It’s a curious thing to have harbored mostly negative reactions to all things Peter Jackson for many years (aside from Heavenly Creatures and a fair-sized portion of The Lovely Bones), and then experience an abrupt turnaround within a four-month period due to (a) his funding, producing and promoting of Amy Berg‘s brilliant West of Memphis, and (b) his using 48 frames per second photography in The Hobbit and advocating for this new technology, which is altogether stunning.
Jackson’s reactions to the 48 fps hoo-hah out of Cinemacon appeared yesterday.
“Nobody is going to stop,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “This technology is going to keep evolving. At first it’s unusual because you’ve never seen a movie like this before. It’s literally a new experience, but you know, that doesn’t last the entire experience of the film; not by any stretch, after 10 minutes or so. You settle into it.”
The post-demonstration rumble, I was told, was that Warner Bros. execs have confided that perhaps the 48 fps image could be roughed up a bit so as to look a bit more “cinematic” and less high-def video-ish. (This was seemingly alluded to in Jackson’s remark about how 48 fps technology is going to “keep evolving.”)
The bottom line is that once younger audiences get a taste of it, 48 frames per second will be here to stay. I’m dead certain there won’t be any going back to 24 fps when it comes to CG fantasy and action and heavily immersive atmosphere-spectacle films. I knew in an instant during the Cinemacon screening that it would soon be the only game in town for those genres. Action sequences are incredibly affecting at 48 fps, and I was knocked out by the realism of Jackson (and Andy Serkis’s) CG Gollum character in 48 fps. You know it’s CG, of course, but it’s hard to dismiss it out of hand, as I do regularly with 24 fps, because it looks so real.
Remember Dean Goodhill‘s Maxivision, the 48 fps 35mm process that Roger Ebert has been passionately promoting for the last twelve or thirteen years? It never took off, and it’s certainly dead now that Jackson’s digital 48 fps process has the spotlight, but there’s no way that 48 fps will recede. Not a chance.
Straight character- and dialogue-driven dramas can and probably will remain in the 24 fps mode without any issues or complaints, although I would advocate an industry-wide acceptance of at least 30 frames per second overall. 30 fps is cleaner and more fluid with reduced pan blur during motion shots. Only two mainstream films have been shot and exhibited at 30 fps — the original Todd AO roadshow presentation of Fred Zinneman‘s Oklahoma! (’55) (a restored version of which was screened in Hollywood in ’84 or thereabouts) and Michael Todd‘s Around The World in Eighty Days (’56). Exhibitor complaints about cost resulted in a downgrading of Todd AO to 24 frames with the release of South Pacific (’58).