Saturday, December 15, 2012

Thoughts on The Hobbit in 48 fps/High Frame Rate

Just got out of an opening night screening of The Hobbit in 48fps, the first ever major film to release in this new frame rate format.

It was a fascinating example to watch from a technical standpoint - just seeing what 48 fps is capable of (and how much clearer 3D is as a result) was pretty neat just technically.

Artistically, though, I'd say the results are at best a mixed bag. There are occasions where it works beautifully (eg the 3D clarity during some fight scenes, rain looks pretty awesome), and there is some hero character work that is particularly stunning that all flows together just fine in 48fps... Gollum's Facial Animation!?!?!?!?!?!?!? OMG!!! Amazing.

So while some things worked in 48fps, at the same time the "stunning vistas" are often lost because Matte paintings looks very much like Matte paintings being panned over. It pulls you right out of the movie. The "watching a play" feeling is strange... it's a new vibe and not necessarily bad, and I see this movie as a proof of what can be done and craft that can be honed as the technology progresses. Those speedy pans though are really hard to get used to. You get a great "window in on the scene" action, it's really immersive, and then there is a wide, sweeping or handheld pan that is too fast and has no motion blur and throws you right into the Soap Opera look. The lighting and compositing felt like it was disjointed sometimes, it's hard to put your finger on it. It sortof feels like the 48 fps is so "realistic" that it sometimes pulls you out of the movie experience, which is not great. Other times though, it's much more immersive than 24fps 3D could ever be. The clarity is definitely awesome in those moments. I actually prefer the slow-mo action scenes in 48fps and the dramatic moments... I thought those were generally more effective than the faster pans/cuts.

Summary: Glad I saw it in 48fps. It's really exciting to see huge technological changes like this on such a large blockbuster film, and it's worth supporting the new craft. It's far from perfect, but it shows some interesting promise and a lot of room for directors and filmmakers to use it to their artistic advantage as we all start to understand more about it, and how to optimize visual effects to make best use of it.


Unknown said...

Mike, just a comment about the matte paintings. I saw the Hobbit at 24fps and thought the matte paintings were embarrassingly bad. They pulled me out, so to speak, and set the stage, for me, what was to become a technical and artistic disaster.

Nice goiter on the goblin king, though. :)

Unknown said...
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Miss Bayona said...

Wow Stephen. That's quite of a statement. I would love to read a more specific and constructive opinion about these "embarrassing" matte paintings. Although i agree that the 48fps (+stereo) makes their integration quite hard particularly during those panning vistas i can't imagine how that makes them so awful per se. Did you take in account the quality of the plates?, the comp work?, the post grading?, or how much of it is actually not matte painting. These are quite important elements that affect the final outcome of these pieces. Not to mention the time given to do them, the art direction and the ways each vfx house adapts the old craft of matte painting into their pipelines. If you come from the vfx industry then a comment like yours sounds just plain rude and ignorant, if not then you might give it a try at reading more about the subject. I do congratulate the four or five matte artist who pulled such stunning amount of work with all the odds against them. And all the weta team for that tremendous work.