Is new Hobbit movie tech making audiences ill?

Posted by David Konow

While it’s great fun to watch a movie in 3D, there’s always the risk of eyestrain and headaches if it’s not set up right.

For any new development, there’s usually a trial and error period, especially with cinema technology. While we’ve had the 3D revival for a while now, and the technology’s much better these days, 48 frames a second is the newer technology that may take a while for audiences to get used to, especially if the initial audience reports are true that it’s making people somewhat queasy.

The Hobbit just had its premiere in New Zealand last week, and the technology of 48 frames a second is now being heralded as the next savior of the industry. Not everybody’s been convinced of this, and according to Mail Online, some audience members felt dizzy and sick from the camera speeds and 3D. 
 
As one fan told the Sunday Times, "My eyes cannot take everything in, it’s dizzying, now I have a migraine." Another said, "I left loving the movie but feeling sick." Another fan said it was like being on a rollercoaster, and it gave you motion sickness. 
 
Now I want to be clear. This is not uncommon for 3D movies, as I’ve gotten quite a few headaches and eyestrain from them myself, but it’s somewhat uncertain whether this was also caused by the 48 frames per second or not. Countering these reports is RealD, the company that worked with Jackson on The Hobbit. Matt Cowan, the main scientist at RealD, said, "What you will experience is smoother motion," and it shouldn’t make audiences feel queasy.
 
At the same time, whenever there’s a new technology in movies, it can be very hard for audiences to get used to it. When Tron failed at the box office, director Steven Lisberg told me he felt it was too much new art for audiences to take in. Some people also felt this is why Speed Racer flopped, because it had too many eye popping graphics to watch for over two hours. Seeing Avatar in Imax 3D was a great experience, but there were many times I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head trying to absorb it all.
 
So is this truly a case of new ground being broken, and once audiences test the waters they’ll love it? The ultimate decider is the court of public opinion, and we’ll know for sure when the world sees it for themselves on December 14.