Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Hobbit - The Verdict on HFR

       So, now that I’ve seen The Hobbit (in HFR 3D as promised here) I will let you know what I thought about it. I am going to split this into two parts: firstly, in regards to the 48fps technology and then secondly, a review on the film itself.

       So let’s get this out of the way – was it worth hunting out an HFR screening of the film? Yes. Was it a perfect experience? Not quite. Do I see potential for this format for films in the future of cinema? Absolutely.

       The single biggest problem with seeing a film in 48fps is simply this: We are not used to it. Both on a physiological and psychological level. Sciencey time: The eye perceives anything above 40 frames per second to be akin to reality – as opposed to the 24fps that films are usually shown, with which we have no problem in readily detaching from reality and accepting as not real – which is what we know and expect when going to watch a film.
       Now a lot of this works subconsciously. In the first few moments of The Hobbit, things appeared to move strangely, almost stilted – as if the characters moved ever so slightly in fast-forward. Now this wasn't actually the case – it was just because what we saw went against both our conscious and unconscious expectations of what a film should look like. Once you get further in to the film you get used to it and it is no longer is an issue, but the first few scenes were a little jarring – even for me who was fully expecting it.

       Another thing that HFR adds to the viewing experience is detail. And the detail here is truly incredible. It actually makes you appreciate more the effort that goes in to crafting a world like this in terms of its production values – from costume, make-up, set design and CG effects – you can see the minute detail in everything. It’s constantly jaw-dropping when the camera sweeps over an incredible vista or is in the midst of an epic battle scene – you can see absolutely EVERYTHING.
       This also serves to enhance the 3D (note: all HFR screenings were also presented in 3D). Previous 3D films have been criticised by some for being muddy and blurred and yet this higher frame rate allows everything to stay crisp at all times. I’m being honest in saying that watching the film in HFR and 3D is to see some of the most visually breathtaking and beautifully images presented on film in recent memory, if not ever.

       However… once again, some people may find it hard to reconcile. After all, it is totally understandable to say that the film sometimes looks like a TV show (like how soaps are filmed – not like high-budget-and-shot-on-film TV shows), which, coupled with it being a fantasy film, will undoubtedly pull many viewers out of the experience. Again, stick it out past the first few scenes and you will get used to it.
       It's the same problem with the CG. In a regular 24fps film there is more leeway – yet in an HFR presentation ALL the CG effects come under harsh scrutiny. Being a lot more CG heavy than the Lord of the Rings films, once again, certain parts of the film may pull you out of the experience simply because the format presents it in a more realistic way and yet, due to the increased frame rate, your brain has a more difficult time in readily allowing for your suspension of disbelief. This is particularly the case when a CG character is standing face to face with an actor. Its not that the CG in this film is bad – it just means that it’s easier to see the difference sometimes. Fortunately, this is not always the case throughout the film. For every cartooney Goblin King there is a menacingly realistic Azog.

       So, in conclusion – am I glad I went to watch The Hobbit in HFR? Yes I am. Should you? It depends.
       If you are a die-hard fan of the ‘Rings films and are wanting to replicate a similar as possible experience to watching those for the first time, or you don't like watching films in 3D and enjoy a more traditional movie-watching experience in general – then you are probably better off in seeking out a regular 2D showing of the film.
       However, if you are open to new movie experiences and are willing to give it a chance – check out HFR 3D and prepare to be blown away at the level of detail.

       As for the future, I think this format can be effectively used in other films, perhaps to greater effect in those that utilise less obvious CG and are set in a more contemporary setting. As I mentioned earlier, action scenes are incredible in this format and the thought of seeing a film like The Matrix, Nolan’s Batman films, Avatar or TRON is a mouth-watering prospect. (Yeah, I know these are CG heavy films but they are just example of the types of films that should look into embracing HFR.)
       Who knows what the future will hold? It seems people are happy now with having the choice between 2D and 3D when watching a film at the cinema – so there’s no real harm in adding HFR as another option. Plus I think it just needs to be given a little time for people to become more used to it as a movie format and become accepting of it alternative experience.

       Oh, and finally… all this nonsense about motion sickness is totally unwarranted. ‘Handy-cam’ films such as Cloverfield are far more likely to induce this and watching The Hobbit in HFR 3D is no more likely to make you feel ill than any other 3D film.

       To read my regular film review of The Hobbit, click HERE.

19 Dec 2012

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