Premieres, schremieres — where’s my 48 fps Armitage?

Let me start off by admitting that when I started writing this, I wasn’t sure that it was more than a gripe and I’m still not sure it’s really worth a whole post or the time I spent writing it. It’s a bit disjointed. And more than usually opinionated, perspectival and uninformed. And, as I realized by the time I got to the end, quite a bit disgruntled.

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[Right: Invitation to NYC premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Source: RAFrenzy]

Given everything that I already know about what I’ll be doing in December (and my assumption that the universe will find a few more things for me to do that it hasn’t sent the memo about yet), though I’ve noted them as they appear, I’ve been relatively personally uninterested in the news of premieres, whether Wellington, London, New York, Tokyo, or (presumably) elsewhere. And let’s be honest — it’s not the kind of thing I’d be likely to do even if any of those cities were more convenient to my December plans. I’ll see those events more comfortably from my computer screen, or in photos and caps. I’ll read fan reports. Hopefully some readers will write them!

If you want to go, I want you to go! But I’ve been assuming for myself that I’ll see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when it premieres in the movie theaters closest to my parents’ house. I’ll try to go to a midnight show, but circumstances may intervene. I won’t be wearing a gown but probably a thick winter jacket and boots and a scarf. All of which is fine. I’ve never been a big party girl.

But if I’m not so interested in the premieres, what I DO want to know — my burning question — is where will the film be showing in regular rotation in the 3D 48 fps format?

Not at my parents — or possibly within hundreds of miles of them, that’s for sure.

Grrrr.

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[At left: a dosa!]

Despite rumors to the contrary, corporeal Servetus does have a real-time social life. I try to limit it because of my introversion, and I can, because — not having lived here all that long — I still have a small group of friends. Anyway, in the inner circle with the Peskies and the Fuzzies are another couple — a woman who has the same year-to-year contract as I, who teaches a similar subject and has the office next to mine, and her husband, a professor of film with a specialization in cinematography. We bonded over beer, and I’ve learned a lot about Belgian varieties from FilmProf. We all went out for dosas — OMG India I love you! Thank you for sharing this particular culinary delight!!!! — a week or so ago. FilmProf was talking about the camera he’s planning to buy for his upcoming film projects (instead of refereed publications, he has to present films as part of a body of creative works for tenure), and I asked him, jokingly, if he would name the new camera he’s planning to buy. He wasn’t going to. I noted that Peter Jackson names his cameras, and from there the conversation went on to Jackson’s career, 48 fps and the merits and negative externalities of both.

[At right: Peter Jackson in 2010 with an Epic Red camera.]

FilmProf has a specific take on Jackson as filmmaker that I found interesting even if I don’t know enough about the issues involved to judge. We started talking about how FilmProf’s prospective camera costs about $3,000 U.S. and how cheap that is; I asked about the potential democratization of film-making (pursuing earlier discussions we’ve had about whether a film degree will eventually become the functional equivalent of an English degree). I assumed that price would be a great thing for him, but reported ambivalence. He said that the appearance of the technology at this price resulted from developments in film which Peter Jackson has played an important role; he cited one of these as Jackson’s use of Red Epic digital cameras. Another one would be the widespread turn to 3-D filming, which Jackson is heavily involved in, if not a catalyst.

[At left: Peter Jackson among his cameras, from vlog #4. My screenshot.]

Although I wasn’t paying attention at the time — I was more preoccupied with Armitage’s nose and his eyes — Peter Jackson explained this stuff in vlog #4. I would have sworn when I started blogging that I would never care about frame rate or indeed about any of it, and I bet that’s what you’re saying now. But I put my feet on that path the moment I wanted to explain how Armitage appears — because I only ever see him through digital files of some kind. Less than two months in, I acknowledged my huge debt to screencappers, and when I started capping things I wanted to illustrate — an early commentator told me how, and I took that step on June 10, 2010 sometime before 1:33 p.m. German time — I became committed to caring about this question sooner or later.

My difficulties with capping (and later, vidding) are preliminary steps to the problem of frame rate and 3-D; my issues are microcosmal versions of the ones that filmmakers deal with. Capping can be a lot of fun — it’s an intriguing way to look at someone — but it has very frustrating moments. When we watch film or video, we see a picture the brain makes by editing together and smoothing the data the eyes are uptaking from individual images, or frames, into a cohesive picture.

[At right: Richard Armitage as Lucas North in Spooks 7.6 — an example of motion blur in capping from 25 fps .mp4. My cap.]

Typically the materials we watch are broadcasting at 24 (for cinema), 25 (for much of Spooks, although the directors shot some of the action sequences at higher frame rates to make them look more intense) or 30 fps (the HD Robin Hood files I have carry not only more pixels, but also have this slightly faster frame rate). Screencappers looking to capture something they’ve seen thus constantly deal with the issue of not being able to see clearly the thing they want to capture due to motion blur between frames, a problem that makes high definition cameras so attractive. On top of the organic visual issues, as soon as we verge on the terrain of the computer files that allow us to access this information so easily, we start dealing with the question of the codec — the means by which information is stored in a file and then “unpacked” and transmitted to the screen you’re watching it on. Most of caps I’ve made is taken from data stored in mp4 files at 24, 25 or 30 fps, which means that if I slomo something, I don’t see every detail of its motion, and I also see things that aren’t quite “there” because of residues left behind by the frame rate or the codec.

[At left: “combing” or artifacts due to interlacing are highlighted. Armitage as Lucas North in Spooks 7.6. My cap.]

Even if you don’t cap yourself, you’ve probably seen these residues from time to time. It’s a particular problem for vidders. Interlacing, the attempt to create the perception of a higher frame rate without broadcast of additional data (usually 50 fps from a 25 fps source) makes the viewing device draw only alternating lines of an image on the screen at any point, which is almost invisible to the human eye when watched as intended, but creates problems when viewing at any other speed. This strategy means that doing anything to change the rate of motion, including stopping the image entirely, can cause blurriness. (Video editors incorporate various mechanisms for editing or smoothing this effect, but it means that changing the speed of any clip you want to use in a vid can be time-consuming — you wait while the computer churns.) The inability to change easily the speed of viewing of interlaced video (which is common in the UK) is particularly frustrating when watching Richard Armitage, because we want to see exactly how he’s moving, and often his moves are very subtle or extremely fast, and can easily get lost in the blur.

If you’d like to see an easy-to-follow practical demonstration of how different frame rates from 15 to 60 fps affect your visual perception of motion, click here. Increasing the frame rate at which something is filmed attempts to address these problems by increasing the amount of data available for processing and thus providing a means for the brain to smooth its perception of motion. Although our brains are satisfied with less data, and will happily trick us into perceiving things we’re not actually seeing in order to make video look like real motion, it still looks more realistic if we give our brains more — a conclusion that appears to be a strong motivator for Jackson, as we’ll see below. If the promise of current technological developments holds, eventually we may even be able to photograph visually things that we can’t see with our own eyes. Up to a certain point (thought to lie around 60 fps), however, the human brain / eye can still detect these differences, which makes raising frame rates attractive under certain circumstances — and some of these apply to 3D filming.

[Right: Peter Jackson explains his cameras to the viewer in vlog #4. Source: Heirs of Durin]

Jackson’s vlog attempted to explain exactly what he was doing and why audiences should care — at a slightly odd level, I now think, as I needed to gather more basic information in order to understand his claims, and I suspect what he said was much too elementary for experts. After hearing what FilmProf said about these developments and watching that vlog again, moreover, I suspect he’d have said that some of the material presented there is tendentious. What I understand from our conversation that is uncontroversial: Conventional film is made in 2D because the conventional film camera only has one aperture or “eye.” (Depth perception is created by stereopsis — by the brain editing the difference in the data it gets from each eye.) Although the brain watches a 2D film and “decides” by means of visual cues for the viewer to perceive it in 3D, filming in 3D enhance the perception of depth to the viewer, making action or motion more exciting. It achieves this goal by mimicking human stereopsis– by taking the single “eye” of a conventional camera and augmenting it with a second “eye” at the same distance from the first “eye” as found in a human head (hence all that discussion of the “interocular” and the way that mirror rigs are used to simulate the human one) to recreate depth in the same way a human brain sees it. It installs visual filters for the viewer in special glasses that assist in this process. Modern systems of 3D cut the amount of light that goes to each eye in half. This polarization is accomplished by not showing the same frames of the film to both eyes — the glasses cause the viewer to see alternating frames of motion. Consequently, in exchange for the illusion of 3D, the viewer accepts an image that is both less smooth (fewer frames=choppier motion) and a good deal darker (frames supply light to the eye, so fewer frames=less light) than it would be in a 2D film. In addition to headaches and eyestrain, motion sickness can result from these tricks to the brain.

[Left: basic 3D glasses]

Most viewers don’t suffer these ills, which would make 3D substantially less popular. A more common experience for viewers, though: Seen at 24 fps,  the usual cinema frame rate — a film can look blurry because the brain still notices via motion and light level that frames are “missing.” 3D filmmakers take steps to help the brain compensate for this effect — one is the oversaturation / overcoloring to increase light provision, which some commentators have noted in the vlog images (which we are seeing in 2D) so that 3D films often end up with a typical color palette. In turn, bright colors complicate the brain’s attempts to edit flickering images into single ones (so-called flicker fusion); accelerating frame rate allows viewers not only to see more elements of motion, but perceive flickering images of bright colors more realistically and smoothly.

Thus — and here’s where it gets controversial — 48 fps it is not exactly the same as 24 fps — it is an attempt to compensate for apparent drops in smoothness of perception (due to motion and coloring) that are created by filming in 3-D in the first place. 48 fps (or higher rates) are supposed to restore the apparent resolution of the film up to the level of 24 fps made without 3-D. The burden of proof for a 3D film, then, is whether the gain from 3D is worth the “expense” of all of these compensations. Jackson has stated repeatedly that it is, that “motion is more gentle on the eyes.”

[Right: 35 mm celluloid preservation center at Yale]

The above points constitute perceptual critiques of 3D film that play into aesthetic issues. Additionally and in response, film critics have advanced a further series of aesthetic criticisms of 3D film that don’t need to occupy us here. Readers who have been following the saga of this particular film know that media journalists –admittedly unaccustomed to seeing a film style that Jackson is pioneering — were lukewarm to negative on Jackson’s screening of clips at CinemaCon, which led to a decision not to show that version at ComicCon in San Diego. And some industry commentators believe that the market for 3D is oversaturated, with viewers not seeing what they’re getting for the hefty addition to the ticket price, beyond a pair of useless plastic spectacles.

But FilmProf made a criticism of the 48 fps decision that differs from all of these. It came up because I said that I had read that Warner Bros. was not going to release the 48 fps film in most or even many markets. His argument might be characterized as related to democracy and sustainability.

[At left: A 35 mm film projector]

In response, FilmProf noted that 35mm film technology was incredibly democratic — the same machinery for projecting it was readily available, relatively affordable, and thus available quickly in every cinema in the world. It presented little financial or technical obstacle for a relatively low traffic theater in an obscure part of the country to use it. Digital projectors and prints are now standard, but technology turnover has unleashed a projectorial arms race. In contrast to the universality of the earlier technology, FilmProf asserted, fewer than a handful of theaters in the U.S. are technologically prepared to show this film (reading around, I note that in August, Variety stated that no theaters were prepared and that the necessary software upgrade wouldn’t even be available until September). He also told me that the necessary equipment constitutes a non-negligible expense — it apparently costs around $400,000 to purchase and install — and even if you have a system that’s upgradable, it’s still expensive. (Note — these are his assertions. I didn’t check them out. Even if the numbers are off, however, if the equipment is both rare and disproportionally expensive, the principle still holds.)

[At right: Christie Digital HFR IMB for installation into a series 2 d-cinema projector — and you’re ready to show The Hobbit — if you have the series 2. If not, you have to upgrade that, too. You’ll need it for the upcoming Avatar (2014 and 2015) sequels as well.]

FilmProf thus sees Jackson quite negatively — as a representative (along with James Cameron) of a direction in film-making that banks on a belief that the future direction of the field will rely on ever more sophisticated technologies to attract viewers. As Jackson says, “Nobody is going to stop. This technology is going to keep evolving.” These technologies will generally become more expensive, and will gradually — in FilmProf’s opinion, undesirably — limit the live theater-going experience to urban or suburban sophisticate audiences with money to burn. This vision puts theater owners in a terrible position — either upgrade projection technology at a horrendous expense in order to show the films their customers want to see, or go under when disappointed audiences stay away. Equally troublesome, from his perspective, was the tendency that these trends entirely contradict the apparent democratization of film technology represented by his wished-for camera. More people may make films, he suggested, but the ones that make it into theaters will be made by ever smaller groups of filmmakers who can assemble the ever more massive financing to pay for these technologies — leading to an ultimate reduction in the sort of spectrum of feature film that will be made, as every film has to be a mega-success, leaving much less room for experimentation.

You may make what you wish of this argument. I can see holes in it myself; it doesn’t account for other distribution mechanisms beyond theaters — and FilmProf is clearly a partisan of physically going to the movies (as opposed to watching them on a computer screen). One might argue, for instance, that in the face of the emphasis on shareholder profit for big corporations, stagnant wages for average workers, and rising costs for everything but labor, the only possibility that cinemas will have to survive in the future is to generate profits from showing spectacles that can’t be reproduced meaningfully on smaller device screens. However, some things in his argument seem clearly correct to me and have historical parallels. I find interesting the ways in which his critique parallels problems noted from the digital divide in the U.S. with regard to the Internet. The Internet expands our access to information — for everyone who has it — but the assumption that all viewers of the Internet can grab bandwidth, and thus information, with the same intensity leads to a situation in which information distribution remains inequitable even old sources of information or methods of obtaining it disappear or are destroyed. Cell phones killed the payphone without regard to those who can’t obtain them or whose networks are temporarily out of reach. We’re already seeing a world of film in which scripts that can “only” expect to generate some profit are rejected in favor of guaranteed successes with big budgets and relatively limited themes. Finally, the burden placed on theater owners is troubling in just the way the McCormick reaper was for farmers in the nineteenth century — buying one wasn’t a guarantee that a farmer could stay afloat. But not buying one was a guarantee that he couldn’t.

And, frankly, if it’s really true that as of two months ago not one cinema in the U.S was prepared to who the film, FilmProf is winning at present. Who is going to see this film as Jackson intended it to be seen? The film is going to be distributed in six formats — 2D, 3D and IMAX in both 24 and 48 fps. Most people are not going to see it in his intended format. I at least want to have the opportunity to judge whether the aesthetic gains from this format are really worth all the things that get lost as a consequence. As I said earlier this spring, I’m keeping an open mind till I see what Peter Jackson thought he saw.

If I can see it.

So here’s my gripe. Variety reports that the film might not even be distributed in 48 fps in all major U.S. cities. And that absolutely sucks for me.

[At right: filming rig for The Hobbit from vlog #8. I can’t resist noting that it bears certain resemblances to a WWI-era rail gun. Source: Heirs of Durin.]

I’ve been waiting patiently for this film for two years now. I’ve been hydrating my thirsty fangirl soul at the stream of publicity, and I’ve been sold on the whole thing — green screens, isolated shooting set, huge camera rigs, amazing shots — all because I love watching Mr. Armitage and I have been encouraged to cultivate the belief that I am going to see things in this film that I have never seen before. I’ve been grateful that Peter Jackson has taken the time to keep us updated and let us see glimpses and bring us along slowly. I have regularly stifled my worries that he wants to do this film in this way because he spends way more time watching this kind of thing than I do (just as I felt, at the Captain America premiere, that the film had been made for an audience that plays a lot more high speed video games than I do). I’m papering over my anxieties with the belief that Jackson is going to obtain an amazing performance from Richard Armitage, and that the visual effects available in this version will keep me analyzing and thinking, feeling and reacting, for a good long time — maybe up until the next film. I want to see Armitage moving, doing his action dancing, manipulating his features in that subtle but effective way. Yeah — I’m on board to see Armitage, a better Armitage, and now that I know all the technological arguments, an Armitage without motion blur. A realistic Armitage whose movements I can really dig into.

Mr. Jackson — if you’re so convinced by your vision — why aren’t you pushing harder to sell it to the theater owners?

[At left: Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com.]

Because, if it’s really fully adequate for me, and apparently most members of most film audiences in the U.S., to see the film in 2D or the regular rate — and the film has to be downgraded and motion blur edited back in in order to prevent precisely the choppiness that the high frame rate 3D film was supposed to correct — then it seems like FilmProf was right. 48 fps 3D is set up to destroy theaters and replace them with nothing. Moreover, if it’s really okay for me to see your high frame rate masterpiece in 2D, that makes it seem like all of this hassle with 48 cameras and months of filming and mirrored rigs was pointless — a technological game played by tech lovers on behalf of tech lovers. Masturbation by gigabyte.

And if the equipment and upgrades are that expensive, the number and accessibility of red carpet premieres might be equal to the number of cities that actually show a 48 fps 3D version of the film.

So where we started: what I want to know is where — in what markets — I am going to be able to see the darn film as Jackson wanted it seen? Because it’s starting to look like it’s going to be harder than I thought. I figured Chicago and Minneapolis would be sure things, but I’m starting to wonder if we’re only talking Los Angeles and New York City. In which case I might as well try to make it to a red carpet (though don’t ask me how). Or maybe I’ll just wait five years to see it.

Mr. Jackson??? I surrender. You made me care about resolution and frame rate and motion blur. You made me believe that those things will let me see my Armitage better, more fully, more convincingly. I want to believe that FilmProf was wrong.

Where’s my 48 fps Armitage gonna be???

I better look at some Thorin to calm myself down.

Mr. Jackson???

~ by Servetus on September 30, 2012.

47 Responses to “Premieres, schremieres — where’s my 48 fps Armitage?”

  1. I am afraid I won’t be able to see the 48 fps 3D, either. I have to go to Montgomery, a 45 minute drive, to even see 3D, although The Edge in my hometown has talked about installing 3D technology in at least one of its eight theatres. The closest larger city to us is Atlanta. Can’t honestly see going to New York or any of the other places for premieres unless that rich uncle I forgot all about dies and leaves me a fortune. 😉

    It is frustrating. This wonderful visual experience has been dangled like a carrot before us and we may not be able to partake as we were meant to. 😦 And it seems as if we have been waiting forever . . .

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    • Thanks for saying this — I am relieved someone doesn’t think I’m being histrionic about this. (And I left out the whole question about whether to cap or vid with this I’m going to have to upgrade my home video / computer setup …)

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      • Hey, we are excited about this, we’re pumped, this is our chance to see a LOT of our favorite and fabulous actor Mr. Armitage on the big screen—at last!! And why shouldn’t we want to see him and the film as the filmmaker has envisioned? We’ve had a lot of time to think all this over, too. And seeing the new trailer and more stills of Richard as Thorin just whets the appetite all the more. *sigh*

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  2. Serv, you aren’t alone. Honestly, I’ll be really incredibly frustrated if I can’t see the film in 38 fps 3D. Yes, I want the amazing visuals that have been dangled before us. But I also recall going to see Avatar in 3D. As long as it was I ended up with a headache and had to close my eyes for about 10 minutes halfway through. Therefore, the promise of less eye strain that PJ talked about was a big selling point for me. The fact the format may not even be available almost makes me think of a big kid who dangles a toy in front of a little kid and then snatches it away. Like we’ve been led on for 2 years.

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    • Clearly I meant 48 fps. 😉

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    • I was thinking about the problem of why I am increasingly unwilling to be patient (see below) on this issue, even if I can recognize the arguments for it. It’s definitely because of this unbelievably long wait. It’s hard for me not to worry that seeing the film will be anything but anticlimactic.

      I had a colleague at my last job who got severely nauseated from watching 3D film.

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  3. To date the “wonderful visual experience” has almost only generated negativity and a lot of negative press and scepticism. Whatever becomes of it in the future, whether humankind adapts like we did adapt to films with sound and in colour, or it becomes just a footnote in the history of film-making, I’m relieved that the release in 48fph will be very limited and it won’t overall taint the movie and Mr. RA’s entrance on the big screen.

    As always, my take is a bit different from others, it is not my primary concern if I am able to see it and if I would like it. I wonder if it would endanger the success of the movie and the success of RA. If a lot people come out of the theatres having just had a visual experience they hated and found unconvincing, it is not likely that RA’s performance will make a lasting impression as things we don’t like tend to overshadow thing we like. I think it is a very wise decision to introduce 48fps slowly, perhaps more widely with the second and third film should reactions be more positive after all. PJ knew what he did when he didn’t show 48fps at Comic Con!

    I personally am not at all against greater clarity and a less “cinematic” look and probably won’t scream that it looks like a cheap soap filmed on video, but that is a very heavy insult and needs to be dealt with. The most advanced and expensive technology should look anything but not cheap! My personal concern is that it will look fake and the trailer hasn’t helped to ease that concern. The CGI reminds me a lot of current animated movies, and while they are very rich in detail, they have an artificial look about them and somehow feel soulless. I have never been tempted to watch those popular animated movies because I don’t like that look. I can’t judge if the CGI used for LOTR was “better” or just different, but to me LOTR looked a lot more naturalistic. The CGI creatures blended in with real actors and sets seamlessly, perhaps precisely because they weren’t so clear and detailed. Another concern is that 48fps will reveal things that are not CGI but man-made like sets, wigs and prosthetics as fake.

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    • Forgot to add, if audience and critics like the result after all, and report about it enthusiastically and make those that couldn’t see it at first, genuinely curious and eager to see it, not just because it is new, but because it has been confirmed that it is great that is a much better strategy than forcing something on people they don’t want and tell them they better get used to it.

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      • I think that is probably what Jackson / WB are counting on — they’re going to have been right in the end, and everyone will be on board by the time the second movie is ready to hit theaters. And they can probably afford to wait — as at least in urban areas there’s often a reshowing of the prequel in combination with the new film. So it’s definitely the case that one objection one could make to my argument here is that I’m being (typically for me) impatient.

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    • I agree with you completely on this, Jane. I was reading all this fuss about the frame rate in the spring, and thinking that is is absolutely not what i want the conversation to be about, either among critics or among audiences. Forget technology. Concentrate on Thorin.

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  4. I’m afraid that whether the 48fps will be successful or not, it will be a large part of the discussion on the expense of the story, characters etc. I don’t know if the advanced format will be shown in Israel at all, but I am planning to see the film first in 2D, so not to be distracted by the technology, and later in the most advanced format that will be possible here.
    I don’t understand the idea of enhanced colors. The set was designed in extremely bright colors and the actors’ makeup makes the skin look orange, all that for the 3D/48. So how it will appear in 2D/24? And how did they film on location, with normal colors?

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    • I assume they will have to edit the 2D film versions to desaturate the colors (just as they will have to edit the 24 fps versions to reinsert motion blur).

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  5. For me, 3D is available (and often the only option) everywhere. I haven’t investigated 48 fps but I live a short distance from the London IMAX – so my thinking is that if it’s going to be available anywhere, it will be available there. Whether I go to see it in that format is another question, but I suspect I will be unable to resist.

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    • In the US 3D is more widely available than the HFR (or let’s admit it — HRF upgradable) projectors — so I suspect most U.S. people will see it in 3D or IMAX 24 fps.

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  6. For me, I would have to fly to the UK just to see the film in English, let alone in 3D 48 fps. That means staying overnight at least. So, train + cab to the airport + air ticket + cab to hotel + hotel + food + cinema ticket + return — and the cost of seeing the film becomes prohibitive, unless I win the lotto. I imagine others are in comparable situations. So, Mr. Jackson may be proud and excited and want people to see The Hobbit, but he has effectively cut his prospective audience to a size comparable to that for live theatre or opera. I’m selfishly unhappy because I will have to wait for DVD.

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    • Many of us won’t be able to see the movie in the original version and in 48fps but I’m pretty certain that almost every cinema in the world will show it for several weeks and everyone will get a chance to see it. Otherwise, where is the huge profit they are aiming at? Even my small town cinema that is hardly bigger than an average living room shows all the blockbuster in 3D though I’m not sure how good the 3D experience is with a small big screen in a small room. To be honest, I have never tried it. I think I am too stupid to get 3D and won’t even notice the effect. Perhaps something with my eyesight or my brain?

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      • “every cinema in the world”, huh? Well, here, if it’s shown in the nearest city, at the 600-seat city theatre as blockbusters have been before, it will be 2D and dubbed in Spanish for maybe four showings. Even if I travel to the multiplex in Gibraltar, that’s liable to be the case. So, they may get their profit, but I won’t get the film I want to see and hear.

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        • I have no idea how it is elsewhere, but the cinema in my hometown that has about 20 seats does show blockbusters in 3D. I would guess there will be a lot of copies around and all cinemas will want to show it. This is expected to be among the most successful movies of the year at the very least, so they have to give people a chance to see it! Surely the distribution will be the same as for Hunger Games or the Avengers? But when it comes to an English version, my situation is the same as yours. I expect the dubbed version to be shown at every corner, but to see the original I would have to travel a few hundred kilometres.

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          • They might have 3D equipment in Gibraltar or Marbella, but not here. The technology follows the money. For me, one of the major attractions is Richard’s performance and without his voice — well, I’m not sure it’s worth the trip.

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            • I had a look at Box Office Mojo and it seems American blockbusters don’t dominate the market in Spain as much they do it in Germany. I kind of assumed they automatically lead the movie charts everywhere.

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              • In a way, Jane, Leigh’s articulating some of your earlier concerns about how inability to hear Armitage’s voice will cut the career effect this film will have for him.

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                • RA’s career will be decided by English speaking film makers that may or may not decide to hire him and potentially by English speaking award persons. It is true that no-one in Germany or Spain will fall for his voice or that his performance will even fall flat with an unsuitable voice and while that is a pity in itself, it won’t harm his career prospects. And I doubt that a bad voice will harm the movie so much that it will prevent people from seeing it. That is why I’m not too worried about the dubbing. But like Leigh I’m not too keen to see a dubbed 3D version in a living-room sized cinema. At least I don’t see myself queuing for a midnight premier or watching it multiple times. The DVD is what I’m more interested in.

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      • there’s also a vast divide in how different filmmakers use it. I’ve gone to some 3D movies where I thought it was used excellently (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) and others where I thought it was entirely superfluous (Harry Potter 7.2).

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    • “cuts live audience comparable to one for opera” — yes. And I am wondering if that’s the goal.

      I’m also wondering what the ticket price will be. I paid $13.50 for the Captain America premiere in 3D at a small theater in the (relative) boonies — which was something like $5 more than the usual evening ticket price. Some of that was explained by the 3D glasses, but not all.

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  7. All this technology makes the ears bleed! But then, if it weren’t for the inventiveness, we could still be in the world of Magic Lantern – or of silent movies. So we have to, sort of, try to keep up. Now, there is a golf course in Ontario, where goats have been brought in to keep encroaching vegetation under control, rather than spray with pesticides. I relate to this! (being a Capricorn. 🙂 That’s technology! In the raw.) But we have to sort of, keep up. Actually Avatar, with those idiotic 3D glasses was very interesting. The glasses didn’t muck up my astigmatic vision after all. So, give your camera/i-something phone/camera/inter-active/twit/graphicarts thingy a name – humanise it! It might be your next BFF. Maybe. I like goats….:D Goats have been known to watch and listen to CBeebies.

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    • While writing this I learned that as much as 12% of the U.S. population cannot see 3D even with the glasses, due to various medical or organic issues. I’ve never had a problem in 3D but I try to set well back from the screen. Didn’t see Avatar.

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  8. I have no idea how the movie distribution works, and i don’t get why WB wants to artificially limit the 48 and/or 3D version. Why not simply make all versions available, so that theaters can choose the ones matching the equipment they have?
    In theory, that would allow people to appreciate both the movie itself (that is, Thorin 🙂 ), and try the new technology. It might even increase revenues, as people might try both normal and hi-tech versions ( i would). Basically, as long as 48 /3D is not crammed down people’s throats, but remains a choice, it should be fine…

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    • Practically no one has the HFR equipment and the software is apparently still being written. In our conversation, FilmProf said to me, “There are four theaters in the US that can show this film in 48 fps 3D, and the equipment to show it costs $400,000.” If that’s true (as I said above, I didn’t verify that assertion), just buying and installing this projector probably exceeds the real estate value of the buildings and property that 50% of U.S. theaters are housed in. So it’s not a choice in any meaningful sense if the choice is one that the theater owner can’t possibly afford There are also other technical problems with things like cabling, bandwidth, servers, varying formats for other trailers and ads shown with the film, etc., that I didn’t go into here because I assumed no one would be interested in them. So I honestly don’t think WB is artificially limiting distribution. Theater owners are not going to make that kind of upgrade — it would destroy their entire profit from showing the film in the first place.

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      • That’s true about theatre owners, especially here where the nearest one is owned by the city, a city so badly in arrears and defaulting on contracts that nonessential spending on that scale could cause riots. Other cinemas in Gibraltar or on the Costa are unlikely to lay out that kind of money either, because so many people are struggling with the “crisis”. You couldn’t raise that kind of credit in the current market.

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        • I think that’s probably true in the U.S., too. I saw FilmProf at a departmental event yesterday and he said two big cinema complexes here are closing. Not the time to be borrowing money.

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          • On the other hand 48fps (just as 3D) is a chance to offer the audience an experience they can only have in a cinema. It is not just that people can’t afford tickets, many prefer TV and DVD and I guess no small percentage illegal downloads. Low quality downloads of blockbusters are usually available as soon as a movie is released. But people stormed the cinemas to see something like Avatar, no because of the acting or storytelling, but because they were promised something visually stunning never seen before. Something they couldn’t have on their TV and computer-screens. If the audience likes the finished 48fps product they will storm cinemas just to see that.

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            • That was my potential counter-argument to FilmProf — that cinemas are going to be for people who want this particular experience (as opposed to for all people who might be moviegoers but switch to the personalized experience in their homes). It just has the potential effect of cutting the audience if the price for it goes too high.

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  9. […] to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 48 fps — and also a post that absolutely expresses my deepest sentiments about the information politics about 48 fps, which from my perspective are rapidly turning into a debacle. IS IT REALLY THAT HARD? Indeed. […]

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  10. […] Richard Armitage’s remarks in that review pushed a lot of my buttons. Religion, filming in 48 fps, reading experiences, audience enjoyment, Tolkien’s view of his life history, nostalgia, […]

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  11. […] impressive. It’s definitely worth the effort to see it in HFR 3D. And I admit / remind you, I was skeptical. Honestly, I don’t know exactly what about this film was improved by the HFR, so what I am […]

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  12. […] Spielberg about the impending implosion of the U.S. movie industry that more or less square with the discussion I was having with FilmProf several months ago. I thought, “First film doesn’t even require humans — entirely computer […]

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  13. […] and theater chains were admitting that they hadn’t been prepared for the format themselves (something fans had been frustrated about ahead of time last year) nor done enough to guide audiences toward the new formats and so on. They were going to do better! […]

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  14. […] Like my buddy FilmProf, who is better informed that I, I don’t like what I understand about Pe…, and I found what I observed of his labor politics in 2010 nothing short of appalling. I still wonder about PETA’s accusations, although I admit that I didn’t follow the story to its resolution. In sum, I suspect very much that despite all of the positive things that actors including Mr. Armitage say about him, I wouldn’t like him very well if I knew him personally. […]

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  15. […] a fair amount of incomprehension, except in one or two notable cases. One of them is my friend FilmProf, whom I reference […]

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  16. […] As usual with 3-D environments, the optical tricks required to make your eyes transmit the right inf… that it’s a low light environment. […]

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  17. […] buying tickets, I didn’t even ask myself the frame rate question this time around, although we were really occupied by it two years ago (and even last year). Here’s TORn’s guide to the different possibilities. I just looked […]

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  18. […] late medieval and early Renaissance art to 2D and 3D films, which I only knew about because of my interest in the frame rate debates about The Hobbit. So I felt like it would be appropriate to put that Thorin cutout in my entryway, and many a […]

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  19. […] and the review of previous research to the results. This piece discusses audience reactions to the (at the time highly contested) HFR shooting medium (celebrity followers and Armitage fans did not make up a noticeable or […]

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  20. […] issue since The Hobbit of having to chase down a particular format, platform, or experience — starting with 48 fps. In part this happens because artists are interested in new formats and in part because we’re […]

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