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Martin Freeman in 'The Hobbit' (Photo: New Line Cinema)
Martin Freeman in ‘The Hobbit’ (Photo: New Line Cinema)

A much talked-of aspect of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, out on Friday (December 14), is that it was shot at 48 frames per second. Most movies are shot at half this speed. What it means, at its simplest, is that it’s giving audiences a clearer picture.

Among the cast there’s effusive praise for the wonders it has brought. “It gives incredible detail and very sharp depth of field,” says British actor Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin Oakenshield, a dwarf king in exile in the film.

He adds: “One viewing just isn’t enough. The quality, it’s just mind-blowing.”

Director Peter Jackson was very keen to shoot at 48 fps, maintaining that it maximizes the potential of 3D. He became enamored with the technology when he made a short film in high frame rate 3D.

He recalls: “I just thought, ‘Wow, this would be pretty mind-blowing to use it in a feature film,’ so The Hobbit was the first real opportunity I had with the technology just having arrived at the point that we can actually project 48 frames now. That’s really only been possible in the last six months or so.”

But 48 fps hasn’t gone over well with everyone. Some critics have complained that too much detail is revealed. They claim you can see what you’re not supposed to see, such as the actors’ makeup, taking you out of the film. One critic noted you can even detect that Gandalf is wearing contact lenses.

Jackson defends his film and the use of 48 frames a second: “It gets criticized by people that don’t like change that love the look of film from 1927, which is when 24 frames came about. I’m looking forward to the public seeing it, the filmgoers, because I think they’re going to be quite excited about it.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens to the public on December 14th.

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By Tom Brook