Saturday, July 16, 2011

High Frame Rate is Essential for 3D Digital Cinema

While this SlashFilm article is dated by April 1st, I hope its content is not a joke. In fact, James Cameron already expressed similar views a year ago. The article digests James Cameron's talk at CinemaCon 2011 in Las Vegas titled "A Demonstration and Exclusive Look at The Future of Cinema".

Cameron believes the time has not yet come for the 4K resolution upgrade as most films are currently authored at 2K (especially in the post production stage where most visual effects are rendered at 1 or 2k).

Rather, the next revolution in cinema will be to begin shooting and projecting films with faster frame rates. The low frame rate results in a strobing effect when their is moderate camera movement. It looks artificial and your brain interoperates it as such. Raising the framerate makes movement look a lot smoother, and gives the impression of an enhanced resolution. It is also one of the major factors of why some people experience discomfort while watching 3D movies.

Cameron talks about 40fps 3D movie: "If watching a 3D movie is like looking through a window, then [with this] we’ve taken the glass out of the window and we’re staring at reality." Cameron isn’t sure what a new standard should be set at — 48fps or 60fps. He mentioned that he will be shooting Avatar 2 at high speeds, either 48 or 60 fps.

The high definition video cameras being used for movies today are able to capture images at high framerates, some reaching as high as 220 fps. The second generation digital projectors (basically any projector bought since January 2010) are able to project at very high framerates. In fact, every 3D presentation we see now is being projected at 140 frames per second, projecting each eye a half dozen times. According to Cameron, theater owners won’t need to buy new expensive equipment, as it will only require software upgrades. has another version of the same story.

The Youtube video shows James Cameron's original talk:


  1. The Hobbit movie that is been shooting right now will be the first 3D movie shot in 48fps.
    Peter Jackson is using that mode.

  2. I thought the movie folks hate high frame rates, since that result in a TV-like butter smooth feeling.

  3. i thought the movie folks hated the high frame rates because it doubled or tripled the amount of data they had to contend with on the post processing of the film.

  4. What constitutes "high frame rate" is a function of Moore's Law...

  5. I'm not so certain about that... I'd rather define "high frame rate" as a function of human perception rather than Moore's law.

  6. I get a kind of motion sickness from this strobing effect watching regular movies in a theater. There doesn't even have to be moderate camera movement, just things with enough relative motion on screen. Usually I notice the strobing in the lower corners of the screen whenever there is depth motion - the camera zooming or moving in, or things moving past. For me the effect is especially bad when I'm sitting in the front rows.

    I'm not sure that doubling the frame rate from 24 fps to 48 fps will make the effect go away. Probably there will be an increased range of motion at which motion appears smooth, but it remains to be seen (so to speak) how much of routine action in an average film this will cover.

    On the image sensor side, I wonder if the effect would be diminished by blur. One could introduce blur by capturing at a lower frame rate and doing some form of motion detection and interpolation, either at the lower frame rate or at a higher frame rate. Or, one could allow blur by having exposure times on the order of the inverse frame rate rather than much, much smaller.


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