Seeing the Hobbit in 48 Frames

| January 7, 2013 | 3 Comments

In his new film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson, the director of The Lord of The Rings and King Kong, has chosen to usher in an entirely new and controversial type of technology, the forty-eight FPS (Frames-Per-Second) camera. The standard in Hollywood today is the twenty-four frames per second model, which refers to how fast each individual frame or image captured by the camera flashes through the projector at each given second. So it’s understandable that a camera capable of capturing twice the number of frames in same amount of time is a big deal! (At least it’s understandable for film nerds like me.)

And doesn’t it just sound better?  Forty-eight frames-per-second. Innovative. It just seems to roll off the tongue, and in a world where people frantically upgrade their latest gadget to something sharper, faster and thinner, it certainly fits right in. Why not upgrade digital production? Why settle for twenty-four FPS when it’s possible to have forty-eight!

Peter Jackson using the Red Camera, or 48 FPS model.

Why settle? Because this new camera that captures “realistic” images and is supposed to make people feel as if they are there, right alongside their favorite characters, strips away the magic of cinema.  It takes something utterly fantastical like The Hobbit and makes it into something that looks akin to a reality television show or soap opera. It looks so real that it’s distracting. All of the magic, the dark shadows, the texture, the illusion and the fantasy has been stripped away in favor of realism. As the Village Voice puts it,

“Instead of feeling like we’ve been transported to Middle-earth, it’s as if we’ve dropped in on Jackson’s New Zealand set, trapped in an endless “making of” documentary, waiting for the real movie to start.”

This new camera captures everything. Every error. Every mistake. Everything. Any flaw in the CGI, any over abundance of makeup- anything. It’s new, it’s innovative and it’s bold, but I would have to argue that Peter Jackson’s choice to use this new type of camera in The Hobbit was a mistake. It’s a camera designed to capture the present, to capture a movie about a bank robbery or about living on the streets, not a camera meant to capture a fantasy world. Maybe in twenty years the CGI, costuming and set design that goes into something like The Hobbit will have caught up with this state-of-the-art camera capable of capturing every detail. But for now, although it’s worthwhile to see The Hobbit in 3-D with the forty-eight FPS model simply to see the new technology, if you are looking to be transported back into Middle Earth and continue the saga of The Lord of The Rings, I would recommend seeing it in 2D. Let your imagination give it that extra dimension, not the camera.

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Category: Art and Literature, featured

Emily Sheehan

About the Author ()

Emily Sheehan is from the rainy city of Seattle, Washington. She loves lattes and latte foam, the quiet of snowfall, fantasy novels, black cats, and The Lord of the Rings movies. She aspires to become an executive producer or director and make movies that tell fantastic stories. If she can make at least one person laugh once a day for the rest of her life she'll be satisfied.

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  1. Ebakes says:

    Conrad will sooooooo not agree with you.

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