When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hit theatres back in 2012, it was supposed to usher in yet another new groundbreaking technology for cinema: high frame rate (HFR). The movie was shot and presented in 48 frames per second as opposed to the usual 24, which was supposed to make the action appear more smooth in 3D but for many moviegoers it simply looked fake. The subject of high frame rate has been reignited this month as a result of Ang Lee’s Gemini Man which was presented in 120 fps in some locations and 60 fps in others. There seem to be more supporters this time around, particularly when it comes to the action sequences, but many theatres are still not equipped to do 120 fps properly. James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar sequels were also expected to use HFR, but in a recent interview he has now backed down on it somewhat. Here’s what he had to say:
“I have a personal philosophy around high frame rate, which is that it is a specific solution to specific problems having to do with 3D. And when you get the strobing and the jutter of certain shots that pan or certain lateral movement across frame, it’s distracting in 3D. And to me, it’s just a solution for those shots. I don’t think it’s a format. That’s just me personally. I know Ang doesn’t see it that way. I don’t think it’s like the next 70 millimeter or the next big thing. I think it’s a tool to be used to solve problems in 3D projection. And I’ll be using it sparingly throughout the Avatar films, but they won’t be in high frame rate.”
“To me, the more mundane the subject, two people talking in the kitchen, the worse it works, because you feel like you’re in a set of a kitchen with actors in makeup. That’s how real it is, you know? But I think when you’ve got extraordinary subjects that are being shot for real, or even through CG, that hyper-reality actually works in your favor. So to me, it’s a wand that you wave in certain moments and use when you need it. It’s an authoring tool.”
So it sounds like he will be shooting certain sequences in HFR but the movies themselves will not be released in HFR. I’m not exactly sure what the effect of that is, but at any rate he is no longer putting his full weight behind the technology. This could be a major blow to the industry folks who have been pushing for major blockbusters to be shot and presented at higher frame rates. Of course, Cameron is still embracing 3D in a big way and many are hoping the Avatar sequels will renew interest in that particular technology. Avatar 2 still doesn’t hit theatres until December 17th, 2021, however. Are you happy to hear that James Cameron is backing away from HFR?