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December 21, 2012

Beginning with the release of Peter Jackson's new trilogy of 'THE HOBBIT' the film industry will slowly adapt itself to the new film frame rate. Traditional films have been running at a frame rate of 24 frames per second as this was the rate that mechanical projectors have ran at for a century now. The advent of the new digital projectors has begun to change things.

As of January 1, 1013 all films will be delivered to theatres in digital format only. THe 35mm film and projector will now be delagated to history and into the hands of film collectors only. This change will shutter many small theatre operators as they can not afford the change but it also begins the new era of film projecting and viewing. As less and less people make their way to theatres for your average film, Hollywood is trying to adjust and make bigger pictures with a new reason to go back to theatres. I personally do not think this will help but going to the new frame rates of 48 frames per second and soon to 60 frames per second if James Cameron has his way with the next AVATAR movie may give the theatre business a little longevity.

These new frame rates will put more information on the screen and supposedly make the picture sharper and more detailed and there is the rub. Many people like the idea but most people have found this information overload jarring and uncomfortable. More information will be hitting our brain and makes for a better picture but it will be something that we need to adapt to. Unlike 3D patrons will probably adapt to it better.

Patrons will have to adapt to a higher price as well since the cost to most theatres will be around $1,000 to $2,500 per screen to alter the digital equipment. The price of changes always end up being passed on to the customer.

Below I will show some articles from various reviews to enlighten you,so enjoy.

The Science of High Frame Rates, Or: Why 'The Hobbit' Looks Bad At 48 FPS
By: Jen Yamato

The hero of Jean-Luc Godard's Le Petit Soldat declared “The cinema is truth, 24 times per second,” as The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw noted while pondering frame rates and cinematic standards last year. Peter Jackson insists that it’s closer to 48 frames per second, as demonstrated by the groundbreaking new frame rate he utilized for this weekend’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. But do scientific theories about the way our brains perceive images and reality — truth unfolding onscreen, in front of our eyes — support Jackson’s brave new vision for cinema, or undermine it?

There is a great gulf between the cinematic look of 24 fps, the traditional rate at which film images are presented in succession to simulate moving images on a screen, and 48 fps. The latter packs more visual information into each second of film, for better and worse. Jackson and his fellow HFR enthusiasts (including James Cameron and Douglas Trumbull) argue that 48 fps and even higher frame rates result in greater clarity and a closer approximation to real life. They also contend it reduces motion blur, thus improving the look of 3-D images.

But scientists and researchers in the field of consciousness perception say that the human brain perceives reality at a rate somewhere between 24 fps and 48 fps — 40 conscious moments per second, to be more exact — and exceeding the limit of the brain’s speed of cognition beyond the sweet spot that connotes realism is where Jackson & Co. get into trouble.

Movieline spoke with filmmaker James Kerwin, who lectured on the subject of the science of film perception and consciousness at the University of Arizona’s Center for Consciousness Studies. (His presentation included an analysis of the work of Dr. Stuart Hameroff and British cosmologist/philosopher Roger Penrose, and their quantum theory of consciousness.) According to Kerwin, there really is a simple scientific answer for why The Hobbit’s 48 fps presentation plays so poorly with some viewers — and it's not something we'll get used to over time.

James Kerwin: “Studies seem to show that most humans see about 66 frames per second — that’s how we see reality through our eyes, and our brains. So you would think that 48 frames per second is sufficiently below that — that it would look very different from reality. But what people aren’t taking into account is the fact that although we see 66 frames per second, neuroscientists and consciousness researchers are starting to realize that we’re only consciously aware of 40 moments per second.”

“Dr. Hameroff’s theory has to do with the synchrony of the gamma waves in the brain — it’s called gamma synchrony — the brain wave cycle of 40 hertz. There’s a very strong theory that that is why we perceive 40 moments per second, but regardless of the reason, most researchers agree we perceive 40 conscious moments per second. In other words: our eyes see more than that but we’re only aware of 40. So if a frame rate hits or exceeds 40 fps, it looks to us like reality. Whereas if it’s significantly below that, like 24 fps or even 30 fps, there’s a separation, there’s a difference — and we know immediately that what we’re watching is not real.”

“You’ve got guys like Cameron and Jackson saying, let’s make it more real because the more realistic, the better; the higher the definition, the more 3-D, the more this, the more that. They’re not taking into account what’s called The Uncanny Valley in psychology. The Uncanny Valley says that, statistically, if you map out a consumer’s reaction to something they’re seeing, if they’re seeing something artificial and it starts to approach something looking real, they begin to inherently psychologically reject it."

"Not every person perceives the Uncanny Valley, however. There are some people that just do not reject things that look too real, although the vast majority of people do experience that phenomenon. So you’re going to get some individuals who see it and go, This looks great! The problem is anecdotes are not evidence. You have to look at the public as a whole, and I think that’s what Jackson and Cameron are not doing."

“There are all sorts of conventions in film that are not found in reality. People talk to each other in ways that they don’t in reality. Things are lit in ways that they’re not lit in reality. The make-up, the hair, the props, everything is fake. If you stand on a film set and you watch the actors performing, you don’t for a second think that it’s real. There are acting conventions that we have chosen to accept."

“One thing a lot of people are saying about The Hobbit in 48 is that the acting is bad — well, the acting’s not bad, they’re simply acting with cinematic conventions but it’s such a high frame rate that the motion looks too real and you can see through the artifice of the acting.”

“It’s psychological: we need suspension of disbelief, and suspension of disbelief comes from the lower frame rate. The lower frame rate allows our brains to say, Okay — I’m not perceiving 40 conscious moments per second anymore; I’m only perceiving 24, or 30, and therefore this is not real and I can accept the artificial conventions of the acting and the lighting and the props. It’s an inherent part of the way our brain perceives things. Twenty-four or 30 frames per second is an inherent part of the cinematic experience. It’s the way we accept cinema. It’s the way we suspend our disbelief.”

“Those high frame rates are great for reality television, and we accept them because we know these things are real. We’re always going to associate high frame rates with something that’s not acted, and our brains are always going to associate low frame rates with something that is not. It’s not a learned behavior; [Some say] you watch it long enough and you won’t associate it with cheap soap operas anymore. That’s nonsense. The science does not say that. It’s not learned behavior. It’s an inherent part of the way our brains see things.”

Nausea at 48 Frames per Second
David A. Schwartz

I recently procured myself the original unaltered Star Wars trilogy. I hadn't seen the original films for quite some time, and was anxious to see how they held up to the later "improved" editions. I was not at all surprised to find that even in their unpolished form, they portrayed the story much more effectively. Yes, my personal nostalgia may be heavily informing my opinion here, but objectively speaking, "Yub Nub" is still a better end song for Return Of the Jedi than that stupid shopping mall food court pan flute nonsense Lucas added to the special edition.

Why does the unaltered trilogy do a better job at conveying the story? The answer is simple: less information on screen equals less distraction. Many directors these days seem to be under the impression that more information on the screen equals better storytelling, or in Lucas' (and to a lesser extend, Spielberg's) case, that adding information to an already established story will make it better. To me, adding new information to an older film is kind of like trying to take a cake that has already been baked, and bake more cake onto it. Sure, there may be more cake, but the original will be ruined. As far as filming a movie with as much information as possible is concerned, it's easy to see why filmmakers fool themselves into thinking that doing so will serve to advance their storytelling. The word "immersive" gets thrown around a lot in conversations aimed at justifying the use of certain technologies in film. The 3D revival of the past few years is a perfect example of this. In theory, 3D should make a film more immersive, but in reality, the addition of another dimension is just a distraction- - a tool to mask a deficit of story and/or script writing. Don't believe me? Well ask yourself this: what movie is more likely to stand the test of time, Avatar, or Dances With Wolves? Both movies are pretty much the same in terms of story and themes, but if you take away the "ooh and ah" factors from Avatar, it's clear that Dances With Wolves is the superior film. Even though from a purely technical standpoint, Avatar should be more immersive, Dances With Wolves ends up being more immersive both visually and emotionally without even a hint of digital wizardry.

Naturally, digital effects are not always the harbinger of bad filmmaking. Terminator 2, Forrest Gump, Jurassic Park (some of you may be surprised to know that only about 10 minutes of actual screen time was dedicated to purely digital dinosaurs), Minority Report, Gladiator, District 9 and The Lord of the Rings series are all examples of films that blend digital effects tastefully and seamlessly with real characters and settings to further their respective stories. Terminator 2, for instance, is not about how cool morphing is. It's about human nature, seeing the humanity in things that are not even human, the perils of unchecked technological progress, and being in control of our own fates (themes which Terminator 3 effectively wrecked, by the way). District 9 really isn't about aliens, mech suits, and body-exploding lightning guns. It's about racial prejudice and overcoming that prejudice by experiencing the world (in this case, literally) through the eyes of others. The Lord of the Rings is not about cave trolls, nazguls, or herds of oliphonts. It's about the corruptive nature of absolute power, friendship, and fighting on the side of good no matter the odds. In the end, a special effect is not a theme or a plot point (I'm looking in your direction, Michael Bay).

Speaking of The Lord of the Rings, I had a chance to see the 3D 48 fps version of The Hobbit the other day. The film itself exceeded my expectations (which was not difficult as they were low to begin with), but it was certainly no thanks to the new "revolutionary" format. I guess the best way to describe the experience is to imagine watching an HD episode of the documentary Planet Earth while playing Skyrim at the same time. The effect was bizarre, to say the least, and I was constantly aware of the fact that I was watching a movie, and a fake-looking one at that. I was filled with an unshakable nausea during the entire film- - not a gut-wrenching nausea, but one that sat just below the threshold of palpable discomfort. Peter Jackson's Rube Goldberg-esque directorial technique of sequencing one improbable event after another on a grand scale (e.g. the goblin fight scene) obviously didn't help to alleviate this sensation. If this is going to be the future of filmmaking, I suspect theaters are going to have to start providing airplane-style puke bags along with the 3D glasses.

A good filmmaker always desires to push boundaries, but it's takes a great filmmaker to know which boundaries to push, and in what direction. Film is a visual and aural medium, so it's only natural for filmmakers to strive to create a grand spectacle for the eyes and ears, but it takes a grand spectacle of emotion and story to create a true sense of wonder. That's where the magic of film lies.

The Hobbit Is Insanely Gorgeous at 48 Frames per Second
By Hugh Hart

Anybody who saw Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King knows director Peter Jackson likes a long ending. He also digs long beginnings. It’s a good 15 minutes before the opening line of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit kicks in, but by the time we get to “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” one thing is already crystal clear: The movie looks like nothing you’ve seen before.

In the 48-frames-per-second version of Hobbit, Middle-earth in 3D looks so crisp it’s like stepping into the foreground of an insanely gorgeous diorama. The film will also be released at the standard 24 fps, but Jackson sees the high-speed format as the “premium version” of his vision because it essentially doubles the amount of visual data projected onto the screen. At 48 fps, images appear more precise and 3D action becomes smoother, without the blur that can occur when the camera pans too quickly or objects move rapidly across the frame.

Not that the key actors require technological enhancement. Martin Freeman especially shines as timid, comfort-loving Bilbo Baggins. Known for his sidekick roles on TV series The Office and Sherlock Holmes, Freeman excels as the audience’s surrogate into the extravagant adventure. Initially cautious and domestic, Bilbo seems content in his hobbit hutch until a gang of riotous dwarves take over his house for a night of revelry. The way Freeman calibrates Bilbo’s progression from timid crank to big-hearted adventurer provides the film’s emotional heart and soul.

Ian McKellen excels as Gandalf in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
The film’s bedrock performance comes from Ian McKellan as the wizard Gandalf. Dressed in iconic beard, cloak and hat, the knighted British thespian exudes effortless authority, catalyses the plot — he’s the only one who sees the extraordinary hero residing inside ordinary Bilbo — and forges reassuring linkage to the Lord of the Rings mythos.

Does fast frame presentation enhance these performances? Not so much. In fact, for scenes driven by naturalistic acting, fast frame visuals pose an intriguing question: How real do we want our fantasies to be? The flicker, depth of field and imperfect “grain” that lends character to 35-millimeter film historically fostered a collective dreamlike state for audiences who gathered in the dark to lose themselves in images that were never intended to exactly replicate the “real” world. In delivering the kind of high-def detail by which every wrinkle gets full attention, fast frame takes getting used to. At times, scenes unfold as if part of an extravagantly well-lit, art-directed reality-based series or soap opera.

The sequence that best blends technical wizardry with human performance centers on a mesmerizing appearance by Gollum, reprised by Trilogy star Andy Serkis. The pivotal confrontation between Bilbo and Gollum showcases a new standard for motion capture technology. Here, Serkis’ Gollum exploits a deep reservoir of traditional acting tools, translated by digital artisans into a virtuoso succession of grimaces, whispers, hallucinations and agonized writhings when his beloved ring goes missing.

When these actors and the other Trilogy veterans — including Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman, Hugo Weaving as Elrond and, briefly, Elijah Wood as Frodo — go full throttle, the tech 3-D becomes secondary to the emotions of the scene. If you saw Unexpected Journey’s dialogue-centric scenes in conventional 2-D projected at 24 frames per second, you wouldn’t miss much.

But when it comes to the wilder reaches of Tolkien’s imagination, characters gain freaky, highly detailed verisimilitude by getting served up on the high-tech combination plate of fast frame and 3-D. The Pale Orc, amputee slayer of “dwarf filth”? Scarily convincing. The dim troll trio, carrying on like the Three Stooges around an open fire? Goofy and scary. Most spectacular is the Goblin King, whose blubbery double chin swings wags back and forth like wattle on steroids.

Pretty as a Postcard
Jackson first became enchanted with fast-frame cinema back in the ’80s when he watched a high-speed travel documentary shot by 2001: A Space Odyssey visual effects wizard Douglas Trumbull. It’s fitting that many of the most stunning shots in An Unexpected Journey read like a picture postcard sent from the world’s most idyllic collection of mountains, hills, pastures, forests and waterfalls. Thank you, New Zealand!

That backdrop of the Lord of the Rings trilogy lent the film much of its grandeur and in The Hobbit, Middle Earth becomes even more lustrous, often bathed in golden light by Oscar-winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie.

Of course, even the most picturesque money shots can’t redeem a bad script, but Jackson wisely relies on Tolkien’s masterful narrative to nourish the epic visuals. Although Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo Del Toro flip around some of the exposition, the film largely hews faithfully to the first chunk of Tolkien’s 1937 classic.

Hobbit Bilbo is recruited by wizard Gandalf to “share in a great adventure.” He joins a group of dwarves on a quest that leads to a succession of trolls, goblins and the vicious Pale Orc. Skeptical elves decode a treasure map. The journey’s destination? Lonely Mountain in the former dwarf kingdom of Erebor. There, fire-breathing dragon Smaug guards a trove of gold that once belonged to the dwarves.

SPOILER ALERT: An Unexpected journey concludes with a distant view of Lonely Mountain before cutting to the sight of a giant blinking eye emerging from a mound of gold. Whether or not fast frame becomes a game-changer for other high-end filmmakers, An Unexpected Journey’s cliff-hanger guarantees at least two more movies that picture fantastical worlds in a whole new — and much crisper — light.

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