As a huge fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, I was eager to see what he was going to do with The Hobbit, and was also particularly interested to see the film running in the HFR version. Rather than a review of the film itself, this is more a review of the HFR experience.
What is HFR?
This is where the movie runs at 48 frames per second, rather than the standard 24 that we’re used to.
Why shoot in HFR 3D?
Well, its a much closer frame rate to what the eye generally sees, so creates a much clearer image, and should help solve some of the issues with 3D – i.e. the massive light loss and blurriness.
So, is HFR 3D any good?
I’m not really a fan of 3D movies generally as I don’t really find it adds anything, but HFR 3D version does solve the 2 issues i mentioned above, as well as improving the layering problem – where it looks like the characters and scenery are stuck on flat layers like cardboard cut outs. However, it introduces a new issue, which is that the pictures looses that movie ‘gloss’ we’ve some to expect on cinema screens. I’ve heard some people describe it as more like watching a massive TV, but i’d opt more for saying it’s closer to watching a stage production. Everything is so clear, and SO ‘real’ it massively alter the viewing experience compared to what you’d expect from a traditional cinema experience.
The big question is, does that make HFR 3D a bad thing?..
Personally I’d say no. It makes it different. Where as people talked about Avatar being the big step forward in 3D, this is a colossal leap. HFR really is the change that the film companies have been trying sell us that 3D was going to be. It totally changes the viewing experience. I’ve heard a number of people say that it shows up faults in the sets and make up, but personally I didn’t find that at all. It just makes it look more ‘real’. However, there is an argument to be make for the fact that ‘more real’ isn’t what you want in a fantasy movie, so maybe The Hobbit wasn’t the best choice for premiering this technology. To the huge credit of WETA though, the CGI work is nothing short of phenomenal. The CGI characters look like they are actors. There is a scene between (minor spoiler if you don’t know anything about The Hobbit, but i’m mentioning it as I assume you do if you’re reading this!) Bilbo and Gollum, where you can really see Andy Serkis’s expressions mixed into the performance. It is a bit strange seeing a world which looks so realistic, but then has various weird and wonderful creatures created in such astounding detail. You know they can’t be real, but they don’t look out of place.
In the same way some people prefer the theatre over film, HFR will very much divide opinion. Is a film shot in HFR still a film, or is it something else? Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the traditional 24 FPS version – not in 3D – to see how that alters the viewing experience. Overall, it’s fair to say I don’t think Peter Jackson has totally got a handle on HFR yet, but I am excited to see how he refines and pushes the process forward over the next 2 movies.
If you’ve caught The Hobbit in the HFR version i’d be really interested to hear your opinions on it, so feel free to leave them in the comments.