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The Hobbit and High Frame Rates


With the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opening this weekend, high frame rates and 3D movies are on everyone’s mind. Shot at 48 frames per second and in 3D, The Hobbit movies have ensured that these technical issues of movie making are discussed in popular media.

The Orange County Register recently covered RED in a piece on The Hobbit. In it they quote Bob Birchard, the editor of the American Film Institute catalog, on high frame rates:

“Movies operate on a persistence of vision theory,” said Bob Birchard, editor of the American Film Institute catalog. “Your brain creates the illusion of movement. The increased frame rate will require less mental filling in and give the illusion of a sharper, smoother picture.”

The experience, he said, will be “more lifelike in the sense that you’re not perceiving the intervals between frames as much.”

In an extensive article about high frame rates, 3D, and digital projection, 3D Focus explains the distinction of 48fps with the help of Hobbit director Peter Jackson:

As Peter Jackson says: “48 frames absolutely helps 3D because suddenly you’re removing a substantial amount of the motion blur that you get at 24 frames.” He continued: “Your eyes get a much smoother experience.”

3D Focus also spoke with RED’s Ted Schilowitz who added:

“At this point, 48 fps is a design choice for the 3D experience. The higher the frame rate, the more natural the 3D experience will be in terms of any kind of flickering and problems that we have with lower frame rates in 2D, so it’s a technology choice. I think we have yet to determine what the high frame rate 2D experience will be. I think that is something that will be established over time as people tune themselves to a higher frame rate experience and start looking for movies that don’t look like old fashioned movies. I think we are on an interesting cusp.”

Early reviews are coming in and the excitement is building for Peter Jackson’s epic Hobbit trilogy. It’s certain that each technical and artistic choice Jackson has made is meant to ensure that the three movies are immersive and dedicated to their source material. High frame rates, 3D, 4K resolution — these are the new tools that Jackson is using to take us to Middle Earth again.


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