For as long as we’ve known the name James Cameron, we’ve known that he has been a thought leader and innovator in the vast world of feature film making. He’s taken visual effects to new heights with Terminator 2 and Titanic, and he exploded the world of 3D with the highest grossing film of all-time Avatar. So it should come as no surprise to us that the director is once again at the forefront of technological change, this time advocating for the use of a higher frame rate than the standard 24 frames per second usually used for film.
While speaking to THR, Cameron explained his reasoning about trying to make this shift and once again breaking accepted norms to “better” the film industry.
The reason I went down that path is because I believe it makes for better 3D. There were lots of arguments for why 48 and why 60. My feeling is if it is a software upgrade (for digital cinema projectors), do both. It doesn’t change anything at the projector; you don’t have to change the lamp house or the lenses. If you are uploading software you can upload it for 48 and 60 and let the filmmakers decide.Obviously the main benefit for him would be that the 3D in his Avatar sequels will supposedly work better. The inherent problem with changing the frame rate is that it changes the overall “look” of whatever you’re watching. It’s already readily apparent on TV. You’d never think the same techniques were used to shoot Big Bang Theory were used to shoot Mad Men.
The 30 frame look, like BBT, makes the image look more realistic in a way, more closely representing the way the eye sees. But that 24 FPS look seen on Mad Men and similar shows as well as most movies is what people love about watching a movie. It’s more of an escape, not just a window into another reality. That’s not to say that it can’t be done right, and if anyone will do it right it’s James Cameron, but undoubtedly, as with 3D, many film makers will try to emulate what he’s done and will simply fuck it up.
Currently, Peter Jackson is filming The Hobbit at 48 FPS which will help with the 3D and hopefully will retain the same 24 FPS look. This is another option in the pipeline for the future of film making, along with Cameron’s 60, but as it stands right now the fate of this industry change is in the hands of the theater owners who shoulder the cost of upgrading the theaters to display the movies.
This is a major shift for the industry that has been shooting in 24FPS for a century. Expect to hear some interesting developments on this subject in the future, but this will probably not be as fast moving as 3D was. Stay tuned.