So there’s a new Peter Jackson – Tolkein movie out. The whole drama surrounding this “High Frame Rate” issue made me curious. I saw the movie in Imax 3D in the standard 24 frames per second digital projection, then saw the 48 frames per second HFR version a week or so later. The issues at hand surround the new “look” of the movie. It is my considered belief that psychology and history play a larger role in the subconscious minds of the viewers en masse. We have 100 years of re-inforcement to the 24 frames per second, crushed blacks contrast and colors of celluloid film that we see as ‘narrative’ storytelling. Anything new or different rocks hard against the long, storied tradition.

The higher frame rates really relate to a “video” look. This means the look of traditional live television or reality based programming. Video runs at 60 FIELDS per second which are similar to frames, but every other line of the screen is from a different frame and they are constantly refreshing and giving a sharp, crisp look. Think the nightly news or soap operas (or pornography).

So how did I feel about the High Frame Rate? I actually didn’t mind it. It was jarring in some scenes and incredibly subtle in others. It did make the 3D pop a lot more and for a lot longer. For me, my eyes adjust through the glasses and after and hour of any 3D movie, I don’t see any 3D anymore. It’s the lack of parallax that my brain versus eyes can’t reconcile. Back to the frame rate, let me just say that this really did affect lighting more than anything. Exterior shots, as in actually shot outdoors in sunlight looked more natural and better. Any shots with tungsten lights were more fake-y and video-like.

The image was substantially sharper and more clear, especially in 3D. The CGI looked really good in 48 frames per second because it melded in so much more naturally. Since VIDEO looks sharp and crisp, the correlation here actually benefitted the CGI characters because they looked equally ‘real’ as the live action.

In the end, I think we have a real taste of the future of cinema. I’m not a huge fan of 3D at all. Because of the aforementioned lack of parallax the human brain does not actually ‘buy’ the 3D as realistic. If you move and shift but the 3D images do not, then your brain computes this as an error. As for the high frame rate, I think we will see more of this as time goes on. Since the barrier is purely psychological in nature, it can be overcome.

I share in Walter Murch’s opinion that films relate more to dreams than conscious life. Only in a dream does it seem natural to instantaneously be or “cut” to a completely different location. The higher frame rates simply give more detail to what we are seeing.

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Peter John Ross

A filmmaker, a dreamer, and the world's only Dan Akroyd Cosplayer


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