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Academy Award-winning director James Cameron has been beating the drum recently about increasing the frame rates of movies from the standard 24 frames per second (fps) to 48 and even 60, in order to reduce judder and other artifacts in movies. He appeared at the industry convention CinemaCon at the end of March to present his reasons for making the switch (read the article on The Hollywood Reporter's web site).
According to his research, modern Digital Cinema projectors are capable of the higher frame rates with little or no modification. Cameron stated that he intends to make Avatar 2 3D and Avatar 3 in either 48 or 60 fps.
Given that the man set the bar with Avatar 3D so high that it excited an entire industry, while at the same time set a standard for 3D production that no one has yet been able to match, James Cameron has quite a bit of credibility where it counts.
But only one director, no matter how many awards he's received, is not going to make something like this happen alone.
His case just got more backing, with director Peter Jackson's announcement on his Facebook page that he's going to shoot The Hobbit - Part 1 at 48 fps:
We are indeed shooting at the higher frame rate. The key thing to understand is that this process requires both shooting and projecting at 48 fps, rather than the usual 24 fps (films have been shot at 24 frames per second since the late 1920's). So the result looks like normal speed, but the image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness. Looking at 24 frames every second may seem ok--and we've all seen thousands of films like this over the last 90 years--but there is often quite a lot of blur in each frame, during fast movements, and if the camera is moving around quickly, the image can judder or "strobe."
Shooting and projecting at 48 fps does a lot to get rid of these issues. It looks much more lifelike, and it is much easier to watch, especially in 3-D. We've been watching HOBBIT tests and dailies at 48 fps now for several months, and we often sit through two hours worth of footage without getting any eye strain from the 3-D. It looks great, and we've actually become used to it now, to the point that other film experiences look a little primitive. I saw a new movie in the cinema on Sunday and I kept getting distracted by the juddery panning and blurring. We're getting spoilt!
Click on the Read link below to view the full posting on Facebook.
Whereas James Cameron is talking about using the process when he begins making Avatar 2 in 18 months, Peter Jackson is doing it right now. And he's doing it with a movie that's part of a series that's made a boatload of cash and won another boatload of awards, with fans around the globe.
That's credibility! Let's hope that the potential translates into reality and that the studio will support 48 fps throughout the production process, and that theaters will be able to show the movie as it was intended to be seen.
Theaters have until December 2012 to get it figured out...
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