Posted by: themoviecheese | January 5, 2013

The Hobbit: 48fps Vs. 24fps

Helloooo there! The Movie Cheese is back with a vengeance, only without Sam Jackson in tow *the sound of crickets and tumbleweeds*

No? Nothing? Well, okay then, not my best of jokes. Regardless, is back! And in great Tom fashion, my first post in over a year is going to be based on the controversial 48fps HFR format that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been released in.

For those not in the know, The Hobbit Trilogy (yes, trilogy. Jackson has decided to make THREE films out of ONE book,
hobbit48fpsbut that’s not what we’re here to discuss) has been filmed in an entirely new cinematic format: HFR. HFR stands for High Frame Rate, and refers to a film that has been shot, edited and projected in a higher frame rate than the industry standard 24 frames per second. Since around 1927 when film started using sound, all films have been shot, edited and projected at 24fps. And being creatures of habit, we as audiences got used to this pretty quickly and thus it became a standard. The reason Peter Jackson has decided to shoot The Hobbit in double that amount at 48fps is down to one thing: 3D. You see, in 3D there are a lot of drawbacks. 24fps brings motion blur to the screen, which is fine in 2D because we are used to seeing it. But in 3D, that motion blur is what induces sickness in a lot of people because they are essentially seeing the same image twice. You also get a reduction of about 20% of the picture’s brightness due to the grey tint on the glasses. Also, because everything moves at 24fps, you get quite a bit of image ghosting and duplication, where basically you will see shadows of certain shapes in the film.

48fps all but eradicates this. The ghosting and motion blur is completely non-existent. It’s just not there. The screen still uses brightness. No matter what you do, those glasses are still always going to be grey. But filming at 48fps creates such a highly exposed image, that the reduction actually places the film’s picture at a normal level. However, those extra frames also makes everything move different. It’s hard to explain unless you really know about frame rates, but if you imagine the difference between a documentary or a soap (such as Coronation Street) and a film, you must have noticed how they move different? Well that’s because they are shot at different frame rates. Most TV is shot at either 25fps or 30fps (depending on the territory and nature of the program), which gives it a much quicker feel. So from that, you can imagine how much quicker 48fps/HFR moves at.

Now, The Hobbit has been released in four…FOUR versions. First, there is the bog standard 2D 24fps version, available in all cinemas. Then, there is the 3D 24fps version, released in most cinemas. Then, there is the IMAX 3D 24fps version, released in IMAX cinemas. And lastly there is the brand new HFR 3D 48fps version released in limited cinemas. The HFR version has had a limited release due to the expensive nature of the upgrade that projectors required to project at 48fps.

Now then, I have now seen The Hobbit in two different versions: the IMAX 3D 24fps version, and the HFR 3D 48fps version. Both versions are in 3D. The reaction from the HFR version has been extremely mixed. Half of the audiences have hated it, saying that it retracts from the fantasy nature of the film, and makes it less epic; instead seeming like a BBC miniseries. The other half have been astounded by the sheer clarity of the 3D on offer and the fact that all 3D distractions such as ghosting and motion blur are abolished.

Everyone knows how I feel about 3D, so in terms of which version I prefer out of all four I would personally prefer the bog standard 2D 24fps version (even though I haven’t seen that particular version yet, it’s just preference). However, if you absolutely have to see The Hobbit in 3D, then for my money, there is only one version that you should venture out for (and this may come as a shock)……

…..It’s HFR all the way. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Seriously Tom? You hate shit like this?!” And normally you hobbit-48fps-02__spanwould be correct. I have constantly groaned at the various iterations of 3D technology, but I can honestly say that HFR 3D 48 is the first true innovation of 3D. The Hobbit is the FIRST 3D film where I haven’t forgotten I was watching a 3D film half way through, and this is all down to those 48 frames per second. The clarity is absolutely astounding. There is NO motion blur, which means the action scenes are exhilarating as hell because you can follow each swing of every sword – and it’s all in 3D, which does actually add to the exhilaration. My apprehension of 3D comes from the fact that we always have to squint to see what’s going on during fight scenes. But in the HFR version, that’s not the case. The 3D is so damn clear that you can count the hairs on Gandalf’s beard. And as for the light issue, as I said earlier; shooting at 48fps makes the picture so incredibly bright that the greyness of the glasses basically reduces it to a normal level. At one extremely bright scene during the film, I actually took my glasses off to see what it looked like and it bloody blinded me.

Sure, people are saying it looks like a BBC miniseries, and they are partly right (especially during the ‘Shire’ scenes in the first half), but to that I say…what exactly is wrong with that? Sure it’s supposed to be a film, but are you saying BBC fantasy productions are bad? Look at the Sam Neil Merlin miniseries from about 10 years ago. That felt pretty epic, and that wasn’t shot at 24fps. Or what about the new Merlin tv series? Or, better yet, how about Game of Thrones which is shot at a staggering 60fps? I don’t think anybody can argue how epic Game of Thrones looks?

So there you have it. If you want to see The Hobbit, then I would personally recommend the 2D 24fps version. But if you must see it in 3D, go for the 48fps. Not surprisingly, James Cameron also plans to shoot his Avatar sequels in the HFR format, only he will be shooting in a staggering SIXTY fps. And you know what? I can’t fucking wait.


  1. Great explanation of how movies are shot and I get what you mean when you put it in context of docu and soap it feels more real so must be great to see, I want to see for myself the difference, you mentioned Avatar but do you know of any other films in the pipeline for the 48fps 3D release? Also you mentioned most films 2D are in 24fps but what other recent films in 2D are filmed at a higher frame rate? And how often is that done? Is it a noticeable difference when done with 2D?

    • The only films I know of that are being shot in HFR are Avatar 2 and Avatar 3.
      To my knowledge there are no other previous films shot in 48fps. Very occasionally, there are films shot in 29/30fps – I think Michael Mann shot Public Enemies in that frame rate. Also the original Ju-On films (The Curse) were shot on digital video so they will have been 29/30fps as well. This is a huge rarity though. It’s definitely a noticeable difference. In fact, it’s even more noticeable in 2D, which is why the new HFR format is only being used in 3D films.

  2. I need to go and see it again before it leaves the cinema. I saw it in 2-D to begin with.

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