Last minute demand for the technology that will enable cinemas to project The Hobbit in the new high frame rate of 48 frames per second has put huge pressure on audio-visual companies.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will premiere in a high frame rate of 48 frames per second (fps), instead of the standard 24 fps, making it the first major Hollywood movie to be made at this rate.

"The result looks like normal speed, but the image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness," Jackson said when announcing the move last year.

Despite initial speculation that few cinemas in New Zealand would have the technology to cope, a decision by Hoyts and Event Cinemas to dedicate a screen in every theatre to projecting the film at the higher frame rate has created a rush for the technology.


A number of independent theatres have followed suit.

In the US only 400 out of 4000 or more cinemas will show The Hobbit at 48fps.

Managing Director at Audio Visual Equipment (AVE) in Auckland, Glen Bullen, said demand for the upgrades had put a lot of pressure on companies like AVE.

"The technology is only coming through now and this has been a challenge."

He said his team had been "absolutely run off their feet".

The technology - an "integrated media block" designed to handle the increased amounts of data coming from the higher frame rate - cost around $10,000 to install per projector, he said.

"I think that those that wanted it, got it. But it's been a very, very last minute exercise to make it happen."

Bullen said the technology release was being tightly controlled by studios, rather than a mass roll out.

"This is really understood to be a test run."

He said distributor Roadshow Entertainment was controlling the release to make sure things didn't "go wide and go wrong".

However, despite the hurry, Bullen said all had gone "reasonably smoothly".

Operations and film manager at Miramar Roxy Cinema in Wellington, Daminda Dias, said the upgrade was expensive but proving popular.

"Our projectors were always state of the art but an extra memory board had to be fitted into the existing projector to allow us to project at 48 frames per second.

"It was expensive to install but more than the expense was the fact that it was new technology so people weren't sure how the projectors were going to react."

Dias said presales for the 48 fps screening had been "by far the most popular".

"It's because it is new technology I suppose."

While reactions to the high frame rate after it debuted at annual convention CinemaCon earlier this year were mixed, Dias said the test footage he had seen this week was "lovely".

"The picture is a lovely crisp looking picture and the colours are a lot better than six months ago."

He said all the "teething issues" had now been sorted out.

But not everyone is clamouring for an upgrade, with many independent cinemas showing the film at the standard 24 fps.

Lang Masters at Hollywood Cinema in Christchurch said they hadn't considered getting the technology, and didn't believe it would make much of a difference.

"We haven't got that. You could spend another $20,000 but it wouldn't be worth it. It couldn't be sharper than they already are."

- Herald Online