbit in HFR haven't yet seen how it looks in IMAX. "I look forward to people seeing it," he says. "In my humble opinion, the biggest issue facing the movie industry is that more of the same doesn't work. If 48 fps creates less strobing, it is an unqualified good thing, especially in 3D."

The speed at which Digital Cinema projector manufacturers have come up with solutions is an indication of the enthusiasm with which they anticipated exhibitors would embrace 48 fps. Their educated guess has paid off.


HBT-009782: (L-r) CATE BLANCHETT and director PETER JACKSON on the set of the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo by Todd Eyre
Cate Blanchett with director Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit . This journey leads us from digital acquisition with the RED Epics to digital HFR display on Barco projectors, seen below.
The Barco DP2K-32B projector (below) is available as a fully integrated, ready-to-use projection and media server solution or with a Doremi ShowVault and IMB media server, shown above right, and left respectively. Click images for larger views.


Barco DP2K-32B
Barco's DP2K-32B projector

"From my end, there is a lot of interest," says Barco Director, Product Management, Entertainment Division Andrew Gaweda, who reports that 3,000 projectors in the Cinemark chain have been upgraded to play HFR 3D, utilizing an IMB from Doremi. Barco has released a projector configuration file to simplify the set-up process, says Gaweda. "We've pro-actively sent it to exhibitors so they can do it easily," he says. "We are also ready to help, but so far no phone calls from exhibitors

Barco Director, Product Management, Entertainment Division Andrew Gaweda
Barco Director, Product Management, Entertainment Division Andrew Gaweda
Gaweda echoes Foster's belief that exhibitors are interested to see what HFR 3D can do for their box office numbers. "Warner Bros.' caution in limiting release of the HFR version of The Hobbit was a little bit disappointing to a lot of our customers," he says. "They were eager to play HFR on as many devices as possible. They know it's a new technology, but they're excited. The market is looking for something new to bring customers back in the movie theater.

The majority of Digital Cinema theaters are outfitted with Series II projectors from one of the four main manufacturers (Christie, Barco, NEC and Sony). Unlike Series I projectors, which are not capable of playing HFR imagery, the Series II projectors are fairly easy to upgrade. "The upgrade is just installing some free software," says Dr. Don Shaw, Director of Product Management for Christie Entertainment Solutions. "Upgrading the software is part of a routine maintenance. They also need an Integrated Media Block (IMB) instead of a traditional external server, to get the bandwidth to sustain the higher frame rate."

Christie's newly released Solaria I projector integrates a Christie IMB. "It's HFR capable if you buy an HFR license, which is the business model we chose to go with," says Shaw, who declined to name a cost for the license. "We've sold a number of IMBs for Series II projectors and we've sold a number of HFR licenses." Shaw estimates that, of Christie's nearly 35,000 projectors worldwide, "in excess of 20,000" are now capable of playing HFR material.

Patrick Lee, Vice President, Digital Cinema Entertainment Division, Barco.
Patrick Lee, Vice President, Digital Cinema Entertainment Division, Barco.
Barco, which provides projectors to around 9,500 to 10,000 North American screens today, notes Patrick Lee, Vice President, Digital Cinema Entertainment Division, Barco. Its DP2K-32B projector, which is compatible with frame rates up to 120 in 3D and 60 in 2D, and can light up a screen up to 32m wide. The projector is available as a fully integrated, ready-to-use projection and media server solution or with a Doremi ShowVault and IMB media server.

Many exhibitors choose to use a third party IMB for their DLP projectors, and Doremi is a common choice. According to Michael Archer, Vice President of Doremi Cinema, the company's install base is 14,000 IMBs that support 3D HFR content.

"Exhibitors are expressing more excitement than caution," says Archer. "Not that you want to risk money in experiments, but it's easy to experiment. You can have a HFR showing for a couple of days and if it's unsuccessful, all you have to do is load the non-HFR one. Digital Cinema gives exhibitors the ultimate in flexibility."

Archer reports that his company has spent over a year of development in getting the IMBs capable of playing HFR. "There has been a lot of investment made by manufacturers to ensure The Hobbit is successful," he says. "We believe it'll be a very different presentation for patrons. I think more exhibitors than not are very excited about the opportunity to see if HFR can help increase attendance, and I haven't spoken to any exhibitor who's happy it's a limited release. There are a lot of exhibitors who wanted The Hobbit in HFR who aren't getting it."


HBT-VFX-012: The White Council Chamber in a scene from the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
The White Council Chamber

VETTING THOSE 900 THEATERS
Perhaps nobody has more at stake in the success of The Hobbit -- in any version -- than New Line Cinema (a unit of Warner Bros. Entertainment) and MGM, the studios that produced it, and Warner Bros., the company that is distributing it. Peter Jackson wanted HFR. Manufacturers made it possible to display and exhibitors got ready. Now, as the U.S. premiere approaches,

"Warner Bros. is trying to make it controllable such that all those sites can be vetted," says Christie's Shaw. "They want to make sure -- justifiably so -- that the product is being shown at its best."

Worst case scenario? "No show," says Shaw. "You have a theater full of patrons who've paid for their ticket and don't see anything on the screen or it fails in the middle of the movie. That's possible with any technology and HFR isn't any more risky, but Warner Bros. is being extra special careful to make sure the sites have been thoroughly tested and are technically capable of playing the movie."

That vetting process (among other tasks) is what has been running Aylsworth ragged as the premiere approaches. "Although I'm so tired, I am so excited," she says. "Test results are still rolling in and we're reviewing them on a daily basis."

Early on, the Warner Bros. team conducted early tests through 'Plug Fests' at the ISDCF, where any manufacturer can put equipment in the theater projection booth and run through the test to see if it responds correctly to the stimulus. According to Aylsworth, one and a half of these Plug Fests have been dedicated to HFR 3D.

"We developed a suite of digital cinema packages (DCPs) that could be run on any system, comprised of any projector/server/3D glasses, that would let the exhibitor know that things were functioning correctly," she says.

The initial DCP test package for exhibitors was made up of three 30-second trailers. "They were 30 seconds of content that emulate the traditional trailers: a 2D 2K trailer, a 2D 4K trailer and a 3D trailer at 24 fps," says Aylsworth "These emulate the regular formats you'll see in any theatre prior to The Hobbit. We told exhibitors that after the trailers, they could put in their policy announcements, such as to turn off your cell phones or buy popcorn."


(L-r) IAN McKELLEN as Gandalf and RICHARD ARMITAGE as Thorin Oakenshield in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield


This test package was followed by two more pieces in HFR 3D: a one-minute "featurette" with burned-in marks to indicate that the left and right eyes were working properly, and a 20-minute "feature" that exercised the projector/server/glasses system to make sure that it didn't lag or have other problems over time. "In a computer setting, if you start loading it with heavy processing, sometimes you'll see buffering or latency problems," she says. "Sometimes the problems crop up after long runs." To make certain that the systems could handle a longer run, the 20-minute feature was looped into three hours and played back multiple times.

Technical glitches did arise. In the summer Plug Fest at ISDCF, says Aylsworth, they tested flipping between traditional frame rate and HFR content. "It wasn't that any one of those pieces didn't play back correctly but when the projector switched from one to the other, there would be all kinds of interesting flashing and screwy things with the glasses," she says. "This wasn't something we anticipated."


(L-r) IAN McKELLEN as Gandalf and SYLVESTER McCOY as Radagast in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo by Mark Pokorny
Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast. Photo by Mark Pokorny


That issue was resolved at a second Plug Fest when they found that one out of several manufacturers was able to switch back and forth smoothly while the others still struggled with glitches. They focused in the issue and found the problem. "It's based on the IMB and the glasses," says Aylsworth. "It turns out passive glasses can switch at any speed whereas active glasses need more time to get the switching correct. All manufacturer have had to provide instructions on leaving time between the traditional and HFR content and douse the light on the projector between them."

When the countdown to the premiere was in the single digit number of days, HFR 3D playback still presented a few isolated issues, mainly with theaters that are still in the midst of their upgrade. "Maybe they got a bad board that needs to be replaced," says Aylsworth. "Theaters are seeing some odd issues with their glasses. Sometimes it's not knowing the correct setting or configuration and putting them in touch with the manufacturer. There have been a couple of minor issues dealing with older auxiliary equipment that got resolved quickly. In one situation, three theaters had the exact same early model version of 3D glasses, and a fix was quickly found."


MARTIN FREEMAN as the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Is 48 fps fast enough?

READY, SET, GO…
The process that got HFR cinema into place was a dizzyingly fast event: one year from start to finish. Compare that with the painful decades-long path to High Definition, and perhaps HFR's quick readiness is a signal that the studios, the exhibitors and the manufacturers that serve the motion picture industry realize that the status quo has got to change. Stereoscopic 3D movies have largely been playing well in theaters, but even that has not been enough to stop the slide in attendance.

Is 48 fps enough? Is HFR enough? That's up to the content creators: those visionary filmmakers who are figuring out just what HFR means for storytelling on the big screen. Creative COW speaks with Douglas Trumbull, John Galt, Rob Legato and Rob Engle for their thoughts on the aesthetics and creative potential of HFR Cinema.

In the meantime, with the work put into the process by the studios and all the manufacturers, it seems unlikely that anything will go terribly wrong when The Hobbit opens on Dec. 14. The newspaper and magazine critics have had their say, but the tweets have not yet begun. Now it's up to audiences to decide if The Hobbit in 48 fps gets the green light.


Gollum, performed by ANDY SERKIS in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Gollum, performed by Andy Serkis






Image credits from THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, as they appear in order:

MARTIN FREEMAN as the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins in the fantasy adventure "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY," a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

(L-r) IAN McKELLEN as Gandalf and HUGO WEAVING as the Elf Lord Elrond in the fantasy adventure "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY," a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

(L-r) MARTIN FREEMAN as Bilbo Baggins and IAN McKELLEN as Gandalf in the fantasy adventure "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY," a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM.

(L-r) CATE BLANCHETT and director PETER JACKSON on the set of the fantasy adventure "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY," a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo by Todd Eyre

The White Council Chamber in a scene from the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

(L-r) IAN McKELLEN as Gandalf and RICHARD ARMITAGE as Thorin Oakenshield in the fantasy adventure "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY," a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

(L-r) IAN McKELLEN as Gandalf and SYLVESTER McCOY as Radagast in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo by Mark Pokorny

MARTIN FREEMAN as the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Gollum, performed by ANDY SERKIS in the fantasy adventure "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY," a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Title treatment: The Hobbit -- © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Re: Article: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Mark Palmos
The problem with 3D is it calls for attention... much like that incessant steadicam did in Wall Street... it shouts to be noticed and then detracts from the story.

In the case of The Hobbit, the story was so devoid of substance, any one of the dozens of fight sequences could have been removed or slotted in elsewhere, and the only thing that saved it was the whizz-bang of 3D and intensely loud audio on an Imax screen. Massive sensory overload.

Perhaps sometime in the future, IF 3D movies are made where their 3D-ness has NOTHING to do with the appeal of the film, and there is NONE of the typical 3D gimmickery, and IF the audience reach the stage where they do NOT walk out the theatre making the same old (boring) comments of "wow, did you see how that fish jumped right at me, it came out of the screen... wow!" then maybe we would be ready for "good" movies to be made in 3D too.

My feeling is that it is entirely unnecessary in almost all the films I like to see, and adds nothing to a great story well told. The only place I would say 3D is great is when it IS for the wow factor, for example in Avatar, or Life of Pi, where there are beautiful things to be seen and the story isn't particularly deep or philosophical.

Mark.
Re: Article: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Bryant Joseph
It’s a safe bet that many people have taken a general psychology course in their life. It’s an equally safe bet that many of such courses feature Ivan Pavlov’s famous “Dog experiment” in classical conditioning. You know, the one wherein, as Wikipedia puts it, “Pavlov presented dogs with a ringing bell followed by food. The food elicited salivation (Unconditioned Response), and after repeated bell-food pairings the bell also caused the dogs to salivate. In this experiment, the unconditioned stimulus is the dog food as it produces an unconditioned response, saliva. The conditioned stimulus is the ringing bell and it produces a conditioned response of the dogs producing saliva.” Pretty simple, yes? Sure there are far more intricate forms of conditioning, but you get the idea.
Let’s think about it even simpler. What comes to mind when I say the name “John?” How about “Emily, Michael, or Elizabeth?” Have you ever known someone with those names? What about the name “Harry Potter?” My point is this; Harry Potter is indeed a widely recognized literary character, but the name “Harry Potter” itself is just a name. It has no true intrinsic value or meaning. (At least not in the way people would associate it with the popular boy wizard.) So when I hear, as I have been most often hearing, the assault on The Hobbit’s rendition at 48 fps as being “not cinematic,” I say “cinematic” doesn’t mean anything. It means what you’ve been taught or seen. It’s your association with “cinema,” and yes, for most of our lives that association was with 24 fps film stock. While one may certainly exert preference, if the preference is based upon nothing more than familiarity I get skeptical.
The difference is HFR isn’t just a preferential argument; it’s a technical one. It is closer to life and thus certainly more immersive. Even if you don’t “like that” that simple fact on it’s own is indisputable. Some say that it “takes them out of the experience,” which is a little like saying putting on glasses to correct poor eyesight “takes you out of” the experience of compromised vision. It’s like saying actually hiking in the forest “take you out” the experience looking at a Lego version of that forest. You can say it, and it’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to it, but it doesn’t mean much technically. It’s a sentiment based upon familiarity. And, yes, I take issues with that virtually every argument leveled against HFR is sentimental. As if we’re expecting to have mutual disdain just because one side is arguing that “familiar is better.”
A similar war was waged years ago when sound was added to films. One side held that it was more true to life (because after all most of us have a sense of hearing) the other side said, “Movies” were about “moving visuals” and not that “noisy, distracting crap.” Sure, sound has gotten a whole lot better because technology has gotten a whole lot better. Indeed, the way a filmmaker makes tertiary movements and composition has changed with technology and had to change for stereoscopic 3D; it will continue to change for HFR.
A lot of the detractors of HFR also loathe 3D. To that I might say, as James Cameron put it, “we’re not Cyclopes.” But let me ask, has 3D gotten better? Well, yes. (For the true 3D films that is, poor quality post conversion doesn’t count) Was it better on The Hobbit? Yes, it was, due in no small part to the HFR.
How about visual effects, is the use of computer generated visual effects “cheating?” Most wouldn’t say so these days considering most mainstream films have some sort of CG visual effects in them. However, not too long ago the original Tron film (which had groundbreaking CG at the time) was effectively disqualified from the Visual Effects portion of the Academy Awards. Why? Because the powers that be said the use of a computer to generate effects to the extent that Tron employed was “cheating.”
The core is this; at the moment we’re not really talking about The Hobbit and whatever shortcomings it may have had as a film. (And it certainly had them). In the same way “the talkies” shocked the film world with the sound innovation, or digital audio pushed out scratchy older methods, we’re simply talking about technological development that allows us to achieve a certain level of immersion and spectacle. Of course the initial reaction is to somehow feel less immersed, but that impulse is no more genuine than to think that you’ll never learn how to ride a bike because you fall the first time. The Hobbit is not the quintessential example of HFR, right now; it’s the only example. It’s the Harbinger and perfected it is not.
So, whenever I see or hear an overtly sardonic analysis of emerging technology, I could swear I hear a bell ringing somewhere.

But let me be fair, 3D and HFR are both creative choices. They do not suite every product, but I do not think they are gimmicks.
@Bryant Joseph
by Herb Sevush
The difference is HFR isn’t just a preferential argument; it’s a technical one. It is closer to life and thus certainly more immersive.

HFR contains more information and in general I believe more information is always better than less information. But "closer to life" - are you serious? There is nothing closer to life about it. Movies are an illusion of motion made up of discrete static images - there is nothing "real" about it. Neither 18 FPs nor 120 FPS is any more "closer to life" than the other. More immersive, possibly; more information rich, certainly; but closer to life - I don't think so.

"A lot of the detractors of HFR also loathe 3D. To that I might say, as James Cameron put it, “we’re not Cyclopes.”"

While I like HFR I loathe 3D. While we are not Cyclopses, 3D is is simply a way of projecting 2 dimensional images into Z space and has very little to do with the way a 2 eyed creature sees the world. Stereoscopic images predate cinema, it is an interesting gimmick that comes up whenever a photographic medium has degenerated enough to need it to garner temporary interest. The fad comes, then it goes. It has been this way for over 150 years.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf
Re: @Bryant Joseph
by Rob Brandreth-Gibbs
While I'm not ready to say 3D will be the future standard, let me challenge some of your statements, Herb.

We two-eyed creatures receive two slightly different D images that the brain processes into a 3D image. Since a 3D film or video presents two very similar 2D images with similar 3D brain-imaging results, it's difficult to understand how this "has very little to do with the way a 2 eyed creature sees the world." I think if you lined up 100 people and asked them to judge which is more realistic: a 2D View Master image or a 3D View Master image, 99 will choose the 3D. Since you know all this, I suspect an angle I'm not picking up on.

I think 3D will remain a necessary gimmick as it improves incrementally toward a workable, universally acceptable standard. Still evolving after 100 years: aspect ratio, theater audio, color processes. If a fad regularly comes and goes for a 150 years, there may be something to it.

If you were looking through a window, would you say the view is closer to life? Well, of course, it is life. How about if you couldn't determine for looking if it was a window or artificially generated? Maybe like the folks who dove out of the way while viewing Porter's "The Great Train Robbery" in 1903. So we know for some folks, anyway, a spectrum of realism exists. I don't think anyone is actually saying movies are becoming literally flesh and blood.

RBG
Re: @Bryant Joseph
by Walter Soyka
[Rob Brandreth-Gibbs] "We two-eyed creatures receive two slightly different D images that the brain processes into a 3D image. Since a 3D film or video presents two very similar 2D images with similar 3D brain-imaging results, it's difficult to understand how this "has very little to do with the way a 2 eyed creature sees the world.""

Even though I rather like stereoscopic 3D, I'm with Herb on this one: movie stereoscopic 3D is not at all the same as real-world 3D.

Walter Murch is a lot more critical of 3D than I am, but he also explains this difference better than I could: "3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before."

Basically, your eyes are always focused on the screen itself, but they may converge on points at the in front of, at, and behind the screen, depending on the depth of the object you're looking at.

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2011/01/post_4.html

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events
Re: @Bryant Joseph
by Rob Brandreth-Gibbs
And movie 2D is not the same as real world 2D. Especially with regard to apparent focus. The director determines this.

With respect to the mechanics of focus and 3D, we do a lot of things these days that 600 million years of evolution has not biologically prepared us for. (I suspect sitting all day focussed on a screen is one of them.) While there is no doubt that there are folks who artistically and physically have a problem with 3D, the proof of its success are the satisfied viewers who vote with their dollars. According to some engineers, bees shouldn't fly either.

RBG

Rob Brandreth-Gibbs
Bravo Zulu Productions
Vancouver, Canada
Re: @Bryant Joseph
by Herb Sevush
[Rob Brandreth-Gibbs] "If a fad regularly comes and goes for a 150 years, there may be something to it."

Yes, the desire for a truly 3 dimensional visual representation seems to be universal. Stereoscopy has some of the visual aspects that people want and so it comes up, and then when people realize it's not satisfying that desire, it goes away, until everyone that experienced it has forgotten all about it, when it is tried again and it fails again. Remember for over 150 years it has kept failing. The reason it fails is that a true 3 dimensional experience requires the subjective viewer to move around and thru space and the camera is not the subject. We are still looking at a flat screen representation of what a camera sees as it moves thru space, which is not the same thing at all. If it were truly satisfying stereo viewers would have dominated the field of still photography -- you'll notice that they haven't.

Every film I've seen in 3D has, at most, a moment or two of true visual interest and the rest of the time the effect gets in the way of my engagement with the film. I don't think this is due to any technical or directorial problems with the medium, I just don't think it is truly engaging or in any way more realistic than normal visual storytelling -- it's still an illusion created by sequential still images projected onto a flat screen and there's nothing "real" about it.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf
Re: @Bryant Joseph
by Rob Brandreth-Gibbs
[Herb Sevush] "The reason it fails is that a true 3 dimensional experience requires the subjective viewer to move around and thru space and the camera is not the subject."

Movies, whether 3D or 2D, relegate "camera" control to the director's vision. You are describing something other than movies.

Stills are not successful as 3D because of the hassle of needing glasses and technology to view such a short experiences where info is usually foremost. It's just not worth the effort unlike the uninterrupted length and presentation of 3D movies. Nevertheless, if your internet screen could suddenly produce 3D stills, bet-ya people would want it.

I think 3D gets in the way of storytelling because of the glasses technology, and because it is not what you are use to. Presently people like 3D because it is unique. Critics hate it for the same reason. Like the original introduction of color. That said, 3D imaging certainly involves a bit more intrusive brain processing than color.

RBG

Rob Brandreth-Gibbs
Bravo Zulu Productions
Vancouver, Canada
Re: @Bryant Joseph
by mike calla
First off, I've seen quite a few 3D movies in the theater, i don't particularly enjoy them, but if the 2D version is sold out, then 3D it is.

However the 3D HFR hobbit was one of the worst cinematic experiences i have had (outside of watching tankgirl and Johnny nemonic).

3D HFR to my eyes:
- There were half a dozen shots that looked undercranked
- It truly looked like video
- way too much depth of field
- the 3D was so obtrusive, needless at dozens of times
- too distracting, i never got into the story (to those that would argue that i am not use it yet, i counter that in recent decades there has never been a technological innovation in video or audio that i was even remotely distracting as 3d hfr; not mp3s, not surround sound, not 5.1, not HD, not youtube, nothing.)

One note is the computer animated characters looked amazingly real as if they were shot on 60i digibeta,

Personally, in the past few years no lay person has ever commented on the 5/7D looking bad, or that something was amiss or unpleasant. But dozens of lay people have commented that they hate the look of their flatscreen with motion whatever.

i would probably would have enjoyed the hobbit if it was shot on my emergency use canon T3i.
Re: Article: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Mark Palmos
Hello guys,
A bit late here throwing in my 10c...

I've never understood or agreed with the notion that there is something magical, special, better about flickering film vs smooth video... so high frame rates would be a plus IMO.

3D, however, is a gimmick. It has a newness, a wow factor, and part of the existence of 3D movies is the REASON for them to be in 3D. So far, the 3D elements have been there to say, "look ma, I can do 3D, isn't that clever?". Nope it aint. Mostly I find 3D fun for visually stunning movies where the story is secondary, like Avatar, for example. Where there is a story we are to be involved in, ANY technical elements which call for attention, be it wild hand held shots, bizarre colour effects or 3D, will detract from and weaken the impact of the actual story. The effects become noise.

Maybe, maybe in the distant future, when 3D technology is not so literally IN YOUR FACE, then perhaps watching a great movie in 3D will be more than superficial eye candy.

Mark.
Re: Article: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Rob Brandreth-Gibbs
When cinema went from black and white to colour, there were film makers, critics and regular viewers alike who hated the development. Too life-like they complained. The colour image was considered vulgar and without artistic merit. And imagine, watching reassuring black and white images for years, decades, and suddenly to be subjected to the slam-bang of exploding colour across the screen. How distracting might that be?

Of course, everyone got use to it and even preferred the colour. I would suggest the same will be true of HFR. Viewers will get used to HFR and it will become a non-issue. Like widescreen and shakey-cam. Okay, widescreen.

Without having seen The Hobbit, I might also speculate some of the objection might be based upon the video image itself not yet quite up to scientific par with film - IE: dynamic range, etc. Or at least not up to the same psychological comfort level as film. Viewers like film grain. But what the heck is that in terms of sight? Grain is a film artifact. (Now-a-days, God help me, we watch entire movies and TV shows with burned-in logos. If there ever was a case for we'll get used to anything, that has to be it.)

What I can say for certainty, having watched 60 fps Showscan film at the BC Pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver, is that it was an extraordinary experience. Like looking through a window. It blew me away.

RBG

Rob Brandreth-Gibbs
Bravo Zulu Productions
Vancouver, Canada
@The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by george manzanilla
here's an interesting opinion on the differences in 3 projection methods.

http://blog.vincentlaforet.com/2012/12/19/the-hobbit-an-unexpected-mastercl...

----
george manzanilla
rundfunk media
http://www.rundfunk.com
http://www.georgemanzanilla.com
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Ian Lynn
UK. My daughter saw The Hobbit last week in 2D and reported no problem with the way it looked. Then we both saw it in 3D on Sunday and it looked great. No 'video' look, normal film motion etc.

Today I sent a query to the cinema chain and they told me all their cinemas are only 24fps. They don't want to upgrade yet as they have had lots of negative feedback about 48fps looking too much like a tv soap.

Keeping an open mind, and will report if I ever get to see it at 48fps.
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Thomas Wall
It's frustrating hearing/seeing people talk about things such as framerate up-conversions and the "look" of TV vs. film that have many, many more factors involved than frame rate. Can we please stop comparing Apples to Kumquats when we should be talking about Pears?

First of all, material shot at high frame rates (with even higher shutter speed and fully progressive scan) looks nothing like material shot at lower frame rates and then displayed at a higher frame rate, especially when interlacing (or de-interlacing) is involved. There have been many tests showing how distinctly different these two processes look. You can even see distinct differences between material shot at a high frame rate and then displayed at a lower rate, depending on the degree, type, and directions of motion in a scene and the way the rate down-conversion was done. With most shots that contain motion, either of the camera or within the scene, even just displaying every other or every third frame will not look "natural". You can do frame combining to get a better effect, but you really must do essentially artificial motion blur creation (with motion speed and direction estimation) to get a totally acceptable effect. (Things get better the more frames you have to combine into a single displayed frame; going from 120 to 24 fps by just merging the frames can look pretty good.)

Then, myriad things such as color spaces, image brightness, display brightness, dynamic range of the display and of the images as shot, the bit depth of the encoding, white point, contrast and gamma, screen size and angle of view -- way too many technical topics to go into here -- all these affect how a TV image vs. a "cinema" image looks. So saying something is "video like" just because it has a high frame rate, or that you don't like HFR cinema because you don't like the way your TV does rate up-conversion, or the way TV sports look, just makes no sense to me.

Take a RED Epic or Sony F65 or ARRI camera shooting at least 4K RAW (non-interlaced), light and shoot a scene with the proper exposure at various frame rates and shutter angles, with dolly shots and tracking shots and action scenes, color grade it appropriately, and display it on a high-quality reference-grade display device that can handle the full P3 color space, at those same frame rates. Throw in stereo 3D, because that's where the effects are most apparent and because HFR fixes a major problem with current 3D: judder. THEN you can make a valid judgement about whether you like HFR or not.

I've seen 24, 48 and 60 fps under these conditions, and I can tell you: when done right, 60 fps is mind-bogglingly stunning. You see detail at high frame rates that are totally missing at slower frame rates, even at 4K. Detail that looks natural, not phony artifacts. For some types and sizes of images and motion within a scene, even 60 fps may be inadequate -- 96 or 120 may be needed; that's just due to the way our visual system works. But it is markedly different from even 48 or 50. And NOTHING like "video".

You can also do things wrong and get what look like cardboard cutouts standing in a semi-realistic 3D space. In other words, skill and technique and talent will be involved in making HFR movies that look good and get you involved. As does making good 2D 24fps ones.
@Jeremy Garchow
by Debra Kaufman
Hi Jeremy -- well, you really did make me laugh. I guess we'll have to wait for the 1D 12 fps version until you can download it on your computer and manipulate it. Let me know how you like it. :-)

I am really loving all the debate over this topic. It's healthy to have so many points of view and even healthier to have people rail against what they see as the weaknesses of HFR. If it stopped at 48 fps and exactly what we saw with The Hobbit, I'd be skeptical about it as well, but what I saw were the possibilities. Peter Jackson was brave enough to take the first big leap...let's see what comes next. And we should ALL be paying attention to what Douglas Trumbull is up to...Look for a new piece from him in Creative COW soon!
@Debra Kaufman
by Jeremy Garchow
Certainly, it's a step in some sort of direction. I have no qualms about evolving the state of the art. We have all of this cool technology around, we should use it for the good of the art.

Shooting 120fps seems like it would make the most sense from a visual standpoint.

I'd be curious to see the post processing on that. I'm sure that is an absolute mountain of data.

My only hang up with 48, is that in most of the world, the tv standard is PAL (50Hz). I am wondering if The Hobbit really does look too much like TV, kind of like how 30p kind of looks like 24p, but only sort of.

It would be a shame to be stalled out of the gate for not quite going far enough, by no fault of the film makers of course, but in a sense that the tech might not be quite ready to sustain a real cycle of evolution.

I feel like I will need to see this movie twice at the theater, once in 24 and once in HFR 3D.

Thanks for the article!
@The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Jeremy Garchow
I haven't seen the movie yet (waiting on the rare 12fps 1D version) is the sheer amount of differing screens and deliverables that are showing.

There's the cinema experience, the 3D experience , the IMAX experience , the 3D IMAX experience, the high-frame-rate 3D experience, and the penultimate high-frame-rate IMAX 3D experience.

Glad the are getting the record breaking box office numbers to follow the record breaking amount of screen sizes available for viewing.
Re: Article: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Andrew Rendell
I saw The Hobbit in 3D HFR yesterday and tbh I loved it. It wasn't perfect, there were cuts where the 3D depth didn't match properly in my opinion, for example, there were places where a close shot of Gandalf's face looked like a 2D picture composited into a 3D background - the depth difference between that and the adjacent wide/ side shots made it look like Gandalf had a different face for the close ups. A bit. But that's really nit-picking, overall I thought it looked fantastic.
Re: Article: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Tim Wilson
[Andrew Rendell] "overall I thought it looked fantastic"

"Overall" is a great word, Andrew. I'm a supreme cheerleader for the 48fps version of The Hobbit, but some seams show that wouldn't in 24.

I think of it as not unlike the early days of HD. The line between areas of the face with and without makeup for newscasters, especially along the chinline, was as stark as the Wall of China -- definitely visible from outer space. LOL Some of the frame compositions for narrative were odd, as DPs were having to aggressively protect for the 4:3 that almost everybody was seeing in those days.

There were many other oddities, but HD won over virtually all of its harshest critics.

I can't wait to see more features in 48fps, and even higher. In the meantime, I'll be going to see The Hobbit in HFR again as soon as I can.

Tim Wilson
Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW

Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Joseph Frank
Didn't Gone With The Wind win Best Picture and Best Cinematography in 1939?

@Joseph Frank
by Tim Wilson
Yes it did, just like Hugo won for Best Cinematography in 2011. I don't see it changing the stature of 3D production any time soon.

So it's not that there were no color pictures, or that they didn't win awards. It's that the reaction was strongly negative at the beginning, and even after it became widely accepted, it was far from universal. Scorsese said that when he was in film school in the 60s, he thought the idea of all movies being in color was insanity. Said it would never happen. And yet...

Tim Wilson
Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW

Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by David Cox
I think a key aspect when discussing high frame rate is it's benefit for 3D. Specifically, that means understanding the fundamental difference between how a 2D and 3D film is perceived.

With a 2D film, the audience is aware of the screen. A protective layer between them and the scenes they are watching where attributes such as grain, motion artefacts etc all add to the sense of a barrier between the audience and the characters in the film. 3D is different though. The audience shouldn't be aware of the screen; rather they should see a hole in the theatre wall into a different world that genuinely seems to exist. One which they should feel they can walk into. For this reason, any artefact like grain or motion stuttering is out of place, because we don't see those things in real life when we look around.

This is why high frame rate 3D is a definite step forward for 3D as it removes the motion stutter you get particularly on cross-frame movements that otherwise serve to remind the audience they aren't looking at a real other-world.

I think it's wrong to think that the availability of 3D or high frame rate is some form of attack on how films “should” look. HFR and 3D only open doors to new ways to engage an audience. They don't close doors on traditional looks, which can continue to be used. Clearly, not all projects suit 3D or HFR and those projects can still follow traditional paths.

By the way, congratulations to the team at SGO who make the Mistika Post Production system which was fundamental to The Hobbit being possible in HFR 3D.

David Cox
http://www.davidcox.tv
@David Cox
by Ian Lynn
I think you are right - HFR to make the 3D better, a good point I didn't think about. And I agree about our still having personal choices to use the look we want - nobody is forcing us to shoot a particular way. My worry with some domestic equipment is that we may want our work to be viewed at 25fps, but they force us to have it at 50fps by interpolating the 'missing' frames.

I recently watched some scenes from a big movie on a friend's new Australian TV. It was set on an aircraft carrier with lots of big stars and a ton of great spectacle. Unfortunately, on this screen it looked like a live seventies outside broadcast event. I am absolutely certain this was not the look the director had in mind! I've heard people say it's great for sport action - no problem, but please give us a way to turn it off.
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Joseph Bradley
I have been in the production biz for a few decades and have used both formats. What strikes me is the feeling I get when I watch a movie vs tv. The entire reason we go to the movies is to be transported out of reality and into a fantasy world. Film does that because of the slightly off look it gives. It does not look like real life because it isn't supposed to. A film made at 48 or 60 fps does not give you that feeling. It looks and feels like a cheap video. Now, I'm sure that the producers are doing a great job with the coloration and CG to make it look as good as they can but you can't replace that surreal look that film gives you. Which is why, I believe, that they are doing it as 3D, to somewhat hide that too real look behind special effects in the attempt to transition you to the look slowly .

+1
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Clodagh Veale
I also find the direction frame rate is going worrying, but it takes a secind place to my worry about 3D. It bugs me. Although I remain optimistic the Peter Jackson will have saved the day for us, only one way to find out, hobbit releases here today. Very excited!

Fravimal for dev
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Tim Wilson
It's very interesting to me to see people articulate what I've always suspected: many movie lovers hate realism. This has of course been true from the beginning. Sound was not received well, and the negative reaction to color was extreme and longstanding.

There was actually a 13-page article in Forbes in the early 30s, pointing out that after the first wave of color films flopped so spectacularly, color filmmaking all but vanished. As a new color feature was about to be released, the article asked, will THIS one be the one that makes color stick around?

Indeed, as last as 1947, not a single film nominated for Best Picture was in color!

This is obviously not true for the audience as a whole. Ironically, it may be most true among the people who watch the most movies. There's simply no getting away from it though. Sound, color, higher frame rates even higher than 48, even 3D: visual storytelling's inevitable march is toward reality.

The power of what we see every day, and how we see it, is simply too compelling to have it be otherwise. The "unreality" of film should depend on the storyteller's ability to transport us, and not on the technological limits of 120 year old technology.

Tim Wilson
Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW

+1
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Franz Bieberkopf
[Tim Wilson] "... many movie lovers hate realism."

Tim,

I think if you're going to raise this issue for discussion, you're going to have to define what you mean by "realism". (Or at least which one you're talking about.)

But I'm intrigued that you're presenting the Avatar sequel as the primary example of this "realism".

[Tim Wilson] ..."visual storytelling's inevitable march is toward reality."

Your teleological slant aside, if you're talking about art in general (and I'm not sure you are) then surely one of it's primary tasks is to ask the questions of reality and perception.

You may be talking about physics and optics (again, not sure) but if you're talking about perception then I'm not sure of the line your drawing, from whence it came, nor where it is headed.


Franz.
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Tim Wilson
[Franz Bieberkopf] "I'm intrigued that you're presenting the Avatar sequel as the primary example of this "realism"."

I didn't do that at all. I haven't seen it LOL so I'm not even slightly inclined to make any statements vis a vis A2 and realism. Cameron hasn't even started shooting it yet. He could shoot it at 120 frames a second or twelve. Nobody knows. Not even Jim Cameron.

My own definition of realism is entirely irrelevant. I barely have one at all, but I think we can start with the fundamentals of human visual perception: color, three dimensions, and a sample rate higher than 24 frames per second.

Throw in sound, and every single one of them has faced considerable opposition from the moviemaking establishment and significant portions of the moviegoing public -- and as we come to the present day, advancements are being fought ESPECIALLY as those two groups come closer together. Like here at the COW. LOL

I was referring to their objections, using the words they use. I was also observing that such objections have consistently been overruled in the past, and there's no reason to expect that this won't continue to be the case.

Tim Wilson
Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW

Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Ian Lynn
As a massive LOTR fan, I can't wait to see The Hobbit. But, as a video maker I hate the way any motion looks at 50 pictures-per-second, as with interlaced 50i video or even 50p. It just looks like TV. I'm really annoyed that many TV manufacturers now force their displays to produce this effect this for us ('True-motion' or some such name). One Australian manufacturer doesn't even let you turn it off. My sixteen-year-old daughter was watching an old favourite movie on an LG tv and said to me "Why does it look like a cheap soap?". Answer was the tv was doubling the frame rate by 'making up' the missing 25 in-between frames, and it looked just like video.

It's only my opinion, but 24 (25 on UK TV) fps is a vital factor in achieving the movie 'look'. When we telecine a movie to good old fashioned interlaced video, you can still tell it is film every time, because both fields belong to the same frame, and we perceive only 25 pictures-per-second. Whereas with fifty full pictures a second and the motion loses its slightly abstract quality and it is too smooth, too 'real'. This applies to both 50p and normal interlaced TV, which has always been 50 pictures-perpsecond, albeit fifty half frames with motion in-between.

Resolution is not the issue for me at all - I support every step up in resolution and look forward to 4K and 8K. For my money, let's get it looking as clean and sharp as real film, the higher definition, the better, and in 3D as well. I don't mind 3D, and there will always be a 2D versions available. But PLEASE don't destroy that beautiful, slightly abstract, 'filmic' quality by increasing the frame rate. I will surely still enjoy the content of The Hobbit, but I am deeply suspicious of HFR.
+1
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Brent Dunn
The problem with looking at so much detail is keeping that Cinema "Look." Film makers of fantasy need to be extra careful not to reveal improper makeup and costumes. In the old days, you could get away with a lot of fake backdrops and staged sets.

I just saw a high res HD version of The Grinch. It looked too much like video to me. It was so detailed and revealed some lines in the makeup and other details that distracted me from the story. Sometimes, too-good, is too-much.

Brent Dunn
Owner / Director / Editor
DunnRight Films
DunnRight Video.com
Video Marketing Toolbox.net

Sony EX-1,
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 7D
Mac Pro
with Final Cut Studio Adobe CS6 Production




Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Dave LaRonde
Directors have been experimenting in their theatrical releases since theatrical releases existed.

Technology now gives film makers the ability to experiment with frame rates, whether it's 48 or 60. But so far the talk has been about a consistent frame rate. How far away is a variable frame rate theatrical release? Not far, I think.

To achieve their visions, directors already use lighting, aspect ratio, forced perspective, morphing, motion capture, color keying, color grading, CGI... what have you.

It's not a very big step at all for directors to add another arrow to their quivers of visual storytelling: mating the motion of the scene with a certain frame rate to achieve the look they want.

The discussion surrounding that change ought to be interesting.

Dave LaRonde
Former Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA
+1
@Dave LaRonde
by denise quesnel
Hi Dave, the S3D Centre in Vancouver Canada is doing research focused on that very idea. We have some in depth reports, video examples on our website and have now screened a short film in variable HFR on an HFR projector. I'd love to direct your attention to our website and see what your thoughts are. http://www.s3dcentre.ca/projects/hfr-high-frame-rate-research
---

Stereo 3D Post Production Specialist, adjunct researcher at the S3D Centre in Vancouver, BC.
The S3D Centre is a premiere research, curriculum/training, production and post-production facility.
http://www.s3dcentre.ca
@denise quesnel
by Dave LaRonde
Hi, Denise...

I looked at the web site, and from what I was able to see, you shot tests in various frame rates of a dance performance.
Have you gotten to the point where you can cut together a sequence using a variety of frame rates reflecting a variety of motion?

One example comes to mind: one of the many chase sequences in a Bourne movie. It begins with calm walking or driving, then the chasee spots the chaser, and the walking or driving gets a little faster. Soon the chasee makes a break for it and the fast-motion, quick-cut chase is under way. Eventually the chasee either gets away or dies, and things slow down again.

It would be interesting to see a sequence like that shot and cut in various frame rates. Remember that if you edit in 60p, anything shot at 48, 30, 24, or even 15 and 10 can be accommodated.

So can 5 fames/sec, but that sounds downright silly.

Dave LaRonde
Former Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Tom Walsh
I haven't seen any previews of 48fps but I'm not sure I like the idea by the sounds of it. 90s TV drama is not a good look! However I'm willing to give it a chance. If all else fails I'm still looking forward to the BluRay Special Edition Box Set. Surely that will have to be converted to 24p?
@The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Todd Dalton
For years we've had clients in tv world ask us for the 'film look' (merging fields) and now I've seen a massive rise in progressive scan rushes, effictively we are trying to get our relatively cheap docs to look like films.

Now the expensive films will look like cheap documentaries. I personally don't like even the notion of high frame rates in cinema but this is driven by the suppliers involved (camera kits and projectors - I've seen Barco's comments in more than one article so I can only assume they are in some way driving these editorials) so I don't think there'll be a choice. Frankly I'm not sure the general public will care/object in the way 3D prompted them to.

Glad I'm not in sfx at the moment though: I'll bet they'll be expected to generate twice the data for the same price!! :)
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Rob Manning
I saw the trailer fronting the Bond flick.

Really uncomfortable on my eyes but I don't like 3D either.

Good luck with that then.

Rob
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Ray Stark
HD, digital projection, 3D...I never had issues with them. However, my experiences with 120 Hz upconversion are very negative. Watching classic scenes from Star Wars or Raging Bull that take on the look of a cheap soap opera or reality show just isn't for me. Maybe after so many years my eyes are just conditioned to 24p. I look forward to watching The Hobbit in a properly-projected 48p screening to ultimately determine if this format is one that I'll embrace.
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Tim Wilson
[Ray Stark] "However, my experiences with 120 Hz upconversion are very negative."

I'd be shocked if it DID look good. The movies you mentioned were designed for film from the ground up.

That's what I think Peter Jackson potentially brings to 48fps/3D. Everything he did was designed for that, above and beyond anything else. It may not work, but to the extent that it does, it's not an accident. There's no upconversion anywhere in the process.

Herb, I'm with you on MP3s, and for that matter, DVDs. You can actually buy high bitrate dvds that don't have any extra features. The space is used for the movie at lower compression. We have analog eyes and ears, and sampling that is originally deemed "good enough" is invariably revealed to NOT be good enough.

As I mentioned, though, I don't like 24 and never have, precisely because the strobing and the "holes" in the motion drive me crazy. They have since I was a boy. It's among the reasons I prefer TV to movies -- the sampling rate is higher, and it doesn't give me a headache. Digital gets around a lot of this with the frame not bouncing around, but I've never been in love with the artifacts and limitations of film technology being elevated to the level of the Highest Art.

Which is why 48, or 60, which Cameron is planning for Avatar 2, unless it's 120 (!!!), will carry the day. Spatial resolution has never been an issue, but a 100 year old standard for temporal resolution will go away. Get used to it now. LOL It will succeed for the exact OPPOSITE reason MP3s succeeded. HFR cinema is higher resolution, not lower. The more samples, the closer we get to the analog nature of our vision.

That's what I think pisses off purists the most. Reality is the last thing they're looking for from cinema. That's fine. I have no problem with that idea. I just don't share that feeling, and never have. People hated color though, for this very reason.

Tim Wilson
Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW

+1
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Herb Sevush
[Tim Wilson] "As I mentioned, though, I don't like 24 and never have, precisely because the strobing and the "holes" in the motion drive me crazy. "

I've never had a "problem" with 24 but neither do I deem it some sort of magical frame rate. 24 FPS was an accident of history, the slowest possible frame rate that could deliver acceptable sound at the time it was invented, 1927. If the tightwads in control of theatrical distribution back then could have gotten away with something slower many people now would be espousing the cause of 20 FPS, or even 18.

For myself I'm always in favor of more information, not less. I've always been interested in HFR since seeing a demonstration by Douglass Trumball almost 30 years ago. I've spent way too much time on forums arguing against the "magic" of 24 FPS and I'm eagerly awaiting both The Hobbit and Avatar 2, although I'd prefer to see it HFR without 3D (which I still maintain is just a gimmick) although I doubt I'll get the chance.

[Tim Wilson] "Digital gets around a lot of this with the frame not bouncing around, but I've never been in love with the artifacts and limitations of film technology being elevated to the level of the Highest Art."

What I like about digital projection is the absence of "film weave" and the lack of scratches and wear in film prints. However I do think the random positioning of film grain is superior to the fixed positioning of digital pixels. Beyond that, as I've said, almost all digital projection I've seen totally desaturates and blows out daylight exteriors. Not that anyone else in the theater seems to notice or care.

[Tim Wilson] "Which is why 48, or 60, which Cameron is planning for Avatar 2, unless it's 120 (!!!), will carry the day. Spatial resolution has never been an issue, but a 100 year old standard for temporal resolution will go away. Get used to it now. LOL It will succeed for the exact OPPOSITE reason MP3s succeeded. HFR cinema is higher resolution, not lower. The more samples, the closer we get to the analog nature of our vision. "

I agree totally. We should hoist that on a red flag - MORE SAMPLES!!MORE SAMPLES!!

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf
+1
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by gordon shaw
HD, digital projection, 3D...I never had issues with them. However, my experiences with 120 Hz upconversion are very negative. Watching classic scenes from Star Wars or Raging Bull that take on the look of a cheap soap opera or reality show just isn't for me. Maybe after so many years my eyes are just conditioned to 24p. I look forward to watching The Hobbit in a properly-projected 48p screening to ultimately determine if this format is one that I'll embrace.
http://www.foxrenderfarm.com
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by george manzanilla
Personally speaking, I don't like the look. Compare the look of the Hobbit and Argo. One looks like its made for TV, the other looks like a motion picture film.

----
george manzanilla
rundfunk media
http://www.rundfunk.com
http://www.georgemanzanilla.com
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Mike Weber
It's funny seeing a reference to seeing a "dust mote" in a scene. I remember when I was a kid and was fascinated by watching the dust and smoke in the projection beam. So now I suppose there will be a dust wrangler on sets to add more realism.

Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Tim Wilson
A number of reviews have also been highly positive of HFR, such as the one from Rob Engels at Sony Imageworks. As John Galt reminds us -- and I know you remember, Steve -- people complained about HD too. All through the COW, you can find posts from people who refuse to watch movies projected digitally, as well as 3D.

While the initial rush has worn off, there's no question that 3D is here to stay, and objections will continue to diminish as technology improves. HFR is certainly one of those, even if for some people it carries objections of its own.

For that matter, none of the reactions against 3D or digital in general compare to the objections against sound and color. Even as late as 1947, not a single Best Picture Oscar nominee was shot in color.

In that sense, it doesn't matter even a little if the 48fps works for The Hobbit or not. I just don't see HFR going away, regardless, for the same reasons sound and color didn't, and that HD hasn't. It's not often easy to adapt to significant new display technologies, both for creators and viewers -- but in the long run, no matter how jarring relative to the past, higher resolution and more realism always win.

Tim Wilson
Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW

Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Herb Sevush
[Tim Wilson] "but in the long run, no matter how jarring relative to the past, higher resolution and more realism always win."

I agree with some of what you say here but 3D is neither higher resolution nor more realistic. It has had no impact beyond theatrical animation and action distribution, and even there the studios are backing off.

As for digital, it is like MP3's. Much lower quality,easier to distribute, less prone to wear and tear, and most people are too blind to see the difference. I've been told that when set up properly digital projection can look great, but I guess I've never seen it set up properly. Most films look way better on my 42" screen than they do in digital theatrical distribution, most notably the daylight exterior scenes where the whites and lighter colors are totally desaturated. Yeach.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Franz Bieberkopf
[Tim Wilson] " but in the long run, no matter how jarring relative to the past, higher resolution and more realism always win."

Tim,

I take it that you find this "Hobbit" film very realismistic then?

Franz.
Re: The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
by Steve Connor
Reviews of "The Hobbit" in HFR seem to be extremely negative about the technology, it will be interesting to see what the public think.

Steve Connor
'It's just my opinion, with an occasional fact thrown in for good measure"
@Steve Connor
by denise quesnel
Review: The Hobbit Is Insanely Gorgeous at 48 Frames per Second

By Hugh Hart 12.10.12

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/12/hobbit-movie-review-48-fps/

This review had one of the best breakdowns I have read so far. Great read, take a look when you can.
---

Stereo 3D Post Production Specialist, adjunct researcher at the S3D Centre in Vancouver, BC.
The S3D Centre is a premiere research, curriculum/training, production and post-production facility.
http://www.s3dcentre.ca


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