Saturday, 22 December 2012

Forty Eight Frames: A Hobbit's Tale

So, The Hobbit came out recently, and so far I’ve seen it twice. 
It was fun, probably not worth shelling out for two tickets but there was information I needed.  NEEEEEEEDED. Namely, how different does a movie look at 48 frames per second.  Also I needed confirmation on how badass Thorin Oakenshield was.  Turns out its very.  Very badass.  Confirmed after two viewings.  It’s fact now.  Look it up.

48 fps is a mixed bag, if I had to put it in a single idiom. It has some delicious treats to be found in it, but at the same time there’s an angry weasel in there.  And you really want to like the bag, because, you know, delicious treats.  But weasel.
Always, that damn weasel. 
I watched An Unexpected Journey in (ugh) 3D at 24fps first, and honestly thought that I was seeing the 48fps version instead.  Everything looked great, and there was no ‘flickering’ that I’ve come to associate with 3d movies.  Alas I was mistaken, as when I went to see it a second time in (ugh) IMAX 3D, the increase in speed was not only noticeable, but actually confusing at times. 
An unusual thing happened with the uptick.  People were actually moving around faster.  Bilbo’s thoughtful meander through Bag End at the opening of the film became a bizarre geriatric time trial, as he stutterstep shuffled from place to place.  My first thought was that the film was out of sync, and the audio would soon be far behind... but it wasn’t.  People’s faces and dialogue were perfectly normal.  Better than normal, I suppose.  But any action they took outside of speaking was almost comical. 
The whole thing has a kind of turn-of-the-century silent movie slapstick look to it. 
I’d like to say you get used to it, but you really don’t.  You just spend the rest of the movie expecting someone to throw a pie and Yakkety Sax to come over the speakers.
Now, it wasn’t all bad.  Like I said, delicious treats. 
The fight scenes are incredibly easier to follow and take in at this speed. Everything is much more defined.  48fps and 1080p is going to make for a very crisp movie on blue ray.  I look forward to its release with fervor.
The other great thing is Gandalf.  Sir Ian McKellan, who has worked for the BBC on many things filmed at 48 has apparently built up an immunity to the slapstick effect.  Seriously.  Hobbits and Dwarves are skittering around him at 90 miles an hour and he’s perfectly normal.  Now, granted, the role of Gandalf in the Hobbit is a bit more serene, a bit more slow than many others, but still.  It’s eerie.  And awesome. 
Wizards, am I right?
Anyway, my final thought is this. It doesn’t really matter.  Your experience will not be ruined by more frames.  It’s not perfect, but nothing is.  The technology needs time to settle, and people need to get more comfortable working with it as well as watching it.  Maybe just withhold some coffee from the actors.  I don’t know. 
But why are you listening to me? Go see for yourself.  It’s a fun movie, you won’t be disappointed.
Unless you are and then I am sorry.

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