The other day I saw a screening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The first thing everyone asks me after hearing this is how the film was. I could do an entire blog post on that. I probably will. But the second question is the big one. "So, how was it in 48 fps? Should I see it that way?"
First of all, you may not be able to. There just aren't that many theaters showing it in 48 fps. But if you can, here are my thoughts.
If you are a student of film or a fan or just curious, yes, you should see it in 48 fps. This is a piece of film history. Seeing the beginnings of this style is something you shouldn't pass up.
In case you're not really sure what all this means, let me explain. We're used to seeing things in 24 frames per second. That's what gives you the slightly "magical" look to film. The smoothness of movement that real life just doesn't have. This is double that. Things are sharper and more realistic ... mostly.
In The Hobbit, there were moments when it worked really, really well. The scene with Gollum (Andy Serkis) and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) looked gorgeous. In fact, the realistic visuals made you feel like they were standing in front of you. As many of you know, I was a theater major and I've always tried to explain the magic that a live performance gives you that you just can't capture on camera. This is the closest I've come to seeing it replicated on the big screen. (Now, if they'd only kept the camera on the actors instead of cutting away ...)
There were other times when the action appeared to be sped up. A napkin drop in the first scene looked completely wrong. Any characters in an outside setting seemed to pop off of the background. The movement seemed completely unnatural. The battle scenes were overwhelming. There was no way to figure out where to focus your eyes. I'd say the 48 fps was incredibly distracting for the most part, occasionally awful and at moments, brilliant. So, completely uneven.
Now, part of that is the fact that this is new technology and our eyes aren't used to this much input in terms of focused visuals like a film. But consider this. If you took someone from 1975 and stuck them in front of a CNN broadcast today, they'd probably have a headache in five minutes. We do quicker cuts and take in so much input after years of scrolling news bars, the internet and playing video games that our eyes are just used to it. Remember the first time you saw HDTV? I don't know about you, but my eyes ached for days.
So, should we keep doing it? Oh, why the hell not? James Cameron is saying he might do Avatar 2 in 60 fps. However, he's the sort to go in and fix the things that are wrong with the technology with his mountains of cash. (I like to think of him sitting on a mountain of gold coins, a la Smaug the dragon. Look at what he's done with 3-D. I may not have liked Avatar, but it was certainly beautiful. This is merely the first attempt. Give it time.
Now, go ahead and debate. Tell me if you've seen it. I'm dying to know what you think.
UPDATE ABOUT HEADACHES: My buddy @KristenMcHugh22 suggested that I add this. For the record, I very often get headaches from 3-D films. Though the screening I saw was in both 48 fps and 3-D, I had no headache or eye strain at all.
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