A 10-minute preview of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit has drawn a mixed reaction from viewers, with one film website saying "everyone hated it".
The Kiwi director previewed 10 minutes of footage in the United States yesterday, showing wide landscape scenes shot in New Zealand, Bilbo and his nemesis Gollum, and the band of dwarves he has adventures with.
The footage showed Bilbo lost in Gollum's cave, Gandalf persuading Bilbo to leave the Shire, and trolls engaging in a battle.
Orlando Bloom was shown reprising his Lord of the Rings role as Legolas - a character not in Tolkien's Hobbit book.
There is also a scene of the White Council featuring Saruman, Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond.
The preview footage was recorded in a digital format containing twice the usual amount of information seen on film, or 48 frames a second. The industry standard is 24.
The film could usher in a new era of filmmaking and require film houses across the globe to embrace digital technology.
However, critics yesterday said the new technology was a failure.
Jackson said the human eye no longer sees individual pictures under the faster speed, but a steady stream of clear images.
"The movement feels more real," Jackson said while introducing his film at the CinemaCon convention for theatre owners on the Las Vegas Strip.
"It's much more gentle on the eyes."
He hoped "as many cinemas as possible" would play the movie at 48 frames per second.
The footage was described as vivid, with grass blades, facial lines and soaring mountains appearing luminous and pronounced. The actors looked almost touchable, as if they were performing live on stage, said The Associated Press.
However, some bloggers were quick to denounce the move to a faster frame rate - saying it was akin to an information overload for the brain - and added that the unfinished footage they had seen looked something like a TV film.
"The Hobbit reel looked distinctively sharper and more immediate than everything before it, giving the 3D smoother movement, while losing the cinematic detachment from the motion blur of the longtime industry-standard 24fps,'' Variety said.
Badass Digest said the footage "has that soap opera look you get from badly calibrated TVs at Best Buy".
"The footage I saw looked terrible ... completely non-cinematic. The sets looked like sets ... sets don't even look like sets when you're on them live, but these looked like sets.
"The magical illusion of cinema is stripped away completely," he said.
A projectionist, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Los Angeles Times that "it looked like a made-for-TV movie".
"It was too accurate - too clear. The contrast ratio isn't there yet - everything looked either too bright or black," he said.
Filmdrunk simply ran the headline: "Everyone hated it."
The Hollywood Reporter said the clarity Jackson described was visible in the presentation, but because the clips were described as "a work in progress", Warners did not screen footage that was fully colour-corrected or had completed visual effects.
The footage has been kept secret for industry insiders and was not released on Jackson's Facebook page.
- NZ Herald