‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ 48 FPS 3D – Good or Bad?

Published 2 years ago by , Updated December 17th, 2012 at 8:49 am,

The Hobbit Unexpected Journey HFR Poster The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 48 FPS 3D   Good or Bad?

Most critics have weighed in with their thoughts about director Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (read our review), with the reactions varying accordingly. However, the most commonly-derided aspect is the film’s appearance when projected in its native format: 48 frames per second (fps) 3D, which is twice the standard for theater showings. The issue has hounded An Unexpected Journey since Jackson premiered footage in 48 fps at CinemaCon 2012; lately, he seems to be spending more time discussing the format (or, rather, defending it) than other film elements, thematic and technical alike.

Warner Bros. is noticeably concerned about blowback, as evidenced by the limited rollout and lack of surcharge for 48 fps Hobbit screenings. Jackson is ready to embrace it as a new storytelling tool but for studios, the jury’s still out on whether 48 fps is the next ‘big thing’ (see: 3D and/or IMAX) or the latest in a line of failed attempts to shake up the viewing experience (Smell-o-vision, anyone?) – and by that we mean, something that audiences will pay for.

What the higher frame-rate does is remove that thin layer of graininess that allows viewers to distinguish between images projected on a theater screen (something artificial) and their surroundings in the real world, purely on the basis of sight. This results in camera and actors’ movements onscreen appearing faster than normal; not to mention, it makes it all the more obvious when practical effects (be it sets, props, makeup or costumes) and CGI have been manufactured on the cheap.

HD televisions and Blu-rays have a similar impact, revealing the imperfections and flaws in older titles (and newer ones, at that) which were previously masked by the haziness afforded from lower frame-rate projections. Similarly, motion onscreen in general is often perceived as sped-up and therefore blurrier, simply because so many longtime viewers are accustomed to the ‘slowdown’ effect of the traditional 24 frame-rate screening (going back to the early 20th century, that is).

hobbit unexpected journey reviews The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 48 FPS 3D   Good or Bad?

An Unexpected Journey, by comparison, doesn’t suffer so much from those issues because Jackson and his collaborators took added transparency into consideration while shooting at 48 fps; hence, viewers are actually meant to be able to see the finer details. As a result, the fine craftsmanship of film artists who work with their hands, basic machinery or state-of-the-art computers is easier to appreciate; not to mention, scenes where human and CGI players interact seem more believable (as both now look equally “real”).

Of course, this presents a philosophical dilemma: Should these things look “real?” Middle-earth, as presented in The Hobbit, is the sort of fairytale kingdom that one might conjure up from their imagination (as J.R.R. Tolkien did so many years ago). When you reduce artificiality and instill a heightened sense of realism, it dwindles the sensation of peering into a dreamworld; worse, it leaves some people with the same (bad) impression as a low-budget recording of a stage performance. That’s why some have dismissed Jackson’s Hobbit ‘experiment’ as misguided at best, a gimmick with little artistic merit at worst.

bilbo rivendell hobbit trailer 570x244 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 48 FPS 3D   Good or Bad?

Andrew Lesnie’s cinematography throughout An Unexpected Journey uses 3D to its advantage, combing subtle (but constant) camera motion with sweeping crane and aerial shots to generate an immersive visual design. Moreover, when viewed with the 48 fps format, the grandiose shots of environments both real (the New Zealand landscape) and fake (tunnels and mines in the Lonely Mountain) end up bearing a stronger resemblance to a model; that holds true for the individuals that populate them, be they computer-generated or genuine.

Again, this quality can be a distraction and jarring for those not prepared. However, it (arguably) allows cinematic visuals to better imitate what the real world looks like to the human eye, when perceived from either a great height or up close. This also makes the 3D viewing experience smoother and less cumbersome (ie. higher fps = fewer headaches). Moreover, it seems to reduce the frequency of 3D images that take on a pop-up book appearance and benefits certain camera techniques (like changing the depth of field). Indeed, that makes 3D and 48 fps a natural fit.

The Hobbit Third Film New Title and Release Date The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 48 FPS 3D   Good or Bad?

Jackson’s intention with these technical choices is quite apparent: the more real various components of Middle-earth look, the more moviegoers will feel as though they’ve been transported there (in theory). It’s not meant to distract from key storytelling elements (narrative structure, pacing); rather, it’s meant to enhance. Whether or not it inadvertently ends up serving the former rather that latter and intended purpose, is the basis for continuing debates about the subject.

Interestingly enough, the 48 fps format might be best-suited for films that aren’t reliant on heavy amounts of digital shots or big-budget panache; that is, smaller projects aiming for something closer to cinéma vérité would benefit more from the crystal-clear visual presentation. On the other hand (as mentioned before), that format does reduce physical stress from 3D viewing and helps to seamlessly blend practical/CGI components. Its storytelling value is flexible, depending on what the director is going for (similar to the partial use of IMAX in such films as The Dark Knight Rises).

The Hobbit Wont Charge Extra for 48 FPS The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 48 FPS 3D   Good or Bad?

Jackson perhaps put it best himself when he clarified that increased frame-rate projection is not meant to be an industry game-changer (a la color, sound, 3D). To quote:

“The big thing to realize is that it’s not an attempt to change the film industry. It’s another choice. The projectors that can run at 48 frames can run at 24 frames – it doesn’t have to be one thing or another. You can shoot a movie at 24 frames and have sequences at 48 or 60 frames within the body of the film. You can still do all the shutter-angle and strobing effects. It doesn’t necessarily change how films are going to be made. It’s just another choice that filmmakers have got and for me, it gives that sense of reality that I love in cinema.”


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For an in-depth discussion of the film (and the 48 fps format) by the Screen Rant editors check out our Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Here is the official trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is now playing in theaters.

TAGS: The hobbit
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  1. so does it do that annoying thing i see on a tv at best buy, were every thing feels sped up, and gives this unatural motion, and takes away from what I like from watching movies when i watch it at home? (My sony tv calls it motion flow) If it is… count me out. I hate how that looks!

    • @bio, Yes, that is exactly what it feels like and it sucks! I regretted seeing the HFR 3D immediately after the movie started. I thought this would be different since the movie was actually filmed in 48fps (as opposed to TVs with the automotion plus type feature), but it wasn’t. Absolutely horrible. Everyone is of course welcome to to their own opinion, but I don’t understand how watching a movie where it feels like someone hits the fast forward button every few seconds is enjoyable. I pray this 48fps will just go away and die a quick death. I’m talking to you James Cameron.

    • Yes it did exactly that and it looked absolutly awful in my opinion, I call the effect ‘oozyness’ Thank God someone else can see it, I thought I was going crazy. It made The Hobbit’s CGI look Scifi channel quality, exposing every flaw, weakness and every bit of CGI shine.

  2. Now I’ve seen the film in HFR I can quite honestly say that I loved it! There was a couple of moments at the very beginning where Bilbo’s hand movements seemed unnaturally fast, rushed even, but once my eyes had adjusted (and this only took a few minutes) everything slotted into relative nice more. The extra clarity afforded by the 48fps truly did make it seem like I was watching a fully fleshed HD film.

    With regards to people complaining about being able to tell the difference between what is “real” and what is CGi, my answer is this. If you went to the cinema just to poke and prod at the film, trying to point out what looks CGi and what doesn’t, you need to get a life. An individual who, like myself, want to see the film purely to actually watch it will get nothing but enjoyment from the format, and I fully intend to watch the next two films in 48fps (htough hopefully they won’t add a surcharge).

    • I saw it in 24fps (the HFR was broken at the cinema I went to) and I found that I could STILL tell what was real and CG (though not as much as with the LOTR trilogy), so I don’t think HFR will ruin that for people.

      • Yes, even I could tell that they were cheap enough to use a CGI dragon…

        • Yeah, because the real one was being rented already

      • After finally seeing it in HFR, I have to say that I loved it, and the CGI actually looked more real that when I saw it in 24fps. I can’t wait for the other two films in HFR, and I hope more and more 3D movies are presented with an HFR option as well. Heck, I’d even watch some 3D movies that are post converted to HFR, since 24fps 3D feels way too juddery for me now.

  3. I have 55 inch 240 herts tv and at first watching hd shows and movies makes the film to realistic like you’re watching a play.. but after awhile your eyes will adjust and making viewing experience enjoyable. I think that is the case with the Hobbit 48fps, if you aren’t use to watching it then it’ll feel odd.

  4. Watching in IMAX 48 hfr I didnt see much of anything different. I was even doubting I was watching 48 because the blur was annoying. The first 5 or so minutes had so much blurry panning I was really doubting I was watching 48 hfr at all and had me yearning for 60 hfr. I am also worried about our bulb. I didnt notice any color shift but it sure seemed darker. Does 48 hfr make for a darker scene?

    A list says that Albany NY had 48.
    I am looking for forward to seeing it in dolby 3d in standard hfr.

  5. When movies went from 17 fps to 24 and with sound, people complained. Color made film purists get to vapors. Some say the only pure sound is with tube amps or tape or vinyl, they can hear the bits of digital sound and they would rather hiss. It has taken years for 3D films to become more that a curiosity. I am a retired video editor with years of Hollywood experience. Every good video editor has his big bag of tricks to give fine video that, “film look.” Grain, scratches, weave, gamma, frame rate, and 3:2 pull down are all artifacts that degrade perfectly good video to make it seem like it was shot in film. If you want to see The Hobbit in lower quality because that’s the way you expect movies look, see it in 24 FPS and 2D and enjoy. But if you can embrace the best that movies can be at this time in history, the go see it in EyeMax, 3D and have an adventure. Get over you expectation and see what the world can be.

    • I have seen BOTH formats; BOTH in 3D . I did NOT like the 48fps because it does look like someone hit the fast-forward button in many of the scenes and did take me out of the movie.
      We are NOT talking about what is ‘groundbreaking’ in a theatre going/movie watching experience. We are talking what is NECESSARY. 48fps is NOT necessary. Even Mr. Jackson himself says it is just another option for movie-goers. Also, A HUGE difference in audience reactions from the 24fps and the 48 fps. I saw the 24fps first and the people around laughed/chuckled at the appropiate times. However, on the 48fps no one really seemed to even chuckle (except a few) on the appropiate scenes because I believe they too were taken ‘out of the movie’.
      I saw The Hobbit, as I said before, in both 24 & 48 fps…and both in 3D. The clarity was just as rich and detailed in 24fps (digital) as it was in 48fps. Clarity is also NOT the issue. It is the ‘pacing’ that took me out of the whole 48fps. Do not plan on seeing any other movies in 48fps because I want to watch a movie not a stage performance OR a 2x fast-forward scene. Sorry, if I seemed abrupt.

      • I saw the film in regular 24 FPS 3D 2 weeks ago, and in HFR 3D tonight.

        In a nutshell, the 48FPS HFR version sucked and I agree with the original article’s comments 100% for said reasons.

        Watching the film at 24 FPS (even in 3D), I was able to connect with the characters far more, the scenes felt more “magical”, and the entire experience felt like a cinematic film.

        Watching it in HFR 3D tonight robbed the film of its magic. It felt like I was watching a bad teleplay soap opera on TV, I did not care about the characters or their plight, and was not engaged with the film at anywhere near the level of the 24FPS version. In fact I couldn’t wait for it to hurry up and end.

        The 48 HFR 3D looked TOO crip, TOO detailed, too fluid that it gave everything an artificial quality, and did not allow my brain to “suspend disbelief” as I did in the 24 FPS 3D version. Scenes that were gripping and heart pounding @ 24FPS produced little to no reaction at 48 FPS, as they looked so fake and “video game” like, that it made the entire film feel like a mockery or comedy. In short, the 48 FPS version broke the immersion that I experienced in teh 24 FPS version.

        In 24 FPS, the scenes, props and sets didn’t look fake. In 48 HFR, they did. It did feel like a bad made for TV movie at 48 FPS, which is unfortunate. Granted the HFR 3D was some of the most immersive I’ve ever seen, but the resolution was almost too high and and the depth of field too focused, which prevented my eye from focusing on select areas of the screen, as I did in the 24 FPS version… there was simply too much going on at once, in too much detail and clarity at 48 FPS. The bright lighting and crisp digital projection quality probably also further compounded this, as there was no film grain in the film.

        I would highly recommend seeing the film at 24 FPS, either in 3D or 2D (I may watch it in 2D as well to see if my experience is further improved). If you want to see what all the fuss is about, watch the 48 FPS version AFTER seeing it at 24 FPS. I’ll bet you’ll have the same reaction/revulsion I did.

        PS: As I type this I feel nauseous/have eye strain after seeing the 48 FPS version, which has never been an issue for me in an 24 FPS film or 24 FPS 3D movie.

  6. We went to see this last night in the HFR 3D format the director had intended his audience to see it in. While not as annoying as the 120hz or 240hz you get at home it was still very jarring for the first 20 minutes or so. Once you settle in you can appreciate the subtle details that WETA and Peter Jackson put into the set pieces. Where it becomes an issue is on the close up shots of the brilliant make up work. Every flaw is shown in it’s saturated color pallete glory. This is a tech that after a bit of pratice could be spectactular, but major VFX / Big Budget productions should stay away from (James Cameron) as it tends to cheapen the hard work of many talented CGI artists. A movie like Dances with Wolves would be breathtaking however.

    • I am a huge film fan and the films I really like I usually see more than once.
      I saw the regular 24fps a few weeks ago and then in 3D last week. I saw the comments here about getting used to the HFR so I decided I would waste a Saturday and watch an HFR 3D back to back. I felt uneasy at first and everything felt sped up. I soon got used to it but the sped up feel came back every do often.
      After the film finished I had 20 mins before the IMAX HFR 3D viewing so I had time for my eyes to stop feeling slightly sore (3D sore XD ). After the second viewing I noticed I got used to it very fast, it was awesome and I really got immersed.
      Maybe someday in around 10 years when variable frame rates become the normal (48-120fps) people will stop noticing the sped up feel because we get so used to it.
      10/10 for this film for me :D

  7. This thing is getting awful reviews in general(by critics). I WISH however, they specify which version they saw. I wish in fact, there are general 2 different reviews.. One w/ 3D imax HFR and rest…. Hope it’s good.

  8. The thing is, everyone can be a critic after watching a movie, especially in 3D. However, 3D works differently on different groups of people (vision problems, eye sensibility), which is why you will always have more diverse opinions on 3D movies than regular movies. Physical implications are involved.

    I do think though, before giving a final verdict on a version of The Hobbit, all versions (or some) should be watched.

  9. First movie I went to at midnight premiere and yes the 48fps was a bit odd at first but then I got used to it. The HFR does make the 3D less blurry, and the detail in Gollum was at times, ultra realistic that he seemed to be an actual living, breathing creature. 48fps is fine with me as long as the story of the film is engaging. Now, to charge extra for the HFR, I don’t know about that. How much more does it cost to shoot in 48fps vs. 24fps? I can understand about the 3D, because the cost of extras, such as the handed out 3D glasses, and even then, these glasses were supposedly being recycled, so the surcharge is understandable. Overall, the HFR will be something for someone like me who can get used to, but as I stated before, the story of the film has have to engage me.

    • The glasses should be returned, so there shouldn’t be a charge. Whatever extra cost there is to upgrade to 3D should be a cost of doing business. I don’t expect a cinema to charge me more when they upgrade to a new 2D projector or get rid of outdated technology. Basically they charge more because they can.

      As for charging more for HFR, that shouldn’t cost extra either. They just change one setting on the camera to shoot at 48 instead of 24. Sure the render time will increase for CG stuff, but again that would just add to the budget of the movieYou don’t have to pay more for a $20 Million movie than you do for a $200 Million one, so why pay extra for HFR?

      • Paying extra for HFR or 3D is a cost of doing business. The projectors have to be brighter (more energy), the servers have to store more data (more energy), and it takes longer to inject the title into the server (labor/energy). Therefore, 3D’s upcharges cover that as well as the glasses. Just wait for them to upcharge for runtime of a film! That should be happening already based on this logic.

        However, I see part of your point. The glasses should be leased or have an option to lease as a way to save $1 to $2 off the price of the film. That way, if you keep the glasses for the next movie, you don’t get that money back, but you do have to remember the glasses next time.


  10. I went to see the 2D version because one of our party has been having headaches and we were concerned 3 hours of 3D and with the added discomfort some have described might trigger another one. And I’m glad I saved the £5+ per ticket price difference. While I loved the first trilogy and bought the collectors edition DVDs, long periods of this one felt like I was trapped in a computer game I had no desire to be in. The endlessly repetitive battle scenes and the hyperbolic score were particularly tiring but there were plenty of other criticisms to level at the film. The story took an age to get going, I found myself being irritated by the fact that some actors looked older in a story set 60 years earlier and I came away thinking it was just too self-indulgent of the great Peter Jackson; which reminds me of another of his s.i. films, ‘King Kong’.
    Another observation and this may have been down to local projection settings, a poor down-convert or something missing in the post-prod process. We were at the Vue cinema in Westfield, London, which on previous visits has run a Sony4K id sequence that I didn’t see yesterday, so it might not have been running in 4K. But the colours of distant landscapes in particular were so washed out that they looked like really badly done painted backdrops. Rivendale was particularly dreadful, but so was much of the beautiful NZ scenery.
    So now I do wonder whether to be fair to Peter Jackson and all the great artists involved in this production I’m going to have to see the 48fps 3D version to see what they wanted me to see… or is life just too short? And if that did turn out to work better, what implications for further down the line — the whole distribution chain is unlikely to adopt 48fps anytime soon.

  11. stop with the heavily edited writing, it’s difficult to read, not because it’s too smart, but it thinks it’s too smart, and it’s thinking-i’m-so-smart is all to evident in the writing. simplicity and conciseness is not something you learned in your college essays, apparently. don’t show your editing. it just makes your initial thought pointless, ignorable, almost. meaning, who cares about (arguably), etc?

  12. Didn’t know about the 48fps. So after 10 min the wife and I walked out and watched it at a normal speed. Who would pay $34 to watch a movie asif it’s shot with a home video camera and displayed on an LED is beyond me. Total fail. Don’t waste your money.

  13. I confess that several times when I saw movies with higher frame rates, I didn’t quite like it. 24 fps does not make the picture grainier. What it does is create an almost unnoticeable flicker that makes the movie seem like a dream, or to be ‘other-worldly’. Each frame is shown long enough that the image is actually burned into your brain for a mere moment, and so you are taken on the journey in discrete steps, almost like a dream. 48 fps is too smooth, and makes the movie too lifelike, and it can make the movie seem like it was shot with a home video recorder, depending on how it is shot. Sometimes it can be impressive. However, one great benefit of 48 fps, and even 24 fps digital, is that there is less blurr and flicker than film, which is easier on the eyes.

  14. I was thinking a lot about my experience Hobbit 3D 48fps and normal 2D 24fps and I have to say that if 48fps was meant to reduce the blur then next time with 48fps I will sit closer to the screen and have more of that imax experience. I am thinking, if you can see more details then it is reasonable to sit closer and see more details. With 24fps I will keep on using old technique 50 to 75% distance of the size of the theater to get that optimal angle viewing experience.

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  16. 48 fps is horrible. I waited a year to see 5 armies in 3D at IMAX, and wish I just waited another year for the extended version to come out.

    48 fps is so bad, it’s not something you get use to. It is to fast and makes the entire movie look fake. I will never see another movie in my life that is like that.

    I walked out of the theater wanting my money back I was so annoyed.