Hyper-Real Hobbit Creates Controversy Dec12


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Hyper-Real Hobbit Creates Controversy

When director Peter Jackson first unveiled “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first installment of his massive Lord of the Rings trilogy, he revealed a Middle Earth that was fantastical, whimsical, alternately dark and foreboding and ethereal and enchanting.

Peter Jackson directs The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

It was a world of magic, danger, wonder and awe. A decade later, Jackson returns to Middle Earth with the first installment of his prequel trilogy, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” This time, instead of high fantasy, fans will encounter the hyper-reality of high frame rate 3D, and not everyone is happy about it.

According to the entertainment website, AceShowBiz.com, “Some reviewers say the ‘hyper-realistic’ 10-minute footage of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ looks like a ‘made-for-TV movie’, while the others say it is a ‘totally different experience.’”

“The levels of detail [in An Unexpected Journey] are similar to Lord of the Rings,” Jackson said. “The high definition cameras see more so, there is an apparent sense of more detail. We’ve always wanted to put in a lot of detail, even detail that doesn’t get seen by the cameras. To me, fantasy should be as real as possible. I don’t buy into the notion that because it is fantastical that it should be unrealistic. You have to have a sense of believing the world you are going into.”

Jackson’s love of immersive filmmaking, along with astounding strides in both 3D and high frame rate technologies, prompted him to embrace the format for the his new trilogy.

“I’m fascinated by reactions. I tend to see that anyone under the age of 20 doesn’t care. They think it looks cool,” he explained. “3D at 24 frames is interesting. But it is the 48 (frames per second) that allows 3D to achieve its potential. It has less eye strain and a sharper picture. I had seen a couple of high frame rate films and I was impressed by it. I directed a King Kong attraction for Universal Studios in California which was 60 frames-per-second 3D, and I thought it was really cool.”

 But the theatrical infrastructure locked into mechanical projectors at 24 frames per second since the 1920s, so making a high frame rate feature film was simple not feasible. Until now. The advent of digital cameras and projectors that can shoot and project at 24, 48 or 60 frames per second not only make feature film feasible, but the next likely step in cinematic evolution.

“We decided to take the plunge,” Jackson said. “Warner Bros. was very supportive. They just wanted assurance that the 24 frame rate version would still look absolutely normal, which it does. On the first day that we started shooting at 48 frames, I don’t think there was a single cinema in the world that could project the movie in that format. It was a little bit of a leap of faith.”

Still, Jackson said he is not trying to change the film industry. He’s just happy to have another tool in his arsenal as a filmmaker.

“It is different,” he admits, “and as human beings we always resist things that are different. We don’t like change. There is always suspicion. In the 1980s when CDs came out, there was a sound of vinyl that people loved and suddenly CDs were threatening the sound of vinyl. [High film rate] is just another choice. For me, it gives that sense of reality, of immersiveness that I love. It makes you feel like you are leaving the cinema seat and actually becoming a part of the adventure of the film.