REVIEW: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey - HFR 3D vs SFR 3D

REVIEW: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey - HFR 3D vs SFR 3D

Complete breakdown of the pros and cons of watching The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey in High Frame Rate 3D (HFR 3D) and Standard Frame Rate 3D (SFR 3D).
SPOILERS: For those who have not seen the movie, turn back if you don't want it to be ruined for you.


High Frame Rate, also known as HFR, is a motion picture format that uses a higher frame rate, in this case 48 frames per second, projection as opposed to the Standard Frame Rate, also known as SFR, of 24 frames per second. Before I outline the complete pros and cons of both frame rates, let us get a few things out of the way.

1. I saw The Hobbit twice already.

2. I saw the HFR IMAX 3D 'First' and the SFR 3D 'Second'.

3. I will be unbiased but at the end of this review I will outline my own opinion as to which frame rate is better.



- The image clarity is much higher than normal. Better than Blu-ray format, the subtle hint of a beard could be seen on Elijah Wood's chin.

- The motion blur is absolutely gone. Whenever the camera was moving, the details in the background could clearly be seen. This was especially important in the prologue as the attack on Dale by Smaug was depicted very well.

- The epic landscape scenes were breathtaking. It was as if the entire theater was overlooking the dwarves from a helicopter in New Zealand.

- The unbelievably unrealistic CGI characters, especially Gollum, looked believably realistic. It was like all those dark and ugly creatures, including the gross looking Goblin King, were real. Gollum's skin reflects the light as real skin should in a very opaque way. The HFR also makes all the muscles and wrinkles on his face look tantalizingly real.


- At first, the movements of the characters was quick paced, and not in a natural way. Like someone pushed the forward button on their remote. Later on it was not noticeable.

- Some of the special effects, especially the plate throwing at the beginning looked fake, as if they did not make an effort to use props.

- The battle scenes, especially the 15 minute non-stop action in Moria, was incomprehensible. I could not tell who was fighting who in the close up shots during the action scenes.

- I left the theater with a huge headache that persisted for a couple of hours and I had more headaches the next few days. I have never had headaches last longer than 10 minutes before.



- The cinematic look of the movie made it look normal.

- The special effects were blended in quite well. Although there were still some effects that were obviously not at their full potential.

- During the battle scenes, I could tell what was going on. The trollshaw scenes were very watchable now, and I could tell which dwarf was attacking in each moment.


- I could tell there was definite blurriness every time the camera moved quickly. It was more noticeable now than before.

- The movie itself was more dim than usual, with the clarity of the facial features more or less gone.

- Some of the action scenes had blurriness when any character moved too fast, especially in Moria.

- The CGI creatures looked less convincing than before.

HFR Explanation:

Imagine getting your first prescription glasses and putting them on. At first it is quite different and weird to look through those glasses, until you have adjusted to them. That is the reason for the speed of the characters in the movie., but later it goes away because your eyes have adjusted. Now the clarity makes the special effects more pronounced, which is expected. If anybody watches some special effects heavy movies on their Blu-ray player, they would see the same thing, I know I have. The reason the battle scenes are hard to watch and see what is going on is because of the realism of HFR. In real life, if a person was fighting and running and swinging their ax around like those dwarves, what they would see would be a lot of blurriness. So much detail into one quick swing of the camera causes the brain to attempt to collect it all. But since the camera is moving so fast, your brain does not have enough time to process all that information and you've already moved on to another scene in the movie. This is also the reason for my headaches. As my brain is not used to some much information being processed, especially during the Moria battle sequence where my headaches started by the way, it was in informational overload.

SFR Explanation:

I think the best reason for the more evident blurriness is the fact that I watched HFR and then SFR. I got used to almost 3 hours of clear cut detail that when it came back in SFR it was very pronounced. Now that there was not as much detail present, the action scenes became very watchable to me. I could tell who was attacking who since my brain was used to this kind of motion capture frame rate.


Overall, I would choose HFR over SFR any day. This is just my general opinion. With HFR, I was immersed in the world of Middle-earth. I could see everything much better and it felt more real. There was no "cinematic" look but there was a cinematic, or should I say, an epic feeling of watching history unfold. I think striving towards realism is bold and Peter Jackson achieved that sense of realism by filming the Hobbit in 48 frames per second.
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