Director Peter Jackson has defended shooting The Hobbit trilogy in a new format at 48 frames per second after a mixed response from film critics.
Since 1927, the standard frame rate – the number of frames or images that are projected per second – has been 24 frames per second.
“24 frames is jarring to me now,” said Peter Jackson.
“It looks primitive. Change is good, it takes people some time to get used to it,” he added.
“Ultimately, it’s not critics who are going to decide if this (the new format) is going to be adopted or not, it’s the audience.”
“(There will always be) people who have a particular strong feeling that film should be unchanged and that we got it right in 1927, just like there are people who play vinyl records still, whereas most of the world has moved to CDs and we got used to that.”
However, viewers will only be able to watch the film being projected at the increased frame rate in a small proportion of cinemas. Most will be showing the film at the traditional rate of 24 frames per second.
The Independent said 48 frames per second was “kitsch and alienating”, while the Telegraph said it gives the film “a sickly sheen of fakeness”.
But others, including Wired magazine loved it, saying: “Middle-earth in 3D looks so crisp it’s like stepping into the foreground of an insanely gorgeous diorama.”
Director Peter Jackson has defended shooting The Hobbit trilogy in a new format at 48 frames per second after a mixed response from film critics
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first in Peter Jackson’s series of three films adapting JRR Tolkien’s classic book, opens in cinemas in the UK on Thursday and in the US on Friday.
Andy Serkis, who reprises the role of Gollum from the Lord of the Rings film, concurred with Jackson on the 48 frames per second.
“It’s so immersive, I find it really magical and really engaging,” he said. “It has a level of reality that it is unsurpassed… some people will find it challenging but… it’s a matter of time and there won’t be a discussion any more.”
Despite being happy with the end result, Peter Jackson said he did not expect The Hobbit to win any Oscars next year.
“I think they gave us our Oscars for Return of the King (the final instalment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy).
“I don’t think there’ll be any Oscars this time round which is fine, it actually takes the pressure off.
“It helped with Lord of the Rings that there was a weight and a gravitas to the whole story which The Hobbit doesn’t have… but some of the technical categories are superb so hopefully we’ll feature in those.”
Meanwhile, a parody of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was stopped from going on sale when a US District Court in California granted a temporary restraining order on Monday.
Global Asylum, a film company that makes parodies of blockbuster films such as Transmorphers, based on Transformers, was set to release Age of the Hobbits on Tuesday on DVD.
The studios making The Hobbit – Warner Bros and New Line MGM, along with producer Saul Zaentz – had asked the court to prevent the release.
The court for the central district of California granted their request, as Judge Phillip S. Gutierrez said that they had satisfied the legal standard for a temporary restraining order.
The applicant has to demonstrate that there is a valid copyright infringement claim, that there would be danger to the plaintiff if the order is not granted, that the plaintiff would suffer more and that the order would advance the public interest.
Global Asylum had argued that its film was not trying to deceive viewers or use the debut of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to boost its own profits.
Warner Bros. presented 10 minutes of 3D footage from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at 48 frames per second at the CinemaCon 2012 convention in Las Vegas.
Director Peter Jackson said in a videotaped message that he hopes his movie can be played in 48fps in “as many cinemas as possible” when it opens December 14.
The Hobbit, the first major motion picture to be made at the higher frame rate, closed the Warner Bros. slate presentation Tuesday at CinemaCon.
The new film has been shot at a rate of 48 frames per second, compared with the industry standard of 24 frames.
Frame rate refers to the number of images displayed by a projector within one second. The cinema standard has been 24 fps for many decades. Jackson explained that in the early days of film, silent pictures were shown at an even lower frame rate – reducing the amount of film used – but it was bumped to 24 to support the requirements of sound.
However some attendees claimed the scenes looked like low-budget TV.
Warner Bros. presented 10 minutes of 3D footage from The Hobbit. An Unexpected Journey at 48 fps at the CinemaCon 2012
In a video introduction, Peter Jackson told the audience that using 48 frames per second produced a smoother image.
“The movement feels more real – it’s much more gentle on the eyes,” he said.
Peter Jackson said the new approach would take time to adjust to and some attendees agreed, branding the footage as a failure in digital technology.
The clips ranged from action sequences to quieter moments, including a dialogue sequence between Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gollum (Andy Serkis). The CinemaCon audience also saw the return of castmembers from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, including Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) and Orlando Bloom (Legolas).
The Los Angeles Times said the footage was “hyper-realistic”: “An opening aerial shot of dramatic rocky mountains appeared clearer than the images in most nature documentaries.
“But the effect was different when applied to scenes with actors dressed in period costume, whose every move – and pore – was crystal clear,” it added.
One projectionist told the newspaper it “looked like a made-for-TV movie”.
“It was too accurate – too clear. The contrast ratio isn’t there yet – everything looked either too bright or black,” they said.
However the Associated Press reported the footage was “vivid, with grass blades, facial lines and soaring mountains appearing luminous and pronounced. The actors looked almost touchable, as if they were performing live on stage”.
Other digital pioneers are making the same push for higher film speeds.
Avatar creator James Cameron has promised to shoot the sequel to his science-fiction blockbuster at 48 or 60 frames per second.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first chapter in Jackson’s two-part adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s fantasy classic.
The two films were shot back-to-back in 3D, with the second part, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, due in cinemas in December 2013.
On Tuesday, Sony announced that a software update for its digital cinema projection systems would support 48fps and be available in the fall. Sony expects the majority of its 13,000 installed 4K digital cinema projectors to support high frame rates by the time The Hobbit is released.
The Hobbit will also be available in 24 fps.
Peter Jackson’s Rings trilogy resulted in an estimated $2.9 billion at the global box office and a combined 17 Academy Awards.