Journey to 'The Hobbit' set for Peter Jackson, Martin Freeman and the spectre of 48 frames per second
Jackson looks exhausted, but considering he’s been working non-stop for almost two years you can’t blame him. His passion for filmmaking is practically rooted in his DNA now. Ask him any technical question about the future of the medium and he’ll perk up with a burst of energy.
The Wellington native is clearly aware that technology is advancing more quickly than the art form’s ability to adapt to it. He notes that three or four years ago filmmakers were using digital cameras shooting at 2k and now it’s up to 4k. Within another few years it could be 8k. He’s excited that laser projectors are on the horizon and should improve the brightness for 3D projection. Like his peer James Cameron, it’s the innovation of enhancing the movie experience to keep bringing people back to the movie theater that drives Jackson.
“It's really a question of do you just say, ‘Okay, this is what we've been used to for the last seventy-five or eighty years, and that's what we're going to stick with.’ Or do you explore ways to actually harness this technology to give people a better experience? As an industry, we're facing a situation where less young people especially, are coming to see films anymore. It's too easy to watch them on your iPad. Too easy to stay at home and play games. So, I think anything that we can do to provide a more immersive and spectacular experience [we should],” Jackson says. “Kubrick and David Lean, they shot in these huge big formats to try to make it sharp and clear and that was like the equivalent of 5k in the film stock days. Todd-AO was 30 frames a second, wasn't it, for 'Around the World in 80 Days'? [Editor’s note: Films are currently projected at 24 frames per second. More frames means more detail delivered on screen.] There's been people trying to push it, but of course the just effect for seven or eight decades projectors were pretty much locked into twenty-four frames per second. We had to get past the mechanical film age to be able to explore other things, but it will be interesting. I personally think 48 frames is great, but we'll just wait till everyone can just see a whole full length movie, graded and timed and we'll see what people think.”
Through all the MGM drama, the departure of Del Toro, the long battle to keep the production in New Zealand Jackson is happy to report, “Making the movie has been a lot of fun.”
“Since we've started shooting it's been pretty plain sailing, touch wood. It's been just a joy. I've been having a blast,” Jackson says. “It was an incredibly painful couple of years leading up to it, yeah. That was the most stressful time. So, stressful that I got an ulcer, which was awesome, but anyway the ulcer was actually quite good because it gave everybody six weeks of extra pre-production time [that] I think everyone was delighted when I was laid up for six weeks, they couldn't believe their luck. 'Cause literally the Art Department, Wardrobe Costume, they all got an extra six weeks to prepare for the movie, so I think there was a lot of people that were quite happy about that. It was tough, but once we got it running it's been fantastic. It's been a lot of fun. I hope the fun that we've had is a spirit that goes into the movie. I hope you see that on the screen.”
And with that, the always kind and polite Jackson departs to return to his playback village. He has some dwarves in the middle of – oh, but that would be telling and the scene he’s working on is now in the second “Hobbit” film. Yes, movie fans, get ready for many stories from New Zealand over the next three years.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” opens nationwide and in IMAX on Dec. 14.