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On 48fps

I got the opportunity to see The Hobbit this week in mini-IMAX, 48fps 3D, and I think I’ve figured out what I both love and hate about this new format.

First, my take is that some of it works beautifully at 48fps. The scenes with Gollum make him look so incredibly real, I half expected him to come out at the end of the screen and answer questions from the audience. He’s actually¬†there in every scene – no hint of being a digital character.

But, some of it doesn’t work well. Too often, there are scenes that pull you completely out of the moment. People have described it as “suddenly watching Masterpiece Theatre from 1978″ or “everything looks fake,” but no one can put their finger on why. I think I figured it out.

Camera motion.

I felt most immersed in the 3d and the movie when the camera was static. Simple cuts between shots allowed my brain to process what was going on, and made me feel like I was standing, watching the action unfold. And it looked beautiful. But, as soon as a jib arm or dolly began making my point-of-view float away, something deep in my brain called BS on everything. Suddenly, the magnificent Shire looked like nothing more than a well-crafted set.¬†I suddenly knew I was looking through a camera lens on a jib arm at a set in a sound stage. That’s what people are trying to articulate here – the experience, made using film techniques developed for 24p, aren’t going to work the same in the hyper-real world of 48p. It’s going to need to develop a language and style all its own, and that’s going to take time. Just as 3D requires a language, and even B&W and Color require different tools and techniques, this new world of High Frame Rate (HFR) will require a re-learning of filmmaking techniques to make it go. And I think we need to start looking at how we move the camera. I think it necessitates a “reality” perspective on the scene. What we think of as “high production value” at 24p (cranes, jibs, dollys) work against us at 48p. And, we associate it with videotaped shows of the 1970′s because that’s where we first saw it.

We may also have to revisit set dressing, making the sets as absolutely “real” as possible. Maybe, maybe not.

BTW – the 3D on this film was flawless. Beautiful. You don’t even think about it.

I want to see the movie in 2D, 24p as well, just to compare and contrast. I’ve seen on Twitter that at 24p, there’s motion blur, and it looks like a “normal” movie.

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