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Peter Jackson talks about 48 film speed

David German from Associated Press writes about The Hobbit movie and statements about the new 48 film speed from Peter Jackson at Sundance.

PARK CITY, Utah – (AP) — Peter Jackson is making his hobbits and dwarves march double-time in his “The Lord of the Rings” prequel, which he’s shooting in a faster film speed than the Hollywood standard.

Jackson hopes the 48-frames-a-second rate — twice the 24 frames that has been the custom since the 1920s — will help bring about a gradual transition to faster speeds that can bring more life-like images and action to the screen.

Digital cameras allow for shooting at 48 frames or faster, reducing the blurry effect known as strobing that can come with 24-frame filming.

Jackson said he hopes there will be a fair number of theaters equipped with digital projectors that can handle the faster film speeds by December, when Warner Bros. will release “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first chapter in his two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic.

“You shoot at 48, project at 48 and you get an illusion of life that’s remarkable. You don’t realize just how strobing and how flickery 24 frames is,” Jackson said at the Sundance Film Festival, where he presented the documentary “West of Memphis,” produced by him and his wife, “Hobbit” co-writer Fran Walsh. “You look at something at 48 frames, and it looks gorgeous. It looks like real life. It’s amazing.”

Other digital pioneers are making the same push for higher film speeds. “Avatar” creator James Cameron has said he will shoot the sequel to his science-fiction blockbuster at 48 or 60 frames a second.

At the CinemaCon convention for theater owners in Las Vegas last March, Cameron showed footage he shot at 24, 48 and 60 frames a second. The faster speeds noticeably reduced or eliminated blurriness in action sequences or when the camera panned and dollied down the length of a crowded banquet table.

As Hollywood moved into the digital age, movie makers generally have stuck with the 24-frame speed at which celluloid film moves through cameras and projectors. “The Hobbit” will show that it’s an outdated way to shoot films, Jackson said.

“I’m hoping it’ll be just the first gentle step into changing film rates because we can change them, especially with all the digital technology now,” Jackson said. “Twenty-four is irrelevant. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s just a traditional thing. It’s far from the best visual way to present a film.”

“The Hobbit” has had a hard road to the screen after Jackson’s blockbuster “Lord of the Rings” trilogy,” whose 2003 finale, “The Return of the King,” swept the Academy Awards with 11 trophies, including best picture and director.

Jackson planned only to co-write and co-produce “The Hobbit,” but he stepped in to direct after Guillermo del Toro dropped out because of delays caused by the bankruptcy of MGM, which owned half of the project.

“It’s actually been a reasonably joyous thing to do,” said Walsh, who returned as a co-writer and co-producer. “I’m surprised to say that because I thought it would be very hard. Certainly, it was a difficult birth of this film. It was protracted and fought. … But it’s surprisingly pleasant, if I can use that word. Pleasant. So far. So I hope I haven’t jinxed it.”

The two films are being shot simultaneously in 3-D, with the second one, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” due in theaters in December 2013.

Jackson joked that the snowy mountains surrounding Sundance’s home in the ski resort of Park City remind him of the heavy workload still ahead on “The Hobbit.”

“We have a hundred days of shooting to go, which still feels like we’re at the bottom of a mountain. I kind of don’t like being in Park City because I look up the mountain, and I kind of think, well, ‘The Hobbit’s’ at the top of that mountain. I’ve got to kind of climb this. It looks pretty daunting,” Jackson said.

Yet Jackson said he’s having a great time revisiting Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

“If I show up at work every day happy to be there and excited about what we’re shooting, to me, that’s always a good sign,” he said. “So I think we’re making a couple of pretty entertaining movies.”

With Jackson still showing enthusiasm for the project and new picture quality in 3D, anticipation for the movie grows more each day for us Tolkien fans. Stay tuned for more updates!

  • “24FPS is now irrelevant” — Peter Jackson.

    Wow. Way to alienate the vast majority of film-makers working today. Including myself. I can guarantee you that 24fps is far from irrelevant. Particularly for those of us who aren’t bloomin’ interested in producing films looking like Interlaced 80’s soap operas.

    Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.

  • Anonymous

    We need trailblazers like Jackson to keep moviemaking fresh and I hope his vision for making a movie is what he expects.
    I would never knock one medium or framerate choice because I think of filmmaking as an art form, there is no right or wrong.
    I still like 24 and that’s what I shoot, but at least the options are out there to shoot 30, 48, 60, 120, and on and on.
    These are amazing times for independents to make a splash (and I realize Jackson is anything but an indie these days) but it’s on us at the lower-financed end to really make something of these magical and affordable tools.

  • If only Jackson’s approach was as well thought out as yours. He claimed he hoped The Hobbit would be a “gentle step” to suggest other options were possible, then almost in the same breath proclaimed that “Twenty-four is irrelevant. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s
    just a traditional thing. It’s far from the best visual way to present a

    So, I wonder which it’s to be? A gentle step, or a marauding attack on every film that came before The Hobbit.

    Hardly an endearing sentiment.

    But, I am with you Freeist. Film is about the choices the filmmaker makes. It’s not about bashing one approach over another, as Jackson has so publically done today.

  • Anonymous

    He does seem to be displaying a lot of “Hollywood Swagger” with those statements, maybe he picked that up from Jannard along with his last shipment of Epics!

    I guess my positive disposition towards Jackson kind of shadowed any dismay over the bravado of his statements.

    Don’t know if you’ve been following his videolog of the production but I was impressed at the relative small size of the set where he’s shooting this pic.

    Of course he’s counting on the quarter mile of green screen behind it to fill in the gaps, but I can see doing that too! 🙂

  • Alex Madrigales

    double the speed will deff bring out a much realistic look when there is a battle or running scene.For example some sports channels use 60fps and with HD it looks amazing.
    well done P.J. for trying something new and daring to change to feel of the first 3 installments.

  • I think the comparison with Jannard style bravado, may be valid. I love what RED are doing, and fully intend to shoot on Epics or Scarlet-Xs for my first Feature…

    But, I can’t help thinking everyone is “drinking the Coolaid”.

    Just because a Machine can shoot 4k at 48fps doesn’t mean that is what “cinema” has to be all about now.

    Personally I’ll shoot 4k for more flexibility and a juicier Master on my 2k deliveries. At 24fps, of course.

    Jackson’s disappointed me here… Sure, go ahead and do 48fps, if it gets your blood racing, Peter… But, decrying the rest of the Industry at the same time just isn’t Cricket.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed about RED, I was on the Scarlet wagon for 4 years until the fixed zoom was cancelled. The excitement kind of faded away at that point.

    I suspect the other players in the industry are going to be releasing 3K and up cams in the not too distant future.

    For now I’m content to shoot on a 550D, I tend to shoot shorts for the local fests and when I’m ready to bust loose with a feature length, I’ll do like you mentioned, but perhaps with a rented Epic or a used R1.

    And at 24fps.

    I’m starting to think all the talk about higher framerates as being the thing by the likes of Cameron and Jackson are more to create buzz and sell tickets than making a definitive statement about moviemaking.

  • Monkey_eat_me97

    Peter Jackson needs to make the Inheritance movies

  • Allen_licmuan

    James Cameron has no originality… He heard that The Hobbit will shoot using RED epic, and he shoot Avatar in RED epic too… He heard that The Hobbit will shoot in 48 frames per second, and James Cameron will shoot Avatar in 48 frames per second too… He even bought a farmland near Hobbiton to shoot Avatar on location… He’s trying to Level-up with Peter Jackson which he cannot fulfill.