Lame Rates and Frame Rates (UPDATED)
I think a lot of people are missing the whole point of shooting at a higher framerate (Peter Jackson and Co included); this is understandable, because it is a complex matter. From what I understand, the original idea of shooting higher rates (among other things) was to reduce blur; since the image is being recorded faster it will/should be able to capture faster-moving subjects with less artifacts. Essentially the concept is that you are capturing more image and motion data to do what you wish with in post (VFX, image clarity, etc); very similar to the concept of exposing your footage as “flat” as possible for more grading flexibility in post. This seems simple enough, right? Cinema is traditionally projected at 24fps (frames per second) so, once a crisper or smoother image is captured; the goal is to still project/display at 24fps. Douglas Trumbull, one of the forerunners of higher framerate acquisition (with his Showscan), demonstrates this principle (using 120fps capture) here-
The “basement_red_fps” test (linked here and below), and apparently the Hobbit, are great examples of 48fps “capture-and-display” (with no conversion being done)… which, as many people who have seen the footage, have pointed out, “looks cheap”. In a way this process is, in my opinion, kind of a cheap (though expensive) knockoff of an idea the big D-Trumbull had back in the 70’s …
Back on point. What I’ve done with the video below is take the 48fps footage from the test by Marden Blake (which I claim no rights to), conformed it to 24 frames per second in After Effects, then “stretched” or speed it up to play at double speed; which (since it was captured at 2 x 24) being played double speed in a 24fps timeline makes it appear to display at “normal” speed. Now you may say, “Why shoot it at twice the framerate, only to display it at twice the speed; effectively nulling the effect of shooting at double speed!!!?” Well, the point of shooting at a higher framerate (as mentioned above) is to render a smoother/crisper/sexier/whatever image right? Right. Just because you are displaying the 48fps footage at 24fps does not mean that you are going to lose all of the benefits (or downfalls) of a higher framerate; the frames themselves were still captured at 48fps, and will have characteristics as such; most notably less blur.
I have never been paid large sums of money to make “How should we shoot this” decisions, or any decisions for that matter, so my opinion will most likely go completely un-acknowledged. Mr Trumbull, however knows what he is talking about, and I encourage you to look into his Showscan Digital concept. I will admit that Showscan has not completely sold me on high framerate acquisition, and I am not pushing the technology; I am merely presenting the facts on the matter (to the best of my knowledge and ability), and offering a bit of reasoning behind the higher framerate “craze”.
I just finished watching this interview ^, with Trumbull, talking about how he thinks that Jackson’s move is a step in the right direction. I wanted to state this, because it seems I may have assumed too much from the Showscan demonstration video, and that Douglas may not be pushing for a shoot high project low process… It is hard to tell though, because (from what it seems) the interviewer is not a super-technical person and he did not address the fact that, in the demonstration, they were shooting 120fps, but playing back at 24fps (after some frame combining and deleting); this would have been interesting to have heard an explanation for, but I guess we will have to wait for another demonstration or interview to find out. I wanted to make sure to include this update, because I don’t want to perpetuate (to all 10 of you reading) a mistaken understanding of what Trumbull (and Jackson) are actually doing.