A few thoughts on HFR (high frame rate) technology) in films.
on Tuesday, February, 19, 2013 9:49 PM
Let's face it, movies shot and shown in HFR are where it's at, and if you don't feel they're where it's already at,k you can't deny it's where they're certainly going. In case you've been living under a rock since around the 2012 Christmas movie season, HFR is the cinematographic technology wherein instead of shooting and projecting a motion picture (I can't really call them films since these are not shot on film) at the usual rate of 24 frames per second, HFR shoots and projects that movie at a rate of 54 fps, and sometimes even higher. The result is astounding, a picture that looks so utterly real, you will feel it is the undisputed culmination of motion picture technology. It looks maybe even sharper and brighter than what you see in real life with your own two eyes in full daylight, and I am not joking about that. The moving HFR picture's total-and I mean total-lack of blur or camera lag is what causes it's far superior appearance. You would swear what you're seeing on the screen is actually being played out by live actors in front of you. Detail? Sharpness? HFR defines the very meaning of the words “sharpness” and “detail”. Take what you see on your average very big 1080p TV screen showing something off a Blu-Ray. Got it? HFR makes that look, in comparison, like a seventies-era black and white tube set. Grain? It doesn't even exist with HFR, not even in the shadows. It's that...............good. Assuming, I should say, the movie is also in 3D, and we are seeing our theatrical movies in 3D when and where available, are we not, kids? Okay then.
Unless you have been to see The Hobbit in 3D HFR, you have not seen what HFR looks like. The Hobbit was released in 3D and 2D, but unless the theater where you saw it said it was shown in HFR, then it probably wasn't. Also, the HFR showings were all in 3D, but not all the 3D versions were in HFR. A multiplex near me had it in LieMAX 3D, but only in HFR on one of their smaller screens. Not sure you saw it in HFR? Believe me, you'd know it if you did from the second the opening credits started to roll because it would have been unlike anything you ever saw on a screen before, without any doubt. And the Hobbit is the only movie thus far released which has been shot and shown in HFR, so if you thought you saw a movie other than The Hobbit in HFR, you didn't. The Hobbit's two more sequels will also be shot in HFR. A HFR movie does not need to be 3D. HFR will work just fine with 2D and there will probably be many 2D movies released in HFR sin the coming years.
Just as an aside: The Hobbit itself was okay, though way too long. There still would have been plenty of action in it even if they had cut out about three of the major action/fight sequences, which is to say it almost had too much action. Could have easily been a good two-hour movie instead of the 3-hour one it was. I mean, each of the three LOTR movies was based on an entire book, but they made a three hour movie out of The Hobbit, which is just one book, and there are going to be two sequels of at least equal length on the way soon. Jackson said he was making up the extra story by way of stretching and elaborating on the material in the LOTR appendices, but is there really that much story to be told, or does he just want to make mad bank by putting out three movies? He's probably already got more coin than the kilotons of the stuff the dwarves had to abandon when they fled their mountain homeland in the beginning of the movie, which is to say.....an assload. Mr. Jackson, you've made enough money. Do what we all dream of and take the rest of your life off. You've won, okay? You have officially conquered money itself.
My life is much a struggle to make enough money. The amount of money I deem to be enough is “X”, where X is the amount of money I need to live comfortably, yet not extravagantly, for a year. I will not say here what particular number X is, but I assure you I know what it is. Some of us have no personal X number for X because we never stopped to figure out what that X number would be. But if I ever made enough money that I could have X on hand for the rest of my years, I would stop trying to make more money. I know what my “enough” is when it comes to money. It is a goal, and if I ever reached that goal, I would say “goal accomplished” and stop making money and just take some pottery classes or travel or something. What I do not understand is that there have to be som epeople out there, like, say, Peter Jackson or Mick Jagger, who have made their X number, and far more than just what their younger selves could have ever thought that X number was. So why, having accomplished the making of X (and way more than just X) do they keep making money? Stop already!! Take it easy! You can relax now, you've done enough.
Some have crybabies out there-the kind who want to ruin the fun and destroy the lives of those of us who love and embrace new film technologies which push the envelope-have been bawling their eyes out that HFR looks “too real”. Yeah, whatever. You know the guys who said 3D gave them headaches? Well this is just them all over again only now they have something new to whine about. Same guys. Tell them to go find themselves a black-and-white silent movie theater to sit in, one where there's some guy wearing a bowler hat and a long sleeved shirt with arm garters on as he plays an upright piano as an accompaniment to the picture. Be sure not to step on any of the hoop skirts the women will have on, and don't get any of that popcorn stuck in your heavily waxed handlebar mustache. Oh wait, those theaters don't exist anymore? That's right, they went the way of the dodo, they're deader than disco, and all because since the invention of film, man has been successfully striving to have ever more realistic motion pictures on the screen. The latest major breakthrough in that evolution is called HFR, and it's here now. So those who complain about HFR may as well complain about film being in color, or having sound for that matter. Did those things in their day make films “too real”? Do these people today go to movies with a plug in one ear so as to not hear the sound in stereo? No. New motion picture technology should be embraced on principal alone, not to mention because it looks simply KICK ASS. The wizards who put it in front of us to marvel at should not have their inventions shunned. Yeah they are still prone to putting out movies that are lesser than T:L, which is basically to say, all of them, but I'm talking about the medium here, not the content. Well, there's something to be said about Mad Max and also the original Road Warrior.
If there was one movie that this technology came too late for it was undoubtedly T:L. T:L was shot using the best 3D cameras of it's day and digitally, with key action sequences being shot in IMAX. I am all but positive Kosinski would have insisted on HFR had it been available. The world of Tron would have just popped off the screen, looked totally photo-realistic if shot that way. You would have sunk back into your seat, cowering in terror as the menacing recognizer descended upon you as happened to Sam when he first entered the Grid. It would have looked so real, you would have run for your life if you didn't know you were in a theater. But we have to let bygones by bygones, I guess.
Or...........do we? Could a movie be converted to HFR? This has not been discussed by the industry yet, at least not that I have heard of, but in theory, could it be accomplished by taking two individual frames, then having a computer morph another frame in between them, and so on, with one frame added in between all the existing frames? That would be one way to double the number of frames in a film. And if you can double the number of frames, you can show it at a faster frame rate than what it was shot in. One reason HFR looks so sharp is that the camera is capturing twice the amount of light per second by shooting and showing twice the number of frames per second. I don't see how that effect would be lost on a movie converted to HFR in a manner I described. You would not gain the same detail a movie shot in HFR would have, but I could live with that. And if there is one movie that truly deserves the HFR conversion treatment, one movie that would look so truly amazing in HFR, it's definitely (and I'm going to spell it out all the way in full here) Tron: Legacy. See, I spelled it all the way out just like I said I would, didn't I?
Let's just get really speculative now, shall we......? What if we could one day buy Blu-Ray players that would take a high-def movie shot at 24 fps and, on the fly, add in that extra frame by way of morphing it into existence on the fly, and thereby convert a movie to HFR as it's playing? HDTVs already have a frame refresh rate of 60 hertz, so it's doable. I'd better post this as soon as I can so Toshiba or Sony or whoever will have to cut me in on the royalties when they “invent” this a year or two from now.