Since the majority of the world was not present to view the 10 minutes of footage, those of us interested in understanding what is so off-putting about the screening have had to imagine what the lucky few at CinemaCon saw. Much discussion is focused on what is causing the “soap opera” look, which is decidedly not like the Middle-earth we know from LOTR. I’ll admit Peter Jackson’s response to the criticism does little to convince me that there isn’t something unpleasantly jarring about it.
So far the most useful information comes from a TORn forum member named Owain. He is a wealth of knowledge about digital film, and has worked with the type of RED Epic cameras that are being used on The Hobbit. This post contains information that could be key to a better understanding of why the unfinished footage was strange looking to so many people, and it is not just about high frame rates:
“I have been trained by RED Digital Cinema to use the RED Epic. Later this year, I hope to own one… working on it.
Resolution is key, as is bit depth, the wavelet compression that RED RAW files use, how REDCODE RAW files look coming directly out of the camera vs. film etc. etc.
It is true that at these higher resolutions and bit depths the camera can be more unforgiving. But the information that is being captured does allow for manipulation in post that film could never touch. The higher frame rates are providing realistic motion without blurring.
As an editor by trade, I have seen first hand the RAW files that come from the RED camera are they are incredible… so much so that I believe, they (RED) have single handedly revolutionized the world of cinema. They were the first and are arguably the best in D-Cinema.
Peter Jackson is shooting 5K resolution, 16 bit RAW .r3d files (bit depth supplies a massive amount of information for detail) at 5:1 compression at 48fps and higher.
He is oversampling or getting way more information than he needs from his RED Epics. The reason… the widest latitude possible in post.
When you shoot with a RED camera the RAW data (if properly exposed) actually looks flat. This is purposeful. The key is to properly expose. The RED camera is incredible in low light. The deep dark areas retain all of the detail even with limited to no lighting. This is something film was never really that great at. It is the highlights that DPs have to be careful with.
When taken into the Pablo finishing software, the amount of detail provided by those RED RAW (.r3d files) is virtually limitless.
From my knowledge of the camera and post workflow, I am going to go out on a limb and say that the content at CinemaCon was not meant to give people an accurate view of the final rendering, but to get them used to the idea of the 48fps – strictly from a motion standpoint.
It will be different than what people are used to seeing. It will be better than the fake higher frame rates that tv’s offer. Why? Put simply TVs interpolate or create frames that never existed. They are constructed from algorithms that give you the idea but not the real effect. The frames that will be projected for The Hobbit were actually captured by the cameras and will be projected without any interpolation. So why the negative reactions?
In my opinion:
A. Human nature likes gradual instead of major/abrupt change
B. People had a set of specific expectations going into the screening
C. Ultimately what they saw was not the finished product.”
After reading this, I think there is a good chance we will not be stuck comparing The Hobbit to a soap opera by December. At least we will get the choice to see it with our own eyes in a number of ways, including in traditional 2D, at 24 fps. As EW.com announced:
“Despite the criticism at CinemaCon, Jackson and Warner Bros. managed to avoid losing any major support from exhibitors they need to get this format in front of audiences.”