Last year at the theater owners' CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas, James Cameron put together a lengthy presentation touting the virtues of faster frame rates. This year, exhibitors were able actually to see the new technology put to the test in a feature film with 10 minutes of footage from Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
Jackson has shot the new film, due out in December, at 48 frames per second. For roughly 80 years, the standard industry frame rate -- the frequency at which images are projected -- has been 24 frames per second (Hence the name of this blog). Cameron, incidentally, has vowed to shoot the sequel to "Avatar" at an even quicker rate of 60.
In a filmed video message from New Zealand shown to exhibitors Tuesday, Jackson implored theater owners to project his new 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 costume, whose every move -- and pore -- was crystal clear. Such realism put off some trade show attendees, who complained the footage didn't feel enough like a traditional film.