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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Makes Some Moviegoers Feel Nauseous, and Not In An “I’m So Excited!” Way.


Some fans at an advance screening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey reportedly left the movie feeling sick. Not because of bad storytelling or acting or anything like that (Lawd no!), but because the way the film was shot—in 3D using a higher-than-normal frame rate—can cause dizziness, nausea, and headaches.

The Hobbit‘s use of 48fps, or 48 frames per second, is something that’s been talked about a lot in the run-up to its release. (Though, to be fair, so has just about everything else Hobbit-related.) So what’s the deal with the whole 48fps thing, and why does it matter to members of the audience (presumably you, unless you’re one of the mythical few not interested in The Hobbit)?

Let the cinematography lesson commence.

Movies are usually shot on 24fps, or 24 frames per second. That’s the way movies have been shot for most of their history, though the advent of digital technology has made it possible to shoot 48fps (or even higher). Peter Jackson‘s a big proponent of 48fps, which gives a smoother, clearer, more fluid look.

But 48fps has caught a lot of flack for the way it makes movies look too realistic, almost plastic-y. A common complaint is that movies shot on 48fps look like soap operas or sports broadcasts, both of which are typically shot in super-clear digital format. Put simply, 48fps just doesn’t look like what we expect movies to look like.

More than that, it can give the eye too much information to absorb, making it more difficult to the viewer adjust to or—as in the case of The Hobbit—causing queasiness. Tweeted one viewer: “You have to hold your stomach down and let your eyes pop at first to adjust.” And another: The visuals work “for the big snowy mountains but in close-ups the picture strobes. I left loving the movie but feeling sick.”

Part of Jackson’s love for 48fps comes from how it enhances 3D, making the image more smooth and therefore easier to become immersed in. (I found myself perfectly immersed in The Lord of the Rings trilogy without 48fps or 3D, but I’ll give Jackson the benefit of the doubt until I’ve seen The Hobbit.)

OK, cinematography lesson over.

So, how will The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey being literally nausea-inducing to some people hurt it financially? It probably won’t. There were also reports of ill moviegoers with the 24fps 3D Avatar and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, and both of those cleaned up at the box office. (I found myself getting a bit queasy during Avatar, but that was because of the storytelling.) The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard even posits that the “gross-factor” might even draw curious moviegoers in.

Plus most theaters are screening The Hobbit in good ol’ 24fps, and you can even opt to go to a 2D screening if you want, so it’s not like people sensitive to getting queasy at 3D movies won’t be able to see the movie at all.

I’m not a big fan of 3D outside of animated movies, so I’m a little trepidatious going into The Hobbit because of that. This 48fps thing doesn’t affect my feelings much. How about you?

(via: Yahoo!News)

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  • Anonymous

    I plan to see the movie twice. First, in 24FPS 2D. I want to enjoy the STORY with zero gimmickry or distractions. For my second viewing, however, I’m going to see it in 48FPS 3D just so I can see what all the fuss is about.

  • Anonymous

    Bah humbug, 3D doesn’t even work for me anyway. :P I’m glad there will be some 24fps Hobbits! If the game Portal made me sick while looking at an itty bitty screen, I’m sure a 48fps Hobbit would make me reeeally sick.

  • Anonymous

    I’m ambivalent about 3D, so I’d love to split the difference and see a 2D 48FPS version. I’ve heard great things about the realism of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mareike.bruning Mareike Brüning

    Damn… my girlfriend is blind on one eye, and she gets problems with things like these real quick. Even the shaky-cam start of Hunger Games was a bit too much for her. Otoh, she got through The amazing spiderman quite well. But I guess we’ll better go with a 2D screening.

  • http://www.facebook.com/privatewojtek Bear Philippe

    I’d love to see some double-blind, or as close to it as you can get, studies about this phenomena. I’ve heard tons of people complain online about stuff like this and skeptically, I have to wonder how much is in people’s heads.

  • http://www.facebook.com/privatewojtek Bear Philippe

    How does 3D not work for you? Do you have unique eyes that filter out polarized light? Can you see normally, because that would make you very nearly blind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/caitriona.coade Klavdia Kalugina

    “Mythical few not interested in The Hobbit”? bah! I *was interested in it. I waited with baited breath for it’s announcement. Then I heard it was going to be 3 movies. 3 movies? From a 300 page book??? No thanks. Not giving Peter Jackson my money for this cash-cow. I’ll wait until I can download it.

  • Anonymous

    I was born with a cataract in one eye. :) The image is just blurry and doesn’t really pop at all and gives me a headache. I’m sure it works on some level and I know that headaches with 3D are fairly common even outside of eyesight issues, but mostly I follow what my optometrist said – don’t bother with 3D.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1528034439 Annie Roewe Bulloch

    I always go for 2D when I can. I have multiple sclerosis, and one of its effects causes my left eye to respond to stimuli just slightly slower than my right eye. I can see just fine under normal circumstances, but 3D gives me a headache almost immediately unless I take a handful of ibuprofen before I start watching. I’m sure a lot of people have subtle vision issues that cause similar problems.

  • http://twitter.com/bunny_peep Gouka

    Already wearing glasses for myopia causes 3D at movies not to work well for me. Things tend to be out of focus and quick movement or panning makes it extra blurry. I’ve tried going with contacts, but allergy issues that affect my eyes cause contacts to give me blurry vision anyway, so that’s not much help. I’ll *probably* go see the movies and may even see the 3D versions, but I accept that when I watch 3D movies, I’m probably going to become nauseous. I’ll be the person in the theater constantly readjusting their two pairs of glasses through the entire film. ^.^

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513877109 Samantha Wilson

    I think 3D is a pointless gimmick. I will be going to see it is 2D if possible as I always do with films. I barely notice the difference and it’s not even 3D for the whole film, not to mention wearing glasses on glasses is such fun!

  • Anonymous

    As Marieke says below, people who already have problems with their vision or suffer from motion sickness tend to feel a bit ick watching 3D, at least thats what I’ve gathered from speaking to friends.
    I personally am short sighted in only one eye, which makes my depth perception a little off and can make it difficult to focus on details on big screens, especially in 3D. Pretty sure I’m not imagining it.

  • http://twitter.com/WanderinDreamr Helen the Dreamer

    I really want everyone to move more towards 60 fps and away from 24fps because everything looks more natural. Screw “it doesn’t look like what a movie should look like”, that’s just cultural perception and that can always be changed!

  • Sam

    A lot of people have issues with 3D due to various reasons. Some due to medical issues, eye color can affect sensitivities to frequency, the theater may have faulty equipment, etc. Don’t be a douche just because you enjoy it and others do not.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Agreed. Just because it doesn’t look like what we’ve always seen doesn’t mean that the audience won’t adjust to it over time.

  • http://twitter.com/rockinlibrarian Amy W

    I like, and think it’s good to emphasize, that you DO have a choice of which way to watch the movie. It’s MORE likely that a theater near you is only going to offer 24fps anyway since the technology is so new, and there’s going to be both 2D and 3D screenings. So people who want to see the 3D can. People with trouble with that, don’t have to worry about it. We can all be happy.

    After all, isn’t “Martin Freeman as a hobbit” reason enough to see the movie, whatever the effects?

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    Yes because piracy is the correct answer when you believe that the figurehead name attached to a movie means the hundreds if not THOUSAND people who worked on a movie don’t deserve to get paid for their work.

    Seriously, stop and consider HOW MANY people spent a great deal of time and effort making this movie, and you are trying to justify not paying 10 bucks because you object to a decision that was likely made in the movie studio board room. If you like having GOOD movie adaptations from GOOD studios, YOU HAVE TO SUPPORT THEM. Otherwise Hollywood will just make endless Michael Bay and Uwe Boll movies.

    Not to mention that you are per-judging the movie without even having a nice sample size of people who have seen it to give feedback on whether the extension is good or bad. What if he takes those 300 pages and turns them into pure MAGIC. You know… LIKE HE DID WITH LORD OF THE RINGS?!?!

    I hope someone steals from your livelihood just like you are planning on stealing from theirs. I hope your work is per-judged and found unacceptable regardless of how much time and effort you put into it.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    I wear glasses and my eyes are too dry to wear contacts comfortably for more than 30 minutes or so. So 3D is like THE WORST for me because it means wearing 2 pairs of glasses. Luckily, the area I live in, not seeing it in 3D is as common than seeing it in 3D, so all the theaters have an equal number of showings in both.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    As far as video games, which is where I have experience with this, games are usually 30 fps or 60 fps.

    And when focus tested it ends up being about 50/50 of people who can tell it’s 60 instead of 30 and people who cannot tell the difference between 30 and 60.

    I would assume that this is similar? That the change is noticable enough for the percentage of the population that *can* see it that it will bother them and make them ill.

    Also, point of interest, PAL vs NTSC (or whatever the US version is) is different frame rates, and that’s why Doctor Who or Sherlock looks a tad odd if you watch the DVDs/BBCA versions vs on iTunes on a PC.

  • Anonymous

    Same here. If someone made clip-on 3D lenses, I’d give it a try. (Too lazy to try to make my own.)

  • Anonymous

    Astigmatism and virtually non-existent depth perception here (among other things, made getting my driver’s license extremely difficult, although I eventually did.) I’ve seen two movies in 3D, and don’t plan to repeat the experience. Couldn’t get the whole 3D aspect at all, had trouble tracking those bits, and left feeling very much cheated out of the cost of the 3D ticket.

  • http://twitter.com/SoupyTwist SoupyTwist

    It is frustrating to me to see people ragging on 3D in The Hobbit because yes, 3D is usually gimicky and awful but that’s because they take movies shot in 2D and make them 3D in post production.

    When a movie in shot in 3D (like The Hobbit) it actually allows for some amazing cinematography that just isn’t possible in 2D. With 2D animated movies done in CGI (like the re-release of Finding Nemo) they can do the adjustment just by rerendering the film with the appropriate settings. Though I find those tend to be a bit odd just because they weren’t designed for 3D. For instance in Nemo I found a lot of the incredible detailing in the foreground occasionally pulled my focus away from the characters. Some I think even CGI needs to be planned in 3D for it to be fully effective.

    I find it interesting reading about various reasons why people can’t use the glasses. I wear glasses (blind without them) and I don’t really have issues with wearing 2 pairs in a 3D screening, but it never occurred to me until I read these comments that the blurriness on quick movements wasn’t something everybody sees.

  • Anonymous
  • Guest

    I for one don’t like it when movies are shot at anything about 24fps.. It just looks cheap.. Like it was shot on a cheap camcorder… The same goes for existing older movies I’ve seen on TV’s and DVD/Bluray players that “smooth” the framerate.. It ruins the look of them, and as a result I turn that option OFF if available… I think it’s wrong of film makers to force this on people, since a large number of them are NOT going to like it. Movies should remain 24fps, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it…

  • http://twitter.com/TehZee Z e e Z e e~♥

    I for one don’t like it when movies are shot at anything above 24fps.. It just looks cheap.. Like it was shot on a cheap camcorder… The same goes for existing older movies I’ve seen on TV’s and DVD/Bluray players that “smooth” the framerate.. It ruins the look of them, and as a result I turn that option OFF if available… I think it’s wrong of film makers to force this on people, since a large number of them are NOT going to like it. Movies should remain 24fps, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it…

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.truxillo Laura Truxillo

    Yeah, I’m giving 3D a pass. I can handle it for animated/stop-motion films, especially ones with bright colors and all, but most liveaction just turns blurry for me.

    Plus, I hate spending the whole movie trying to balance glasses on my glasses.

  • Daniel Reasor

    I loved the first trilogy enough to see in film in the theater and buy the extended director’s cut of each film on DVD, but I’d learn to live with not seeing The Hobbit if 48 fps and 3D were the only way to go. I might miss it still, if the only version that plays in my town is the version that looks like a Norman Lear sitcom with added motion sickness.

  • Anonymous

    “unless you’re one of the mythical few not interested in The Hobbit”

    I have to admit, I really don’t care. I stopped watching the second LOTR halfway through and am not fussed about it or the 3rd movie, never mind these ones. Sorry, I just find them intensely boring.

  • http://www.facebook.com/caitriona.coade Klavdia Kalugina

    Fair point. Also was informed last night of a number of reasons why it is justified that he made three movies. Have had to reconsider not going to the cinema and seeing it.
    I would like to point out something though: My livelihood is stolen from every day by my government. Last night’s budget announced it will take an extra €1300 a year from me – eventhough I’m already on the breadline, and the rich will only pay $900 more each year. And it’s not “10 bucks”, it’s €20 to go to a 3D movie in my country, which is the equivalent of $26. There are three movies coming out in the cinema this month that I would like to see, and I can only afford one of them. So at least two films will be downloaded, and then paid for with a DVD purchase only if they are enjoyable. I don’t view downloading as stealing, I view it as a pre-view. If it is then worth any money, money will be spent when I have it.

  • http://twitter.com/rockinlibrarian Amy W

    See, we’ve never been to a 3D movie at all, mostly because we rarely get out of the house and when we do, we’re too cheap to shell out the extra cash for it. But I have horrible vision and hubby’s in glasses too (MINE ARE WORSE!) so I imagine we’d be in the group that has problems with it anyway. But luckily, we’ve never had need to bother. There’s always a 2D showing, and it’s cheaper.

  • Michael DeVore

    48fps was supposed to address the nausea for the few affected by it for 3D at 24fps. What’s the point of it if it doesn’t do what it was intended to do?

  • Anonymous

    I’m worried after reading this, and we’ll probably see the movie in 2D because there’s a chance I’ll one of those people. I prefer not see to full-length movies in 3D (shorts are ok) because I will get headaches, and I have felt nauseated after movies (Cloverfield being the worst I can think of).

    I have a double astigmatism that makes me nearsighted and causes my eyes to point slightly outward. It doesn’t impact my regular life or watching movies usually, but full-length 3D movies must cause my eyes/brain to work harder to process everything.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-OQuinn/1327766565 Jason O’Quinn

    Gonna catch it Thursday night in GOOD OLE 24 FPS….this is not like Spiderman that needs to be in 3D…..now THAT was AWESOME in 3D!! I want to enjoy the story and all of the new chars w/o any issues! Cant Wait!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513877109 Samantha Wilson

    I just want you to know that a lot of people dislike 3D regardless of if the 3D was done as planned or after production. I think it’s pointless, I always have and nothing I have seen has changed my mind and I doubt anything will. If the story is good enough then you should be engaged without the 3D. I don’t think Casablanca could be improved by being made into colour TV because it’s fantastic without bothering.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Matt.Sampley Matt Sampley

    I noticed the 48fps (non 3D) and I loved it. I did get a bit of a headache after as did my wife.