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The Hobbit Footage Screened - and It's Gorgeous

By April 24, 2012

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The HobbitWarner Bros put on an incredible presentation at the 2012 CinemaCon in Vegas today, showing off clips from Dark Shadows (complete with an appearance by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp), The Dark Knight Rises, Rock of Ages, The Campaign, and The Great Gatsby as well as bringing out the directors from each of those films (except for Gatsby) to briefly chat up their films. We'll have more on the total presentation later, but The Hobbit and its 10 minutes of never-before-seen footage deserves a separate descriptive write-up. Peter Jackson was unable to attend the event as he's busy in the editing room working on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but he did tape a message explaining why he chose to shoot the two Hobbit movies at 48 frames-per-second (fps) rather than the standard 24 fps.

We won't reveal any spoilers about the unfinished footage that was shown (green screens appeared in shots as this was just rough footage), Jackson and Warner Bros did show off fight scenes (including a couple of shots of Orlando Bloom as Legolas in action), more intimate conversations between lead characters, and grand sweeping shots of the scenery. It was, simply put, mind-blowing to see in 48 frames per second. It's literally like being on the set next to the actors as they're performing.

As Jackson also explained, he chose to show 10 minutes of footage because it does take a moment for your eyes to adjust to the higher rate, something I noticed extremely briefly before becoming totally immersed in the footage. You can not get a more genuine, realistic viewing experience than this unless you are watching a performance live.

Said Jackson, "As a filmmaker, I always want to create a strong sense of reality, to allow the audience to lose themselves in whatever the cinematic story is that I'm presenting. Shooting and projecting at 48 fps gives you the illusion that a hole has been cut in the wall of the cinema, and you're watching the story unfold with a heightened sense of reality. It's terrific for 3D; I've looked at the 48 fps dailies for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3D for over a year now, and with the reduction in strobing and flicker, it is a much more gentle experience on your eyes. 48 fps is not just limited to 3D. A film shot in 48 fps looks fantastic when projected in 2D, and converts well to 24 fps as well."

Once audiences get to see The Hobbit screened at the 48 frames per second rate when it's released in theaters on December 14, 2012, I can guarantee moviegoers are going to demand all films be presented at 48 fps.

The official synopsis: "The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers."

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey. The cast also includes Richard Armitage, John Bell, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Mark Hadlow, Ian Holm, Peter Hambleton, Barry Humphries, Stephen Hunter, William Kircher, Evangeline Lilly, Sylvester McCoy, Bret McKenzie, Graham McTavish, Mike Mizrahi, James Nesbitt, Dean O'Gorman, Christopher Lee, Lee Pace, Mikael Persbrandt, Andy Serkis, Conan Stevens, Ken Stott, Jeffrey Thomas, Aidan Turner, Hugo Weaving and Elijah Wood.

* * * * * * *

Edited to add: In response to an email from a reader named Simon, here are a few more details:

- RE: the 48 frames. I think it will take a bit of adjusting our expectations, but I've never a movie that jumps off the screen and immerses you in the film the way this 10 minute piece did.
- RE: the performances. On par with Lord of the Rings, with Martin Freeman appearing to be the perfect Bilbo.

(Photo © New Line Cinema and MGM)


April 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm
(1) Confused says:

Thanks for news on the ten minute reel. Re Cast List: Benedict Cumberbatch appears to be missing.

April 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm
(2) bardgal says:

As of now, Cumberbatch is only in the second film, There and Back Again.

April 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm
(3) Xana says:

Thanks! this has eased my worryings greatly!! All those terribly negative tweets about 48fps :S some even saying that it ruined the screening….. D:

April 25, 2012 at 2:11 am
(4) Collapse says:

Inevitable I suppose. I’ve seen and shot 48fps. The effect is a bit dumb, for lack of a better word. Beautiful, clear, providential, and everything else an imagination-deficient culture will increasingly demand. It’s NOT reality and it’s not supposed to be reality. It’s a movie. And a painting of a cow isn’t a cow. I don’t want to be on the set with a bunch of actors and technicians. I don’t want a movie to be a play. The photo realists are capable painters; they’re not necessarily artists. Apparently, Jackson is more content with the execution than with the expression. Fair enough. But boring.

April 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm
(5) Jacob says:

I’ve never understood the people who complain about higher frame rates. The only reason there are “purists” who like it better is only because it’s what they’re used to. Let yourself acclimate to the change, don’t reject it out of hand simply because it’s different.

If a lower frame-rate really created a better viewing experience, why don’t we just shoot at 1 fps? Even better, how about we just buy giant flipbooks instead of DVDs. For that super cinematic low frame-rate experience.

For me, getting rid of all the blurring and strobing that can make modern movies painful to watch is a good thing. Embrace new technology, and stop living in the 20s. I sometimes wonder if these purists still use black and white CRTs as their home tv of choice.

April 26, 2012 at 12:58 am
(6) Josh says:

Jacob, people aren’t rejecting it out of hand “simply because it’s different”. They are saying it is different in a *bad* way. That it appears too real as if you’re watching a stage play, or behind the scenes footage rather seeing another world.

And no one is saying that lowering frame rate always creates a better experience. They are saying that too high of a frame rate looks too “everyday” real instead of the larger than life movie magic look of traditional film motion.

But that said, filmmakers DO deliberately shoot at even slower rates when that is the desired look. For example, film shot at 12fps creates a very stylized look that can be used to simulate things like shell shock or some other mental state removed from normal reality. And to a lesser extent 24fps does the same thing: creating a subtle dreamy look like seeing into another reality instead of the one we see every day.

Does 48fps have smoother motion? Yes. Is it more realistic? Yes. But while those might be strengths for sports, news or reality television, they can be liabilities when attempting to create a larger than life, other-worldly experience.

April 26, 2012 at 11:05 am
(7) Jacob says:

But what’s wrong with “it appears too real”? Again, it seems that people reject it just because its feels different. The only legitimate complaint I’ve heard is that the higher frame-rate makes it easier to see the short-comings of set designs. Still though, I would bet a lot of that has to do with the footage being unfinished. There’s still months and months of work to be done.

“For example, film shot at 12fps creates a very stylized look that can be used to simulate things like shell shock or some other mental state removed from normal reality.”

Exactly — in that case they’re using a lower frame-rate to simulate how a real experience feels. Sort of how the higher frame-rate also gives you the benefit of a more realistic simulation.

May 5, 2012 at 3:27 am
(8) Josh says:

If you read my original post again I gave some explanation of why appearing too real is bad. You can also read some of the negative reviews from people who saw the footage. High frame rate reduces the rich, otherworldy look so useful for storytelling. Instead of a rich, moving illustration you get raw, reality. But sometimes an illustration is better than a photograph, right? And you know some of the post processing work yet to be done is to alter the image and move away from reality anyway.

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