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3D HFR is dead! Thank you Peter Jackson!


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Last night I watched the much anticipated conclusion of the Hobbit trilogy. And sadly I have to concur with all the people who said, that 3D HFR looks absolutely dreadful.

Look, I have been a huge fan of "Lord of the Rings", I love fantasy, I love the feeling to be swept into another world, taken to another time and led to magical illusionary places.
The Hobbit fails on all counts, at least in 3D HFR.

For the whole movie I was so distracted by the technical aspects that I couldn't build any "relationship" with the protagonists. Whereas in LOR I would tend to empathize and even cry, many scenes in the Hobbit are rather cringeworthy, even those that were probably meant otherwise.

The look reminded me of computer games which might be the reason, why younger movie goers I spoke to, showed a distinctly different response. But the overly photorealistic, plasticky impression makes me concentrate on the tons of make up instead of the facial expressions, on the visibly artificial scene and furnishings instead of the grand (?) tale, on the sheer plethora of detail and resolution instead of the plot.

The 3D distracts from the main things happening in the movie, instead leading viewers to get lost in the multiple planes of view.

The HFR destroys the filmic impression, by taking away 24p motion blur, which really lends itself to fantasy and accentuates its magic potency.

Besides that, The Hobbit is also a rather mediocre motion picture IMHO. Flat, almost comical dialogues, very few unexpected turns and a main actor thats simply not as likable and convincing as in LOR. And of course, the trilogy could and should have been conflated into one movie.

Now, why am I posting this? Just to vent? No, because, as many camera nerds around here, I was so excited to read all information about the new 4K cameras (especially the NX1) and got all worked up about getting more resolution. But after watching The Hobbit I have concluded that more resolution and sharpness is mostly not needed (at least not for fantasy, drama, comedy, maybe for documentaries, news and porn) and that it can actually subtract from the viewing experience.

Insofar the Hobbit has been an epiphany for me: I will now concentrate more on color science, dynamic range, lowlight abilities, stabilization, handling and highlight roll off among other things.

4K is certainly not dead, it has many uses, especially as an aquisition format (in-post stabilization, zoom, downscaling, green screen work), but I don't see it as the be-all and end-all of cameras.

End of rant.



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Saw the previous one in HFR 3D, and though it was sort of interesting... I came away with pretty much the same conclusion you have. And, when I went to see the finale... I opted for standard projection and not even 3D.

I can't remember what the quote was exactly, but David Lynch said something regarding HD several years ago. It was something to the effect that too much detail distracts and doesn't let the viewer's imagination fill in what's in the shadows. Or something like that. He seemed to prefer the older, low-tech black and white films with minimal detail. He also didn't like the fact that before the head of a nail in the set, that normally wouldn't be seen, was now completely viewable in HD and that it'd have to be painted over, etc.

At the time, I thought maybe he was just stuck in the past and didn't want to give it up for the new technology, etc. But now I'm thinking he was absolutely on to something. 

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It's HFR 3D that's the problem not 4K.

It destroys the mystery of the image and makes it seem real.

Still depends on the subject matter though! Reality is good for showing reality not so much for showing a wizard with makeup on.

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I saw one of the earliest big 4K monitors at NAB one year.

The shot was of a Samurai walking down a gravel path. I quickly realised I was staring at the detail of the gravel rather than the actor's face!

I also saw plenty of Sony 50p and 60p that year, and found it plastic and dead. Too much like real life.

Since then I never really obsessed much over resolution or HFR, in fact I often blur footage slightly on purpose! It feels dreamier, and the best movies are kind of like waking dreams I find...

Wildlife, sport, reporting and some kinds of documentary suit both well I'm sure.


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It's fine in 2D 4K as is the IMAX 24p stuff.

I know what JG means about focussing audience attention on the wrong details though :) But you can only do that if standing really close the screen. 4K on a big screen from the right viewing distances is simply gorgeous! Now I get more distracted when something is too soft but because I'm used to it, I can just forget that and enjoy the story.

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I was sitting in the sixth row in Colognes biggest cinema theatre, so I was pretty close, maybe too close. But I am also shortsighted, which should have blurred the image for me.

I thought the picture was too detailed and sharp. I guess those things are a matter of taste which is hard to argue about.

I believe we can agree on this: A movie is failing, if the technical characteristics poke you in the eye!

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I still contend that people mistakenly conflate the visual nature of HFR with high resolution.  High resolution has been with us in cinema for over a century.  Gone With The Wind is still incredible, for instance.

However, the thing that really really bugs me about 48fps high frame rate is that when it's combined with a high shutter of around 100/sec you're taking away pretty much all the motion blur on edges of objects moving through the frame.  This more than anything causes perceived high resolution as every freaking thing in the focused frame is tack sharp.  It's information overload. 

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If directors want to go to HFR I think they have to be extremely disciplined how they move their camera in this visual space.  

I feel HFR can be exploited, but in order to do so you have to appreciate how humans utilize their own eyesight.  Even though our eyesight has a biological "shutter speed" well above 48fps, we also FOCUS our attention on specific objects in our personal field of view.  All else, according to our brain, falls out of focus, so to speak.  I really think that we're evolutionarily wired to appreciate a motion picture frame with a strong focusable center of interest.  Take that away and you're asking for trouble.  AKA: This Hobbit nonsense.  Ultimately it's just poorly directed.  The sensational motion and hyper-kinetictivity is so incredibly abnormal it's a visual liability.  Again, any director going this route better be extremely wary of the technology they wield.  Jackson just went for it all as he had that capability at his disposal...and it bit him in the ass. 

Here's something to think about, do the very limitations of 24fps cinema supports our visual experience?  

It may be counterintuitive to think so, but consider how a film camera has to stay below a certain pan speed to avoid judder.  Couldn't that visual constraint actually reinforce our biological expectations?  Obviously our sight shifts much quicker than a slow 24fps pan, right?  But, we also "defocus" our perception as we rapidly shift our field of view.  Perhaps when you DON'T do that in cinema it's an uncomfortable assault on our senses.

Longer takes, slower camera movement, no rapid editing, and a bit of shallow DOF.   This combined with HFR might make a more tolerable experience.  The whole biological and psychological human visuality needs to be more considered.  It's going to take a serious re-think of the cinematography approach, I believe.

That said, I think maybe a good compromise would be to shoot 48fps with a 0º shutter.  You'd get the benefit of object motion blur combined with a high frame rate.  Also, you'd create a source file that would be easily down converted into the traditional medium for those that prefer it.

I'd encourage any of you PAL shooters to give that set-up a go with 50fps and a 50 shutter.  Then convert to 25fps and see how it plays.  

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