24FPS vs 48FPS High Frame Rate

24FPS, 48FPS, 3D? Confused? We demystify the many formats that you can view the latest Peter Jackson Hobbit adventure in so you can decide whether it's worth experimenting with this latest cinematic technology fad.

I have watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in both formats, first in 24FPS 3D and then in 48FPS 3D (HFR).

The simplest way to explain the difference in my two experiences is by comparing it to what I honestly felt when I was watching the movie a second time: it is like upgrading from low-res to hi-res, i.e., from VHS to DVD, or DVD to Blu-Ray. Although the two can’t be equated on technical terms (hi-res means there is more information per single-image, HFR means more images per second), they can be compared in one way: both “upgrades” mean more information for the eye (and mind) per second. Acceptance of the new format, or rejection as the case may be, is dependent on a person’s ability and willingness to adapt to the new. For traditionalists, the HFR format will be as appalling as AudioCDs are to vinyl enthusiasts. But opinion aside, there is no disputing the fact that HFR is *technically* better.

Going from the standard 24FPS to 48FPS HFR can also be compared as an experience to upgrading from Stereo sound to Surround sound. For the same movie, it enhances the experience by providing for a better quality of what you sense. I distinctly remember watching The Lord of the Rings on Blu-Ray (1080p) for the first time. It all felt fake. I could clearly see the wrinkles on Gandalf’s face. I could even see the strands of Galadriel’s hair. The armour of Sauron looked too metallic, and the nose of Gimli was too bulbous. But this was when I was skipping through scenes to see what the movie “looked” like. Once I started watching the film from the start, it took me a few minutes, and then I was absorbed into the film (with regular gasps of how good things now looked). Now I find my DVD experience of the same movie less satisfactory. But you know what? I also still remember my first experience of surround sound, Mortal Kombat in 1995 at Dubai’s legendary but now defunct Al Nasr Cinema. I would regularly turn back to see who’s shouting from the back, until I realized that the movie’s sound was all around us.

When I watched The Hobbit in 48FPS 3D last, it took me all of 12 minutes (I checked my watch) to get used to the super-clear images on screen. After that, it was an experience at the cinemas I haven’t had since I witnessed bullet-time in The Matrix. The audience regularly ooh’d and aah’d at the spectacular visuals. The cinema-screen became like a real window, peeking into this fantastic world that I felt I could reach out and touch. I didn’t notice the sets as being fake. I couldn’t make out the make-up of the actors, or the props being anything other than what they were supposed to be. In fact, the HFR took care of exactly what it was meant to: the 3D’s nauseating effect on the mind. At the end of the movie, neither were my eyes tired, nor did I have any throbbing in my head. Which had another direct impact on my experience of the film: I did not feel it long or tiresome at all. 166 minutes went by without another look at the watch or an uncomfortable shift in my seat. The effect of 48FPS was only positive.

It is also a mark of the quality of CGI effects and make-up that even at the heightened clarity of HFR, I could not make out the CGI from the practical effects, or the CGI from the make-up. Gollum, that wonder of a creation by Weta, withstood the scrutiny of close-ups. When the production values are so good, the director does not hide it in shadows or low frame rates.

Anybody who has not experienced watched The Hobbit in the High Frame Rate, I highly recommend the movie in 48FPS HFR 3D. It is a subjective experience. Experience it for yourself before deciding whether you like it or not.


About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.