This Friday, while everyone goes to the theater to watch the first nine minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in IMAX 3D HFR, many will likely wonder why the image looks so weird. That is thanks to the higher frame rate (48 FPS) Peter Jackson chose to shoot the Hobbit movies in, and apparently we owe that decision to the Star Wars ride, Star Tours, in Disneyland, California.
During the press conference for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Jackson revealed that going on Star Tours was a big reason why he thought shooting the film series in 48 FPS. He mentioned the sharpness of the photography in relation to the 3D. Jackson said:
The history of it, I had seen a couple of high frame rate movies. I’d seen a tourist film when I was young in New Zealand that was playing in a ski resort and I was pretty impressed by that. I remember going to Disneyland and seeing the Star Tours ride that George Lucas did, which is a high frame rate. You’re speeding in the Star Wars spaceship.
Jackson also says that shooting 3D movies at 48 FPS should be the new normal, and that the frame-rate upgrade was the key to the future of big-budget Hollywood filmmaking. He also says that the higher frame rate would cause less eyestrain among the film’s viewers.
I’m starting to see that anyone under the age of 20 or so doesn’t really care, and thinks it looks cool and doesn’t really understand it. They often just say just that the 3D looks cool. I think 3D at 24 frames is interesting, but its the 48 that actually allows the potential that it can achieve.
The idea of shooting the Hobbit films to make it look like an amusement park ride is interesting. I’ve watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 48 FPS 3D and it made me feel nauseous. The image did look sharper than a traditional 24 FPS movie, but it also gave the movie a soap opera look and feel. It looked too real, where you could see the seams of movie makeup and costuming.
After this weekend, we’ll see if general audiences respond positively to this new film technique, but it just seems like turning to an amusement park ride for the future of filmmaking is a bad idea. There are better ways to immerse an audience, like a solid screenplay with relatable characters and an engaging narrative. Unfortunately, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has none of those things.