It was announced last month that Peter Jackson's upcoming 2-part telling of The Hobbit would be not only be shot in 3D and with Red's new Epic digital cameras, but would also include a feature that no other major studio production has offered in nearly a century, an increased frame rate. In this case, doubling it!
Fellow director James Cameron has been championing higher frame rates since well before Avatar was released, and I could not help imaging "what if?", while watching Avatar for myself. Of course his comment about "fighting battles one at a time" is well understood. The movie was truly something no one had ever seen before. Still, the first thing I noticed during this epic was how even though it often gave off that "you are there" feeling, when the action got heavy or I was forced to change depths, I had to blink my eyes repeatedly in order to get them to refocus. This took me out of that feeling multiple times, and eventually I had to learn to just let it go. I do believe that this is the #1 cause of eyestrain in 3D cinema. While the jury's out on making 3D movies that every single person can enjoy the same, I do have a feeling that this will be a breakthrough that turns more than a few 3D doubters into converts. Cameron shot an action scene at 24 fps, 48 fps, and 60 fps and showed it off at CinemaCon in March in order to show the media and get people in the industry on board for the higher frame rates. Those who were shown this demonstration seem to be generally impressed.
more after the jump As with 3D itself, you have many film purists who don't like the idea of changing cinema away from the time-tested 24 fps. Some people believe that 48 fps would make the movies in their 2D state look like video or give it a "soap opera effect". Being open minded about movies, I only wish I could see the demonstration for myself before I judge on the 2D front. For 3D though, I simply can't wait! There just isn't that sense of nostalgia in the presence of 3D movies anyhow, since immersion is paramount with 3D to work correctly. In fact, the reason I go to the movie theater in the first place is to be immersed in the story. I think that this sounds like it could possibly be the biggest major advance since surround sound became standard in theaters. It also sounds like the majority of existing 3D projectors in theaters can be upgraded to handle higher frame rates via firmware upgrade.
Being a huge Tolkien fan and lover of Jackson's LOTR adaption, I'm thrilled that The Hobbit will be shot first. I do believe that its highly possible for an animated movie to not just beat The Hobbit out to theaters, but test the waters. Since animation is done completely in the computer, one would think that it would be just as easy of a transition as 3D was. Both cases add rendering time, but this one doesn't involve figuring out the screen plane in relation to depth of the scene. Just like with 3D, these animated flicks can even be re-rendered (don't call it conversion) without any artifacts. 3D animation also has a lot less of a nostalgic effect on people, since it starts out digital and isn't as old of an artform in the first place.
I'm also thrilled that the 2nd and 3rd movies in the Avatar series will be either 48 or 60 fps. With Cameron hinting about taking a trip underwater in the seas of Pandora, its hard not to get excited for seeing colorful reefs and new creatures floating smoothly in front of you with no strobing effect at all. That's if Pixar doesn't beat him to the punch with a higher frame rate for Nemo 2.