So thats one hell of a lot of buzz words in one title, especially as it is the first blog post on my new website. Hit grabbing? Not at all, read on.
I was lucky enough to see Peter Jacksons latest film “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” yesterday, not much of a boast I hear you say but it was the way i saw it which grabbed my interest. I saw the film projected in 4K, in 3D at a high frame rate (48fps to be precise).
Believe it or not, this was going to be the first full length feature I had seen in 4K, 3D or HFR So I didn’t really know what to expect. I have always been quite vocal about my dislike for 3D. It often gives me a headache and generally seems to take away from the experience instead of add to it. I had also heard only bad things about HFR. As for 4K, I was in early enough with my order for a Sony FS-7 that I received it a few weeks ago and have felt comfortable enough with it to use it on my last job so it’s fair to say I am already sold on 4K.
Because all of these pieces of tech were new to me, I think it is best to deal with them one by one and then as a whole right at the end of this post.
As I have said above, I am already sold on 4K but it was great to see a feature presented in 4K. The cinema I was at was pretty small by todays multiplex standards but that also meant I was quite near the screen (around 40 feet I guess) The picture looked stunning. Individual hair strands were visible on a medium shot, just so much beautiful detail. Anyone saying that 4K is pointless has never seen a film looking like this.
This was the part of the film experience I was least looking forward too. I have sat through several 3D shorts and all of them have used 3D as a crutch to poor script, concept, direction or a mixture of the three. Given the director and the writer of the Hobbit, we were pretty sure not to be masking either poor writing or direction. The whole 3d experience was actually a lot better than I thought it would be. For the majority of the time it didn’t seem that the direction of the film has been compromised to add 3D interest, there were a few instances but really not that many apart from it looked like most of the close ups were shot on a 35mm lens or maybe even wider, this may have assisted the 3D effect of the face but it was far from flattering. The few stand out moments that were undeniably improved with 3d were the snow scene and the wide vistas. To see the snow falling in and out of focus was really enchanting, I know it’s a pretty cheap trick but it works so well. When the camera was pulled right back and we were left with the majesty of the New Zealand landscape, it was one of the most enjoyable scenes I have ever witnessed in the theatre.
Of cause, the good has to be balanced by the bad, for me there were two big things causing me an issue with the use of 3D. first of all, when people or objects of interest moved to the foreground which magnifies the 3D effect my eyes were taking between 1 and 1.5 seconds to focus that close to me. This is the inherent issue with 3D, you are forcing peoples eyes to focus on a point that doesn’t actually exist. Once focused there I was fine but it wouldn’t be too long before the action had moved back again ready for my next out of focus event. The other issue I had was with the subtitles which were also thrown right forward which meant I had to consciously focus on the writing then focus back to the film. Maybe it is just me, I’m not sure but it is a real issue for me.
High Frame Rate (HFR)
This is the part of the show I was most intrigued about. As film makers we all know much of the ‘film look’ is down to 24fps. Even moving to 25fps for PAL TV has a large impact on the visuals. This is where I tell you what I made of 48fps but I can’t tell you; because I still don’t really know. I started off hating it, moved from there to quite liking it and back again. It certainly makes the film look more true to life and as far from ‘filmic’ as you can get, in fact, it made the film look like a cutscene from a really high budget game on the latest console. I think the more I watch HFR the more I will come to accept it but for a first outing, I am still firmly on the fence.
4K HFR 3D
All of these things come together in an interesting way and almost create a perfect storm. Because the whole film feels so lifelike and ‘real’ it makes the smallest mistakes really stand out. When the film cuts to a CGI sequence even though it is a really good CGI sequence it was obviously not live action. Because you are a part of the film (due to the technology) your eyes will pick out the smallest inconsistency.
I am also unsure if a shallow depth of field should be used with all of this other technology, at least not to the extent we are used to employing it. When you look around, there are out of focus elements but as soon as you look at them, they fall into focus so maybe films should now be shot with much more of the frame in focus and allow the viewer to look around the frame as they would if they were actually there. On that note, I think the 3D effects should be reduced. When you look at a scene with your eyes it doesn’t shout at you “I’M 3D, CAN YOU SEE?” you just simply know it is 3D, the effect is more subtle in real life.
All in all, I enjoyed my time with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies but i think the use of this technology should be much more subtle than it was here but I guess that comes with time. If you get the chance to experience a film with this much technology, do it, maybe you won’t like it, maybe you will but the experience will certainly be worth the cost of admission.