It seems that this week, everyone suddenly became an expert on 48fps (frames-per-second) filmmaking. In case you’re still playing catch up, 48fps doubles the 24fps standard that has been used throughout cinema history in order to provide a smoother, crisper and more “realistic” image. It’s the latest technological leap that guys like James Cameron and Douglas Trumbull have been trumpeting (the latter considering going to 60 fps for the project that he’s currently working on) and Peter Jackson has been using it on “The Hobbit.” He unveiled 10 minutes of footage at CinemaCon this week and it got a negative-to-mixed reaction, resulting in those in attendance tossing out comments like “terrible,” “jarring” and “it doesn’t look cinematic.” Ouch.
Well, Peter Jackson has been quick to respond to critics, and chatting with EW he urges everyone to experience the movie in full before passing judgment. “There can only ever be a real reaction, a truthful reaction, when people actually have a chance to see a complete narrative on a particular film,” he said.
“At first it’s unusual because you’ve never seen a movie like this before. It’s literally a new experience, but you know, that doesn’t last the entire experience of the film; not by any stretch, after 10 minutes or so,” Jackson further explains. “That’s a different experience than if you see a fast-cutting montage at a technical presentation.” But of course, that does beg the question that if a “fast-cutting montage” wasn’t the best way to present this new format to viewers, why did they choose to go down that path?
However, Jackson seems to have faith that the doubters will be turned into believers, and he points to a few of the comments that emerged as proof. “A couple of the more negative commenters from CinemaCon said that in the Gollum and Bilbo scene [which took place later in the presentation] they didn’t mind it and got used to that,” Jackson said. “That was the same 48 frames the rest of the reel was. I just wonder if it they were getting into the dialogue, the characters and the story. That’s what happens in the movie. You settle into it.”
But even among his colleagues, not everyone is convinced. Ang Lee, who had a much better reception for his 3D adaptation of Yann Martel‘s “Life Of Pi” — with early talk of Oscar already building — has reservations about the glossy new digital filmmaking technique. “I have mixed feelings. I don’t think 48-frames solves everything. Each time you solve a problem you can bring in others — because you make the problem look more clear, maybe, ” he said. “It takes time. It sounds like a good idea, but I’m a little skeptical.”
All this said, there is lots of time for Peter Jackson to change the tide and like we said before, the naysaying is reminiscent of the early days of James Cameron’s “Avatar” that many thought was a risk that wouldn’t pay off. With Comic-Con around the corner, you can bet the director and New Line are going to pull out all the stops to get the geeks and everyone else back on board, and excited to get back to Middle Earth.