The 3-D version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will debut in movie theaters on December 14. However, some audiences at select theaters will get a special viewing of the movie. They will be the first to see a new technology that displays images at a rate of 48 frames per second, twice as fast as the current standard.
According to NBC News, the new display rate will definitely be a change. Change isn’t always a good thing though. So far, early reviews have been mixed.
Some reviews say that people think the effects look “too real.” The negative effects of eyestrain, headaches, nausea and other discomforts are still as much of a problem as they were with the older 3-D technologies. These discomforts are still a problem because 3-D films work by showing each eye different pictures at different times. This forces the brain to merge conflicting messages. 3-D studios are still trying to find a way to overcome this obstacle.
Marty Banks, a vision scientist at the University of California, Berkeley says:
“People really differ. Some people just don’t get it and they’re fine. Other people are fairly uncomfortable. The industry is really worried about this. They’re listening to us scientists and they’re taking our advice.”
The latest generation of 3-D glasses have polarizing filters that allow each eye to see light coming from just one direction. Screen shots are displayed so that a single lens is targeted at a time, so when one eye is stimulated, the other eye is presented with darkness.
It’s up to the brain to put everything together into a coherent picture. But with each eye seeing alternating flashes of brightness and darkness, this could cause distraction or discomfort.
To solve that problem, 3-D films that are shot at a standard 24 frames per second actually show the left eye a single image three times in a row with flashes of darkness in between. Then the right eye gets its image three times in a row, and that pattern continues for the entire film. This “triple flashing” allows the screen to display 72 frames per second, which reduces flicker effects.
For the new Hobbit, director Peter Jackson used new 3-D technology to film at 48 frames per second instead of 24. In real life, our visual systems take in information continuously, and some experts speculate that images will need to be captured at more than 100 or even 150 frames per second before a movie looks truly real. However, the increase in frame-rate speed should make the motion look smoother and more realistic.
“As you increase the rate of new incoming data, you’re getting closer and closer to the real world. At some rate, you will get to the point where you can’t tell the difference.”
But, as higher frame rates lead to more realism, dismay rises among people who are used to seeing films that look like films rather than television or real life.. Similar complaints have emerged whenever film-making technology has risen to a new level over the decades.
According to Banks:
“Every time we’ve moved closer to reality by adding sound, adding color or getting rid of scratches, in the end, the audience has accepted it and there’s no going back. I think the same is going to be true here.
“In the end, we all want immersion. We want to feel like we’re in that scene and closer to reality. I think once people see it, they are going to go, ‘Wow. I want that.'”