Hobbit Frame Rate

Confession time.

Don’t shout at me.

I may have gone to the cinema today.  Again.  To see The Hobbit.  Again.


In my defence it was in the name of research.
I woke up the other morning with a dreaded realisation; I have seen The Hobbit at the cinema twice, both in 2D and I will buy it on DVD when it comes out and watch it again.

The Hobbit is the first film with a wide release that is available to watch in HFR 3D.  I would never see it in HFR 3D.

So today I went to see it in HFR 3D.

HFR stands for High Frame Rate.  The normal frame rate is 24 per second.  Peter Jackson filmed in The Hobbit at 48 frames per seconds.  It has been criticised as looking strange – the characters move too quickly, and of making the viewer feel ill.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in HFR 3D is amazing.

The detail, which I’m assuming is due to the HFR, is incredible.  You can see everything with such clarity.  Not only that, but when used with 3D you really do feel that you are there.  With many scenes I was reminded of being in the threatre watching a play.  It felt that if I were to reach out I would touch Bilbo or Gandalf or Gollum.  I was there, with them, saying riddles in the dark, running through the goblin city, running from orcs. 

On the down side, Bilbo doesn’t half walk funny sometimes with HFR.  At the beginning I couldn’t quite keep up with old Bilbo walking around Bag End, hiding his keepsakes.  Saying that, Bag End has never looked so good.  I nearly ducked to follow Bilbo through a doorway.
The action sequences also seemed difficult to follow in HFR, everything just moves too quickly.  I hate to think how I would have understood the action scenes if I had not already seen the film twice with the average frame rate.

Some people have suggested that HFR ruins the cinematic feel of a film and makes it feel like a video game.  I agree that the speed at which people move can sometimes make it feel unreal.
As I’ve mentioned, at times it felt like I was watching a play but at other times the feel of the film felt cheapened and I felt I was watching a television programme.  The epic nature of the film was a little lost.
But only in places.  This is my main conclusion about HFR – it works differently in different places.  It’s so difficult to develop an opinion because one scene looks incredible and the next can look cheap.

I think part of my experience of HFR was fairly personal.  When suffering from anxiety something strange happens to my mind; everything speeds up.  It’s as if my thoughts and my vision go on fast forward and it makes my gut twist.  I have to stop, close my eyes and take a few deep breaths.
HFR, in places, was like that.  Only I couldn’t close my eyes and make it end.  Thankfully not all of the film was like this, only certain scenes.  The worse scenes for this were the quiet, close up scenes and thankfully The Hobbit is far too full of action for this to have a negative impact on me.
I have to say though, everyone looked a bit wrong when running.

Another issue with such defining clarity is that the mistakes show up.  The CGI scenes are suddenly painfully obvious as is the awful continuity with the ponies in the troll scene (sometimes they’re CGI and loose and sometimes they’re real and bridled and tied up.  And I would like to remind Peter Jackson that Bilbo’s pony, Myrtle, has a white blaze down her face which seems to have fallen off when the troll picks her up).

I am so glad I managed to see The Hobbit in 3D HFR but I’m also very glad I saw it in 2D with a normal frame rate first.  This way I got to watch the film, to understand and enjoy it, before allowing myself to be taken in by the wonders of HFR and 3D (on a side note, I normally hate 3D but I loved it with this film).

I’m not sure I could get used to watching every film in HFR and so I’m not too keen on it being the way forward.  But I can’t argue with the clarity of detail, I can’t argue with the surge of excitement about feeling like I could reach out and touch the characters I love. 

Oh, and my new giant Bullseye (from Toy Story) got my 3D glasses…

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