December 6, 2012

"'The Hobbit' looks really, really strange."

"At least it does when projected in 3-D, at the 48 frames per second rate (known as high-frame rate, or HFR) that Jackson intends as the preferred format...."
It’s not easy to describe the hyperreal, ultra-clear, sharp-edged look of the 48fps image, except by way of analogy. As one critic was heard to say on the sidewalk outside a Manhattan screening, “I turned that setting off on my TV.” Some viewers have said that “The Hobbit” has the harsh video shimmer of a 1980s soap opera, with, of course, many times the resolution. Another guy I know said the whole movie looked like a cutting-edge screen saver from the early days of digital imaging, around 2000 or so. That’s getting close. To me, “The Hobbit” looked like a prototype of some new computer game, or a demonstration video that some dude at Best Buy was using to sell a $1,700 HDTV monitor while murmuring, “Someday, man, all movies will look like this.”
So... it's some kind of sharpness beyond what the eye sees in real life, causing it to seem unreal? I'd be curious to check that out, but perhaps not willing to sit through it.

41 comments:

Expat(ish) said...

The first hyper-real movie I ever saw was Star Wars, the last was Blade Runner.

If they can beat that, I'll sit through three showings in one day.

Not likely, though.

-XC

TMink said...

I have been wondering which version to go see. I am inclined toward the HFR, but have concerns.

Trey

Astro said...

Haven't seen the pre-release videos, but it sounds like he's done a George Lucas. I guess I'll plan to see it in old 2D 24fps format.

Bryan C said...

We know when something is supposed to look real and adjust our suspension of disbelief without even realizing it. When what we see falls even slightly short our brain feels compelled to point out every discrepancy.

That "shimmery" effect you get with excessive sharpness was a huge problem for CGI filmmakers. It took years before rendering techniques became powerful enough to convincingly simulate the hazy, fuzzy, abberated, flarey reality.

SteveR said...

Ann, the imaging issue aside, isn't this the kind of movie you don't generally like to see, at a theater anyway?

Jim Howard said...

For those interested in bleeding edge technology, see 'The Hobbit' in a theater that has both 48fps projection and 64 channel Dolby ATMOS sound.

rehajm said...

"The Hobbit looks really, really strange."

His prefers to be called 'Secretary Geithner'.




Expat(ish) said...

and @rehajm ends the thread with a loud bada-boom!

john said...

It's the 17 year old male target audience. What are you all complaining about?

CatherineM said...

They were positive about this on the radio. They said it was like watching a movie on a the old "View Master." For those old enough to remember the View Master, when you held up to your eyes, there was no peripheral interference. They said the movie had a similar feel to it unlike other 3-D movies. They were positive about the movie.

EMD said...

The Hobbit: Across the Uncanny Valley.

EDH said...

I was just about to write the description reminds me of my old View-Master.

radar said...

One reason to sit all the way through the movie, even if the new effect was disconcerting, would be to see if your perception adjusted over time.

For example, when I see a movie with subtitles, it takes more time for me to become 'immersed' in the experience as my mind has to adjust to the unfamiliar task of reading and viewing simultaneously.

I find that a similar adjustment period is needed for me when a movie includes an unfamiliar dialect. For example, the South African dialect in District 9.

ndspinelli said...

Went to see Argo[very good] and saw the preview for this horsehit. i would rather watch Love Boat reruns.

SteveR said...

i would rather watch Love Boat reruns

Well my peak hormonal years did match up well with Lauren Tewes, but that's not a memory I need to experience. Thanks for the warning.

Tibore said...

Yeah, that's the classic "soap opera" effect; such a high frame rate will make the movie look sort of like it was shot on video, albeit well saturated, good contrast, high res video.

The look bugs me too; I'm simply too versed and have been too immersed in films - actual celluloid films - to make the transition easily. However, there are people out there who love it, and others who don't feel strongly either way but accept it anyway.

I'll never get used to it, but that's one of my first genuine "old man" things that I'll just have to deal with. The wave of the future is higher resolution and frame rate: 4k cinema, resolutions above 1080p, 48fps and above... as long as the monitor/TV will have a 24p setting for those old movies, I'll be fine. But the current and later generations will be brought up on 4k and fast frame rates, and to them, it won't look weird at all.

It's just the way the world is. That's progress. And while I don't find the look appealing on old films, I've got nothing against anyone who likes it for new ones. The world's big enough for both.

Robt C said...

I saw the trailer in a full-on IMAX theater last week. On that large screen, in 2-D but I assume IMAX-quality resolution, the images were jarring. The monsters, spooks, dwarfs, etc looked crystal clear, the colors were crisp, but everything just seemed phony. If I see it (and I'm not sure I will, the trailer seemed like a rerun of all the LOTR flicks), I'll see it on a regular screen in 2-D, 24 fps.

Sigivald said...

So... it's some kind of sharpness beyond what the eye sees in real life, causing it to seem unreal?

No, it's just that it's not as unrealistic as movies have long been, with their low framerates.

(After all, if your eye couldn't see that sharply "in real life", it couldn't see the equally real on screen image any more sharply...

No comment about the 3D issue, though - I have yet to see a modern 3D film, and have no interest, nor do I want it at home.)

Mitchell the Bat said...

Painful, painful, painful.

We are all 21-year-old females.

What a drag it is getting old.

Smilin' Jack said...

I don't see the problem here. Reality has an infinite frame rate, so if HFR bugs you, looking out the window will really bug you.

Nomennovum said...

So now we're all experts on fps. I love it.

Strelnikov said...

It doesn't look "real"? Thank God.

It's a fantasy.

Kelly said...

It's beyond rediculous that they've turned it into three parts. Two would have been pushing it.

Maguro said...

It's beyond rediculous that they've turned it into three parts. Two would have been pushing it.

Yeah, this. There's not nearly enough material in the book to make a trilogy, so I guess they'll just...make some stuff up?

Ann Althouse said...

"(After all, if your eye couldn't see that sharply "in real life", it couldn't see the equally real on screen image any more sharply..."

That seems logical, but you're missing that the eye can focus on the plane that is the screen. Everything is there, with only an illusion of depth. In real life, you can't focus on all the depth levels.

Baron Zemo said...

I never thought they were going to go there. And back again.

Kelly said...

Maguro, they say it's plods along, so they must have kept every tiny detail.

ndspinelli said...

StevenR, You know Lauren Tewes became a bad cokehead.

Smilin' Jack said...

"(After all, if your eye couldn't see that sharply "in real life", it couldn't see the equally real on screen image any more sharply..."

That seems logical, but you're missing that the eye can focus on the plane that is the screen. Everything is there, with only an illusion of depth. In real life, you can't focus on all the depth levels.


That seems logical, but you're missing the fact that neither HFR nor 3D has anything to do with focus. To the eye, anything beyond 20 ft is at optical "infinity." The perception of 3D beyond that distance, as on a movie screen, arises from binocular vision, not focusing.

rehajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"That seems logical, but you're missing the fact that neither HFR nor 3D has anything to do with focus. To the eye, anything beyond 20 ft is at optical "infinity." The perception of 3D beyond that distance, as on a movie screen, arises from binocular vision, not focusing."

I just don't think the eyes looking at the screen are doing quite the same thing as the eyes looking at a real 3-D scene. Obviously, there is a problem people are having with the excessive sharpness and the difference from reality. Whether I've described the reason exactly correctly or not, something like this is happening. There's no sense denying the reality of the problem, which is surely present.

john said...

Robt C said... The monsters, spooks, dwarfs, etc looked crystal clear, the colors were crisp, but everything just seemed phony.



Well, yea.

Synova said...

I react to most HD that way.

Like my sister said... I don't want HD television, I want *airbrush* television.

Synova said...

And 3D is simply atrocious.

Someone said it was great for that prehistoric piranha flick, and I'll take their word for it, and some animated 3D is fun because stuff really does jump out at you but all else... just say no. PLEASE say no.

Synova said...

"For example, when I see a movie with subtitles, it takes more time for me to become 'immersed' in the experience as my mind has to adjust to the unfamiliar task of reading and viewing simultaneously."

I watch subtitled movies often enough that I left the theater after both Kung Fu Hustle and Hero, completely adamant that they had been in English.

Synova said...

I think that a certain percentage of people are just so enthusiastic about the technology that they don't care.

Like seeing Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within and thinking it wasn't the stupidest excuse for a plot possible because it's all... CGI man! Did you see the pores on her nose?

Which, come to think of it is what you get with the uber HD... nose pores. Ew.

Darrell said...

I dated a girl once who didn't like color TV or films. Her female friends who I also met on that first date heartily agreed. It was a very short relationship.

Smilin' Jack said...

Whether I've described the reason exactly correctly or not, something like this is happening. There's no sense denying the reality of the problem, which is surely present.

I haven't seen the movie, and not sure I want to see a movie about an overhyped mythical muppet. But I think the problem may be that it was shot with too large a depth of field, i.e. with all distances in focus. When you look at reality, you can focus on close objects, in which case farther objects will be out of focus, or you can focus on farther objects, in which case closer objects will be out of focus. This will be a problem for a 3D movie in which some objects are intended to appear closer than 20 ft, because some members of the audience will try to focus on the nearer objects and some will try to focus on the farther objects. The director/cinematographer can't simultaneously satisfy both, so he may compromise by having both near and far objects in focus. This sounds like it might be the case here, though this problem would exist for any 3D movie, not just one with HFR.

wildswan said...

There's ways to stitch and layer camera pictures now so that all parts are in focus. So a flower which curves inward is in focus top to bottom. It looks great but it also looks a little unreal for some unknown reason. It's an unresolved debate among my friends whether that "unreal" look is because we're used to camera pictures having the front or back out of focus or whether it's because in reality items in our peripheral vision are out of focus so we think pictures should be that way.
Or whether it's because software picture editing makes saturating colors so easy that lots of pictures now are over-saturated and over-dramatic. Every forest glade in Sierra Club calendars recently looks like something from science fiction or romantic fantasy. Natural reality isn't good enough so we get this Barbie-doll fantasy "nature."

SeanF said...

I don't understand how this effect actually works - I know it does, because I can experience it on my new TV, but I don't understand it.

Watching films on my new TV has a "video" feel, but the fact is that the frame rate hasn't changed. Only the refresh rate has.

But that was true on old-style TVs, too. The frame rate on film was still 24fps (give or take), while the refresh rate was 29.97fps. For something shot originally on video, both rates are 29.97fps. But you could still tell the difference.

So why is that at a refresh rate of 60fps, both sources look similar? The actual image of the film still only changes 24 times a second...

city said...

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