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‘Hobbit’ Vets High on HFR But Others Are Wary

LONDON — Higher Frame Rate technology was a key discussion point and frequent whipping boy at the first international 3D Creative Summit in London this week.

Phil Oatley and Meetal Gokul of Peter Jackson’s New Zealand-based Park Road Post, who worked on Jackson’s ground-breaking 48 frame-per-second HFR production “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” presented a showcase on the film on Thursday (March 28).

HFR solves some of the issues with strobing, etc. It creates a more immersive 3D experience,” argued Oatley, head of technology at Park Road Post. He explained the production had chosen to go with 48 FPS since it provided a clean path to traditional 24 FPS deliverables and an easy deployment path for exhibitors since most current 4K digital projectors.

The showcase drew a lot of interest and was one of the best attended sessions of the two-day event. However, HFR cynics were out in force across other panels and “The Hobbit” was on the receiving end of much of the criticism.

“I think the jury is out,” said Drew Kaza, executive vice prexy of digital development for exhibitor Odeon. “The technology is there. ‘The Hobbit’ was a useful experiment but it was an imperfect project for it and there was poor marketing of the concept. I felt it was the wrong film. ‘Life of Pi’ rather than ‘Hobbit’ should have been HFR and you would have seen the difference.”

“As an outsider I thought it lacked conviction but it was an interesting test,” agreed Cameron Saunders, managing director of 20th Century Fox U.K.

“We’re looking at HFR,” admitted Anthony Geffen, chief executive of Atlantic Prods., responsible for the Sky 3D’s natural history skeins fronted by David Attenborough. ” ‘The Hobbit’ was not a great example of playing with HFR in my opinion.”

“HFR helps with the motion, it helps you see the picture more,” said DreamWorks Animation’s Phil McNally. “Filmmaking has to get better to match HFR.” McNally admitted DWA hadn’t done any tests in HFR. “We thought we’d let live action fight that fight. Animation led the fight on 3D.”

Tom Barnes, technical director of Aardman Animation, said the British studio is highly unlikely to consider HFR. “A higher frame rate wouldn’t make any sense for stop frame animation,” argued Barnes. “There would be very few advantages. I would much rather shoot 4K.”

“When I saw ‘The Hobbit’ in HFR I hated it so much,” added Aardman cinematography Frank Passingham. “You’re seeing too much. I thought HFR was this huge monsters fighting itself on screen and no-one was winning.”

“I think it’s generational,” suggested Kaza, offering a ray of light. “Young people, under 25, come from a gaming, hi-res experience will like it because they’re used to it.”


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