The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema

Creative COW by Debra Kaufman

Sony Imageworks 3D supervisor Rob Engle saw a screening of The Hobbit in HFR (High Frame Rate) 3D just days before the U.S. premiere. "I was astounded by one scene in Bilbo's home, early in the film," he says. "It's very intimate and at one point, I saw a dust mote cross the frame. And I thought to myself, I've seen that in 3D, but it had such a strong sense of being there. Clearly, one of the benefits of HFR isn't just more frames per second, but more detail.

While there are those who may decry the HFR aesthetic, I love the fact that directors like Peter Jackson are experimenting with new filmmaking tools and techniques," Engle adds. "We can't advance without people trying things." Forget the critics. Forget the reviews. HFR is here and it's here to stay. Although early viewers -- mainly critics -- have largely been lukewarm about the look of HFR (with some notable exceptions), the market forces behind HFR 3D have already spoken. Peter Jackson decided on 48 fps, while James Cameron has suggested he might make Avatar 2 in 60 fps. That's all it took for the industry -- from the studios and distribution companies to the projector manufacturers and hordes of exhibitors eager to reverse the trend of sagging attendance numbers -- to jump to attention.

Much has been written about the fact that Warner Bros. has released The Hobbit in "only" 900 screens worldwide, 400 in the U.S. and the rest worldwide. It's instructive to recall that when Disney debuted its first CG 3D film, Chicken Little, in 2005, it played in a mere 84 theatres in 25 markets nationwide. Similarly, the adoption of every new technology from talkies to HDTV and Digital Cinema was far from an overnight phenomenon. read more...

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