Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #888: 2 Random Drippings From My Brain Pan


The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the Hollywood studios for possible shenanigans over the deals they made to get the door to the Chinese movie market to open about a crack.

I suspect that simple fact that they're successfully opening doors in China is evidence that some bribery and or kick-backing took place somewhere.  Remember what I said about the Chinese market in the past.  It has tremendous potential, but also some tremendous problems.

If you're too lazy to click the links, I'll repeat myself.  The population is huge, it's cash flush, and there's a vibrant movie going cultural vibe in China.  That's all wonderful. However China is not a free market.  Despite reforms it is still heavily dominated by Communist Party hacks, high ranking military officers, and their cronies.

It doesn't matter what cultural baggage may exist, corruption will always flower in a system where success in business is based more on political connections than commercial merit.  Add Hollywood's determination that the China market is the panacea for all the problems caused by their own incompetence and greed, and you have a perfect storm for trouble.

You don't need an SEC investigation to figure that out.


They debuted some footage from the upcoming fantasy epic The Hobbit for exhibitors at Cinemacon and the reaction was less than stellar.

In case you haven't heard, the film was shot using a new process.  Regular movies are shot and projected at 24 frames per second, and this has bugged some filmmakers like James Cameron, especially since it doesn't really translate best into the new digital 3D processes.

Cameron has since advocated shooting and projecting movies at the speed of 48 fps.  This will look smoother and translate better into 3D.

Jackson bought into Cameron's theory and shot The Hobbit at 48 fps.

And that's where the trouble begins.

According to the folks at Cinemacon, the image looked stunning in the wide shots, but the up close stuff with the actors looked very different.  In fact, a lot of people have compared the look to BBC productions from the 1970s that were shot in video at 30 fps.  A good example is the mini-series I, Claudius, here's a clip...

Now the acting and the writing is first rate drama, but the visuals leave a lot to be desired.  Derek Jacobi's makeup looks incredibly obvious, the lighting is flat, and the sets look like cardboard.  If this effect has transferred over to The Hobbit as badly as folks are saying, there will be expensive trouble.

Personally, I'd have hoped that they had shot a smaller scale film with fewer expectations first, to work out all the visual kinks before jumping into a mega-million dollar fantasy epic with millions of fans all over the world ready to nit-pick it into oblivion.


  1. How does merely increasing the framerate have such an effect?

  2. It all has to do with a phenomenon called "Persistence of Vision" which allows our brain to take a parade of still images coming through our eyes, and process them into moving images.

    Very complicated scientifical stuff.

  3. Of course, but that doesn't explain why increasing the framerate would make the sets and lighting look bad.

  4. McGee's Dirty Dingus26/4/12 8:21 pm

    The strictly technical issues of faster framerate may not force video to look worse.

    More likely it's having to use 'faster' film that can work under the shorter exposure time forced by the quicker framerate.

    Better lighting to help accommodate the faster film may also come into it.

    What works in a brilliantly sunlit outdoors setting may not work indoors if the lighting technicians don't have the experience suitable for the new approach.

    The I, Claudius example, on the other hand, seems to demonstrate the effects of higher definition video than the production was designed to display. Like watching an old low resolution DVD on an HDTV.

  5. McGee's Dirty Dingus27/4/12 8:18 pm

    I've got a bad feeling about this at Ghost of a Flea has more.

    Well today he screened 10 minutes of footage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, and according to some, it sorta sucked. Because now the images are actually too crisp and clear, and it doesn’t look like a movie any more.

    Too high of a quality. HDTV was supposed to cause that problem for local TV News sets, which didn't look good in HQ. People who visited the sets in person were always surprised by how bad they look, dirty, old paint, etc.

    That's why the outdoors scenes would be okay, except for losing immersion in the detail.

    More at the link.