But Tolkien also wrote a lot of material that he was going to use as a kind of expanded version of The Hobbit to make that book tie in better with The Lord of the Rings. He never finished the book, but his son published all that material as an appendix to The Lord of the Rings. So we got to just not do The Hobbit but also supersize it with other material. For example, the sequence in the movie with Cate Blanchett and Christopher Lee, that’s not in the novel.
MH: So the decision to make three movies came from you and not the studio? PJ: It was definitely our decision, and it was purely a creative one. There was so much material we hadn’t shot yet, and it would provide us the opportunity to expand the story greatly. We knew we were never going to return to Middle-earth again — this was our last shot at it — so we asked the studio if we could do another 10-12 weeks of shooting next year and expanded it to three films.
MH: Tell me about your decision to shoot the film in 48 frames per second instead of the usual 24.
PJ: It came about because four years ago I directed a six-minute King Kong film for the Universal Studios tour in California and that was done at a high frame-rate. It intrigued me, because it looked so immersive and realistic, and the 3D was so fantastic. It didn’t feel like you were looking at a movie; it looked like you were looking at the real world.
The technology didn’t even exist four years ago. Projectors capable of showing it hadn’t even been installed in theaters 12 months ago. But we realized that by the end of 2012, there would be a lot of cinemas that could screen it in that format, as well as the regular 24 fps. [Roughly 500 theaters in the U.S. have been outfitted with the proper projector. For a complete list, visit www.48fpsmovies.com].
MH: Some of the reaction to the technology has been negative. People say it makes the movie look like a soap opera. Everything is too clear.
PJ: The controversy doesn’t surprise me. I’m going to be fascinated where it all ends up. I’ve always been happy to bet on myself. I’m a regular guy, a film buff, and I’ve grown up with the experience of watching movies in 24 fps like everybody else. It took me a while to get used to the higher frame rate as well. I’ve been looking at 48 fps footage for a year and a half, and I think it looks fantastic. Now when I see a movie at 24 fps, I think it looks so crude and primitive.
The way that it’s shaking down is the real film buffs are noticing it’s different, and these are often critics and bloggers who write reviews. The average person doesn’t react that way, especially younger people. Thousands of people have seen The Hobbit :Aan Unexpected Journey now and I haven’t met anyone under the age of 20 who said something negative about the frame rate. Those are the kids who are happy to watch movies on their iPads now and we need to get them back into the theater, because it is no longer the first place people think of when they want to see a movie. We need to use technology to enhance the cinema experience.
MH: The 3D is tremendous, though. I’ve never seen better, not even Avatar. PJ: Normal 24 fps photography has a lot of motion blur, and our brain sharpens it for us. But in 3D, you have different motion blur coming into your left and right eye, and your brain is having to work to put the two together and clean that up, and that’s what causes eye strain and fatigue. In 48 fps, because the images are so crisper, it’s much easier for your brain to resolve the pictures. It’s a much more efficient way to see 3D.