Peter Jackson’s first film in his Hobbit trilogy—An Unexpected Journey—debuted in theaters last week, and despite huge earnings already, it’s a film that has been immersed in controversy—and one of those controversies relates directly to a certain home-theater debate that has reared its head over the past couple years. No, I’m not talking about the bewildering decision to split the story of The Hobbit into not two but three separate films (although that makes me roll my eyes). No, I’m talking about the decision to film the trilogy at 48 frames per second (fps) rather than the industry-standard 24fps, essentially bringing the dreaded “soap opera effect” to the big screen—at least, on 450 screens nationwide.
I wrote about the soap opera effect in “How to Avoid the ‘Soap Opera Effect’ on Your HDTV … Or Do You Want to Avoid It?” The point of that article is that many of today’s HDTVs ship with a default “smooth motion” or “real cinema” interpolation setting that makes 24fps film look more like 60fps video. For many home-theater cinephiles, this effect can produce an image that looks fake. Sets and props look unrealistic, special effects (especially CGI) are unconvincing, even acting seems like “actors on a stage.”
Since I wrote that article, the soap opera effect has become more widespread, with more and more TVs shipping with the default “smooth motion” setting enabled. And more and more people simply accept the setting—or worse, gradually consider it to be the new HD norm. In addition to all those home experiences, for the first time in a high-profile blockbuster, high-frame-rate digital video has entered commercial theaters. I have to consider that the higher frame rate is a viewing experience that today’s audiences actually want!
(Read the rest of this article at Residential AV Presents: Connected Home.)