Monday, December 24, 2012

24FPS vs 48FPS High Frame Rate

I have now watched THE HOBBIT AUJ in both the 3D formats that it is released in as far as frame-rate is concerned. I watched the standard 24FPS version on the best 3D screen in the country, Meydan's IMAX cinema. I then watched the 48FPS High-Frame Rate version at the Grand Snakeplex. Without the slightest of hesitation, I wholeheartedly support the HFR experience.

The simplest way to explain the difference in my two experiences is by comparing it to what I honestly felt when I was watching the movie a second time: it is like upgrading from low-res to hi-res, i.e., from VHS to DVD, or DVD to Blu-Ray (see below). Although the two can't be equated on technical terms (hi-res means there is more information per single-image, HFR means more images per second), they can be compared in one way: both "upgrades" mean more information for the eye (and mind) per second. Acceptance of the new format, or rejection as the case may be, is dependent on a person's ability and willingness to adapt to the new. For traditionalists, the HFR format will be as appalling as AudioCDs are to vinyl enthusiasts. But opinion aside, there is no disputing the fact that HFR is *technically* better.

Going from the standard 24FPS to 48FPS HFR is similar to upgrading from Stereo sound to Surround sound. For the same movie, it enhances the experience by providing for a better quality of what you sense. I distinctly remember watching LORD OF THE RINGS on Blu-Ray for the first time. It all felt fake. I could see the smallest of wrinkles on Gandalf’s face. I could even see the strands of Galadriel’s hair. The armour of Sauron looked too metallic, and the nose of Gimli was too bulbous. But this was when I was skipping through scenes to see what the movie “looked” like. Once I started watching the film from the start, it took me just a few minutes, and then I was absorbed into the film (with regular gasps of how good things now looked). Now I find my DVD experience of the same movie less satisfactory. But you know what? I also still remember my first experience of surround sound, MORTAL KOMBAT in 1995 at Dubai’s legendary but now defunct Al Nasr Cinema. I would to turn back to see who’s shouting from the back, until I realized that the movie’s sound was all around us.

When I watched THE HOBBIT AUJ in 48FPS 3D last night, it took me all of 12 minutes (I checked my watch) to get used to the super-clear images on screen. After that, it was an experience at the cinemas I haven’t had since I witnessed bullet-time in THE MATRIX. The audience regularly ooh’d and aah’d at the spectacular visuals. The cinema-screen became like a real window, peeking into this fantastic world that I felt I could reach out and touch. I didn't notice the sets as being fake. I couldn't make out the make-up of the actors, or the props being anything other than what they were supposed to be. In fact, the HFR took care of exactly what it was meant to: the 3D’s nauseating effect on the mind. At the end of the movie, neither were my eyes tired, nor did I have any throbbing in my head. Which had another direct impact on my experience of the film: I did not feel it long or tiresome at all. 166 minutes went by without another look at the watch or an uncomfortable shift in my seat. The effect of 48FPS was only positive.

It is also a mark of the quality of CGI effects and make-up that even at the heightened clarity of HFR, I could not make out the CGI from the practical effects, or the CGI from the make-up. Gollum, that wonder of a creation by Weta, withstood the scrutiny of close-ups. When the production values are so good, the director does not hide it in shadows or low frame rates.

Anybody who has not yet watched THE HOBBIT AUJ (and wants to watch it), or has not watched it in 48FPS 3D – I highly recommend the movie in 48FPS HFR 3D. It is an experience to behold.

Since still-images can’t convey what 48fps HFR is to regular 24fps, here are some image comparisons of DVD to Blu-Ray. The reason I include them here is because this is exactly how I felt going from 24FPS to 48FPS.

1) Does the "set" in the second image look fake?

2) Does the make-up in the second image look all wrong?

3) Does the T-Rex in the second image look like a puppet/toy/hollow CGI?

48FPS HFR is a subjective experience. Experience it for yourself before deciding you like it or not.

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