Inside the Tech Of The Hobbit: Frame Rates and 'Softening' Desolation
Considering the first film's controversy's, something had to give
As you’ll know, if The Hobbit trilogy means anything to you, an Unexpected Journey caused controversy with its high framerate, unsettling viewers and, in come cases, making them feel physically sick. And while a tangible reaction is something all auteurs strive for, Peter Jackson will have been looking for goose bumps rather than sick-bags.
Martin Freeman in The Desolation of Smaug
An Unexpected Journey was one of the first major cinema releases to be screened at 48 frames per second, which caused many to complain about the super high frame rate. Usually, on a smaller screen, people strive for 60 frames per second – videogamers especially – but on the large cinema screens, it didn’t sit pretty.
So, learning from the mistakes of the first film, Jackson set about making changes for The Desolation of Smaug, which recieves its worldwide release tonight. "Forty-eight frames per second is a way, way better way to look at 3D," Jackson told Variety. "It's so much more comfortable on the eyes." He said the screen blur, or strobing effect of lower rate film "certainly is one of the contributing factors to eyestrain and people having an uncomfortable experience in 3D".
For Jackson, the crux of the complaints was just how sharp the image was – something cinemagoers hadn’t experienced before. But considering he’s essentially got something to sell, change wasn’t something the director was scared to adopt. "So what I did is work that in reverse," he said.
"When I did the colour timing this year, the colour grading, I spent a lot of time experimenting with ways we could soften the image and make it look a bit more filmic. Not more like 35mm film necessarily, but just to take the HD quality away from it, which I think I did reasonably successfully. The film speed and the look of the picture are [now] almost, kind of, two different things."
With this slight softening, Desolation takes on a more classic look, while retaining the clarity and crystal clear qualities that come with an HD picture. It’s not solely been responsible for the 9% hike in positive reviews since Unexpected Journey, but it’s certainly a sign the trilogy is moving in the right direction, and right in time, too.