James Cameron Claims Higher Frame Rates are the Future of Cinema

He’s been called a genius, a visionary and a master storyteller, and with Avatar he almost single-handedly ushered in a new age of 3-D movies. Although we’re still waiting to see if this is actually a good thing, James Cameron is already pushing ahead to the next technological breakthrough. Speaking at CinemaCon in Las Vegas this week, Cameron demonstrated what he believes will be the next major step in shooting and projecting movies: higher frame rates. Ever since sound was added to motion pictures in the late 1920s, movies have run at 24 frames per second. Is it time to finally stray from nearly 100 years of history and agree upon a new standard?

To help make his case, Cameron showcased footage that was shot at both 24, 48 and 60 fps, citing “enhanced sense of detail” and “enhanced clarity” in 48 and 60 fps. Although there apparently isn’t as much of a difference between 48 and 60, he thinks that one or the other should eventually be adopted by the industry. He wanted to shoot Avatar at 48 fps, but didn’t think the world was quite ready for it. He is planning to shoot Avatar 2 and 3 at one of the higher frame rates, however.

So is this just another unnecessary upgrade that will only be noticed by film aficionados, or is it something that will greatly enhance the viewing experience of the average moviegoer? That still remains to be seen. Cameron claims that many of the newer digital projectors out there can already handle the higher frame rates with a software update, so he’s not necessarily asking theatre owners to spend even more money. He also says that George Lucas and Peter Jackson are both on board for the change. What do you think, does James Cameron know what he’s talking about, or is he messing with tradition for no good reason? And if this raises ticket prices even higher, would anyone even be willing to pay for it?



  • How about higher resolutions for the digital projectors? The image quality in theatres still remains underwhelming.

  • Faggymcbitchtits

    It doesn’t make any difference for the human eye cannot see any faster mr James..

  • krudsma

    The reason most theaters don’t have digital projectors is because they don’t need to. People will see movies regardless of the resolution, and it’s tough to convince theaters that adopting digital projection will be better in the long run. It’ll happen sooner or later.

    High framerates (59.94 mostly) have always irked me, and I think that will be the same for the majority of audiences. We’ve been watching either 24 or 30 fps for our entire lives, and the change in motion will be pretty jarring. I’m all for pushing forward, I’m just not sure this will ever become the new standard.

  • krudsma

    Actually Faggy, 24fps is the standard because that is the minimum speed a film can play without the audience noticing the shutter. Shooting at higher framerates will have a noticeable difference.

  • theocean85

    One of the reasons I set my tv to 1080/24p is because it just seems so natural to me. I really don’t like watching a refresh rate that’s 60, 120, or even 240 like on one of my friends’ new and expensive TVs. It just looks so strange to me.

    But of course, as the world moves on I will forever be like the old man pining for the good ol’ days, and I’ll bitch about how every image looks to clean and has no grain and how every movie should be shot on 35mm stock at 24 Goddamn frames per second.

    There’s something about watching stuff with a higher framerate that makes me feel like it’s TOO smooth.

  • 1138sw

    I’ve got to agree higher frame rates are just so weird to see especially when you are approaching the 60, 120 or even 240. The image begins to look extremely unnatural. Or maybe we’re all so accustomed to 24 fps. But overall I really do no like the newer frame rates…it’s just to smooth to much detail and very jarring in it’s own unnatural way.

    I know Cameron likes to push the boundaries of cinema, but with higher resolutions ( I mean come on how many pimples do we want to see on person’s face) and newer frame rates that look just plain unnatural, you might actually wind up destroying the one thing that makes movies special…and that’s the MAGIC of movies.

  • rob

    would have hardly said it was the “future of movies” thats just the progression of quality, like digital effects looking better now than 10 years ago

    the human eye can only distiguish frame rate up to a certain point anyway the brain fills in the gaps like it does at 24fps

  • Perhaps someone of higher intelligence can explain this to me, but isn’t 48 frames or 60 frames slow motion? I know sometimes if they want to show the effect of speeding up or slowing down they increase or decrease the frame rate. I’m confused.

  • Faggymcbitchtits

    nah.. don’t buy it.. faster frame capturing was an option since the beginning of time Just like 3D. People chose to use 24fps because it feels more normal. The cameras that use faster frame rate just provide a slightly different experience.. different doesn’t always makes better though.. Cameron always takes old tricks and presents them as new.. Can’t he just make a normal film for once?

  • Dave

    Let us all bow down to L. Ron Cameron.

  • jack shepherd

    how about better movies???????????

  • Jimi

    @Faggymcbitchtits: People didn’t choose to use 24fps because it feels more natural. They chose it because it would have been a whole lot more expensive to use for exampel 48fps, which would have required twice as much film.
    Now that digital cinematography is taking over, film costs is no longer a problem.

  • Big Hungry

    A higher frame rate will make it feel less cinematic.

  • swarez

    @rjdelight
    It’s only slow motion if it’s shown at 24 frames.

  • snugglebob

    no one has ever called him a genius

  • Faggymcbitchtits

    @Jim, who cares what the truth is, Just piss on J. Cameron..

  • one point Cameron mentioned I fine woefully optimistic is his belief that going to higher frame rates will add only 10% in CG rendering costs. He stated that software will interpolate which of the additional frames will need special attention from the artist and this is why he predicts only 10% increase to budgets.

    I watch a lot of behind the scenes and have friends that are CG monkeys; these films get every frame massaged and that choice comes from unsure, nervous producers and directors. I find it highly doubtful doubling the frame rate, and therefore removing the flutter that masks defects, will only increase post budgets by 10%.

    For example, Battle Los Angeles would be killed by this as they went out of their way to hide poor design and effects through shutter and shaky cam. Jay should talk about this in the next podcast – the loss of the “magic of cinema” it use to be light and shadow was used to trick the eye, now we want to get rid of it for ULTRA REALISM!!

  • Hmmh, i don´t know – isn´t thi old news?

    I remember an article in a “Cinefantastique” around 1980 about a special screening process with a frame-rate of about 70 pic/sec AND a bigger frame-size. I was promoted with a short starring Vincent Price.
    I think the system was called IMAX or such….

  • Justice

    Now I’m pretty ignorant as far as this techy stuff goes, and I despise the 120/240 smoothing processors that a lot of tvs have these days, but isn’t refresh rate different than frames per second that the source is made at?.

    Looking at video games, don’t most designers strive to have solid 48, or even better, 60 fps? Maybe film could benefit but also maybe it just doesn’t translate to movies. Any ideas?

  • Duke Togo

    Many people complain about the cheap look of 30 FPS video, even with only an extra 6 frames per second, video looks ‘cheap’. We are used to the 24 fps ‘animation’ which hides so many mistakes and sins. A lanky actor with jerky movements will not look so awkward at 24 FPS. Stunt doubles and action stars that aren’t the world’s best and top of their game will be exposed unless for action or fx scenes framerate drops back down to 24. Danny Boyle was using a 15 FPS DSLR for some Slumdog Millionaire screnes.

  • I sense a Backdraft coming.

  • Robin

    Better stories? Better writing? Dem’ll work real good.

  • Liney

    Isn’t this a case of Higher Frame Rate = More Information = Bigger File Size = Harder to Pirate = More Money for Film Companies.

    I’m not even saying more money for film companies is a bad thing if they use it to make good movies, I’m merely calling a spade a spade.

  • “Danny Boyle was using a 15 FPS DSLR for some Slumdog Millionaire screnes.”

    nice input Duke Togo, need to check that out

  • Isn’t this a case of Higher Frame Rate = More Information = Bigger File Size = Harder to Pirate = More Money for Film Companies.

    Digital formatting for theatre presentation is a proprietary brand that is notoriously difficult to crack/code for. Increasing the size of the file isn’t really going to do much since its the encoding that is the major detraction from pirating. It will be a major cost for theatres though as they’d need to invest in much larger HDs for their projectors, which is already becoming an issue even with current standards.

    How about higher resolutions for the digital projectors? The image quality in theatres still remains underwhelming.

    This is a rather dubious claim. 2K destroys Blu-Ray as it is and with 4K increasingly becoming the standard its becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between a digital presentation and a pristine 35mm print.

    The reason most theaters don’t have digital projectors is because they don’t need to. People will see movies regardless of the resolution, and it’s tough to convince theaters that adopting digital projection will be better in the long run.

    You are a bit uninformed as theatre chains pretty much uniformly see digital presentation is the new standard. They are cheaper to run, maintain and program for, and as an added bonus are much easier to teach people how to program than with standard projection. Current tech allows projectionists to “dial-in” to individual projectors and can set masking, lenses, swap trailers, set queues and run the film remotely without ever being on-site. As an added bonus you can do all that is a matter of seconds (including building the print) whereas standard projection would require a good half-hour just to assemble a print. The savings alone in labor is staggering.

    Toss in cheaper shipping costs and you have a format that not only looks as good, if not better than standard print and you have something that potentially could save individual theatres hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    Really the biggest obstacle nowadays is who will pay for the upgrades to install digital projectors as early on studios were partially financing it as part of the 3D revolution, now that costs are dropping and its becoming clear how much cost savings are involved with the conversions, studios are balking at picking up part of the tab and pushing it back on the theatre chains.

  • Andrew

    Is Cameron ripping of that idea/tech Ebert is always helping to pimp?

  • Liney

    Matt – I’ll hold my hand up and say that I know very little about this stuff (and I listen to Rowthree, so I know that you have a lot more knowledge in this area than me). But what I was speculating is that there seems to be a push to differentiate the cinema experience from a) the home experience, and b) what is easy to pirate. Hence 3D etc, which we are constantly being told that we ‘want’, even though most film fans don’t seem to.

    So if a hfr is only possible in cinemas, then it will be a way to differentiate the experience from the home, hence make more money. And if home systems them start using a hfr as well, then this will make files bigger and harder to copy/store. I think I’m right in saying that a HD file of a film is about 16Gb, which is too big for most people. If a hfr became accepted and desired for film fans in the home, it would mean bigger file sizes, and less piracy. Like I say, I’m not even saying this is a bad thing, but it’s surely a factor?

  • Illex

    I heard Cameron personaly hates the background ‘strobing’ effect when doing fast pans & camera moves, Im sure a lot of other directors wish they had billion dollar itches to scratch…

    I have studied animation & its beaten into your brain that its 24fps all you animation timings are based on that (25/30 for tv). Bumping up to 48 is going to double the budget imho, (many mocap systems will die, computers reduced to molten slag, rendering times doubled. Animators going crazy tearing their eyeballs out with twisted carpal-tunnel claws) the usual painless upgrades.

    Letting the computer interpolate will make those creepy cgi smiles even creepier ;-} Forcing the animators to work double (probably for the same rate) will only get 1st pass animation. Who knows? It all sounds like a big expensive experiment & I hope that they have enough tests done to pull it off.

    Anyway, enough cgi speculation, is there any consideration for the early adopters that did buy those 3d TV sets? I doubt they will recieve the same firmware hack Cameron is pitching.

    Expect a load of cheap roller coaster & car chase movies to follow.

  • Faggymcbitchtits

    \@M.gamble

    I wonder what would happen if one tried to record a ffps film with a conventional camera..

    Would the TV effect occurred? ..thus preventing pirating?

  • Al

    Let’s face it, higher frame rate, image smoothing, Motionplus or whatever these new LCD/LED Tv’s are pimping, look like utter shit. My friend had Motionplus turned on by default when he bought his new Samsung LED TV and he was gloating over how great his picture was. When I told him it looked like cheap video and to turn off the higher frame rate setting, he couldn’t believe how much better the picture was and how more natural it was at 24FPS. A lot of indie filmmakers spend a lot of time trying to make video look like it was shot on film, and now Cameron is trying to reverse that process? What an idiot…

  • Paul Andrews

    Posted on April 1st ? If the story isn’t real it certainly has people talking.

  • theman

    How about higher resolutions for the digital projectors? The image quality in theatres still remains underwhelming.
    ___________________________
    Have you even seen a Digital Projector? I’m sure you’ve seen several and most likely didn’t realize it. I find digital Projections superior to standard film projection personally. Digital projection is very clean as it should be. The only grain or noise should be what the film maker intended the audicance to see.

  • So if a hfr is only possible in cinemas, then it will be a way to differentiate the experience from the home, hence make more money.

    HDTV’s already use a higher frame rate for films, though it is artificially induced. HDTV’s display at 30 frames per second, so films are adjusted to display for that frame rate using a 3-2 pull down. This doesn’t even get into refresh rates, which would require math, or anything shot on video, which has an automatic frame rate of 30fps or 60fps.

    So basically anything you are watching in HD at home is already at 30fps and your HDTV certainly has the capabilities to show an even higher frame rate.

    I think I’m right in saying that a HD file of a film is about 16Gb, which is too big for most people. If a hfr became accepted and desired for film fans in the home, it would mean bigger file sizes, and less piracy.

    SL DVD’s are roughly 4 gigs, SL BR’s are up to 25 gigs and piracy hasn’t slowed down with either of them. Heck, now you having thriving markets for video games and computer programs where people download well over 25 gigs in a day. I just don’t see 50-100 gig file sizes really slowing anyone down. And if it did, their is always compression. While I agree that the majority of move done by studios seems to put reducing piracy over quality of content, this really seems like something where they are looking at quality first. Its not like film has always been shot at 24fps either, the standard used to be 16fps and when technology improved they bumped it up so it makes sense that now technology is good enough where higher frame rates are possible.

    Though I bet the HV market would like this, simply because it would delay the inevitable which is people streaming everything from the cloud.

    This will all be moot once the new 5D DVD’s are ready for commercial distribution in less than 10 years. Those suckers have 10TB of space per disc.

    I have studied animation & its beaten into your brain that its 24fps all you animation timings are based on that (25/30 for tv). Bumping up to 48 is going to double the budget imho, (many mocap systems will die, computers reduced to molten slag, rendering times doubled. Animators going crazy tearing their eyeballs out with twisted carpal-tunnel claws) the usual painless upgrades.

    This I think is a pretty interesting point. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if you started seeing a bunch of small animation houses cropping up if Disney/Pixar/Ghibli start forcing their workers to do more work for the same pay. That might end up being a very good thing in the long term. I wouldn’t be surprised if the studios move to 48fps simply to meet the demands of Disney/Dreamworks animation departments where they simply move to a simple 2-2 frame presentation, at least early on.

    I wonder what would happen if one tried to record a ffps film with a conventional camera.

    HD cameras record anywhere from 30 to 60 fps (though Jay would have a better idea if that is true for every HD camera). So my guess is it would be a minor inconvenience if shooting at 30fps for a 48fps film looks weird.

  • /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ the biggest lie going on in Hollywood is post budgets and worker hours. to be blunt, slave labor tactics are in full effect these days as secondary work is farmed to new cg farms by studios that know the small companies and CG monkeys are powerless without a union and will not complain for fear of being blackballed. there are many young artist to take their place. I wonder if Cameron’s “only 10% increase in post budgets” takes in to account slave labor?!

    those that believe the District 9 budget reports are fools

  • Bas

    I think a higher frame rate would definitely make large scale action sequences such as those in Transformers and Avatar a lot more watchable. Because in those you definitely notice the shutter effect.

    Everyone talking about tricks that certain tv’s pull off: isn’t that completely different than what J.C. is promoting? Actual frames instead of tricks makes all the difference I imagine.

  • Justin

    @rus in chicago: “those that believe the District 9 budget reports are fools”

    Do you have evidence contradicting what the budget reports say? And I mean actual, hard evidence; not just some website saying it’s wrong because ‘they’ don’t believe the report.

    Also…if you have no evidence or anything backing you up to support your claim of people believing the District 9 reports are fools, then I suggest you shut up and quit wasting your breath.

    Thirdly…POST YOUR SOURCE when you say stupid stuff like that! Entice those of us who wish to see whether or not the District 9 budget reports are true or false.

    If you can’t do that, and all you can do is just spew then I will suggest this to you! Go to bed, would you please?

  • LOL

    LOL – this was an APRIL THE 1ST article. Most people should realise that high frame rate recordings look far less cinematic/dramatic, and can even expose poor acting. If this was a serious article, then James Cameron may not have much of a future!

  • True

    Capturing @48 is fine, but how about playing back? I don’t understand how does sound/dialogues sync with high speed frame rate.