HFR and the Future of Cinema

— HFR and the Future of Cinema

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Is HFR Really a Big Part of Film’s Future?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Set Photo Courtesy of Collider.

High frame-rate photography is nothing new. Television has used 60 fps (frames per second) for many years and with great success. A group of directors, myself included, such as James Cameron and Peter Jackson have seen a glimpse of the future and it is HFR (high-frame rate) and immersive photography. Now, by no means do I mean to put myself in the category of Cameron and Jackson in terms of work… at least not yet… but, any filmmaker must take stock of the changing industry landscape and be ready to adjust to this change. Be proactive.

We are in a weird state right now. The studio tent-pole franchises are still grossing a ton of money and will continue to do so for the next several years, however on the horizon is affordable 4K technology, larger cheaper TV’s, video on demand and streaming services. What this all means is it will make it harder for studios and theater owners to get people in the seats. Case in point. Why go to a theater when you can watch a new film on your new 60 inch 4K television that cost you less than $2000? There is only one answer to that question, and its one that we as filmmakers have to answer.

For me I’m of the mindset that as a filmmaker I have to offer audiences something that they can’t get at home. I see that coming in the form of immersion through HFR, cinerama size screens and 3D technology. HFR with proper 3D and larger screens are where we as an industry should go and where it looks like we eventually go in time.

I had the distinct pleasure of recently watching 2001: A Space Odyssey in Seattle Washington at the Cinerama. It is an experience I will never forget. The cinerama screen is without question the biggest screen I’ve ever watched a film on, sitting at nearly 100 feet wide. I was able to see an original 70mm print of 2001 which had me saying, “this is the way films are supposed to be seen. On a massive screen that engulfs your peripheral and immerses you into the Mise en Scene.”

Now couple this with the use of HFR, which creates a more striking image and gets us closer to real life and you have something really special.

Is it going to take audiences time to get used to HFR? Yes, without question.

As a filmmaker I plan on using more practical effects with HFR photography. The reason being is that HFR records so much more information than the standard framerate and makes every frame sharp and clear. This in turn makes it easier to see the discrepancy between real life and rendered special effects. But, remember too that where we stand now we haven’t even tapped the full potential of CGI yet, so there are a lot of room to bring that discrepancy down. Also, 3D technology is coming along nicely as well, and I would not be surprised if we see autostereoscopic 3D tech in theaters sooner rather than later, which means watching a 3D movie without the 3D glasses.

There is also the television effect. Since many television shows are shot using HFR many movie goers have an adverse reaction to seeing a movie like The Hobbit at 48fps. Again, I believe this will fade as time moves on. We’ve been conditioned for garner 24fps for over 100 years so its going to take some time to move beyond it.

As I’ve said, with the landscape is changing and we filmmakers have to work to present a unique experience that audiences cannot get at home. So I gladly join the ranks of Cameron and Jackson in trying my best to provide that to audiences. Being a storyteller first pushing me to want to lead the audience into an immersive experience.