So I went to see the new Peter Jackson movie last night with my wife, the only version (there are several) available at that time was the “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey HFR 3D”. Note the HFR 3D. Now my son and I had already see this movie last week, but it was the 2D version and we enjoyed it immensely. Well, apparently my wife is one of those who cannot tolerate 3D, but she stuck it out for about half the movie, even though she was feeling nauseous. But in that time I was able to evaluate this new cinema display format. (I just want to state here and now that I offered to leave as soon as I knew she was not well)
This new format is called HFR 3D, that stands for – High Frame Rate 3D. Normal films, like all the other ones you have ever seen are shot and projected at 24 frames per second, but this one was shot and shown at 48 frames per second. As I have read Peter Jackson’s intent was to make the 3D experience even better, more like you are right there with the actors. Well my reaction as an old time television engineer was that I felt like I was watching television, it did not look like a film at all. I had the impression I was watching an in-house production from PBS. It looked all wrong, too sharp, too clear, in other words, too fake.
I was reminded of back in the analog days of television, watching soap operas. Some look quite different than others, at first I could not understand what was different but I figured out that some were shot on film and others on video tape. That was the difference I could see back then and it was the difference I could see last night. If I want to watch TV I will go home and not spend the $30 for two tickets.
It really was striking, the difference I could see between the 2D I saw at 24 frames and the 48 frames per second HFR version. It was very distracting. I am sure with repeated viewings I could get used to it but, why? It’s a curious question as many times I have sat in theaters trying to make out details in the background as the camera paned. I could not because the slower frame rate produced a blur as the shutter was open for a long time compared to the speed of the camera’s motion. But that blur also kept me focused on the main story I think. Its one thing to get lost in the details of a still image when you have time to sit and look at it, it’s quite another when the image keeps changing and theres dialogue to listen to and a story to follow.
The bottom line is that I did not enjoy the HFR effect at all, and although I did not react quite the same way my wife did I don’t see myself going to any HFR movies in the near future. Nor do I see us getting a 3D television set either.