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Peter Jackson unveils Hobbit footage to mixed CinemaCon reaction

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Story by Jack Foley

PETER Jackson has unveiled new footage from The Hobbit to a mixed reaction at the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas.

The footage included scenes featuring Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins lost in Gollum’s cave, trolls engaged in battle and Sir Ian McKellen and Orlando Bloom reprising their roles as Gandalf and Legolas.

It was pre-empted by a video introduction from the director himself, who explained that the prequel to his Lord of the Rings trilogy has been shot at a rate of 48 frames per second, compared with the industry standard of 24 frames.

This, he said, would help to produce a smoother image, where “the movement feels more real” and “it’s much more gentle on the eyes”.

But he warned that the new approach would take time to adjust.

Following on from the presentation, however, this adjustment period seemed to have been seized upon by several critics and a projectionist who questioned the quality of what they had seen.

The projectionist in question told the Los Angeles Times newspaper that the footage “looked like a made-for-TV movie”, adding: “It was too accurate – too clear. The contrast ratio isn’t there yet – everything looked either too bright or black.”

However, the LA Times itself described the footage as “hyper-realistic”, adding: “An opening aerial shot of dramatic rocky mountains appeared clearer than the images in most nature documentaries.”

It continued: “But the effect was different when applied to scenes with actors dressed in period costume, whose every move – and pore – was crystal clear.”

The Associated Press also commented on the hyper-realism of the footage, stating that “the actors looked almost touchable, as if they were performing live on stage”.

Jackson is leading the push for higher film speeds and all eyes are on how his Hobbit film looks given that there is now a commitment from several of his colleagues to follow his lead.

James Cameron has promised to shoot the sequel to his science-fiction blockbuster Avatar at 48 or 60 frames per second – and has already been endorsed for his decision to do so by long-term producer Jon Landau.

Landau explained the benefits of faster frames while promoting Titanic 3D, saying: “If we take a still camera and we shoot at one 24th of a second, which is therefore 24 frames per second, that picture is really blurry when we go to print it. So, you’d never do that. But that’s what we’re doing on film.

“But if we’re shooting on that same still camera at one 60th of a second it’s clean, it’s pristine and it’s presentable. So, we’re pushing people to go to the higher frame rates – either 48 frames or 60 frames per second.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first chapter in Jackson’s two-part adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s fantasy classic and is due out in cinemas in December.

The second part, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, will follow in cinemas in December 2013.

Read the full interview with Jon Landau or view photos from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Or watch the teaser trailer

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