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Jackson Explains "Hobbit" 48FPS Shooting

By Garth Franklin Tuesday April 12th 2011 08:15AM

You may think all this talk by filmmakers like James Cameron and Peter Jackson of shooting movies at higher frame rates is nice but essentially a pipe dream - it'll be years before we see the results.

The thing is the technique is already in use - on both of Jackson's "The Hobbit" productions. Not satisfied with using RED's highly advanced 3D digital EPIC camera, Jackson has posted up a lengthy piece on his Facebook page confirming reports that his take on Tolkien's tale is indeed shooting at 48 frames per second, double that of conventional films.

He also goes into the explanation of why he chose that technique:

"The key thing to understand is that this process requires both shooting and projecting at 48 fps, rather than the usual 24 fps (films have been shot at 24 frames per second since the late 1920's). So the result looks like normal speed, but the image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness. Looking at 24 frames every second may seem ok--and we've all seen thousands of films like this over the last 90 years--but there is often quite a lot of blur in each frame, during fast movements, and if the camera is moving around quickly, the image can judder or "strobe."

Shooting and projecting at 48 fps does a lot to get rid of these issues. It looks much more lifelike, and it is much easier to watch, especially in 3-D. We've been watching HOBBIT tests and dailies at 48 fps now for several months, and we often sit through two hours worth of footage without getting any eye strain from the 3-D. It looks great, and we've actually become used to it now, to the point that other film experiences look a little primitive. I saw a new movie in the cinema on Sunday and I kept getting distracted by the juddery panning and blurring. We're getting spoilt."

With any new system, the catch of course is the expense of implementing the infrastructure to support it. Jackson however says that much of that ground work has already been laid:

"Now that the world's cinemas are moving towards digital projection, and many films are being shot with digital cameras, increasing the frame rate becomes much easier. Most of the new digital projectors are capable of projecting at 48 fps, with only the digital servers needing some firmware upgrades. We tested both 48 fps and 60 fps. The difference between those speeds is almost impossible to detect, but the increase in quality over 24 fps is significant.

Film purists will criticize the lack of blur and strobing artifacts, but all of our crew--many of whom are film purists--are now converts. You get used to this new look very quickly and it becomes a much more lifelike and comfortable viewing experience. It's similar to the moment when vinyl records were supplanted by digital CDs. There's no doubt in my mind that we're heading towards movies being shot and projected at higher frame rates."

For the full piece, click here.

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