‘The Hobbit’: Warner Bros. Will Limit High Frame Rate Showings in Theaters

Published 2 years ago by , Updated March 9th, 2013 at 2:00 pm,

The Hobbit High Frame Rate Theatrical Release The Hobbit: Warner Bros. Will Limit High Frame Rate Showings in Theaters

For those who are not well-versed in the vocabulary of film technology: Peter Jackson’s upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit (which is now, officially, a trilogy) has garnered some early controversy, due to Jackson’s decision to film at 48 frames-per-second – or double the rate of standard films, which typically run at 24 fps. The higher frame rate is supposed to make a movie look more “realistic,” by smoothing out motion and cleaning up images, so that events onscreen seem to look and move more in the vein of how the eye perceives real life.

With The Hobbit showing in both 48 fps and 3D, there has been much interest in Jackson potentially ushering in a new era of film tech; however, early screenings of The Hobbit received more negative press than Warner Bros. would have liked. As such, the studio is limiting the number of locations that will show the film in 48 fps.

Variety has the exclusive news that WB is going to release The Hobbit high frame rate (HFR) theatrical cuts only in select locations – and not necessarily nationwide. One might assume that this move comes under the weight of continued bad press – but to the contrary, Variety‘s sources claim that more recent screenings of the film in 48 fps have yielded much more positive results, now that Jackson has had a chance to add some post-production polish. The limited release is therefore rationalized as a prudent step to test the market for HFR movies, while still ensuring that viewers will be satisfied with their Hobbit experience, by offering a wide release at the safe and familiar normal frame rate.

the hobbit movies The Hobbit: Warner Bros. Will Limit High Frame Rate Showings in Theaters

HFR movie-making is poised to be the “next big thing” in cinema, following the IMAX, digital, and 3D advances in filmmaking that we have seen in the last decade. In fact, in film tech circles, preparation for the shift to HFR (48 fps up to 120 fps) has been going on for some time, with 3D camera and projection manufacturers already fitting their products with HFR native and conversion capabilities. The Hobbit will indeed be the guinea pig for the movement, and by early 2013, we should have a pretty good idea if HFR will become a new standard, or another failed experiment laid to rest next to Laserdiscs and Aroma Vision (safe bet is on the former).

If you’ve never seen HFR footage; some TV sets (like those made by rising company, Vizio) offer a “smooth-effect” that works like a bastardized version of HFR. Those who have seen the real deal report that it is a slightly unnerving experience at first, as it is somewhat like watching a stage play (especially in 3D), rather than a film. Standard film contains all the imperfections and graininess that tell the mind it’s watching a filmed image – which, for some (like myself), is a main component of an enjoyable viewing experience. HFR filming is not going to be an easy sell for those types – even when crafted by a talented and ambitious director like Jackson.

We’ll keep you posted on the availability of Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey HFR showings as the film edges closer to its December 14, 2012 release date.

Source: Variety

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  1. Saw this coming.

  2. What a load of crap. I was looking forward to experiencing this in person and making up MY OWN MIND on whether or not I liked it. Apparently WB doesn’t think the normal viewing public is smart enough to form their own opinions. Those of us that live in more rural areas seem to be screwed as “limited release” anything never makes it anywhere near us. Poop on a stick.

    • Sorry you won’t be experiencing it, but I had no interest in it. I think a limited release is a great idea, but perhaps not quite so limited? That way those that wanted to check it out can, and those that don’t wouldn’t be forced to.

      I think the biggest mistake was pushing this relatively new tech out in such a big movie. The Hobbit is an important book to a lot of people. I want to go watch the movie and not be distracted by me trying to decide if I like HFR or not.

    • Actually, WB is probably respecting the people’s intelligence MORE than if they just forced every theater to use 48 fps. I’ve not seen 48 fps, but I don’t want it FORCED ON ME if it even has a chance of putting a damper on my Hobbit movie experience, which I’ve been waiting to see for a little less than a decade.

      It’s like trying to force every movie to have 3D or whatever. Is that a good thing? Some people may think that, some people won’t. It’s polarizing, though. You don’t want to polarize your audience. That’s why there are 2d AND 3d viewings. 48 fps isn’t widespread tech yet, so WB is still testing the waters. It seems they’re being smart by testing it with small but growing numbers of people. It sounds like Jackson and co. fixed the issues, but it’d be a big risk by a big company to put it in every movie theater yet.

    • ooliboofoo – “Poop on a stick”… i have to admit that I laughed harder at this then I should have…lol

      • You are very welcome. =)

        • lol

    • this information is a load of crap. the limiting factor is the projection equipment in theaters. if they’ve got the capability (and the file), they’re showing it… the studio is not doing a limited release.

      • Exactly, Paul.

  3. If it gives it a “soap opera” effect, I hope it goes the way of laser disk. I hate the way MotionFlow looks on my Sony, it looks like a everything is moving faster. But if its film at 48fps then maybe it won’t look different since its not being converted. If not then I hope it goes the way of LaserDisc.

    • The “soap opera” effect is caused by a number of things: unnatural dynamic range, poor depth of field control, sensor size & sensitivity, and high available exposure lengths (actually worse at lower fps) & motion blurring artifacts in video. It has nothing to do with high frame rates. In fact, high frame rate video is very recent and probably you’ve only ever seen it aired or played back for HD 720p sporting events, which is generally loved by sports fans. Most of what people think of automatically as being the “soap opera” effect is actually foreign shows and soaps converted from PAL to NTSC, and isn’t even related to poor utilization of video cameras at all. Anyone who says different is ignorant of the reality of the technology and physiology involved.

  4. Interesting, I would like to take a look at it. But even those digitally animated cartoons on Blue Ray throw me off. That ‘telling your mind it is a movie’ is really true.

    • And most of those are even lower FPS than 24 or 30fps.

  5. This is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.
    Theaters are simply not equipped to deliver without upgrading.

    Something which could have been done by now as originally
    envisioned with digital rollout but theaters have been slow
    to invest in new systems after their initial investment.

    What is worse is 48 FPS is best viewed in 4K resolution.
    Some theaters can handle the 4K digital projection now.
    How many can project 4K, 48 FPS, and 3D? Answer: ZERO

    • Here in Berlin we have a “Event Cinema” with a 300m² screen and a 4k-digital(so it’s 48fps-compatible I think, or is it?)-3D-projector.

      • Having seen some project films down in South America and dealing with projection equipment you would be surprised on how many can handle the HFR. Now this is only those that have true IMAX projectors. They could technically handle this. Does it get some getting used to? Yes but isn’t that what HD is suppose to be? To show off something that feels like you are right there? I can only imagine what people will be saying 5-10 years from now when they introduce Ultra-Def to the general public.

      • The theater might need one of the “minor” upgrades to project 48 fps.
        It likely has more recent equipment which is easier to adapt to 48 fps.
        So your theater could probably handle 4K and 48 fps with the changes.

        It could not project 4K, 48 fps, and 3D without a wholesale upgrade in
        all equipment so The Hobbit will not be seen with all three anywhere.
        You might get 2K, 48 FPS, and 3D in that theater though for this.

        Any 2D versions of The Hobbit will probably be 2K, 24 fps, and not 4K.

        • Film has that capability and the 15/70 Imax film auditoriums should be capable of it, as would any 35mm installs that were equipped with MV48 projector heads, which are quite inexpensive and improve normal 35mm prints, too, with more stable film handling.

    • There is a projector that can handle HFR stereo 4k. The redray. The only problem is that no theaters use them yet.

      Also, it would be possible to have two 4k projectors run in tandem like traditional stereo setups.

    • Digital projection is the problem. No digital installs have the capability of 4K 3D HFR.

    • The distributed resolution, however, is limited by the res of the DI, which is limited to the resolution the CGI in these types of movies will be done at. And then there’s the fact most of the early installed digital projectors cannot actually project 4k, let alone 4k 3D or even 2k HFR 3D. I’m not even aware if the codecs and data infrastructure exists to distribute HFR 3D 4k even if the projectors were able to use it fully, which they aren’t.

      HFR 3D 2K is still better than 3D 2K. And unless the screen is very big, you’re sitting very close, or you’ve got sharp eyes, most people can’t tell a difference between 2K and 4K. I love higher res, but people get surprised just how low res film is when doing true opticals with generational losses. Maxivision would be great to save film with its liquid crystal & compressed air low-shake film shutter and digital registration, but the distributors have spoken and killed film releases for the most part.

  6. Having reviewed the CinemaCon footage, I can tell you that it is easier to watch the 3D version of 48fps than IMAX 3D. Dolby 3D also has this nice feel, but 48fps 3D will be less painful to people. I look forward to the screening of the whole film in 48fps 3D. I also agree with the detractors on the point of “action scenes, good. Dramatic scenes, not so much.” It’s tough to get into the closeups of the actors and accept it for the surrealism Jackson is still hoping to achieve.

  7. I’m on the fence. I trust Jackson but I don’t trust WB very much.

    Wait and see.

  8. I was really excited to see the movie in a higher frame-rate…
    This is disappointing news :(

    • feel the same way. I was actually looking forward to seeing it how it was filmed. James Cameron changed how we want 3d movies with avatar so why can’t Jackson give it a shot with HFR. And only having it limited will definalty not give it that shot to give the audience a different experience

      • “James Cameron changed how we want 3d movies with avatar”

        You mean he reminded us 3D exists by giving us a form of it that wasn’t based on paper glasses with tinted plastic lenses.

        • I think Cameron reinvented the 3D experience with making the flow of the film more appealing. 3D will never be for everyone and that’s ok. People at first have said the same thing about HDTV when it was first introduced, “the picture looks funny”, “it has a low budget feel to it”, ect…but look at it now. It’s a must TV item now because “if it’s not in HD then you are missing out”. I can see that sort of saying 3-5 years from now about the whole HFR. It’s something new and people generally don’t like change. I for one was excited to see some new tech into the whole movie experience

      • @T “James Cameron changed how we want 3d movies with avatar”

        For me that change was to never see another 3D blockbuster movie again.

  9. not sure how i feel about a feature length films in HFR but i’m at least curious about it and am (was?) willing to pay to check it out. looks like i might not have that opportunity

  10. So much for “let the consumer decide” as a philosophy.

    If it is in limited release, there will be many places in the world that will not have the opportunity to choose 24 fps versus 48 fps.

    Then the whole argument will be comparing the receipts between places that show both formats, which of course will be a much smaller population sampling.

    Of course ticket price differential and scheduling differences will also factor in that decision in those limited release markets.

    This seems like a set up for failure, much like 70 mm screenings versus 35 mm. We can’t push forward with technology if the suits always shoot it in the foot.

    Being a tent pole film of a popular source material from a beloved director, it would be a great way to compare the commercial viability of the new format, because it wouldn’t be like introducing 48 fps on the next Taylor Kitsch movie as a barometer of popularity and fiscal viability.

    • 70mm and Imax 15/70 (largely) failed to take off because they are extremely expensive, both in capture/production, post-production, and distribution even compared to normal 35mm. There are other film formats that are as good or superior to 70mm and 15perf/70mm/sideways that are inexpensive for theaters to adopt that would give the option of HFR, 3D, and any resolution you can imagine… Maxivision being the most promising one. Unfortunately, the dumb adoption of digital projection by many theaters, including some indie ones, and the move to this by distribution and production companies has locked them into a limited capability: 2k HFR 3D at most, and many are limited to 2k 3D or 2k HFR 2D or 4k 2D, but not even two of these enhancements at the same time. People can already get 2k 3D with bluray with many flatscreens and 2k HFR 3D on their 120hz 3d-capable computer monitors at home. The film industry is not differentiating itself enough from home entertainment with the terrible move to digital projection. And most chains, let alone indies, do not have the funds to upgrade repeatedly to the next generation of digital projector year after year to keep up. People don’t realize just how much cash was dumped into already-dated digital projectors in the last few years.

  11. Thank god. I want films to look like films. Not look like real life.

    From the sound of it, it would have ruined any kind of beauty in the cinematography. And surely, wouldn’t it cost twice as much to render and colour grade every frame and make cgi effects work even more expensive than it already is?

  12. I understand why WB is apprehensive with HFR, it’s a huge gamble to invest so much money in a film and not be sure how it will be received. I for one will be checking this out in both formats and deciding for myself. It’s nice to have a choice in the matter. At least they didn’t scrap the HFR altogether.

  13. I will NOT see these films in theaters – for two words in that article. “Theatrical Cut”… If it’s one thing that’s driven me out of theaters it’s paying to see a truncated film just so they can maximize showings… Screw that – I’ll wait for the “extended editions”…

  14. So the big question is, how much extra will this cost per ticket?

    • Double the Frames makes double the price ;)

      • Movie tickets are going to be 30 dollars a pop in the next ten years….

  15. This is somewhat disapointing because I’m sure that here in Connecticut there won’t be any theaters showing it at the higher rate.
    This doesn’t lower my excitement for the film though. I’ll still be there opening day…

  16. So will these “limited” showings be HFR IMAX 3D? at the very least though we will be getting this in IMAX 3D, correct?

  17. “…by offering a wide release at the safe and familiar normal frame rate.”

    Safe and familiar? WTF? This is supposed to be a viewing experience not a mountain climb. If the film had parts that are screened in Gamma radiation frequencies I’d have accepted the ‘safe’ part, but here, I was really looking forward to it.

    Can only hope that my favorite movie theater will be showing it in 48 fps.

    • Safe as in safe for them to release it like that cuz it will surely make profits. whereas people might hate (and not want to pay for) 48fps

  18. so with 48fps does peter sneak in a d1ck frame?

  19. This has alot to do with the theater owners not wanting to spend any money on new technology. Either way the Hobbit is going to be a great movie experience.

  20. 48fps, ooooh scary! Get over it. Why would anyone want there movies to be cleaner, sharper and more realistic! Give me that old time grainy out of focus film! Really? I suppose people who are afraid of this also watch their old low rez tube televisions and shoot photos with 35mm film!

  21. I have a weird thought:
    When you play the movie with half the speed, the movie runs double the time with the movements and events occuring kinda normal (like normal movie experience), although moving in slow-motion! That’s Zack Snyders dream, right.

    • It’s more or less what he’s been doing yeah

  22. Yeah pretty disappointing No f****** chance they’ll be doing this in my country much less my smell town

    • I’ve been thinking that if the HFR is successful and well received, maybe they’ll have a wide re-release of the movie in the HFR – it’s possible…

      P.S. Sorry to hear your town smells ;)

  23. as Eddie implied I’m blown away that a person able to profit $7977 in four weeks on the internet. did you look at this site N u T tyR icH D ot C o m

  24. I hope this never becomes the standard. If I ever get a tv with that high framerate crap, I’m turning it off unless I’m watching a documentary. It makes movies look like garbage…

    • You do that.

  25. I am all for it, and I am a film maker who loves oldschool 35mm film, but there are so many positives, first being is that its actually good for your eyes, Thomas Edison said that 46 frames per second was the minimum: “anything less will strain the eye.” which is very true. Secondly its so much better for camera action where there are pans or any kind of movement, I really hate watching movies when the camera pans and it looks like jitter hell. I think its the oldies that will struggle with it, the younger gen will easily eat it up.

  26. I recently watched the Lord Of the Rings on a Samsung high definition screen with the “smoothing effect” 60fps. The movie looked like an amateur stage play. I was laughing all the way through.

    • Motion smoothing effects in flatpanels’ processing chips create all sorts of artifacts and issues and should be turned off. That does not give you a frame of reference (pardon the pun) to judge the Hobbit in 4k HFR 3D.

  27. Hmm people complaining about a new frame rate that no one in the general public has even seen yet, let’s stop progress! Bring back silent films, ban colour too while your at it!

  28. Bit piss off that no cinema is showing the 2d version at HFR, even trying to find a normal 2D is tough enough.

  29. I think i might just plunk down and go for true imax for hobbit … omg..

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