‘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. Hfr Its really good

  2. The big thing to realize though is that that actual recorded still image is, as far as I know, no different than the same image captured under 24 fps given the same camera and format. One thing I would like to see is, and it would be difficult to do unless you’re in a theater, a demonstration of the difference between one scene in 24 fps and the same scene in 48 fps. I guess that’s the way to really appreciate what 48 fps brings. But the human eye is very perceptive, obviously. It’s very easy for us to tell what looks real or not. I suppose that also we have been conditioned through decades of watching film in cinemas to what looks real or not. Every big change in motion picture technology has required an adjustment period. I suppose if we go back and look at old technicolor films, the colors would look weird to us as well.

  3. I honestly fell in love with 48fs. The movie was much more realistic…more tangible.It felt like I myself had taken the journey. After watching the movie, I went home and saw the trailers again and it just didn’t look the same without the 48fps and of course the 3D. I think that HFR3D is great and the skeptics should just get a room and go cry by themselves.

    • Honestly, this HFR arguement is the same as the HD/SD arguement. I still have relatives who say (and lie) that they cannot tell the difference between HD and SD. I have yet to see the film (going tomorrow evening), but I welcome the advancement towards a clearer, more engaging visual presentation.

  4. On to the HFR. The good is that the scenery is just epic especially in 3D. Everything shown was very smooth and lifelike. The part where Bilbo, dwarves, and Gandalf are at his place is awesome because you feel like you are actually there. The fight scenes are smooth and the blur factor is very slim. The 3D is done rather well. I would say it’s the best 3D experience I have had since Avatar/Tron 2. The bad thing is that if you are not used to this HFR(TV’s at 240hz,480hz) then you will most likely feel like you are at a play. It does take about a couple of minutes to get used to the HFR in 3D. The clarity is very high and if it’s not “filmed right” I guess you can say, it will reveal too much such as props, makeup, differences between CGI & real people. PJ has done a real good job given that this is the first time that it has been done for a big picture movie. There are some kinks that needs to be worked out but overall it was a great epic experience. I do see this as being the future of filming just like how 3D has grown. I think an action movie with lots of scenery and action would actually benefit in this format.

  5. I wish as Jackson himself said could be done that the HFR had been used for certain parts, but not all, like outdoor natural shots that can’t be faked where the cinematic illusion is a non-issue. When it’s used on a set with actors, it’s really weird to see. To me it definitely is distracting feeling like the actors are sped up and having the feeling that the crew is literally standing outside the frame. I’m going to check it out but honestly can’t say I would if the Star Trek preview weren’t attached to that version

  6. I found it incredibly distracting throughout the film. I don’t even feel like I can fairly evaluate the content or storytelling, my eyes were constantly being drawn to the weird lighting and “on-set” feeling of so many of the scenes. It felt really low rent. I’m going to give it another try in 2d or 24fps 3d and see how it goes. IMO, a fantasy was the wrong thing to try this on.

  7. I enjoy the way the trailer looks better than the movie did. Having 48fps made the sets look “real” as in real props. The saturated colors and blurring frame movements were distracting. I would like to watch it again in 24fps.

  8. Amazing. Loved the HFR 3D of the Hobbit. Took about 15 mins for eyes to adjust but once they did I was in Middle Earth. Epic and visually stunning I can’t wait to see it again in the new technology.

    • I found myself thinking I was there at times, especially with the 3D. It was great. I loved that feeling.

  9. I saw the film in 48fps and I loved it. I definitely want to see more movies in this new format!!

  10. Frame rate may make 3D easier to watch for some, but it has no effect on the quality of the stereo image. “Pop up book” looking characters are caused either by a lazy conversion (artists who didn’t take the time to round out the edges), or when shooting natively, using lenses which flatten the image, (like telephoto lenses).

    • The main reason Jackson used it for 3D was that it’s supposed to help with eye strain, not necessarily make a the 3D better/less flat.

  11. I watched it in 3D, but I don’t get the whole higher frame rate thing. Was it like, if you watched it in 3D it was higher frame rate, and standard was the normal frame rate? Feel very stupid asking this haha.

    • If the showing was listed as “HFR” then you saw the high frame rate effect (48fps). Only some theatres showed it in HFR though so if you saw it in 3D then it wasn’t a guarantee that you saw it in HFR.

      I don’t believe there were any 2D HFR showings, so if you saw it in 2D then it was most likely 24fps.

      • Ahh I see, I watched it in 3D but I don’t think it was HFR. Ahh well, brilliant film either way!

  12. I liked the HFR, but matched with the 3D was annoying. But its the same excuse with 3D as always. Mostly that the graininess that is lost in the 48fps is recaptured in those stupid glasses, and the glasses are tinted which makes the film a shade darker. every once in a while when watching the movie, i remove my glasses and marvel at house vibrant and colorgful it is. Thats my main issue with 3D. if i could find this in HFR 2D, i would.

    I’m not dissing all 3D (Toy Story, Avengers, and Avatar did it wee) just in cases like this

    • This is exactly how I felt afterwards, with the exception of not dissing 3D. Even with Avatar I found the 2d Experience to be the superior one. I really do wish there were 2d HFR showings as it did add a lot once your eyes adjusted to it.

  13. I’m going in HFR at 5pm today.. I’m soooo excited!! it took me forever to find a theatre in my area that actually had HFR and I’m excited to see what could be the next step in HD. who knows right? I mean blurays sounded kinda ridiculous when they first came out a few years back but they look like the future of home entertainment now.

  14. Great article Sandy. Wish I could have seen it in 48fps for myself :(

  15. If this does well I really hope they don’t start charging for HFR, since it just involves a firmware upgrade for their projectors.

  16. the 48fps made the 3d extremely tolerable for me. Normally if I see a 3d movie I regret it immediately, because it looks so bad, but the the extra frames it made it seem like I was actually on the set watching everything happen. I look forward to seeing the next two movies in the same format. All 3D movies should be in 48fps. Then 3D might actually be worth it.

  17. I can’t wait to finally see it for myself. So many people seem to have strong opinions on both sides of the spectrum saying completely opposite things.

    • yeah man you’ll understand both sides of the argument when you see it. Its like watching blurays at your house but in a theatre. thats the best description I can come up with. Its that clarity that you get at home with fullHD 1080p whatever on the big screen. Its got positives and negatives to it. I personally thought it was pretty dang cool. The battles were so incredible man the detail is just staggering.

  18. I truly beleive that Peter Jackson has started a mini movie revolution with 48fps movie making,Im saying this because I like how things look on my HDTV when its in ClearMotion mode it gives tv shows and movies a look similar to whats being described in this fourum and it gives you that you are there look to what your watching and IMO it makes scenes look immersive and life-like,this could very well be the future of all film making in the next five to ten years alongside digital,3D and IMAX.

    • I absolutely hate these ClearMotion filter thingies on TVs. It makes everything look like crap. If HFR really looks like that and should take off in a grand scale Peter Jackson will have managed to permanently ruined movies for me. What an achievemend that would be. It would warrant going to New Zealand and punching him in the face.

      • *to permanently ruin

  19. Saw it today in a theater with HFR 3D AND the new Dolby Atmos surround system (which includes speakers in the ceiling!) and it was UNBELIEVABLE! You really are immersed. I felt like I was right at the table in Bilbos house. I think the HFR helps the 3D aspect of the film greatly and the surround system is fantastic. A Dolby representative made an announcement before the movie to inform us we were in one of the few theaters with this new system (Emagine in Novi MI). I have seen quite a few movies in 3D and had been arriving at the opinion that it wasn’t worth the extra money since after 15 minutes or so I sort of forget about the 3D effect (unless something really pops out of the screen) but this film seemed to keep me intranced in its depth of field and vivid detail. Definitely worth a try to see what you think!

  20. Yes, the 48 fps does periodically behave like watching video. But I think it’s because the film was shot in digital and not in film. By the way, the sets do not look like sets in 48 frames per second. Never. But the pluses of this format are fabulous…the magnificent detail of the settings, the incredible detail of the creatures, the fabulous markup and cgi, are mind boggling. Every element of this film has had a tremendous upgrade from the Lord of The Rings series. (No one is talking about how much they spent,,,but it’s on the screen) By the way, there’s a closeup of a very special eye at the end of the film, and it is just incredible. (Not the eye you’ve seen in the Lord Films) It teases you into realizing how incredible the main event is going to be in this epic 3 parter. In other words, the great beast, (especially in this high def format) will blow us all away.

  21. Film was never meant to replace reality, just as Picasso didn’t serve to put photographers out of business. Film is a particular canvass, an art form unto itself. True filmmakers understand this. For all those who claim to like the higher frame rate and the 3D because it looks real I have a suggestion: look out your bedroom window. It costs a lot less money and it is a lot more real.

    • Would Picasso not be a true artist if he implemented computers as another tool to create his works? Peter Jackson has yet another tool to make his particular brand of artistry on the screen. Filmmakers can use whatever they like to create the film that they want. They are artists using different tools on one medium like an artist can choose to use a pencil or pen or paintbrush on paper. You have a right to dislike a particular style but to say no “true” filmmaker should use it is absurd. At least with The Hobbit you have a choice of which version to see.

    • There’s nothing wrong with the 48fps format. Just like there is nothing ‘wrong’ with films made in 24fps when early films were at 14fps. There’s nothing wrong when films started to be made in color, when films started to use sound and became ‘talkies’, or films utilizing CGI. To call Jackson not a ‘true filmmaker’ because of experimentation with a new format? Complete rubbish.

      By the way, before film people viewed these types of stories live, with actors, with a stage being the window into the story instead of a screen. Infinite frames per second. The horror!

    • Looking out my bedroom window is a lot less interesting than looking at the story in the Hobbit 😛

  22. I saw the movie in 2D, as I will see every movie.

    I hate 3D. It’s a dumb gimmick. I will accept ONLY true 3D, not trickery.

  23. Plus, I play video games on my PC at 60FPS. What’s the big effing deal?

  24. Unfortunately for me there are no theaters near me showing the movie in HFR 3D so I can’t experience it for myself but after watching it last night in regular 3D I can say it’s the best 3D experience I have seen so far. The movie was amazing and I loved everything about it. Maybe someday if all theaters start supporting the higher frame rates, they’ll re-release it for me to finally experience how Jackson meant the film to be viewed.

    Also, people ought to know that with film from the very beginning, every new feature was a weird change that people grew accustomed to. When people saw film for the first time they were frightened at how the images moved and looked real enough to them to actually pop out of the screen at them. I think this new 48fps thing is the same way. People are afraid of change and just have to grow accustomed to it.

  25. The thing with new technology is that, its new. Someone has to take a leap of faith as the world is ever changing. People proberly complained when 24 frames per second was first done but now its the norm.

    When 3D first came out, I hated it. I found it annoying, and frankly gave me a head ache. Now however I have come to enjoy it. Whats not to say that if every film was to be made in 48fps in ten or twenty years time we would be wondering what the big fuss is all about.

    I havent seen the Hobbit yet, Im going Friday so will save my opion till then on the film. Im just saying that people were griping before the film was even realised. Of course thats going to have an effect now. APproach with an open mind if the best bet and dont shoot it down from one film. Wait for a few more first as after all rome wasnt built in a day

  26. I’ve seen the film twice now. First in 24p and then in HFR 3D. I will say that the first 15 mins or so (up to the Dwarves’ arrival at the Shire) I was seeing the sped up effect in the HFR. However, I got used to it very fast. I feel the best example is the Goblin King sequence and chase for the super clarity I feel had increased in the HFR output over the 24p. From the detail of the Goblin King himself to the sequences that occurred afterward.

    The amount of “clarity” alone in the HFR was amazing over the 24p. Easily the sharpest and clearest experience I’ve ever had, 70mm/Film IMAX included, in a theater.


    • One more note… I had no headaches from the 3D whatsoever. I get headaches in IMAX and Plasma TV 3D’s (Shutter glasses, I can see the left eye cut before the right) and I did not here. They were using RealD 3D glasses.

  27. I understand that filmmakers have an array of tools they can use to bring their vision to an audience. What the 3D advocates do not understand is that it isn’t 3D and never will be, as long as an image is projected onto a 2 dimensional screen. It can only mimic what we see everyday and it does a fairly poor job of it. It adds nothing at all to the development of the story which is what filmmaking has always ultimately been about. It is a distracting element that has been force fed to us by Hollywood because of our increasing ability to avoid theaters all together. I believe it undermines what should be a film’s true intention: to tell a good story.

  28. Personally I like the high framerate. I recnetly purchased a 120 hertz full 1080 p 48″ LCD TV. It did take a little getting used to but I have to say I have rewatched many movies and they are all better. Blu rays are just flat out amazing. DVD’s look better as well. Those fast fight scenes in movies flow better. HD Television looks awesome, especially sports. I say this is the future of movies and tv. I never was that big on 3d but the HFPS is something I am very big on. I also think we will get a better product overall in our entertainment. It will make movie and tv makers deliver better quality behind the camera.

  29. What about Blu Ray 3D? The format supports 720p at 60hz and 1080p at 24hz. Could any of you accept a 720p Blu Ray feature if the 3D image was smoother like in the theater for The Hobbit?