“The Hobbit” Footage Draws Mixed Reactions at CinemaCon

At last year’s CinemaCon Convention in Las Vegas, director James Cameron presented at length the benefits of shooting and exhibiting films at faster frame rates.  At this year’s convention, exhibitors were actually able to see this new process in use with ten minutes of footage from Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

Jackson filmed the J.R.R. Tolkien story at 48 frames per second.  The industry standard for the past 80 years has been 24 frames per second to depict normal speed.

On Tuesday, a filmed video message from Jackson was shown to exhibitors making an earnest appeal to project the new Middle Earth film at 48 frames per second.  The new speed, he said, gives the “illusion of real life, where movement feels smoother, and you’re not dealing with strobing.” Indeed, the footage shown did seem hyper-realistic. An opening aerial shot of dramatic rocky mountains appeared clearer than the images in most nature documentaries. But the effect was different when applied to scenes with actors dressed in period costumes, whose every move — and pore — were crystal clear. Such realism put off some trade show attendees, who complained the footage didn’t feel enough like a traditional film.

“It looked like a made-for-TV movie,” said one projectionist, who requested anonymity because of his affiliation with a competing studio. “It was too accurate — too clear. The contrast ratio isn’t there yet — everything looked either too bright or black.”

One Los Angeles-based film buyer was more enthusiastic, saying that, though he felt like the footage looked live, he still found the technology intriguing.

“The question is if people want to watch movies that really look real or not. I was expecting a subtle difference, but this was dramatic,” he said. “Might that work against a narrative? I don’t know. But I’m not going to judge it based on 10 minutes.”

Currently in production, part one of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is scheduled to open in theaters on December 14th, 2012. The film will star Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Evangeline Lily, Luke Evans, Christopher Lee, Stephen Fry, Lee Pace, Ian Holm, Aidan Turner, Brian Blessed (rumored,) James Nesbitt, Mikael Persbrandt, Conan Stevens, Graham McTavish, Dominic Keating (rumored,) Barry Humphries, Sylvester McCoy, Billy Connolly, Dean O’Gorman, Ken Stott, Jed Brophy, Jeffrey Thomas, Stephen Hunter, John Callen, William Kircher, Peter Hambleton, Adam Brown, Mark Hadlow, Michael Mizrahi, Ryan Gage, Renee Cataldo, and Ray Henwood. Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro wrote the screenplay, which was adapted from the story by J.R.R. Tolkien. Peter Jackson directs.

Source: LA Times