Finally got around to watching Desolation of Smaug in HFR and it confirms for me that I undoubtedly prefer higher frame rates. Bring on the 60fps or even 120.
What was particularly interesting though is that I had 2 friends along, one of whom was viewing HFR for the first time, and the other happened to be the friend that I mentioned in a few posts who hated AUJ in HFR and preferred it in 24fps. Well, I managed to talk him into giving HFR another shot with DOS.
The person who was viewing HFR for the first time is now a fan of it. He said that for the first 5 minutes the motion definitely looked odd to him, but after the first 5 minutes he adjusted to the difference and said that it was much better. In fact, his exact words were, "Hmmm... why don't they shoot all movies like this?"
It's the reaction of the other friend, who hated HFR in AUJ though, that I found most interesting. I managed to talk him into giving it another try by explaining what HFR is and does. This time around, he greatly enjoyed the experience and is eager to see the 3rd movie in the series in HFR (as well as being excited about Avatar II when I told him JC is planning to do that in HFR). He wasn't sure what made the difference, but he thinks that with AUJ, he didn't know what to expect and the difference in the way it looked from what he was used to was just too great, and his brain couldn't accept it. This time around, he had an idea of what to expect and quickly adjusted to the way it looked, after which, he said that the movement DID look a lot more like real life.
One thing to note though (and I confirmed this after
watching the movie and Googling it) was that I noticed more blurring in DOS than in AUJ. Although the increased smoothness was still apparent (and even higher frame rates with even more smoothness would be welcome to me), I was now seeing more blurring in some of the fast motion scenes as well as some pans and closeups than I recalled seeing in AUJ. I wondered if it was simply my imagination and fuzzy memory since it had been quite a few months since viewing AUJ in HFR, but I distinctly recall one of the things that impressed me the most with AUJ, aside from the smoother motion, was how clear everything was, whether it was in pans, or especially in fast motion.
I hadn't read anything about DOS prior to viewing it (not even reviews), but after viewing DOS, I was compelled to Google it to see if there were any comments made by PJ about changing the look of HFR, specifically blurring the image to increase its acceptance/palatability for the general audience, and sure enough, that's exactly what I found here:
As I'd thought when I noticed what looked like more motion blur in DOS vs AUJ, he intentionally increased the motion blur in DOS compared to AUJ based on viewer complaints about the hyper clarity making things look too video. I guess he's basically revised his methods in order to try recalibrating viewer's perceptions more gradually, as it seems that a great number of folks are apparently not ready to handle the full capability of 48fps. I guess for many folks, the combination of the increased motion smoothness AND much greater clarity is just too much to accept, so since the increased smoothness is inherent with the higher frame rate, he's compromised by reducing the clarity so folks have to adjust to only one thing at a time. They can get used to the increased smoothness of motion, while still enjoying their good 'ol blurry movement. so they hopefully can accept HFR more easily. If it works and 48fps (and possibly higher frame rates?) become more and more common, I wonder if directors will eventually begin reducing the baked-in blur as folks become more accustomed to the differences? I definitely hope so.
I still think it's a little sad that a director has to actually intentionally degrade the image, simply to appease the vast majority of folks who have been so ingrained and accustomed to the crappy motion artifacts of 24fps. Oh well, Viva la HFR!