The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

The Hobbit in HFR (High Frame Rate) 3D

Posted by Deliverator on December 16th, 2012

I caught a 2D screening at one of the least modern mainstream theaters in the Seattle area, Factoria Cinemas a couple days back and then saw it again in HFR 3D today at Cinerama.

To me, the effect of HFR was similar to the transition to high def, in that the HFR seems to increase the apparent detail. There were some scenes, such as Bilbo walking through Bag End lit only by a single candle, the light glinting off the sword Sting when he pulls it from the scabbard, the moonlight shining through the waterfall in Rivendell, the eagles back-lit by the sun, etc. that really popped out at me in HFR that made no impression on me the first time around. At the same time, there were a large number of times where I found the HFR distracting/detracting and I am not sure I liked the effect overall. It is hard to put my finger on it, but here is what I came up with:

With lower frame rates, sudden movements simply blur. With HFR, the sudden movements instead tear/judder.

It is almost as if reality stuttered for a moment. It reminds me a bit like when you are playing a video game and you turn a corner onto a scene with significantly more complex geometry/detail and your graphics card can’t keep up and the framerate drops from 60 to 10ish fps. The illusion of continuous motion is broken. To me, psychologically, this is somewhat similar to the so-called uncanny valley effect when animation tries for realism and doesn’t quite get there.

I wonder if I would have a better response to HFR if the frame rate were significantly higher, such as 96 fps. It wasn’t the smoothness that bothered me, but the smoothness occasionally being broken by jerkiness. It breaks the illusion that you are in the reality of the movie and suddenly you are just sitting in your seat for a moment. I am not sure if all this is an artifact of the filming or production process, or a problem with the digital projection systems not having quite the pixel refresh rate yet. I would be curious to see a HFR digital download version of this movie on a fast refresh rate monitor that is able to sync precisely to the frame changes, but I suspect we will only see a downsampled standard framerate version as Blu-ray isn’t able to handle it. Still, one can hope.