The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 24 Or 48fps: Does It Matter?

by Yo Snyder

So The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a hit; not quite as
big of hit as expected, but a record-setter nonetheless. (What kind of
world do we live in where an $84 million opening weekend box-office
qualifies as some sort of “disappointment”?) Some of you have seen the
movie, some of you haven’t, and the question of the whole 48 frames per
second thing continues to swirl. Should I see it in the high frame rate?
Should I skip that? Should I see it again in the high frame rate? Does
it even make any difference? Well friends, I have made the sacrifice and
have gone out to see the film both ways to provide a little insight
into all of this for you. No, no, don’t thank me, just think of it as an
early Christmas gift.

So, the first time I saw The Hobbit
was in the 3DHFR (high frame rate) presentation, and I’ll admit, it took
some getting used to. You ever have those moments where despite
everything looking just fine, your brain keeps telling you that
something is just…off? You can’t specify what it is, but it’s something.
That was basically my experience with the 3DHFR. Yes, it looked
different. Yes, at times it did look like a made-for-TV movie with the
most insane effects budget ever, but that didn’t necessarily make it
look bad. I know some hate the higher frame rate, and admittedly there
are times where the crispness and clarity of the presentation works
against the movie, making sets look more like sets, costumes more like
costumes, and times where the CG stood out more, but once I settled in
and adjusted to the different look, there were also plenty of times
where it just looked really, really good; like a great Blu-Ray
presentation of a film.

More importantly, it was my best experience with a 3D film. Now let me be clear, it’s the best use of 3D for a movie, that still belongs to Avatar and Hugo,
but it was my best experience. The higher frame rate and the clarity it
provides gives the 3D effect a more immersive feel. While I wasn’t one
who ever forgot that I had 3D glasses on, I did notice them much less
and just enjoyed the film more because of that. Also, generally after a
three-hour long 3D film, I expect to have a splitting headache. Not so
this time. Definitely less strain on the eyes seeing it in 3D at the
high frame rate, and so, overall a fairly enjoyable experience despite
the constant feeling that something was a bit “off” or times where the
CG and other elements were just a little too crisp and shiny. 

second time out, I caught the film in the “normal” 24 frames per second,
they way we typically see movies when we go to theaters. Interestingly,
it took me awhile to adjust. My brain kept trying to reconcile what it
was seeing with how it remembered it looking. So there was a bit of
disconnect at first, and even times when I was second-guessing “Did the
other one really look all that different? I can’t remember.”  Overall,
however, the movie just looked more “normal”, it didn’t have quite as
many moments where elements seemed like sets or CG didn’t seem to blend
as well with the practical elements (although it was still noticeable,
but maybe just because I noticed it the first time). Plus my brain
wasn’t constantly trying to determine what was “off” about the movie.
There’s not much more to say about this version, it was just the way we
usually see movies.

So, having experienced the movie both
ways, which did I prefer? Well, that’s actually hard to say. The 3DHFR
was actually worthwhile to me because it was a 3D experience that I
enjoyed more than usual, but I still think the clarity worked at times
against the film. The 24fps felt and looked “normal”, and at times that
helped me to just get lost in the world of Middle Earth. If it matters
to you and you’re worried it might ruin the experience for you, I’d say
just play it safe and go see it in the “normal” format and enjoy
yourself. However, if you’re more of the adventurous type, or someone
who enjoys and appreciates different approaches to making films, I’d say
the 48fps is at least worth experiencing because it is a different
experience, especially in 3D. I didn’t love it or hate it, it was just
different and interesting. I’m glad I saw it that way, though if there
was a choice to viewing it on Blu-Ray, I don’t know that I’d select the
high frame rate (unless I had 3D at home…which I don’t.) And hey, if
you’re really a fan and are going to see it more than once, why not just
see it both ways and share you’re own comparisons. Truthfully, I think
this will all boil down to a matter of preferences; both for the
filmmaker and for the viewer. As Peter Jackson said, he was trying to change the movie industry or subvert it in any way for either filmmakers for viewers, it just something different.