The Hobbit Higher Framerate Reactions

Jan 29, 2007
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#1
James Cameron last year put on a speech about how higher frames in motion pictures would be the future, and now we have our first reactions. Whose excited? :lol:

Last year at CinemaCon, James Cameron began his push for the next evolution of cinema — higher framerates. Peter Jackson was the first filmmaker to hear the call to action and shoot a feature film using 48fps. That film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will be released in the holiday season at the end of this yea. It could very well determine the future of how movies look and how films are shot, projected and viewed both theatrically and at home.

A brief primer: Modern films are shot and projected at 24 frames per second. That has been the industry standard for feature films since the mid-1920s after sound motion pictures were introduced. The low frame rate results in a strobing effect when there is moderate camera movement. You have probably accepted this technological artifacting, but it looks artificial and your brain interprets it as such. Raising the framerate makes movement look a lot smoother, and gives the impression of an enhanced resolution. The low framerate is also one of the major factors of why some people experience discomfort while watching 3D movies.

Lets go back in time to last year’s convention. Cameron gave a presentation to a auditorium full of skeptical theater owners/managers (and a few press). And by the end of the presentation, which compared footage shot at 24fps up against the same sequences shot at 48fps and 60fps, most walked away believing they had seen the future of cinema. I was a believer. I wrote:

The footage shot at 48 frames a second looked incredible. The best way to describe it, is to quote Cameron: “If watching a 3D movie is like looking through a window, then [with this] we’ve taken the glass out of the window and we’re staring at reality.”

Cut to one year later: Warner Bros held a presentation which previewed their entire 2012 line-up (you can see my reaction to all the footage in a separate posting). That presentation included over ten minutes of footage from Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit. Buzz was at an all time high to see this footage, which says something when you’re sharing a panel with Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises. Many people I had talked with were expecting to be blown away by the footage, and especially the new, higher, frame rates. Most of us were not.

Please note:
I won’t go into the content of the Hobbit footage in this post, as this is not the point of this article. If you want to read scene descriptions, go elsewhere. If you want to hear some of our reactions to some of the footage, watch our video blog elsewhere on the site. This article is about frame rates and the future of cinema technology.

Jackson recorded a video introducing the footage, being very clear that it was unfinished, featured green screens, and early effects. He said that he chose ten minutes of footage because audiences need time to get use to the new frame rate, time to adjust and see it for what it is. He praised the step to 48 frames per second by saying it gave a new clarity to the footage he shot, comparing it to shooting on 65mm film.

The footage opened up with wide expansive shots of people walking on mountains and over rich green landscapes — those awesome shots that became synonymous with the Lord of the Rings series when it began a decade ago. Thee shots looked incredible — almost like something you would see in an IMAX 3D nature documentary — so extremely vivid and breathtaking, and more real than we’ve ever seen these shots before.

This is the future of Cinema… I thought…

But my amazement quickly came to an end as the sizzle reel transitioned from the landscape footage to the character centric. Everything looked so… different. It was jarring.

The change from 24 frames per second to 48 frames per second is HUGE. It completely changes what every image looks like, the movements, the tone, everything is different.

It looked like a made for television BBC movie.

It looked like when you turn your LCD television to the 120 hertz up-conversion setting.

It looked uncompromisingly real — so much so that it looked fake.

More noticeable in the footage was the make-up, the sets, the costumes. Hobbiton and Middle Earth didn’t feel like a different universe, it felt like a special effect, a film set with actors in costumes. It looked like behind the scenes footage.

The movement of the actors looked… strange. Almost as if the performances had been partly sped up. But the dialogue matched the movement of the lips, so it wasn’t an effect of speed-ramping.

It didn’t look cinematic. Not at all, even with a top filmmaker like Peter Jackson at the helm.

“This is the future of cinema,” I wondered?

But it wasn’t just me — almost everyone I talked to, almost every conversation I overheard while leaving the presentation, all centered around how it didn’t look good.

I think it might be too early to completely write off this jump to higher frame rates. I’m trying my best to be as non-sensationalistic as I possibly can.

Could it be that the footage is so unfinished that it just didn’t look right? Miracles can be accomplished in color time and post processing, so who knows?

Could it be that we’ve grown up looking at 24 frames per second and that this newer, presumably better, higher frame rate looks bad only because its something we’re not use to? Possibly? I don’t know. Maybe in 30 years we’ll be looking back at the choppiness of 24fps films and wonder how we could watch something so unrealistic. I really believed this would be possible leaving Cameron’s presentation last year, but this year I’m a lot more doubtful.

I’m a very enthusiastic person, wanting to embrace change. I’m an early adopter of new technology, I welcome improvements whenever I can. 48 frames per second made sense to me, but after seeing real movie footage shot and projected, I couldn’t be more unsure about it.

Vendors claim that a large amount of the digital projectors already in theaters will be easily upgradable to 48fps through a software update (of course, those tech vendors will probably charge for the patch). Warner Bros and Peter Jackson are hoping that most theaters will upgrade before the film comes out in December. Judging from the reaction from theater owners and managers, I’m not sure if that will happen or not. If it does, I do for see that the change to a higher frame rate could be more polarizing than the jump to 3D. If it looks anything like what was presented today at CinemaCon, I think a lot of people will be angry about this change (when they finally see it for themselves).
 

Ixion

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#2
Here's an impression that's a bit more positive:

http://www.aintitcool.com/node/55212

In the opening minutes, I thought to myself "this looks like the TV department when they turn on 120Hz or TruMotion or whatever they call it". At once, it really doesn’t look like that. The smooth motion clarity is similar, but the 120Hz TV setting is the TV inventing visual information to fill in loads of completely nonexistent frames, creating the bullshit garbage you see walking through most TV departments in stores. Again, there is an element that 48fps and TruMotion share (which is where the comparison comes from), but 48 fps does not simply “look like Korean soap operas” or TruMotion-enhanced TV images. That’s a reductive, sensationalist, utterly bullshit equivocation.
To be honest, it kind of terrified me at first. In his pre-recorded intro, Peter Jackson said that the reason we were seeing 10 minutes of content was that "it takes your eyes a little bit to adjust", and that is absolutely the case. The immersive experience was not immediate, but gradual. I felt much more comfortable toward the end of the presentation, but still disconcerted and outside a comfort zone.
I have major reservations, but at the same time am beyond awed at many elements of what hit my visual cortex. Recalling the sweeping landscape shots they opened with now, I almost feel tears welling, and I can’t explain why. It was overwhelming in the most literal sense. It directly assaults your synapses with twice as much information through your retinas as you have become conditioned to expect. I did not see the digital seams around creatures like Gollum and the trolls, a major benefit over 24fps. The creatures had a sense of mass in the environment, which was disconcerting in a good way.
 
Jan 29, 2007
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#3
Not everyone will reject this change just as some people actually enjoy the 120hz option with TVs, and I mean for movies. The problem is this is gonna be a tough sell as it's clearly a mixed bag to say the least. I mean individually is one thing but pulling in an audience is going to be a whole other story.

They can't advertise this in 48 fps if they're smart. Trailers will only make things worse. if the studio wants/needs to sell this, the best bet is to advertise it just as they would with 3D (back when they actually mentioned being natively shot). Put a tag on the trailer and/or tv spots.

At that point, they'll have to hope for the best after the initial showings come release. And critics reactions steering the public in the direction they want.

If reactions begin to grow positively I would like to experience it for myself, but I'll be pissed if I have to pay good money and an hour in I just can't do it anymore. Thankfully, I think 48fps can be played at home easier than 3D meaning most homes should be capable... they mentioned that theaters just need a simple upgrade so perhaps home units will work similarly.
 
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PBM

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#4
I freaking hate 120 Hz TVs, but I'm glad it was clarified it's not quite like that visually. That would just ruin the experience for me.
 
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[QUOTE="PeanutButterMunky, post: 5815891]I freaking hate 120 Hz TVs, but I'm glad it was clarified it's not quite like that visually. That would just ruin the experience for me.[/QUOTE]You do realize that the one I posted said it did. All I'm saying is, it's possible it does. Like 3D, I think people are going to react differently. Although 3D may have been a walk in the park compared to this.
 

PBM

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#6
[QUOTE="RedDragon7, post: 5815895]You do realize that the one I posted said it did. All I'm saying is, it's possible it does. Like 3D, I think people are going to react differently. Although 3D may have been a walk in the park compared to this.[/QUOTE]

I'm drunk, sorry. If it does, that's a serious step backward in cinema. :/
 

Vyse

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#7
I believe daytime soap operas have followed a similar trend because they look smoother than the average television show and movie. It really shouldn't affect the production value of your work though. PC gamers enjoy playing games at a higher framerate. I'm sure we can say the same thing for movies if we take the time to adjust to such a change.
 
Jan 29, 2007
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#8
I'm not trying to be the one here that condemns this before giving it a fair shot (although I'm on the fence), BUT....

Games do not equal movies. Games always strive for higher framerate, smoother action. You see movies do that? Nope. Games are putting you directly into the shoes of a character and wrapping a complete world around you with much as backstory and side stories and so on and so forth, much like a novel.

Movies tell specific narratives, stripping information to what is needed. i.e. deleted scenes. Games adopted camera angles and depth of field after movies... to give a cinematic look as of course various games to try to imitate movies. But things don't always go both ways, hence why 3D is prospering more for games than it does movies. With the exception of technical limitations.
 

PBM

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#11
[QUOTE="RedDragon7, post: 5815903]I'm not trying to be the one here that condemns this before giving it a fair shot (although I'm on the fence), BUT....

Games do not equal movies. Games always strive for higher framerate, smoother action. You see movies do that? Nope. Games are putting you directly into the shoes of a character and wrapping a complete world around you with much as backstory and side stories and so on and so forth, much like a novel.

Movies tell specific narratives, stripping information to what is needed. i.e. deleted scenes. Games adopted camera angles and depth of field after movies... to give a cinematic look as of course various games to try to imitate movies. But things don't always go both ways, hence why 3D is prospering more for games than it does movies. With the exception of technical limitations.[/QUOTE]

Yep... comparing game frame rates to movie frame rates is... well... wrong. =\
 

Vyse

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#12
[QUOTE="PeanutButterMunky, post: 5815916]Yep... comparing game frame rates to movie frame rates is... well... wrong. =\[/QUOTE]
I saw it. Thanks.
 

MjW

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#13
I don't know, I'm used to 24p being the cinema/film experience. Good lack making 48p not to look like a documentary.
 
Jan 29, 2007
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#14
[QUOTE="MATRIX 2, post: 5815909]I'd imagine if it really was a significant issue with the finished product they might be able to play it back at 24fps.[/QUOTE]Oh, of course they can do that. Hence the first trailer is running at 24p. I doubt they're going to pull the plug though, and I wouldn't either if I were them.
 

Ixion

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#15
Just keep in mind that much of the aspects were unfinished, such as the film being ungraded. Some viewers also said the framerate would have been easier to get into if they showed full scenes, instead of constantly cutting to something different. All I know is that I'm interested to see this now. lol

Anyway, here's an in-depth description of what happened in those 10 minutes...

TheOneRing said:
PJ's intro was mostly about the technical aspects, saying that this change in frame rate is analogous to moving from silent to sound.

Opening shots were helicopter shots, similar to opening of TTT. Gorgeous. Sunrise over Misty Mountains to the fluting strains of Howard Shore music. Followed by a few shots that were seen in the trailer, intros of characters, etc.

Dol Guldur/Thrain - Gandalf is seen wandering through sub-dungeon of Dol Guldur, searching through corridors as if being chased. Thrain crazed, out his mind from torture, jumps out of the dark in a "Boo!" moment and attacks Gandalf. Yes, this is the scene from the trailer. Thrain's face is not closely seen. No other creatures are seen there.

Scenes of Bilbo in the Shire, mostly stuff we've seen in the trailer or vlogs. Martin Freeman as Bilbo is very different from other hobbits. He has a lightness and elan, with a very light comedic touch. Not like slapstick humor of Merry & Pippin. Fresh, funny, approachable, comedic but not too much. Quickbeam was very enthusiastic about his performance.

Saruman/White Council - this was still green screen, no grading or background effects added yet. Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf are shown sitting with Saruman. Radagast was not present. Galadriel looking at a sword, identifies as a Morgul blade. Everyone is aghast as she tells the history of the blade as she says it is the sword of the Witch-King and he was destroyed long before in battles with the North Kingdom. He was held in a dungeon in the North from which he should not have been able to escape but Galadriel is afraid that this means he has. Saruman is studying it carefully, with maybe a glint in his eye.

Galadriel touching Gandalf's face. The context is Galadriel asking Gandalf why he chose this particular hobbit. Gandalf says, almost to himself, that it is because he sometimes feels a little afraid and Bilbo gives him courage. Galadriel touches his face and tells him not to be afraid, that he always has friends.

Radagast - Gandalf is shown alone in the dark with his staff lit, searching through catacombs where the ringwraith's tombs are...then Radagast appears suddenly. Both put their staffs down the tunnel to see the tombs broken open. Radagast seems rather childlike, like he is more in tune wth animals than people. Radagast's staff is similar to Gandalf's; a knobbly wooden staff. Radagast is "weird and wonderful" looks nothing like the Decipher card. This is a new Radagast is an "unbelievable, crazy, cool, mess", with a bird's nest on his head. Quickbeam loved his appearance and style. Radagast was only shown in the dark, "Moria-style" dungeon which was only lit by Gandalf's staff. It was hard to see costume details but they appeared to be a mixture of black and brown, with a "weird shaped" hat with flaps on it. He has a bird nest on his head under his hat. Was conversing with Gandalf about the crypts/tombs that had once belonged to the Ringwraiths. Radagast also has a staff. The only other shot of Radagast was him flying by in his sled. Radagast has a sled that runs on the forest floor, drawn by larger-than-life (but not giant) grey jackrabbits. Q really liked the sled, thought it was cool.

Mirkwood, the dwarves are shown after their spider sequence, they are covered in spider webs. Don't see much of Mirkwood, what is seen has spider webs everywhere. Tauriel slides into the scene with bow and arrow at the ready. Brown outfit with braided hairdo. Medium brown hair (not blond). Legolas appeared at the end of the scene with Tauriel. AS the dwarves are running covered in webs, they are suddenly confronted by Elves, and Legolas has an arrow pointed at Thorin's nose, saying "I will not hesitate to kill you, dwarf!" setting up for his attitude in LOTR. His costume is the same as LOTR. Tauriel's is similar, but in brown rather than green.

Not shown in the footage - No shot of Thranduil. No Laketown, no Elven halls. No shots of spiders or eagles. No Beorn. No Rhosgobel or Necromancer. No shots of Dale, Lonely Mountain or any hint of Smaug. No shots of goblins. No Bard or Master of Laketown. No hint of Aragorn/Rangers, etc. No shots of the Ring. Not much of the music, it's still be worked on. No dwarf singing, no Elves on horseback, no wargs, no goblins. No dwarf women.

Dwarves - Dwarves look great, with a lot of detail. Some are presented in a comedic way, some serious, all very different and distinct characters. No more dwarf singing. Sounds like mostly what we've already seen in trailer and vlogs except for one brief shot of dwarves in barrels on the river, with some effects tape visible - not a finished scene.

Trolls - They showed about a minute and a half of troll scene. Features some camera shots from above, creating a good sense of perspective with the live actors. Scene begins with a scene of Bilbo suddenly caught by "ginormous" hill trolls. In the troll scene, all the dwarves come runnign to rescue Bilbo. One of the younger ones takes an axe stroke at the legs of one troll, others stab at their feet. The trolls are articulate in speech with heavy Cockney accents. The scene goes similar to the book but not exactly. Wallet is not shown (or heard). "burrahobbit" is in, though we hear a "g" sound in there so it comes out like "burgahobbit". One of the trolls reminded Q a little of "Sloth" from The Goonies, with a slightly misshapen face

Riddle scene - Gollum is a "new vision" because he is now in 48fps. Scene is established with Bilbo begging for a way out of the cave but Gollum wants to play riddles. He identifies himself as Smeagol. Gollum regrets giving his name as Bilbo later regrets giving his. The Riddle scene was shown intercut with action scene with trolls, running with spiderwebs, Bilbo in the Shire. Gollum is mostly being Smeagol because he's trying to interact with another being that isn't a goblin. Bilbo still feels threatened and has Sting out in a defensive way. Sting is not glowing yet (there are no orcs present). Bilbo is wearing the same color jacket in the cave scene as in LOTR - he apparently leaves Rivendell wearing that jacket. - the scene ends with Gollum proposing the "stakes" - Bilbo saying if he wins, Gollum has to show him the way out. Gollum agrees and says that if he wins, "we gets to eats it raw". Bilbo hesitates and then agrees. Gollum comes off as attracted by the idea of talking with a fellow being, but also hungry, so we get a sense of the schizophrenic Seamgol/Gollum divide.

Returning characters - Christopher Lee might look slightly older, but Gandalf and Galadriel look the same. The returning characters look just the same as in LOTR. Legolas appears briefly.

Frame rate/3D - 48fps was crystal-clear and vivid, not like watching film. The images are "very sharp", the depth of field is "amazing". Quickbeam says he doesn't know if it's "too clear", it is very different and it you'll have to acclimate to it. The prosthetics did not look fake. The digital work of the CGI creatures looks even better at the higher frame rate. He says the trolls look fantastic. It will take some getting used to, whether people will like it immediately or not is hard to tell. It looks brighter and more vivid than LOTR footage. If there are complaints about the new framerate "I'm not surprised, welcome to the new frontier." It's a major change that will take adjustment. Fans will have the choice to see it in 2D or 3D -yes, 3D glasses will be needed. Quickbeam wore his comfortably over his usual glasses at this event. There were no scenes of "gimmick" 3D with things coming straight out of the screen, more a sense of depth in the image.
 
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Ixion

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#17
[QUOTE="keefy, post: 5816181]Does it get rid of the panning judder? I hate that when in a cinema does my eyes in.[/QUOTE]

Peter Jackson said:
Looking at 24 frames every second may seem ok--and we've all seen thousands of films like this over the last 90 years--but there is often quite a lot of blur in each frame, during fast movements, and if the camera is moving around quickly, the image can judder or "strobe."

Shooting and projecting at 48 fps does a lot to get rid of these issues.
It looks much more lifelike, and it is much easier to watch, especially in 3-D. We've been watching HOBBIT tests and dailies at 48 fps now for several months, and we often sit through two hours worth of footage without getting any eye strain from the 3-D. It looks great, and we've actually become used to it now, to the point that other film experiences look a little primitive. I saw a new movie in the cinema on Sunday and I kept getting distracted by the juddery panning and blurring. We're getting spoilt!
 

Nerevar

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#18
I'm actually very interested in seeing a movie shot in a 48-frame capture, especially if it's a Lord of the Rings movie. I think I'll enjoy the extra detail in the movie.

[QUOTE="RedDragon7, post: 5815903]Games do not equal movies. Games always strive for higher framerate, smoother action. You see movies do that? Nope. Games are putting you directly into the shoes of a character and wrapping a complete world around you with much as backstory and side stories and so on and so forth, much like a novel.[/quote]

I don't understand this comparison or the reasons behind it.

[QUOTE="RedDragon7, post: 5815903]Movies tell specific narratives, stripping information to what is needed. i.e. deleted scenes. Games adopted camera angles and depth of field after movies... to give a cinematic look as of course various games to try to imitate movies. But things don't always go both ways, hence why 3D is prospering more for games than it does movies. With the exception of technical limitations.[/QUOTE]

That's because 3D looks shoddy and blurry in most movies, and the movie-going crowd just doesn't care for it as much as the more tech-savvy gamers.
 

Ixion

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#21
[QUOTE="Dave-The-Rave, post: 5816213]Well that is a wall of text, can someone summarise what the problem is?[/QUOTE]

Some people think it makes movies look too real and takes away the cinematic look of a film. It's as if there used to a wall between the actors and the audience, and now that wall is gone.
 

jlippone

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#22
[QUOTE="Ixion, post: 5816215]Some people think it makes movies look too real and takes away the cinematic look of a film. It's as if there used to a wall between the actors and the audience, and now that wall is gone.[/QUOTE]
Just the thing that 3D was meant to do and now with higher framerate, it finally is closer to being true.
 

Vulgotha

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#23
I've had similar feelings about the higher framerate aspect of cinema\games (sped up TV's) for awhile. It does look fake, it looks cheap.

I've never liked it.
 

Ixion

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#24
[QUOTE="Vulgotha, post: 5816259]I've had similar feelings about the higher framerate aspect of cinema\games (sped up TV's) for awhile. It does look fake, it looks cheap.

I've never liked it.[/QUOTE]

Are you referring to the 120hz feature? Because this is completely different, as that feature just makes things up, while 48 FPS adds actual frames of footage.
 

Vulgotha

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#25
Eh my point is the appearance is similar (much like this guy mentioned in his preview). It looks like a crappy Soap Opera from Oxygen\Hallmark or something.
 

ex nihilo7

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#26
I'm sure this will turn out fine. There is always the option of using 24p if the 48p doesn't work. By the way guys, 120Hz != trumotion or any of the post processing you can turn on with your TV. 120Hz TVs take a 60Hz signal and replicates it to 120 Hz. True 120Hz tvs can take a pure 120Hz signal. Turning on TruMotion or whatever the other companies call their post processing soap opera effect is not turning on 120Hz.
 
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Jan 29, 2007
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#27
[QUOTE="Ixion, post: 5816169]Just keep in mind that much of the aspects were unfinished, such as the film being ungraded. Some viewers also said the framerate would have been easier to get into if they showed full scenes, instead of constantly cutting to something different. All I know is that I'm interested to see this now. lol[/QUOTE]Which is why trailers and TV spots will be standard 24p (if they're even remotely smart). Also, objective speaking, we won't have an accurate account of how it works till the full movie is screened in November/December (unless there's some early screening somewhere).

However, this is not the first time something with a story has had more than the standard 24 framerate. Live TV for one... and that in itself would absolutely look weird. 30 Rock did a live show and thank God it's comedy, it felt like an SNL skit.

So with that said, I'm definitely reserved to how successful this might be. On paper and in PR (i.e. James Cameron), the whole "more real" thing sounds good and engrossing but that's no different than a video game developer spouting about their game. We all prefer to see it first hand in those cases rather than buying into wording/hype.
 

R_Mac_1

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#28
All I know is if it truly makes it look like any of the AMP/Trumotion/smoothing whatever....I will hate it. As soon as I see that crap on someone's TV I want to turn it off.

Sent from my HTC Rezound on Tapatalk 2
 

jlippone

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[QUOTE="R_Mac_1, post: 5816436]All I know is if it truly makes it look like any of the AMP/Trumotion/smoothing whatever....I will hate it. As soon as I see that crap on someone's TV I want to turn it off.
[/QUOTE]
It doesn't.
Here's small video which shows difference between 24fps with 180 degree shutter and 48fps with 270 degree shutter.
Motion blur is not quite as long and temporal resolution is doubled, just as in hobbit.

(mirrors)
http://pub.lv-up.net/basement_red_fps.zip
http://maximum-attack.com/basement_red_fps.zip
http://ge.tt/9GEgaqG/v/0?c

48fps brings more small details in object movement and in general is smoother.
This should be very good thing in a 3D movie like the Hobbit.
 
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MjW

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#30
[QUOTE="jlippone, post: 5816579]It doesn't.
Here's small video which shows difference between 24fps with 180 degree shutter and 48fps with 270 degree shutter.
Motion blur is not quite as long and temporal resolution is doubled, just as in hobbit.

(mirrors)
http://pub.lv-up.net/basement_red_fps.zip
http://maximum-attack.com/basement_red_fps.zip
http://ge.tt/9GEgaqG/v/0?c

48fps brings more small details in object movement and in general is smoother.
This should be very good thing in a 3D movie like the Hobbit.[/QUOTE]
I can see 48p+ benefiting 3D. Don't know about the rest until I see the movie.