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  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
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  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
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    Panasonic
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz
Monday
Feb232009

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire winning the Oscar for Cinematography last night is meaningful to me in two nerdy ways.

First, Slumdog was partly shot with a digital cinema camera—the SI 2K Mini from Silicon Imaging. No, not just the game show footage, also some of the wild chases through the slums of Mumbai.

But mostly what I love about Slumdog winning is the clips played all throughout the Academy Awards ceremonies. Of course the awards show highlights only the most emotionally resonant moments of the film (there are so many to choose from, it is a magnificent movie). And those emotional moments, almost without exception, featured key shots captured at 12 frames per second (or less) and double-printed for a staccato, dreamy feel.

That's right, in order to enhance the emotion, director Danny Boyle and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle showed less. They showed less and communicated more.

This is a scary time for people who love the way movies look. Technicians are proposing all kinds of ways to shore up what they see as film's deficiencies; 8K cameras, 48 and even 60 fps acquisition, 270 degree shutters, and 120Hz motion smoothing in televisions. People who should know better are being led to believe that more resolution, more funny glasses, and more frames-per-second will make movies better.

Any TV you buy today will probably have that infernal motion smoothing turned on by default, so that you can enjoy your favorite films re-imaged as if they were PBS specials from 1983. Nobody seems to remember that audiences wouldn't accept video frame rates in dramatic narrative entertainment. We didn't want our cinema to look like soap operas before 24p HD cameras, and we don't now.

I've avoided blogging about this issue mostly because I just have so damn much to say about it that I don't know where to start. But Slumdog gave me a simple way in by showing that, in the hands of a gifted filmmaker, half as many frames-per-second can mean double the emotional impact.

Not will, just can. You must have the story to tell, of course. And if you do, guess what the audience doesn't care about? "Judder," flicker, and wagon-wheels going backward. But strangely, they do seem to care that their movies look like movies, not plays.

So television engineers and home theater nerds with nothing better to do, please stop trying to find ways to make movies more like reality. As you can see from this year's cinematography Oscar winner, film is at its best when it is unmistakeably unreal.

Reader Comments (58)

On point as always. Great post.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I maintain the opinion that 24 fps:
1. It is just a remnant of an older era (mostly because of technical deficiencies in the early 1930s for something better). 2. People can't get used to smoother look for their big Hollywood movies.

As for the Slumdog movie and its 12 fps, it had the effect you mentioned because it was *different* than 24p. The same way that it would have been different if it was 48 fps. It goes both ways you see.

Sure, in your profession people don't want 48 or 60 fps because it reminds them of soap operas. But if soap operas and TV video didn't exist, then it's very possible that a 48 fps Slumdog scene would have generated the same article by you. Just because it was different.

All I am saying is that there is nothing magical about 24 fps. It's just what people are used to since age 2, and what they are expecting by default on cinema movies.

Personally, I wouldn't mind a 60 fps version of Lost (720/60p). Lost is the only TV series that really takes me away to another place, and I truly believe that a more realistic look would enhance that feeling for me. Not the other way around.

But that's just me. :)

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEugenia

Good cinematography, in my opinion, complements and furthers the storytelling. Slumdog did just that; However, personally I don't get lost in the technical details too much - to me, frame rate, shutter speed, and using those little SI 2Ks is nice, but probably even more important (again, in my opinion) is the literal quality and quantity of light, lighting choices and composition, choice of film stocks (or digital cinema sensors!), lens choices, mise en scene, color scheme, lighting color, color in the DI, and framing choices made by the cinematographer.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cotten

"But if soap operas and TV video didn't exist..."

But they DO exist.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I think that 48p should be the standard for cinematic playback.

The short version there is that I can always choose to use less of what is available to me.

I can not use more than what is available however.

We already have 48 pictures displayed in theaters- its just that film makers only shoot 24, and then a shutter doubles it.

If I as a film maker have 48p available to me then I can go for a more "real" look as Eugenia suggests for Lost.

I can also create the 12fps look you are so in love with in Slumdog.

I can even shoot 24p, and let things stand exactly as they are today. Producers will love it, "You mean we can use half the film the other folks are using?"

I personally am most interested in being able to play with the frame rate throughout. Imagine if this standard had been available for a picture like Saving Private Ryan? The combat scenes could have been shot and played back for audiences at a higher frame rate, while the bulk of the movie played at good old 24.

How can that change the impact of the picture?

Importantly with the upcoming slate of 3D movies, 48p would allow each eye to be shown 24p. Right now poor motion rendition (from 12fps per eye) is affecting these films, and was distracting to the audiences I sat with on Coraline 3D. I heard about 12 people comment about the motion effects as the movie went on. As we left the theater it was the most common comment.

I am not in favor of 60p, I think its a bit inconvenient, and not enough better than 48p to get me excited. 72p might be worth the effort, and it would certainly last longer as a standard, but ultimately I think relatively few films would benefit. Eventually 96 or 120 fps might be a good place to standardize projectors, but I don't think the technology is up to it just yet.

Ultimately it is about control. Right now the control is in the hands of engineers from a bygone era who had limitations we don't.

So... give me, and my modern film making peers, the control instead.

I am sure it'll get screwed up a few thousand times, and cinema may seem to suffer.

Eventually the proper use of framerates will become a part of the received wisdom of the cinematographer- and then, once the debate fades into memory, ultimately just another tool in the arsenal of every good DP.

And don't worry- most pictures will continue to be made at 24fps by DP's who know what they are doing.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Well said Alex!

>The combat scenes could have been shot and played back for audiences at a higher frame rate

That new next-gen codec developed by BBC, Dirac, allows for variable frame rate within the same video file/stream.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEugenia

Alex and Eugenia, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that no one is beating down either of your doors to theatrically distribute your work, so what's stopping you? Go shoot a film at whatever frame rate you like. Show it to people and see what they think. Come back here and post some links.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStu

Stu, you take a stance about 24p, and I respect that. If I was to shoot a short movie today, I would also shoot in 24p because of the expectations involved. But then again, we haven't watched a real Hollywood movie in 48p or 60p to be able to compare objectively. I am not talking about soap operas that always look so crappy with their cheap production, but I am talking about really well shot multi-million dollar movies. All I am saying is that after an initial adjustment to these frame rates, I don't think you would disregard the movie. Maybe you would even like it after a while.

But without having *good* samples of such high frame rate movies (emphasis on good), I don't think that any of us can praise or shoot down the technology just because we can't get passed our own prejudices.

So why don't I shoot like that then? I own no camera that can shoot 48 fps or 60p, I am afraid. The cheapest camera that can manage these frame rates at 1080p costs $16000+, and most indie videographers or indie filmmakers just don't have that kind of money. Plus, interpolating 60i to make it 60p would mean loss of half the vertical resolution, which is something that I am not willing to do. Pixel quality is still more important to me than frame rate. So between 60p with 540p, and 30p with 1080p, I prefer the latter.

In some ways, I feel limited by the current technology and fps options in the cheaper cameras, and the "tradition" about what frame rates should be used for each kind of project (e.g. movies vs documentaries). Who knows, a codec like BBC's Dirac might put an end to this whole debate one day. :)

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEugenia

I have indeed seen high frame rate footage shot on a big-budget set. Anytime you overcrank with the Genesis, you're seeing 50p on the monitor. The first time I ever shot 60p for slow-mo 24p playback in HD, the producers got super freaked out about how crappy and video-y the 60p image on the HD set monitor looked. I had to play the tape back at 24p to reassure them that we were in fact capturing something filmic.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStu

I love 24p/25p. But I also like that Cameramanufacturers like RED provide a much higher possible Framerate. Nor to shoot 48p or 72p or even 120p to show it, but to be able to time-remap some things and do slomos.

And yeah, stuff filmed at higher framerates tend to look dull. But for isolating a segment it can be a way to go. Let's wait and see how Avater will be screened, Cameron was one of the guys screeming loud that he'd love to have more frames/Sec.

Maybe we'll see a major-Budget Movie done in more fps then on the big screen and in 3d.

And maybe it really would be a way to go for in 3D, as we are not used to see 3D in a special kind of way till now. But there would need to be some tests done (I will, waiting for the Scarlets to ship) if it really looks better at more than 24p per Eye...

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGPSchnyder

I too love the 'film' look, and clench my teeth whenever I have to work with interlaced footage.

I also love quality animation from pixar, old warner bros stuff, great early disney work. The difference between the good stuff and the rest is glaringly obvious to me.

To my dismay, the general public don't seem to give a shit. Witness the success of shrek, kids watching awful sat morning cartoons, primetime filled with dross, and everyone watching it on 400fps motion smoothed televisions, lapping it up.

I admire anyone who takes up the fight with camera designers, television manufacturers and content producers, but deep down I know its a losing battle. Be it 5 years or 20 years, our beloved 24fps with shallow focus will be replaced with 60fps shot on mobile phones. With rolling shutter.

Ahh... progress.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersea

You are right of course, they aren't beating down my door pleading to distribute my films.

Nope nothing I say can be valid because they aren't beating down my doors to distribute my films.

I'm only a 2nd Unit DP on a popular series with international viewership. So naturally I have no experience with frame rates or thinking about films. Its just like I never even saw a camera before.

Are they beating down your door?

Once you go ad hominem, all we ever learn is that no one is perfect.

Its a technology, not a religion.

Cinematography is a very technical art. So is film making in general.

Its very clear that frame rate does in fact affect how an audience percieves a film.

My argument is that its time to upgrade the technological infrastructure we work within.

I don't think we should shoot 48fps for every film any more than you think we should shoot everything at 12fps double printed. I am saying that ensuring that we have no choice but to shoot for and show films at 24 fps is a bad idea.

If your argument is that no scene or shot could possibly benefit from a higher shooting frame rate, and that we should never advance the technology, that's just as bad as saying that shooting a scene at 12fps serves no cinematic purpose.

The technical capacity should exist so that film makers can make artistic choices. In the hands of a gifted film maker who's had a chance to learn about the effects of it, 48fps can also have a dramatic effect, just like 12fps.

Moving on to people who have seen 50p and higher on sets or in displays- I have to agree with Eugenia, what's breaking here is their expectations.

Your own example proves that- the same video under the same lighting and with the same monitor. Its actually the same image. Yet people freak out? Oh, but slow-mo makes everything better right?

Video has a tradition of being shot very quickly and cheaply on low or no budget. Soaps are the prime example, 23 to 50 pages a day just isn't going to win anyone an ASC award.

Film has the opposite tradition- the best professionals taking their time with all the right tools at hand.

Every single one of us has been trained by these circumstances to associate high framerate with low quality.

It isn't the frame rates fault. Soaps would look just as bad on 35mm film at 24fps as they do right now... it would just cost them more to be so ugly.

Only time and seeing LOTS of good stuff at higher framerates is going to silence certain people.

Oh and big PS, most people who haven't fetishized 24fps think that 120Hz TV with dejudder and whatnot is a good thing, and that it makes their favorite films look better. That should bear some thinking about. After all if audiences are telling you, at great expense to themselves, that the "revered" motion rendering of 24fps is a flaw, well maybe its a flaw.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

@sea:

Moving to 48fps doesn't mean any of the things you lamented.

As I said initially, we already show 48fps in theaters. Its just that half the "frames" are duplicates of the other half of the frames.

Every now and again a film may benefit by putting actual extra frames in there.

48fps has nothing to do whatsoever with depth of field. That is related to sensor size, and the lens focal length used to achieve a given framing.

Rolling shutter is very rarely seen as a good thing (Even that can be used intelligently and creatively by a thoughtful film maker.)

This whole issue reeks of the "Vinyl is better" crowd.

Its just a technology. Lets build up the capability, use the heck out of it and see what its good for and what it sucks at.

We learn we do. Ultimately if a bajillion fps sucks DPs will just shoot 24fps.

I'm just saying it isn't that simple.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Is there any scientific theory related to the persistence of vision that suggests an optimum frame rate? At higher frame rates do we eliminate some kind of subconscious engagement of the brain that is required for mild interpolation of what we see at 24fps and lower? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phi_phenomenon" REL="nofollow">The Phi Phenomen indicates that something is going on.
Is my natuaral aversion to high frame rates and processes like 100/200hz motion enhancement through association with the images from bad tv movies and soaps or actually something that can be more accurately defined?

Talk like this reminds me of a lot of the poorly implemented and excessive digital-noise-reduction that goes on with some catalog Blu-ray releases. It all contributes (along with motion enhancers) to this pristine and clinical look which I find to be (although perhaps more like what the eye sees) not life-like at all.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

Alex - I think you misinterpreted Stu's point.

I read him as saying that if you aren't under obligations to play safe, do what you can to be a pioneer.

It is obvious that you have some intelligent ideas and filmic knowledge. I'd be very interested in seeing the result of actually realizing some of the things you are saying.

Regards,
Matt

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHybrid-Halo

What framerate looks best and most filmic is just a case of personal taste I think.

What's troublesome is that 100hz TV's and the like is changing the way a movie was intended to look like.
If I want my images to look smooth or super "strobby" is a creative choice that I don't want some ingineer changes afterwards.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTobias Martinsson

I'm with David Lynch on this one. Cinema is a place to dream. I live most of my waking life at 50fps ;-)

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Dee

Tobias, you're damn right. If I choose to have only 12p I wouldn't want the TV to smooth out the Look of the Movie. And the same goes for 48p. It's an artistic choice like colorgrading and choosing b&W, choosing Rock vs. classic etc.

But let's face facts. You can adjust your color, your Contrast on the TV, you can equalise the Sound the way you want, ... It's one choice more stolen :-)

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGPSchnyder

The thing about the 120Hz televisions is...you can turn off the smooth motion effect on most of them!

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDrew Mazanec

"I've avoided blogging about this issue mostly because I just have so damn much to say about it that I don't know where to start."

This usually indicates that it's time to write another book

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOwen

In response to the bit about movies being shot at higher frame rates, there is a BBC Neil Gaiman movie called Neverwhere, that was shot on video at, I assume 60i. Great story, entertaining as hell. BUT, it felt like a TV show. Not a movie. All because of the frame rate. If they took it and did a conversion to 24p, I'll bet it would feel more like a movie, and come across as having a higher production value. There's a dreamlike quality to 24p. Like it balances right between realism and fantasy. and I think that is a big part of what helps people accept movies. Or maybe it's just me. But I think perception plays a big part in how someone interprets what they're seeing.
For instance, I've found that, if I'm at a restaurant or a club, and the lighting is low, then I start to feel like I do when I've been drinking. Even if I haven't had a drop. Because it recreates that sensation. Which is what I think movies try to do. They try to capture, or recapture, emotions, and frame rate plays a part of that. Documentaries work on video, probably more so than on film even, because they want the viewer to feel that "this is real".
I'm babbling now. But one last thing. I don't think that 48fps has the same impact as 12fps "just cause it's different". They both feel different from 24p, but they certainly don't have the same feel.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Smack Mackey

...infernal motion smoothing turned on by default, so that you can enjoy your favorite films re-imaged as if they were PBS specials from 1983...

That had me me almost crying I was laughing so hard.

I only spent a year editing in Avid Media Composer, but I can catch when a film uses Motion Effect that came with Avid 5+ years ago. You can really see it in Gladiator towards the end of the barbarian horde sequence.

But no matter how many times I see that effect in films, it seems to never effect the the audience around me. The move with it. Follow it. Enjoy it.

I used to cringe when using the motion effect button, but using it in memorial movies for family always resonated well and made everyone cry. Which made me happy. :D

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Scheuerman

I was under the impression that they shot the lower frame rate with a 'Stills' type camera as the film makers felt that using a camera that didn't' look like a 'motion' cam would allow them to film crowd sequences without having people react to being filmed.
That is, most people react differently to a 'stills' cam then they do to a 'motion' cam.
I've noticed this when shooting video with a 'Point and shoot.'
Often folks are surprised that I had video of an event. They assumed I was shooting stills.
I saw this film tonight and was on the look out for the lower frame rate footage. I didn't notice it at all. As you say, it fit in with the other qualities of the film.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSpoon Tangle

That motion effect, changing the clip speed, always has a very stuttery look to it. I should have noted that in my last comment.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Scheuerman

Thank you, Stu! THANK YOU!

One more thing... Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later was shot on an XL2 as you know. Use the tools to your advantage. Use them in an artistic way.

It's funny because sometimes limitations are looked at as deliberate and possibly even start a new style.

Thank you for this blog post, Stu!

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Del Vecchio

It's always refreshing to read your blog Stu. I carry this debate with friends who just like to see movies, and they don't understand what I'm talking about and say "ah whatever". I'm with you; if the 'motion smoothed' 60p format became the standard in movie theaters, the regular Joe movie goer would realize "hey, movies look really different now... what the heck! It looks like crap!" Of course, it seems like a hot, touchy topic where everyone has their own opinions, but the 24p film format we have in theaters now has, and always will, evoke the best emotion. Less is more! Another great post from Stu!
http://blog.wired.com/business/2008/10/movie-theaters.html
They've already done this in one of the local theaters where I live... I understand that they can still show 24p, just in a digital format, but it's just as easy now for them to go 60p.
Stu said: "The first time I ever shot 60p for slow-mo 24p playback in HD, the producers got super freaked out about how crappy and video-y the 60p image on the HD set monitor looked.
Honestly, that gives me some comfort. Thanks Stu, I need it right now in our digital age. New technology is great, but it doesn't mean we need to go and start changing great standards.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I remember being baffled last year with my new Sony Bravia XBR6 10-bit wide gamut blah blah hdtv with Blu-Ray off PS3. What was up with the out-of-nowhere smooth video look during action scenes in Hellboy 2? Ah, 120Hz motion smoothing! Turned that off and things looked right.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJance

Amen. Great post as usual Stu. I have a film currently on the fest circuit "Still Life" that I shot at 2-3 fps with a DSLR in continuous mode. It's with an actor who moved very slowly while managing to emote including crying. I used Twixtor to interpolate to 24fps but the motion is still much more stilted than 24fps, probably feels like 6-8fps. Audiences really respond to the film. More evidence that you are exactly right.

Eugenia & Alex: I encourage you to take a camera at 60 or even 50/48 fps. Shoot handheld while walking around - jog a little, take a quick run. Project on IMAX size screen....

Prepare for the worst visual experience of your life. The debate about aesthetics is one thing. The simple technical fact is that 60fps at IMAX size is only possible on a perfectly smooth camera platform, thereby wiping out much cinematic language (say like the entire French New Wave).

24fps, although an "accidental" rate at first has survived because of its inherent qualities. Otherwise, it would have vanished decades ago. Precisely because it slows and stutters motion, it provides a better platform for visual storytelling, a watchable hand-held frame rate, a frame rate that just barely preserves the smooth motion.

Once you get to 48/50fps and especially 60fps, all these qualities are gone - completely. Shooting at those frame rates is less of visual language, not more. That's why still photography, painting, scuplture are still the great visual arts after so many years. A single frozen moment in time in the hands of an artist says more.

Less is more. 24fps is the magic rate between seamless motion and stillness. Embrace it. Love it. Use it to move us.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstephen v2

I personally hate that juddery look that they used all over Slumdog. It actively distracts me from the film.

Differences of taste aside, though, your point is totally valid: it is A LOOK. Framerate is -- or should be -- as much a creative choice as art direction, lighting, or color grading.

Perhaps once all projection is digital, someone will do for high framerates what Private Ryan did for shutter speeds, or that Dark Knight may later be credited for doing with aspect ratios, and show how a conscious choice to have a different framerate in different situations can have a powerful emotional or psychological effect.

That all being said, motion smoothing makes baby Jesus cry.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDorkman

>24fps is the magic rate between seamless motion and stillness.

There is nothing magical about it. Personally, I don't like going with the flock regarding things that don't always make logical sense to me. No one has proved here that 24p is magical, or that a *movie virgin* human brain reacts better to it than in any other frame rate. It's just something that we have got used to it since a young age.

As for the smoothed TVs, I own a Pioneer plasma with 72Hz support that smooths out movies. Let me tell you that both my husband and I *love* the look of the smooth pans in 24p movies. In fact, our older model TV was mostly tested up to 480p movies regarding smoothing, so the 720p/1080p movies don't always smooth out correctly (it seems that our model needed more RAM & CPU power). One of the purchasing conditions of our next TV model would be to smooth out correctly 1080p too.

The only things that I would agree about 24p with you guys are:
1. The expectations. Like it or not, people are used to it.
2. Visual effects. The fewer the frame rate, the easier is to create effects.
3. Stuntmen. In 60i, you can easier see that someone is not really punching someone else.

So yes, there are good, legitimate reasons to stay in 24p. But if a director really wants more fps (like Cameron wanted for the "Avatar" movie), he should be given that option, the theaters should support it, and the viewers should be more open minded.

I am sure, when Dali or Picasso started going crazy with their painting techniques (their earlier work is more traditional), there were a lot of these traditional painters who hated the modern look and possibly claimed that "customers won't like that style". Eventually, they did.

I guess, it's a leap of faith. Unfortunately, none of us here would take the step to shoot in 48 or 50 or 60 fps, simply because we can't afford to become the rule breakers. But if Spielberg, or Cameron, or Hollywood in general decides to give it a try, I think you would see more and more people adopting that look. It just needs someone famous to take the plunge first. :D

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEugenia

Eugenia,

You didn't address the "magic" issue at all - which is handheld camera which is unwatchable on large screens at 60fps and "motion smoothing" makes it far worse, not better. Slowing/stuttering frame rates is required the larger the screen and the more unstable the camera. For handheld IMAX, even going down to 20-22 fps is a consideration.

Second, as for motion smoothing 24p pans on your TV, perhaps you have a setup issue. I actually have very motion sensitive eyes (I need 85hz minimum refresh on CRTs, I see DLP single chip rainbow easily etc.) but my new Blu-ray feeding true to 24p to my HD projector at 24p on a 92" screen is beautiful for 24p pans. Smooth and judder free (assuming it was shot right by the DP)

You are actively altering the image by turning motion smoothing on for 24p material. You might as well crop the image and change the color palette completely. It's not what the filmmaker intended you to view. Does that not bother you?

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstephen v2

We all go to the movies to escape reality, right? And while it's true that if a whole generation started watching movies in 60p, they would never even know about 24p and just connect the movie experience with 60p.

BUT....

Although 24p happened to the be "ACCIDENTAL" frame rate that they ended up using in movies, and because it gives movies a certain look that DIFFERENTIATES it from reality, why get rid of that?

Why get rid of something that CLEARLY sets movies apart from the news and "reality" TV?

I agree with everyone's points, but seriously, why get rid of a frame rate that clearly distinguishes fiction from non-fiction/reality?

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Del Vecchio

Two things,

Just had to say the thought of LOST at something other than 24fps is kind of gutwrenching. The real draw of that show to me is just how cinematic it is. That pilot could have made a feature film release on it's own. To shoot it with the aesthetics of a fake documentary or reality show would kind of ruin that.

Secondly,
I feel like 24fps gives motion an entirely different "feel". Watching something shot at 24fps, with proper shutter angle, makes motion seem so much more fluid, slow, and dramatic. I recently was at best buy and caught a great big HD tv with 120hz smoothing turned on and couldn't figure out why the film clips they were showing looked so fucked up. The artificially frame blended motion looked gave the impression of footage that was sped up.

That slower, more unreal, more dramatic motion is an aesthetic choice that I will always go for in anything I shoot, unless it's a fake Match.com webcam ad, in which case I'll probably be dropping half my frames ;)

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersemicolon

"But if a director really wants more fps... ...the theaters should support it,..."

No they "shouldn't". But they WILL if it makes BUSINESS SENSE. They are private businesses that shouldn't have to do anything that doesn't make them money. If shooting 48/60fps is what everybody wants, it WILL happen since that is where the money is. If not, then then they wont. And if the money is in MAKING 48/60fps films, then the theaters would follow suit. But there is no point in arguing about it - as Stu said (paraphrase) "shoot your film and show it". Contribute to your revolution. Theory and TALK certainly wont change the standard. The 48/60fps crowd is free to shoot at higher framerates and either gain an audience or lose one. The 24fps crowd are free to continue doing what they know works, or take a chance on a possible future.

You stand to be the first of the new big thing. Grasp that and leave us in your dust. We wont feel bad, we just might consider flipping the camera to "60" instead of "24" on our next film.

It's just a choice, and it's up to you.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

@Eugenia:

It isn't their fame that concerns me, its their deep pockets.

Lucas was able to revolutionize cinematography on Star Wars 2, because Sony was willing to make a camera for Star Wars.

They are barely willing to take money from me, and frankly they act like selling me a camera is a bit like whoring. I once talked to a Sony exec about supporting 4:2:2 in low end cameras like Panasonic does. He laughed and said, "For people in your market there is no need. If you need 4:2:2 you wouldn't be in that market."

That's why I am shooting RED now.

As far as people not being ready to move to new forms in art, going with Picasso may be too abstract for this crowd.

May be talking about the bitter resistance amongst film purists when sound was added might make folks take notice.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_film" REL="nofollow">Wikipedia:
In the first, 1930 edition of his global survey The Film Till Now, cinema pundit Paul Rotha declared, "A film in which the speech and sound effects are perfectly synchronised and coincide with their visual image on the screen is absolutely contrary to the aims of cinema. It is a degenerate and misguided attempt to destroy the real use of the film and cannot be accepted as coming within the true boundaries of the cinema." Such opinions were not rare among those who cared about cinema as an art form; Alfred Hitchcock, though he directed the first commercially successful talkie produced in Europe, held that "the silent pictures were the purest form of cinema" and scoffed at many early sound films as delivering little beside "photographs of people talking."

Seems kind of silly now doesn't it?

I'll say it again, I don't think 48fps adds much if anything to a lot of scenes. Its the same as 12fps.

Moving along, I see a lot of you talking about cinematic motion. The nice slow fluid moves we see. It turns out those moves are great- but the reason they were done is because 24p sucks at motion rendition. Its an accidental benefit of 24p.

There is no reason you can't move the camera using 24p guidelines in 48p or even 48000p. Remember the charts on pages 815-817 of the ASC manual is for MAXIMUM pan rates. So long as your frame rate is equal or higher than 24fps, you can use the 24fps motion row of the chart and achieve "cinematic motion" at normal playback rate.

So, for 48fps photography with playback at 48fps, you can pan 90 degrees in 23 seconds when on a 50mm lens. That will give the look you are all talking about, but with smoother motion.

One of the issues with lower budget productions that use higher frame rates, like soap operas, is that no one considers panning speeds, they just pan as fast as they want provided there isn't some image problem.

You can see why above- 23 seconds for a 90 degree pan? That seems like an eternity! Operators... if you are not consciously slowing down I doubt you'll take that long for a 90 pan. Most stock footage takes about that time for a 180pan, and it looks like hell.

This speaks in part to Stu's mention earlier of shooting 50p for a slowmo shot and a producer objecting. I bet camera motion was set up for 50p not 24p.

You also have to hold the shutter open for the same time... approximately 1/48th of a second. In 48fps photography that means you are holding the shutter completely open, which a film camera can't do. Digital can.

I keep telling you all it isn't just the framerate.

Ultimately all these factors are about controlling how much time the audience can take to consider what is unfolding on the screen, how much and how well they can see whats going on. It balances with the scripts emotion and action. Can the scene sustain deep thought on behalf of the audience?

Its an art... at some point you have to let artists have the tools they want to use and trust them to be artistic. Let me choose 24p playback, or 48p playback with a ton of my material originated at 24p double printed with a few bits at 48p, and maybe different bits at 12p.

Whatever... why be afraid of a tech change?

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Save the 3D, 8k, 60fps for 360 degree rides at Disney land.

AK

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterandrewkramer

The 12fps in Slumdog Millionare breaks some of the immersion, and withholds information, causing me to feel more tension - exactly like it was intended to.

So far I only have a couple examples of non-24fps video that I love. 28 Days Later foremost, and Danny Boyle was responsible for that too. In the future world of film, filmmakers will still manipulate the medium to manipulate us.

As for 120Hz TVs, I'm not willing to pay Nyquist to get entertainment at non-native frame rates. Four interpolated frames per frame of native film. Each interpolated frame is at 1/2 resolution (gotta keep Harry happy). So, 3/4 of the everything I could see is half as good as it could be. No thank you.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClinton Torres

Wow, Alex, it looks like someone might need their own blog.

Regarding the poor silent film argument, synced sound films hadnt existed before. It was completely new and there was resistance. I would think that is to be expected. With regards to frame rates above 24fps, the ability has existed for a long time, and many examples exist to compare 24fps to 60fps, or even 30fps. It ISNT something new that people just aren't giving a chance, it's something that has existed that 24fps lovers are objecting to.

www.blogger.com

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

@Brian:
You are right... I am talking too often and at too great a length.

Apologies Stu, I don't want to monopolize your space.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

5tu, one of the coolest things I ever saw in film school was a short by one of my classmates where he sped the footage up by a factor of 10, rendered out the video, re imported it and slowed it down by a factor of ten, which essentially gave 3 fps over 30 fps. it was really interesting to watch. It really drew me in, especially because he left the audio alone.

you said:
"I've avoided blogging about this issue mostly because I just have so damn much to say about it that I don't know where to start."

I hope that sometime soon, when you have a moment or 50 you could maybe sit down and write it all out. Personally I would love an extra chapter to the DV Rebels guide.

Thanks for the blog.

Oh, this is something that has amused me for 25 years. When I was young I saw some movie that was shot in the early part of the century. I have no idea what it was but I remember thinking that if I blinked real fast then what I saw in life would look like what I saw in that movie,, but with color. I still do it today, sometimes I can't blink fast enough, but it's fun having a cinema in my head. It works better on sunny days in the shade.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTosh

Nice post Stu.

24FPS is doing just fine for regular old movies (else can be said for 3d and so forth). I'm sure there's more upsides to having a consistent standard than a series of opinions and commercial endevours.

Other technicalities aside, it's important not to loose the madness in the method.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjdaldous

Woah im late to the party here..

SO well said stu..there needs to be a forum for you andchat like this.

Hmm how bout yet another filmmaking podcast maybe? but one where actual film makers are on it?

February 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJas

Arrived late, this is getting too long.
I wanted to clear some misconceptions and ask for a few clarifications too. This post starts serious and gets sillier and sillier.

-On the fps effect "going both ways" and "they could've made private ryan at 60p". No they wouldn't. Ryan's look was inspired on Robert Capa's http://www.skylighters.org/photos/photo1.jpg" REL="nofollow"> famous http://www.skylighters.org/photos/photo2.jpg" REL="nofollow"> D-Day http://www.skylighters.org/photos/robertcapa.html" REL="nofollow"> photos.

-James Cameron didn't propose high-fps for normal cinema. He asked for it for 3D (ok, stereo) cinema, because of a technical limitation. You see, as long as we're talking 2d the choice is aesthetic. But he's talking about a slighty new medium, that has failed before because of these technical problems, and on which we shouldn't impose another's medium's restrictions, just like we don't impose painting's rules on photography anymore. We can clean the slate of expectations of 3D cinema now, there's no set-in-stone global culture yet. Listen to the man. As someone said before, it took a Hitchcock to build the talkies, so it might take a Cameron to make the, hum, stereos :)

-BTW I think 24p is sometimes too much limitation, but we might just have to put up with it. I don't know, I'm not sure yet. I saw Mission:Impossible when I was 12, and I remember with clarity how some pans in that movie were stuttery and took me out of the moment "¿why does the cool latex mask jump around until the camera stops? I can't see it!". Now I know the DP exceeded the max panning speed. I have one legitimate question. Is this problem handled or minimised with a 3-bladed or 5-bladed projector? I think I read somewhere that it had an influence on the smoothness. Am I misremembering something? Or is High-fps the only way around that?
I'd appreciate some reading material about that.

Just as Doyle had the option of going for less, someday someone will have the option of going for more when it makes sense. Of course many will misuse it. Just like today they're misusing the 360º shutter and IT SUCKS. But I think 24p will remain the standard for 2D cinema.

-For my subjective note: I didn't like Slumdog AT ALL. Way too many dutch angles. Getting sick just in the middle rows. The step printing took me out of the story. It wasn't intense, it called my attention to the camera technique. I just can't understand how this this film could beat Button for photography. No way.

-Stu, you should fund my next project. I'll call it "The Maschwitz-Queru Film Rate Research Institute". I'll bring people from many countries and ages and monitor their brains while they see various fps scenes. I'll publish the emotional response curves in the color space you choose :D

February 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDani

I think we all can agree that 24fps was initially chosen as the rate for sync sound filming for 2 reasons: technical (it was the slowest speed at which sound could be recorded effectively) and financial (slow speed = less film through the camera = lower cost for stock and developing). Historically, Edison advocated 46fps as being the ideal filming rate, but his own company used a variety of rates, usually around 24fps. So 24fps wasn't chosen as the standard because of technical deficiencies, as Eugenia stated (faster speeds could also record good sound), it was just the least expensive, which is still a factor today and will be as long as film stock is being run through cameras and projected onto large screens.

That being said, I fully agree with Stu that it is the "unreality" of the images that makes movies so affecting, and lets me more easily accept the unreality of acting or special effects or soundtracks or all the other conventions of our movie-making vocabulary.

Fascinating article on the history of film speeds, focusing on silents, here: http://www.cinemaweb.com/silentfilm/bookshelf/18_kb_2.htm

Jamie

February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercrashandannie

It wasn't that long ago that i was helping a friend buy a new flat screen TV. Going from shop to shop trying different models there was a constant struggle just to get the salespeople to turn off the damn motion smoothing. Almost ended up in a fight with one. None of them had any idea why the images seemed so plastic, that was until i showed them the error of their ways. Why mess with what the creators of the film intended? If you think the CG is obvious in spider man 3 normally, try looking at it running at 50fps.

The other night on, my own TV, I thought I was watching some behind the scenes footage from a big budget movie I'd heard of but not yet seen, Collateral. After a little while I realised that WAS the movie. I don't know what frame rate it was filmed at, but it looked like ass. Interesting experiment, but it looked like public access.. in HD.

February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterjohnnyOnline

@JohnnyOnline

Collateral was filmed at 24 fps, using Viper FilmStream, F900 and 35mm film.

Its in the August 2004 American Cinematographer, so read it yourself if you don't trust me.

So, whatever reason you though Collateral looked bad- it wasn't the frame rate.

February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

@Johnny and Alex

At some points they used a SLOW shutter speed to gain more light, causing excessive motion blur and causing more of a video look.

February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Del Vecchio

@Paul Del Vecchio

Actually they did not use long shutters.

They pushed the film stocks up to, shooting Vision 500 at 1600 and pushing Vision 800 to ISO 2500.

On the digital side they pushed gain, up to +12dB on the F900's. The Vipers they never took over +9dB.

In fact contrary to your assertion, they overcranked to 48 fps for some slow motion in action scenes.

Its all in the AC article, right from the DP's themselves.

I just pulled my copy while writing this, it turns out to be the 85th anniversary issue, and also covers Panavision's 50th. Lots of fun history in that issue.

February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Here's the http://www.ascmag.com/magazine/aug04/collateral/index.html" REL="nofollow"> article I think Alex is referring to.

It doesn't really mention shutter speeds, and overcranked shots were apparently shot on film at 48fps.

How do you know they didn't use long shutters?

February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

Alex, respectfully, I think you're wrong on this one—they did use shutters slower than 1/48 on Collateral.

February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStu
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