Hobbit previews without 48fps or 3D, released in every format?
You may remember that a little while ago that Peter Jackson took footage of The Hobbit to preview at CinemaCon and show off not only the film but also the 48 frames per second and 3D that the film would be released in. The audience were less than excited and while there was positivity there was a fair amount of lacklustre response.
So when it came to the preview of more Hobbit footage at Comic-Con Jackson has decided not to preview it in 48fps or in 3D. Furthermore it appears that audiences will have a great choice when it's released in cinemas.
When Peter Jackson took The Hobbit footage to CinemaCon he was keen to show how well the 48 frames per second (fps) combined with 3D looked, however it didn't go down that well with people complaining that it looked too sharp, too bright, too much like high definition video footage and had no cinematic feel to it.
In defence of the footage Jackson came back and said that the new frame rate did take a little getting used to, presumably something that needed more than the minutes of footage people saw and not the montage clips that were shown at CinemaCon. Here's something of what he said at the time:
"You get used to it reasonably quickly...We have obviously seen cuts of our movie at 48 and in a relatively short amount of time you have forgotten (the frame rate change). It is a more immersive and in 3D a gentler way to see the film."
More than that Jackson claimed that some of the post production work had not been completed on the film, and that's something that could have a mammoth effect on the final picture. If you look at behind the scenes footage on DVD extras compared to the final scenes of a film even in a straight no-CG production you'll be amazed at how different it looks.
I couldn't believe that they would allow a new technology to be showcased without the footage that they were showing being completed fully, especially something from Peter Jackson.
It's not just that I couldn't believe one of the top directors was concentrating on showing off a new technology without footage that was completed and was going to show off the best of the technology, it's also that I couldn't believe the studios had allowed this. Studios are desperate to get new ways of pulling the audience into cinemas, just look how they are forcing 3D on us, so why would they squander an opportunity to push 48fps on us by showing half hearted footage? Imagine if James Cameron had done that with Avatar?
Anyway it was done, and the official explanation is that post production work still needed to be completed on the footage. So with Comic-Con looming what was The Hobbit going to do?
Would they show anything? Was the footage finished this time? Would we see more to enable the audience to get used to the 48fps in 3D? Or would the decision be made to show it in 2D at 24fps?
It was the latter, and that to me is another head scratching decision.
According to Peter Jackson himself through the L.A. Times through The Hollywood Reporter the screening, which was due to be seen on Saturday, was hitting 2D and 24fps, that's the standard rate of cinema screenings.
The plus side for the 48fps is that it apparently makes 3D easier on the eyes and the whole visual experience much smoother and more lifelike, however it seems that the footage still isn't in a fit state for 48fps at Comic-Con. Jackson himself says:
"It's more about protecting the downside, rather than helping the film in any significant way. There is a huge audience waiting to see The Hobbit, and any positive press from Comic-Con will truthfully have little impact on that...
...as we saw at CinemaCon earlier this year, with our 48 frames per second presentation, negative bloggers are the ones the mainstream press runs with and quotes from. I decided to screen the Hobbit reel at Comic-Con in 2-D and 24 frames per second, so the focus stays firmly with the content and not the technical stuff. If people want 3-D and 48fps, that choice will be there for them in December."
Now I'm not going to focus too much on the two distinct messages in that comment:
"...positive press... ...negative bloggers are the ones the mainstream press runs with..."
So press are positive, bloggers are not, and at the screening it was all bloggers being negative and press were repeating them, not their own positive comments? Anyway, let's brush over the generalisation.
The key here is that the decision is to show it without 48fps and without 3D which does surprise me. Why didn't they get the footage finished from Comic-Con and maybe work on it being less of a montage based preview so that people could get used to the 48fps during it?
Frankly though I don't care so much about the preview, what I want to know is that if 48fps is going to be difficult to watch will we get the option to see it in the cinema in traditional 24fps? More than that, will it be released 3D only or do we get the opportunity to see it in 2D?
This is where the big surprise is for me in the story, apparently The Hobbit films will be released in 48fps and 28fps as well as 2D and 3D.
Now I'm not sure if that means there will be four different formats you could go and see them in - 24fps 2D, 48fps 2D, 24fps 3D and 48fps 3D - or if it means two options only, 24fps 2D and 48fps 3D.
I'm sure we'll hear more as the distributor decides on the costs, particularly outside of America, but I can't see them having four different versions, I suspect if you are interested in seeing the 48fps you'll have to watch it in 3D, and if you don't like 3D then you're stuck with 24fps.