'The Hobbit' Leaps Over 90 Years of Hollywood Moviemaking
Moviegoers have grown used to blurry, fast-paced action in Hollywood films, but that doesn't cut it for Peter Jackson. The director of the "Lord of the Rings" films has doubled the frame rate for his upcoming prequel, "The Hobbit," to create a silky-smooth viewing experience that won't strain your eyes even in 3-D.
Hollywood has shot its films at 24 frames per second since the 1920s. But Jackson is filming early tests on the set of "The Hobbit" at 48 frames per second (fps), which means there are double the images whipping past each second to create the seamless illusion of constant motion. That creates a more lifelike viewing experience.
"It's similar to the moment when vinyl records were supplanted by digital CDs," Jackson said. "There's no doubt in my mind that we're heading towards movies being shot and projected at higher frame rates." [11 Technologies in Danger of Going Extinct ]
Jackson described the difference in a recent Facebook post. He also shared an early video blog about the film crew on the fantastical set of "The Hobbit."
"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,'" Jackson explained.
Doubling the frame rate to 48 fps has allowed the film crew to watch several hours of test footage in 3-D without experiencing any dreaded eye strain, Jackson said.
The higher frame rate is nothing new film director Doug Trumbull create a 60 frames per second process called ShowScan about 30 years ago. But movie studios did not deploy the innovation because they feared using up more expensive film stock at high speeds.
Now there's less excuse, because digital cameras and digital projectors make it much easier to capture and show higher frame rates.
An estimated 10,000 movie screens may be capable of showing "The Hobbit" at 48 fps by its release date in Dec. 2012. If the highly-anticipated film wins the eyes, hearts and minds of moviegoers, its example may serve as an even stronger argument for Hollywood to upgrade.
Many moviegoers may never want to go back to slower frame rates , according to Jackson.
"It looks great, and we've actually become used to it now, to the point that other film experiences look a little primitive," Jackson said. "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!"