IN FIVE AREA theaters, "The Hobbit," will be exhibited in a new format designed to improve the movie's 3-D presentation.

It's called 48 frames per second, which refers to the speed at which individual frames are projected on the screen. It's twice the traditional rate, and it gives the movie hyper-clarity compared with 24 frames per second, the standard since the dawn of the industry and art form.

Tech-savvy directors like Peter Jackson like the faster speed because it gives them the ability to do more things when working in 3-D and using computer-generated images. At the slower frame rate, sharp camera or character moves can create a halting, strobing effect, said Jackson colleague James Cameron, who's viewed "The Hobbit" and liked what he saw.

"The first thing is the hyper-clarity. It's such an enhancing technology, and I like the [computer-generated] characters much better. I find Gollum at the higher frame rate more compelling. Some of the creature characters, the trolls or the goblins, just seem to be more real," he said.

At 48 fps, he said, complex computer-generated action scenes proceed seamlessly, filmmakers have the flexibility to attempt and execute more ambitious sequences.

"It also does really well with huge landscapes. Even the simple stuff in the Shire, you look into that landscape and you believe that you're there," he said.

If there's a downside, he said, it's the way the technology calls attention to itself in less complex compositions.

"For me, it's a little less successful if it's just people standing around talking in a room. It's so real, it looks like you're eavesdropping on the actors while they're talking on set."

"The Hobbit" will be shown at 48 fps at Riverview Plaza here in town, Neshaminy 24, King of Prussia, and at the AMCs in Cherry Hill and Hamilton, N.J.

You can also see it in 3-D at 24 fps, and in 2-D, 24 fps, depending on location. Check your local listings.

- Gary Thompson