Twenty-Four FPS or Fight!
April 30, 2012 3 Comments
It’s the next step in the evolution of cinema. It’s the end of film as we know it. Those seem to be the most prevalent reactions to Peter Jackson’s screening of footage from The Hobbit shot at 48 frames per second. Which seemed fine for the sweeping outdoor shots that were the trademark of the Lord of the Rings films, but which some felt turned the smaller character scenes into daytime soap opera quality. Jackson’s display of his new technology has been inflamed into a battle for the very soul of cinema itself, with both sides swearing certain doom awaits, and a few sensible souls sitting in the middle saying maybe we should wait for the dust to settle first before we declare anything dead. And with precious few of anyone holding forth on the subject having actually seen the footage in question.
I think one of the things people forget is that no technical advance in film was 100% perfect when it first appeared. People didn’t hear The Jazz Singer and say, “Well, that’s as good as sound is ever going to get.” They didn’t see the first color film and say, “That’s it, we’re done here.” Things like editing and special effects and even acting have advanced beyond their earliest forms. So who’s to say the 48 fps presentation Jackson showed is the be-all end-all of the format? Directors known for their technical acumen — the Spielbergs and Camerons and Jacksons — aren’t known for just leaving well enough alone. They push and perfect, and despite Jackson’s vigorous defense of the footage he recently provided, I have to believe he’s not content with the reaction it got, and is thinking of ways to make it better. He wouldn’t let a bad take stay in a film; I can’t imagine him being satisfied with a poorly received presentation.
I’m sort of avoiding taking sides in this debate. I was the guy who swore up and down that e-books would never replace the feel of an actual book in your hands, and now I have hundreds of books on my Nook Color. So any argument I make now is likely to get turned on its head in a few years. And I guess that’s the crux of where I stand on this right now. I think it’s too early to judge. We’re so far away from 48 fps being anywhere close to standard, that there’s time for us to be won over, or for the format to collapse in on itself, or for something newer and better to come along. This isn’t an assault, and it’s not a revolution. It’s an advance, one to be watched and appraised, not feared, not exalted.
Besides, we all know the real enemy is 3D.