Peter Jackson has made a controversial decision to shoot The Hobbit in 48 frames-per-second rather than the industry norm of 24 fps, claiming that increasing the frame rate in a 3D film will make the picture “much more gentle on the eyes” and “provide a much more attractive experience”. This experimental format won't be in every cinema, but presumably the number will be enough to gauge an audience's reaction to a completely new look – which, to judge from preview screenings, is indecisive at best.
Viewers at the 10-minute showings were divided about the look of the film – some felt it looks disorientingly like a soap opera rather than a cinematic film, whereas others found the realism a welcome improvement that should be replicated in the future. Warner Brothers have released a handy introduction to HFR 3D.
For Jackson to pioneer such a drastic change so quickly after the introduction of 3D is a fairly risky directorial gamble, especially with a movie with such a massive and dedicated fanbase as The Hobbit. If this goes awry, it's likely he won't live it down for a good while. Then again, he seems to have recovered from King Kong, so who knows?
In any case, this new frame rate is an intriguing step for film, and potentially a game-changer for the industry as a whole. The only way to find out whether it's genius or eccentricity will simply be to watch it.
Thankfully the wait won't be too long; The Hobbit comes out in the UK on the 13th of December.