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How did the Hobbit's swordplay and action stack up? Picture perfect to me - A testament to the great job that the props and art dept did. Their work shone bright in HFR 3D.

Negatives

Even without IMAX, I was sufficiently immersed in the 3D world of Middle Earth, yet ever so often "pulled out" when heads were needlessly chopped by bad framing and window violations.

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What was the overall experience like? Brilliant!
I'm convinced that I only want to watch movies in HFR, even if they are not in stereoscopic 3D.

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The Hobbit in HFR stereoscopic 3D:

At first I thought Hobbits were swift on their feet. After all, I’ve not followed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. My exposure to Gandalf and Frodo were back in the day, playing the graphical adventure game on the Amiga.

I’m not sure if Hobbits are fast on their feet, but that was the impression the opening minutes of the movie had on me. Later on as the movie progressed, this strange Hobbit quirk didn’t surface. I link this phenomenon has something to do with HFR 3D. I hypothesized a few reasons that I experienced this speed-up and slow-down of actor movement:

a) My eyes needed time to ‘run-in’ to get used to 48 fps cinema.
b) The projector system or media block had some anomaly? (Barco with RealD filter).
c) That particular movie segment was shot with a quirky 3D camera? Maybe the footage could not be re-shot later?

This was my initial experience of the Hobbit in HFR 3D.

HFR 3D – I’m Sold on the product:

What was the overall experience like? Brilliant!

I’m convinced that I only want to watch movies in HFR, even if they are not in stereoscopic 3D. There was no loss of “that cinematic dreamy feel” that some people wax lyrical about. The huge vistas and detailing on both the actors and sets captured in S3D were a feast for the eyes, and yes, they did transport me to Middle Earth. I can’t say much for the story… It did drag on a tad too long on many scenes. This is a review with a technical slant, and to that end, the Hobbit in 48 fps 3D was money well spent by both the producers and the Audience.

My first viewing of HFR 3D material was at a presentation done on Christie HFR capable Projectors and featuring James Cameron talking to the audience, followed by sample footage he presented of various camera blocking and action scenes in HFR 3D (48 and 60 fps).

During one particular clip, I noticed that the swordplay between two actors (in the JC sample footage) looked staged. This could be either because HFR does challenge verisimilitude to a certain extent, or the acting was not good enough. At 48 fps, there is less motion blur/strobing (shutter angle etc. not being taken into consideration) and one can’t hide a make believe world in HFR as is possible with the artifact cloud cover that 24fps offers.

How did the Hobbit’s swordplay and action stack up? Picture perfect to me. Granted the Hobbit has generous helpings of CGI action thrown in, but I did not feel swords or battle gear to be plastic-ky or styrofoam like. A testament to the great job that the props and art dept did. Their work shone bright in HFR 3D.

Stereoscopic 3D Critique:

It’s been a while now that 3D films have become main stream, yet it is sad to see that Directors, Cinematographers and Stereographers are being careless to a certain degree, on the creation of good stereoscopic imagery. Some points that came to mind:

1) Even without IMAX, I was sufficiently immersed in the 3D world of Middle Earth, yet ever so often “pulled out” when heads were needlessly chopped by bad framing and window violations. These occurred on scenes even when there was no complex camera motion at play. At other times, pillars and set pieces were well into negative Z space, creating a bastard proscenium that broke the illusion of the cinema screen being a window into the fantasy world of the Hobbit.

2) A couple of scenes had compositing problems in Stereo. I forget the scenes exactly but I think one of the scenes was the chase before Gandalf shows the Hobbits an escape route down the mountain pass.  My guess on this is that the CGI was rendered at a different frame rate (24fps?) that the live action camera tracking shot. Thus the final composite had characters at wrong depth. This effect was visible only fleetingly.

3) The vista shots: – Some of the best Stereoscopic 3D footage I’ve seen. Both CGI and or/mixed with live action. One particular example of good stereography I liked, was the “timed” use of foreground cues and camera movement— in concert, to establish depth in the huge Vista shots. I suspect it may even let the Matte painting department even get away with 2D mattes for far away cities and waterfalls — Clever!

4) Dolby Atmos: Stereoscopic 3d visuals with an umbrella soundscape completes the evolution of a Cinematic presentation. I did not get to experience Atmos for this presentation, sadly.

Food for Thought:

  • DFR? Dynamic Frame Rate. Why not use frame-rate as a storytelling tool? This is not to be confused with using 3D as a tool. I always maintain that 3D is a “medium of visual storytelling” and not a tool, but varying the frame rate to achieve artistic expression is a valid choice to me. slo-mo and 24fps for dreamy, romantic sequences and back story, and 48 for immediacy. Maybe 60 to 120 fps for some other parts of the story?
  • We have to spare a thought for Budgets and Time factors that will come into play to render CGI in HFR.  To a certain extent I think this is over-hyped and Moore’s law will soon come into play to bridge this gap.
  • Worth mentioning is the fact that so-called “HFR” is nothing new to Television land. If episodic creation of CGI can be done on TV by studios such as Zoic, realtime or near realtime render at Photorealistic 4k in 3D is already possible given the budgets that tent-pole films have.
I did note the very stylized world of the Hobbit. It’s not sci-fi to predict that the next iteration of the CINEBOX under Cryengine power, could render Middle Earth in (near) realtime HFR 3D. I’ve got a few reasons that Crytek should listen to me…
Wishing readers of the RealVision Knowledgebase a Happy 2013.