'The Hobbit' shooting at 48 frames per second. So what's the big deal?

Yesterday, Peter Jackson posted on Facebook that he was shooting The Hobbit at 48 frames-per-second. Wait, keep reading, it gets interesting, promise, because this could very well mean that at some point soon, movies won’t quite look like, well, movies anymore.

Here’s how Jackson puts it

The key thing to understand is that this process requires both shooting and projecting at 48 fps [i.e. frames per second], rather than the usual 24 fps (films have been shot at 24 frames per second since the late 1920’s). So the result looks like normal speed, but the image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness. Looking at 24 frames every second may seem ok — and we’ve all seen thousands of films like this over the last 90 years — but there is often quite a lot of blur in each frame, during fast movements, and if the camera is moving around quickly, the image can judder or “strobe.”

According to Jackson, a higher frame-rate gets “rid of these issues” and makes the image “much more lifelike.” Many film buffs and cinema purists, however, have argued that those “issues” are what make film film — much like a painting carries a different visual quality than a still photograph, the blurring effect of 24 frames-per-second is what gives movies their otherworldly, dream-like quality. Video looks different in part because it has a higher frame rate (30 frames per second) — click here for a terrific and simple visual demonstration of what happens when something is presented at a higher frame rate.

Jackson also notes that filming at 48 frames-per-second makes The Hobbit‘s 3-D images much less taxing to watch: “We often sit through two hours worth of footage without getting any eye strain from the 3-D.” Given how much Jackson and James Cameron — who was singing the praises of higher frame-rates a few weeks ago at CinemaCon — have invested in 3-D technology, it makes sense that they want to cut down one of the major complaints people have about 3-D. There is also the question, of course, of how many theaters will be able to project at 48 frames-per-second — while digital projectors likely just need an upgrade, older film projectors won’t be able to. Jackson says he’s “hopeful,” however, that enough theaters will be able to project at the higher frame-rate by the time The Hobbit hits theaters in Dec., 2012.

Ultimately, it boils down to a matter of taste. Jackson compares the change in frame rate to what happened when music moved from vinyl to digital CDs, and indeed, technology has been changing the way feature films look since practically the medium was invented: From black-and-white to color, relatively square to widescreen, celluloid to digital. So, does making things look more real make them look better? Or, put another way, do you prefer paintings, or photographs? What do you think?

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Comments (142 total) Add your comment
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  • crispy

    Hmm, this sounds like another ploy to get me to upgrade my entire movie collection. Again.

    • Ellen

      word

      • mike

        once a film is shot, its shot… you can’t change it so thank god we wont ever have to upgrade apocalypse now 48fps! the huge advantage to this however, truly is that it will help with eye strain.
        also its the reason why movies and games look better on PCs versus console gaming on tvs… PCs have much higher refresh rates than television. which begs the question, will we have to upgrade our TVs to get the full quality of this new high frame rate..? anyone know?

      • kingofgrills

        This is basically like shooting with the “Cinemotion” or “Cineflow” or whatever each newer TV calls its conversion process. It makes the film no longer look like a film but more like a cheap soap opera shot on video.

        Personally, I hate it. Yes, the image, especially in motion, looks more clear, but it’s a bit freaky looking. It makes me feel like I am really amped up on espresso or Red Bull.

        As for your movie collection, you won’t have to upgrade until Apocalypse Now is re-released in 3D.

      • Dennis

        you dont need to change/upgrade your tv’s for a higher frame rate since a tv just projects the image no matter how fast or slow. a faster frame rate will look smoother and i think it will look good depending on what kind of movie you are using for it. if its an overkill like 3d, then it will suck. but thats hollywood, they over kill everything.

      • Hen

        Dennis, your TV cannot project as fast as it wants. It is limited by its refresh rate as Mike said. It’s even damaging to go higher than the refresh rate on some TVs. It is a very valid question.

      • sting7k

        @mike, screen refresh rate and game frame rate are completely unrelated. A game developer can do nothing about your PC LCD panel refresh rate, in fact many cannot even be changed and are set in at 60hz; slower than the 120hz TV hanging on my wall. The screen has no effect on determining if a game will run at 30/60/90 fps; it’s all up to the developer and their goals and what your hardware can pull off.

      • Anonymous

        Hen: All TVs can project at least 60 fps. It’s a mandatory part of the hdtv standard. And there is no way it could damage your TV.

      • Awesome-o

        @ kindofgrills,
        It’s not a conversion process if it’s shot that way to begin with. Just because it’s shot in a higher frame rate doesn’t mean it will look like a 24fps movie being upconverted to 60fps automatically on the fly by your tv. Does that make sense?

      • Gorf

        @mike you are a stupid. Consoles project through the same screens that pcs do. Most screens refresh at about 54 frames a second. And once its shot, it can have its frame rate reduced. so people who arent happy, can go edit themselves a new copy

    • AK

      As far as I know, they can’t go back and retroactively add in frames to a movie where they didn’t exist before. So, your movie collection is probably safe for now.

      • Chris Gallaway

        obviously never saw “Star Wars, Special Educational Edition” or a “Director’s cut” of any film. Perhaps any other enhanced product that you’ve missed. And really, Blue Ray players can do that now…they essentially run each frame twice…in a row, then is transmitted at the faster frame rate.

      • ryan

        Yeah whenever I go to Sears they have a lot of tv’s with the soap opera feel to it. That is horrible, it looks so wierd and until now I had no idea what the problem was. That sucks! It looks horrible, Ima have to watch the tvs before I buy any thing from now on.

      • Mark Hevingham

        Yes they can, actually. Its a process called VidFIRE and its used to recreate missing freames in telerecordings of vintage TV shows (like Doctor Who) it returns an approximation of the interlaced video look by recreating intermediate frames (or fields) and creating a 50i look from material that was only saved using a film camera set to 25fps. The Hobbit may look quite like video which will be a shame I think

    • Douglas

      Rather than comment on how it “sounds”, why not make a sensible comment? This will never entail replacing all your DVDs, as they can’t go back and add twice as many frames to existing movies. That just shows a basic lack of understanding of what, at root, film even is. Drop the cynical paranoia, and try acquiring knowledge instead.

      • LOL

        Maybe you should try and stop being a douche.

      • Deena

        wow, douchebag alert!

      • Chris Gallaway

        so, they can’t add a second set of frames, identical to the first set, in the DVD as well, so you have 48 frames per second running, even though you only have 24 unique frames?

      • Quirky

        @Chris, yeah they could add extra frames to the film but they would only be duplicates of the existing frames. This new film process for the Hobbit will shoot 48 UNIQUE images every second. That’s completely different then taking a film with 24 unique images per second and showing the same images twice.

      • Hen

        Duplicating frames is just going to cause a blur-like effect… It’s TOTALLY different. This is the opposite of that.

      • vader1013

        i like big butts. and i cannot lie.

      • sumsan

        Yes they can. The technology exists to use the data from two consecutive frames of a 24fps film to create an in-between frame. It’s similar to using morphing tech to create an in-between image of two different faces. It’s not perfect, but you can be sure at least a few of the less shameless directors, producers and copyright holders will give it a shot.

      • Gorf

        @hen, its really not going to cause a blur like effect.. -.- its going to look exactly like the original.

    • brian

      You’re an idiot, crispy. Listen to AK.

      • Andres

        WOD rxd strength with 20lb DB.Did 4 rnudos with 2 push press. But scaled the weight to 115. Was a little tired from this mornings workout.This morning I did a 4 mile road march with 60 pound ruck in just under an hour.

    • JohnDoe

      Umm…what? This only refers to movies being shot and displayed in theaters to look much better than they do now. Most home systems are digital and have fast refresh rates and can display 60fps, so it won’t make a difference.

    • Rush

      24 fps was always a technical compromise, it was never an artistic decision. As it stands, it is a bit wonky in the digital age to keep this archaic standard around. I don’t buy the argument of the cinema purists. If we were to take that to the Nth degree we’d still be watching Nickelodeons. One good example of a direct benefit a higher frame rate will have is that it will make horizontal pans smoother. Jackson uses this technique a lot. (So does Michael Bay, oops!)

      • Charles

        Do the basic Nicholas Romanov just embarassed me in front of enevyore bit. Have him stand up straight. place your hands on his shoulders, and make sure he can’t lean. Now,without letting him lean forward at all, have him try and start sprinting.You’re kind of right you’re falling faster in a sprint than while you’re jogging.

  • MJ

    I don’t care at what frame rate Peter Jackson shoots his films…I just wish he’d finish up with Tolkien and finally make Dead Alive 2. A girl can dream can’t she…?

    • Lingo

      Excellent point!

      • Noralyn

        Hi someone. Not ralley. I did not base it on that. I just used it as an example. It’s just that most of my friends abroad always tell me that people’s first impression of them is like that.But yeah, I feel you especially re your last paragraph. Most of my non-Pinoy friends always tell me that some of their lot find our being-so-proud-yeah-we’ll-rub-it-in when it comes to our achievements annoying sometimes, especially on the Web.and the Kurakot part. the sadder part is, you know there’s truth in that.Hey, thanks for dropping by. I appreciate your comment. It makes me rethink a number of things, actually.

  • AK

    I can’t say I’m too excited. I honestly feel like these efforts to make movies look more “real” (this also includes HD) actually cheapens them. I like that films have a different visual quality; to me, it exudes an appealing essence of fantasy. But that’s just a personal preference.

    • Jose

      I agree, I actually hate Blu-ray because of that.

    • Chris Gallaway

      I prefer “real”, especially when it comes to tying live action and computer animation…Jumanji’s graphics sucked. A higher frame rate of the film will give the better resolution and refresh rate to better marry the live action and computer animation parts.

    • AK

      Well, “Jumanji” was from 1995. But I’m perfectly satisfied with the graphics that I saw from “Inception” or “Iron Man 2″ in theaters last year.

      • JohnDoe

        How do you feel about the fact that 99% of Hollywood doesn’t use film anymore? Most movies are shot digitally, so this argument about “cheapening” film is null and void. If you’re going to have most films shot digitally, then upgrading the theaters, so movies don’t look like crap that are filmed with expensive technology, is the first step into the 21st century.

    • Matilde

      someone January 23, 2009 Did you base number 8 enitrely on that Yahoo! Answers thing? Because Yahoo! Answers is clogged with the stupidest people capable of using the internet.Some memorable questions include How do I scan a mirror and use it as my background , Where can I find scuba-diving equipment for my horse and I heard on TV that there’s a war in Georgia, when do we evacuate (The person lived in the state Georgia of the US, the war was in the country Georgia halfway across the world.) It’s also likely that a lot of the people there are being asses on purpose.Yeah, this post’s main purpose was just to rant on Yahoo! Answers ) But I think our reputation is more on being ignorant and too prideful. Not to mention kurakot.

  • Michael

    I’m super excited to see absolutely anything and everything Peter Jackson does to make The Hobbit great. However… what I am NOT excited for, is the myriad of copycat movies that will come AFTER The Hobbit is released and try to copycat everything about it (in the same way that dozens of movies copied (some more poorly than others) the battle scenes of LotR, or the 3-D larger than life aspect of Avatar). 3-D, in my opinion is overrated in general. I mean, it’s cool for HUGE movies that you know the directors and hundreds of other people working on them are actually taking tons of time and effort and money to do it right (like Avatar and The Hobbit), but it’s totally unnecessary for things like Clash of the Titans, Mars Needs Moms, or Justin Bieber: Never Say Never… I mean, c’mon…).

    • JS

      Agreed…3D, 48fps, and a lot of the other “bells and whistles” movie theatre owners have been forced to install have just jacked up the price for all movies. While they look great and enhance the experience for visual blockbusters such as The Hobbit, they do absolutely nothing for most movies.

      There’s a market for “2nd Tier” theaters that studios would be wise to tap. In saying this, I’m not talking about older theaters that run movies after they’ve been out for a few weeks. My suggestion would be ‘bare bones’ theaters that show regular (non-blockbuster) movies at reasonable prices, and still make a profit because they don’t have the same expenses as the higher-tech theaters.

  • Lou

    “Jackson compares the change in frame rate to what happened when music moved from vinyl to digital CDs” – if that’s the case, then it won’t be that good as any musicologist can tell you.

    • Douglas

      Yes, because scratchy, skipping, sticking, old vynal recordings are so much better than clean, pure, good sound from CDs. How are you connecting your abacus to the Internet?

      • jodipo

        and Douglas wins

      • Chris Gallaway

        except when cd’s sound repressed where Vinyl sounds vibrant. It’s really an analog vs digital debate, where you are actually trying to debate the upkeep…btw, I have literally hundreds of records that are 20+ yrs old that still sound better than CD’s of the same vintage. They both get scratches, so quite being a douche.

      • Jennifer

        Actually, well-cared for vinyl records do sound better than cds. It’s the difference in the recording technology that matters. That’s why a lot of collectors have stayed with vinyl rather than replacing their collections on cd.

      • Monty

        “Some people say ‘it doesn’t make a difference’, but I say ‘its the difference that makes it’.”

      • ken

        The Vinyl vs CD debate has nothing to do with what souds better. Some people just prefer Vinyl sound. But if you want an accurate recording a well mastered CD wins everytime.

      • wurstgesicht

        in my opinion vinyl is capable of delivering a much higher sound resolution. you just hear it. and my records arent scrachy and if they are, i prefer this to the bitcrushed sound of most cds. unfortunately many vinyls are cut from digital nowdays, ruins the sound :(

      • Cynthia

        Kaitlin,Thank you for such a quick reply I found the CFJ skills and lldris that was posted on the site thank you. Now, my question is this: for the warm up are we to do all of them? or just the 1/2 mile jog or the 3 lldris. Also, how do I know the appropriate # of repeats? is it listed for the distance. Sadly, I just finished school and cannot afford a Personal Trainer just yet though I am saving to do so I would just like to get started first : ) again thank you so much!

  • Henri M.

    What’s the point of making a fantasy film’s movements realisitc? doesn’t make any sense.

    • Douglas

      To make the fantasy seem real, which is THE WHOLE POINT of making a fantasy movie in the first place! What a stupid question.

      • Deena

        what a stupid jackass

      • Chris Gallaway

        I agree with you, Deena is a stupid jackass.

  • MJ

    Ok. I’m officially too old for this site. I can’t tell a difference between these examples. And I frankly don’t care. Just get it done and keep it true to the book!

    • Jennifer

      It’s too late for that, judging by some of the casting announcements.

  • Kelly

    Can they just send Aidan Turner back so he can return to Being Human??

    • maggie

      That would be great!

  • Douglas

    Every time we get a technical upgrade in motion picture technology, we get complaints from the artistic Luddites. There are idiots out there still complaining because sound was added to movies, complaining that color was added, that wide-screen came in. I’ve heard that “It should look artificial to make it fantasy” nonsense sprouted by lovers of stop-motion animation, directing their ire at CGI, although their complaints boiled down to “Special effects are SUPPOSED to look fake! CGI looks too real.”

    I noticed 40 years ago that when I projected my home movies at twice normal speed (which my old 8mm projector could do.), although all action was speeded up, the picture quality was much better and more-real-looking. No question we should have moved on to 48 frames per second decades ago.

    But no. Movies should look fakey! That’s how “movies” should look. Anyone espousing this idiot view, go sit in the corner and watch a black & white TV without sound, while listening to scratchy old vynal recordings, and watching your Beta-Max tapes.

    • @Douglas

      In all the film courses that I have taken I have never heard that people complained when they added sound or color to movies. Those things were draws that got more people to come. They did try to save the money by using color film only for epics and spectacles.
      .
      Movies are an art form, and how they look should be determined by the material. Some stories might benefit from looking more realistic, but many would not.
      .
      Douglas, since you talk about things you did 40 years ago, it seems like you may be older than the other posters here. Your age doesn’t mean that your opinion is more valid than the opinions of others. And age doesn’t give you the right to be so insulting to your fellow posters.

      • v

        Clearly you haven’t studied Chaplin’s initial reaction to sound. He ended up using it, but he truly didn’t like the start of “talkies”. Nor, of course, did Buster Keaton. They felt it ruined the idea of films. It certainly destroyed many a career.

      • Awesome-o

        “In all the film courses that I have taken I have never heard that people complained when they added sound or color to movies.” Trust me. It happened. Pudovkin and Eisenstein for example shared common distaste for talking pictures.

      • Awesome-o

        “In all the film courses that I have taken I have never heard that people complained when they added sound or color to movies.” Trust me. It happened. Pudovkin and Eisenstein for example shared common distaste for talking pictures. It wasn’t mentioned in any of your curriculum. No offense.

    • James Ramirez

      Records are FAR superior to CD’s when they’re in good shape.

    • Huffy

      If you want movies to look like an old episode of Days of our Lives or the evening news that’s your business. Don’t act like a stuck-up @sshole and insult those who don’t agree with you.

      • JohnDoe

        @Huffy…
        You’re posts about the “film” looking like a soap opera or news broadcast is untrue. Apparently you’re misinformed about the technology being used these days, because practically zero films are being made with actual 35mm film. It’s all digital now. People like Peter Jackson and James Cameron who are pushing for these tech advancements are simply trying to bring movie-making into the 21st century so that action and sci-fi films don’t look terrible with the CGI and action set pieces.

    • Squishmar

      Douglas, you do know that you can make valid points and not be so obnoxious, right? It really makes me just want to totally disregard your posts because they are articulated so boorishly.

  • Space Cadet

    “What’s the point of making a fantasy film’s movements realisitc? doesn’t make any sense.”

    You’re right, all fantasy films should be filmed at 1 fps at a 10 by 10 resolution. This will enable us to really use our imagination to maximize the fantasy. I hate technology.

  • Now he’s George Lucas…

    Tarantino showed with Grindhouse that film, in all it’s flaws, feels more real to us than this nonsense about digital video and higher frame rates. It might look more real but it doesn’t ‘feel’ real whether guys like Lucas or Jackson like it or not. Movies made from ego and pissing contests over tech wind up looking and viewing as badly as the new Star Wars do and are as forgettable as “Avatar” was. Lame…

    • Chris Gallaway

      You forget to compare the storylines, script and acting, which have a lot more to do with the “feel” than post production. Crappy acting, crappy script, but with Tarantino’s flaws would still suck more than a good script with good acting. You also forget that Quentin is a better storyteller than Jackson or Lucas, and he puts his passion and heart in it.

  • Derek

    Its gonna be like watching blu ray when you turn on the 120 or 240 hz mode on your tv…it looks un natural. I prefer the “movie” quality. It make look more live or fake.

    • JohnDoe

      You’re talking about refresh rates, not frames-per-second, which are two totally different things. I think most of the posters here are confusing these two, and for some reason seem to think they know more about what looks better than an Oscar winning director, and an Oscar winning cinematographer.

      • Anonymous

        No, he is right. 100+Hz TVs actually add reconstructed frames, so the resulting framerate is higher. But the quality is lower than genuine 48fps of course.

  • Peter Murray

    Don’t over analyze the effect. It doesn’t make movies realistic , it makes “movement’realistic. There are numerous other effects , devices , techniques to make movies whatever you want. Ironically , even at 24 fps directors purposely use camera shake , motion blurring etc

    • Anonymous

      Of course, directors can make even 240fps blurred if they CHOOSE to.

  • Keep it simple

    Why not wait and SEE what it ACTUALLY looks like? All we have here is pure SPECULATION.
    Enough said.

  • Susie

    I trust Peter Jackson. No one knows Tolkien’s world better from a production standpoint. He has already brought us there three times, so I trust him to handle the journey again. It just takes a little bit of faith.

    • Tom Bombadil

      the cg in LOTR looks soooooo dated now its almost hilarious… like when the hobbits are being carried by the ents… golem also looks kinda meh… so ANYthing will help… I’m always down for cheesy new things in a new fangled cinema… they’ll always have a normal version to run at the theaters that haven’t upgraded… I didn’t even see avatar in 3d because those screenings were sold out… and I couldn’t fathom blowing another 3 hours of my life watching it again…

      • CineMarktography

        It really doesn’t look that dated. Just a bit. But most of it stills looks pretty damn good. As for the 48fps… Guess we’ll have to wait and see. As a current digital cinematography grad student, I work with different types of frame rates all the time. Usually 24. 30 begins to look like a television show or commercial. 60 is ridiculously smooth and lifelike but to me its inappropriate for dramatic narratives. Looks cheesy. We usually shoot in 60fps and then convert to 24 to create a smooth, cinematic slow motion at half speed which looks fantastic. Our Red One can shoot at 120fps and the slowmo there is even better. An actually movie on screen at 60 (or 48) fps is going to be very weird at first. Guaranteed. Whether it will succeed or not, we’ll see. I’m a huge LotR fan so I hope it does. I love the hobbit.

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