Superclear format can puncture fantasy feel of ‘The Hobbit’

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Moving to 48 frames per second has become easier in the digital age. Most high-end digital video cameras can shoot at the rate with the flick of a switch, and the vast majority of digital projectors now sold to theaters need only modest software or hardware upgrades to show such movies.

High frame rates aren’t completely new to audiences. Digital TV broadcasts in the U.S. have been transmitted at higher frame rates for years, said Peter Lude, president of the standards-setting body, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. TV images look very clear because they’re refreshed 60 times per second, even though only half the image hits the screen each time.

By contrast, movies shot at 24 frames per second are blurrier. That’s because movie cameras’ shutters are open longer at slower frame rates. As people or cars in a scene move, more of that motion is captured in a single frame, resulting in blur. Many people describe this as a “film look” that is “soft” or “cinematic.”

It also means that some details remain too blurry to be seen, helping hide imperfections and making life in the movies appear somehow better than reality.

Mr. Jackson compensated for some of the increased clarity by purposely leaving the shutter open longer than normal, adding back some of the lost blur. Still, the images are sharper than before.

Mr. Jackson has said on his Facebook page that this adjustment gives his high frame rate version a “lovely silky look” while also making the traditional 24 frames per second version “very pleasing.”

At a press tour in New York on Thursday, Mr. Jackson said it will be up to audiences to decide.

“As an industry, we shouldn’t really assume that we achieved technical perfection with motion pictures back in 1927,” he said. “There are ways to make the theatrical experience more spectacular, more immersive, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Associated Press writer Nicole Evatt in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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