So, you plan on seeing The Hobbit over the coming holidays, eh?
Eager? Excited? Enthusiastic? All of these things and more? Well, the long awaited release date is finally here, so get your ticket and get in line like the rest of us!
The only question that remains unanswered is: which line will you be in?
That’s right. Beginning Friday, December 14, you’ll be able to experience The Hobbit in a plethora of theatres that house an enormous difference in cinematic technology – both is sight and in sound. Did you know that this film is the first to be released in as many as seven different formats? HFR 3D, IMAX 3D, standard 2D Ultra AVX theatres…the list goes on. But the newest and <a-hem> most precious of the non-visual technologies The Hobbit employs has got to be Dolby’s recently developed ATMOS surround sound experience.
Find out what it is and where you can experience it after the jump!
There are really only a handful of mainstream filmmakers that have the interest, artistic clout and, lets face it, box office draw, to adopt new technologies into their creations, pushing the boundaries of the cinematic art form. The names Christopher Nolan, James Cameron and Peter Jackson, the director of The Hobbit, immediately come to mind.
We’ve all heard the news that The Hobbit was filmed in 3D in the high frame rate (HFR) of 48 frames per second – double the frame rate of your usual films. This will give the impression of true-to-life movement to the characters and objects on the screen as well as a clarity of vision. Action scenes, of which The Hobbit is replete, should be particularly compelling with little to no motion blur. This is new, cutting-edge digital technology – but not every theatre has the means to present it. For that reason, the film is also available in the regular 24 frames per second option. The staff at any good theatre should be able to describe the difference to you.
Of course, you’ll also be able to view The Hobbit in everyone’s favourite IMAX theatre in 3D. The greater size and resolution of IMAX film, when compared to regular film, will make the landscapes, vistas and special effects inherent in the world of Middle Earth something to truly behold. It will instantly be a more immersive viewing experience than watching the film in your normal-sized theatre – not that you won’t enjoy it there. IMAX will also be more expensive, with an adult ticket usually costing somewhere near $18. If you’re a cinephile, the money will be well spent.
What I’m now looking forward to most, however, is the aural experience of The Hobbit, another evolution of cinematic technology that this film represents.
Peter Jackson, along with his entourage of sound designers and engineers, took advantage of the new Dolby ATMOS 64-channel sound technology and built the soundscapes of The Hobbit around it. In broad strokes, we’re used to and accustomed with, Dolby Surround 5.1 and 7.1 sound and their corresponding channels: front, left, right, back left, back right speakers.
Dolby ATMOS redesigns and redefines the entire surround sound aural experience with a pan-through array of speakers. Basically, each speaker can project independent sound showcasing an almost life-like imitation of the way we hear real sound. Imagine a helicopter flying around a movie-star protagonist. With Dolby ATMOS, a film director can create the same sound that the movie protagonist is hearing for the viewing audience by using the set of speakers in front, beside right, behind right, behind left, and beside left, to give the impression of the helicopter flying around the audience. Instead of the helicopter sound running subsequently in each quadrants’ set of speakers (or channels), it actually runs seamlessly though each individual speaker mounted along the walls, creating a sense of motion.
But that’s not all.
Dolby ATMOS-equipped theatres also have a series of speakers set above the audience. That helicopter can now sound as if it were flying over you, the audience member. Now, imagine if that helicopter were Smaug the Dragon, breathing fire down on the audience!
We’re one step closer to my ultimate dream here, people: the invention of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s famed holodeck!
Unfortunately, back in reality, there aren’t many Dolby ATMOS-equipped theatres just yet. And finding them in an IMAX theatre is a really tough ask. I’ve come across reports that state that setting up a single theatre with the ATMOS technology costs upwards of $50,000. No wonder ticket prices will be a little higher in these cases. Lucky for us, the good people at TheOneRing.net (a fantastic site for all things Tolkein) have been compiling a list of theatres around the world featuring the ATMOS technology. Along with other info (such as HFR locations) you can find that list here – but it might be best to download their PDF for easy reading.
Personally, I’m catching a Friday evening screening of The Hobbit in an HFR 3D Ultra AVX theatre furnished with the ATMOS surround sound system at the only location where it’s available in the Greater Toronto Area: SilverCity Yonge-Eglinton Cinemas. They’re one of only 80-100 theatres worldwide that are currently testing and/or utilizing the ATMOS technology.
Big thanks to my cousin John, the in-the-know guy for this sort of cinematic tech, for pointing out the ATMOS option. I’ll see the film again, later, in HFR IMAX 3D to get a better feel for the visuals. It’ll be great to compare the two experiences. Some lucky ducks in parts of the United States can actually get HFR IMAX 3D with ATMOS! Prepare to have your minds blown, people!
So, the question remains: When will you be seeing The Hobbit? And what line up will you be standing in?