High Frame Rate 3D Guide & Review
Much like James Cameron’s Avatar introduced a new generation of 3D technology Peter Jackson has chosen to make The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey the first major cinematic release in so called High Frame Rate 3D (or HFR 3D for short). What does it all mean and how does it actually looks… read on below to find out:
What is Frame Rate and why does It matter?
In simple terms the difference between so called High Frame Rate films and the normal format you’re used to seeing in cinemas is an increased number of images being shown each second. The standard format for films has long been around 24 frames per second. This number of images allows the human eye and brain to put things together in a flowing sequence so that you don’t notice the tiny gaps between each image. Creating the aptly named ‘moving picture effect’.
If there were less images being shown each second then it would look like the image was flickering. You may have noticed this effect if you’ve ever seen clips of old silent movies form the early days of movie making.
What is High Frame Rate?
As implied by the name HFR simply means the film has a higher number of images being shown each second than the usual 24. In the case of The Hobbit and the new format people are talking about HFR means that each second of film is actually made up of 48 unique images rather than the usual 24.
What does HFR actually do?
In simple terms it means there are shorter gaps between each image you see and that you are effectively getting twice the visual information you’re used to seeing. Otherwise it works exactly the same way as watching any normal film.
What is the Soap Opera Effect?
Higher Frame Rates are often described or compared to the ‘Soap Opera Effect’. The reason for the term is that TV shows, particularly money conscious daily soaps that film a lot of episodes, have used higher frame rates because they shoot on the cheaper format of 60i video rather than using actual film.
Sometimes HDTVs also uses a technique called ‘Motion Interpolation’ that increases normal frame rates by adding extra animated frames between the existing images to try and make the animated effect more fluid and reduce blurring.
What are the advantages of HFR?
The reason Peter Jackson and other people want to use Higher Frame Rates is largely because, it is supposed to give a clearer image and reduces problems with blurring or camera shake, particularly when used in combination with new 3D technology.
As there are twice as many frames being recorded each second the time between each image being captured is half as long. So you don’t notice minor changes in focus as much and the image consistently appears crisper and more defined.
What are the problems with HFR?
The reason many people are against using HFR 3D is that it does look very different from what people are used to seeing and has in some opinions a less ‘cinematic’ feel.
If you’re wondering what exactly that means and how it actually ‘looks different’ simply put the increased definition can be distracting especially when you see it at first. The effect is less noticeable in close up or stationary shots, but when people and things start moving it’s a little weird to see everything stay in perfect focus. You miss all the usual motion blurs and things almost seem to be happening a little too fast.
At first it can almost feel like you’re watching things with a fast forward button on. Part of the reason for this is that obviously you’re just not used to processing so much visual information on screen and it takes time to adjust.
So that’s a quick guide to the New Format and what it all means, but now for the big questions…
Is HFR 3D Good or Bad?
The new format will divide opinions. Some people will love it, others will clearly not. A simple guide would be your existing attitudes to 3D movies.
Avatar introduced a new generation of 3D technology that creates a greater depth of field to the image. It is intended to give you a greater feeling of perspective i.e. far away things look far away and closer things feel tangibly closer. Some people love it and find it more a ‘immersive experience’, while others find wearing 3D glasses and the occasional blurring effect caused by bad 3D makes them feel less connected to what’s on the screen.
If you like 3D films you will probably find that you enjoy the Higher Frame Rate look, because it enhances that existing 3D effect and gives a much sharper depth of field. It makes people and objects really pop off the screen and stand out sharply even during hectic action sequences.
However if you aren’t a fan of that kind of effect, HFR 3D is only going to make it worse. It won’t give you a headache or make you dizzy. It just won’t have the soft focus charm of traditional celluloid that you’re used to and may prefer.
So should I watch The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey in HFR 3D or not?
The short answer is that The Hobbit is your first chance to experience a new format which may or may not become the industry standard. Much like Avatar started a new wave of 3D blockbusters, already James Cameron is reported to be making his Avatar sequels using the Higher Frame rate and Bryan Singer may be using it for his new X-Men film.
Whether you ultimately like it or not, it IS worth seeing The Hobbit in the new format so that you can actually makeup your own mind about it. The particular advantage of watching a film like this in HFR 3D is that it is nearly 3 hours long so it give you lots of time to grow accustomed to the new style. It’s also a wonderful film so that even if you’re not entirely convinced by the HFR you’ll still be able to enjoy the film a lot.
Of course if you really don’t enjoy the format just make sure you watch The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey again at a standard 2D or 3D screening.