So The Hobbit has just been released and I have plans to go and see it on Sunday. However there is one question that has been floating around. No, not whether or not I should watch it in 3D or not (I, unlike some people have zero problem in watching films in 3D and actually quite enjoy the experience); but rather whether or not I should watch it in HFR.
HFR (High Frame Rate) is a new viewing experience that displays the film at 48fps (double that of the a standard film’s 24fps). If you have no idea what that means, just look at it this way: most television is shot in a higher frame rate – so its kind of going to look like that.
What? But TV programs look all cheap and shitty, you might say. I don't want to see Middle Earth look like an episode of Eastenders or Red Dwarf! Well that's true, but you have to remember that TV programs don't have a $150 million dollar budget - so this film definitely won’t look cheap.
I think the issue here is about whether or not it takes you out of the experience. Some people are so used to seeing films a certain way that they may not be able to ‘get into it’ as they are constantly distracted by its shiny new presentation.
There have one or two reports that some viewers have been experiencing disorientation or even nausea whilst watching The Hobbit in HFR, but these reports have remained anonymous and unverified and besides, a bunch of people complained about 3D movies when they first came out – and that still remains an attractive enough proposition for filmmakers to keep churning them out.
Anyway, I have already decided that I want to just take the plunge and go and watch the HFR version – if only to see how much it really does impact upon the cinematic experience. I haven’t seen any footage of The Hobbit yet (HFR or otherwise) as I hate watching trailers, so I have no idea what the film will look like anyway, save for my distant memories of Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings - and they came out a decade ago. So this really will be an interesting experience for me.
My only genuine concern about HFR is that some of the special effects and CG may look a bit jarring or out of place in the new format – bearing in mind that most CG in filmmaking has been developed alongside (and therefore catering to) the standard frame rate. Most CG used in TV is no way near the quality we have come to see in films (although again, this could just be a budget issue). There is also the issue that the HFR version of The Hobbit is only available in 3D as well – which adds a further element to the viewing experience that could work for or even against it.
So I’m genuinely excited to experience what is a landmark moment in cinema history. I guess only time will tell to see if this gets adapted as a regular alternative format for films on show in the cinema or whether people will shun it in droves and cause Peter Jackson to shelve it for the further two parts of The Hobbit, scheduled for release in 2013 and 2014.
Will it be a horrible jarring nauseating mess? Or a deeply immersive and perhaps even magical experience unlike anything we have seen before?
I’ll let you know in a few days time!
HFR Screenings of The Hobbit can only be seen at selected cinemas throughout the UK. To find out which, Google is your friend! Just search:
‘The Hobbit HFR 3D UK’.
14 Dec 2012