Use of 48fps in “The Hobbit” creates skepticism among film-goers

Fans looking forward to Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth this weekend might be in for a surprise if they head to specific theaters. Controversy has been brewing between industry heads and film-buffs alike as Jackson has disclosed that the Hobbit trilogy will be filmed using 48 frame-per-second technology, with “An Unexpected Journey” being the first film to use the technique.

The Hobbit opens in theaters tonight at midnight. (Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

Though the phrase “48 FPS” may seem like film geek jargon, Jackson’s artistic decision has been causing huge waves at prescreenings across the country. Rather than the typical rate of 24 frames per second used in films for over 80 years, the film’s technology doubles that number. This increase in framerate allows for a crisper image as well as less blurring during motion. Seems like a great idea, right? Though Jackson is confident in his vision, reactions have been mixed.

Like seeing an HDTV for the first time, the 48 FPS technology has reportedly shaken ill-prepared audience members. Nausea and cases of vomiting have been reported at pre-screenings around the world. Over at Slashfilm, Peter Sciretta described the film as looking, “like a made for television BBC movie…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.”

It seems as if the effect of the technology does indeed result in a more lifelike production values, but it seems possible that the extra inch towards reality is sending Jackson’s project over the cliff into unexplored territory.

Still, ever the visionary, Jackson stands by his decision. In’s report of Jackson’s press conference for the film, Jackson said, “I’m tending to see that anyone under the age of 20 or so doesn’t really care and thinks it looks cool, not that they understand it but they often just say that 3D looks really cool. I think 3D at 24 frames is interesting, but it’s the 48 that actually allows 3D to almost achieve the potential that it can achieve because it’s less eye strain and you have a sharper picture which creates more of the 3-dimensional world.”

Other Hollywood directors like Bryan Singer (X-Men, The Usual Suspects) and James Cameron have backed Jackson’s frame rate as well, with Cameron even hinting that the Avatar sequels may utilize the technology.

Ultimately, all talk about the film’s look will mean nothing until it is experienced. Perhaps it’s truly the surreal mind-boggler fans have been reporting, or perhaps the public will quickly adapt and wolf down the new film anyways. Complaints of queasy audiences have pervaded even films as successful as Avatar and the Twilight franchise, so early buzz claiming the film is unwatchable should be taken with a grain of salt.

Fortunately, there are currently nine theaters in Colorado planning on showing the film in all its 48 FPS glory, including Boulder’s Century Theater and the AMC Westminster Promenade 24 in Denver (showing it in IMAX), so adventurous film-goers will have a chance to experience the film.

Check out other theaters playing the format here.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Goldner at

Sam Goldner

Staff Writer. Sam Goldner is a junior Advertising and Political Science major and also works as the Music Director for Radio 1190. He has written for Tastemakers Magazine, hosted a radio show at WRBB in Boston, and interned at the Fox Theatre. In his free time, he enjoys watching movies, Super Smash Bros., playing guitar, riding his bike, and scouring for music.

  1. I have caught the midnight viewing of “The Hobbit; An Unexpected Journey”. And I viewed the regular viewing, not the 3D. Let me tell you that any skepticism you are hearing about 48 frames per second is load of hogwash. It was great. Very rich detail for the eye candy. It did not diminish the movie in any way, shape, or form. I am a cinephile, and let me tell you 48 fps more then passed the eye test. And, again, this is for the regular viewing, not even 3D. Any controversy about the 48 fps is wannabe-film pundits just making noise for noise’s sake.

  2. You make it sound like aversion to the 3D process was a passing thing, something to be dismissed, but I assure you many of us get violently nauseated by it, and I for one haven’t gotten used to it. I refuse to see a film that way. I sense I may be affected the same way by 48fps, though I don’t know for sure. But the issues of 3D and its negative qualities are very much there.

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