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LAS VEGAS — Warner Bros. showed 10 minutes of 3D footage from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at 48 frames per second after director Peter Jackson said in a videotaped message that he hopes his movie can be played in 48fps in “as many cinemas as possible” when it opens Dec. 14.
The Hobbit, the first major motion picture to be made at the higher frame rate, closed the Warner Bros. slate presentation Tuesday at CinemaCon.
Frame rate refers to the number of images displayed by a projector within one second. The cinema standard has been 24 fps for many decades. Jackson explained that in the early days of film, silent pictures were shown at an even lower frame rate — reducing the amount of film used — but it was bumped to 24 to support the requirements of sound.
Jackson asserted that with digital, there’s “no reason” to stay with 24, noting that higher frame rates can result in smoother, more lifelike pictures while producing fewer motion artifacts.
In his message, Jackson said higher frame rates could make cinema “more attractive,” especially in 3D, as it is “more gentle on the eyes.” He added that 2D at 48fps also looks “fantastic.”
The clips ranged from action sequences to quieter moments, including a dialogue sequence between Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gollum (Andy Serkis). The CinemaCon audience also saw the return of castmembers from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, including Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) and Orlando Bloom (Legolas).
The clarity Jackson described was visible in the presentation, but because the clips were described as “a work in progress,” Warners did not screen footage that was fully color-corrected or had completed VFX work.
Digital cinema equipment manufacturers are at CinemaCon discussing plans to support 48fps exhibition.
Between Cinemark and Rave, there are nearly 4,000 screens in North America that have Barco Series 2 projectors with the required software update and a Doremi Integrated Media Block with beta software to make it capable of playing 48fps, Barco vp digital cinema entertainment Patrick Lee told The Hollywood Reporter.
On Tuesday, Sony announced that a software update for its digital cinema projection systems would support 48fps and be available in the fall. Sony expects the majority of its 13,000 installed 4K digital cinema projectors to support high frame rates by the time The Hobbit is released.
The Hobbit will also be available in 24 fps.
Peter Jackson’s Rings trilogy resulted in an estimated $2.9 billion at the global box office and a combined 17 Academy Awards.
Part 2 of The Hobbit, titled The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is slated for a Dec. 13, 2013, release.
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