Debunking “High Frame Rate in Cinema” Myths

Hi John Hess here from Filmmaker IQ – your
indefatigable supporter of 24 fps – at least that’s how the YouTube algorithm has apparently
labeled me … Seriously, I didn’t think my last video
where I reviewed Gemini Man both in High Frame Rate and standard 24 would blow up like it
did. And as a result I was assaulted with comments – some very positive and supportive
but some spouting new and strange myths about High Frame Rates and 24 frames per second
that I haven’t heard before… But I do think they need to be addressed. Fear not,
this won’t be just a video of strawman bashing, because as we address these false conjectures
we’ll get to explore some interesting facets of filmmaking history. Let me first establish the basic tenets of
my argument as quickly and briefly as I can. I’ve been discussing this topic first in
my History of Frame Rate Video, then in my Defense of 24fps – links in the description
for these and all other videos I will discuss today. First – I acknowledge that 24 frames per second
is a completely arbitrary number invented in the sound era. But that frame rate does
carry aesthetic properties that have become associated with cinematic film especially
when television which had its own unique and higher frame rate came around. Secondly, my discussion on frame rates is
limited to the cinema only. I am not addressing video games or VR or sports broadcasts – all
of which I am a firm believer can utilize high frame rates. I’m talking specifically
live action narrative feature films and excluding 3D from the conversation as I believe most
of the real HFR applications might be in the realm of 3D. Third and most importantly, high frame rate
is not a new technology in the capture of motion picture- new technology only allows
us to capture larger digital images in high frame rate, but high frame rate itself has
been viewable to consumers since the earliest days of television, 60i in NTSC is much closer
to the 60fps experience than it is to 30p which I explored in my video on Interlacing. So the conclusion is that the complete dominance
of 24 frames per second in film, it’s all but just a handful of recent films, creates
an unbreakable feedback loop. If you are so inspired to make movies for a living, it is
because you were inspired by movies you watched – all of which were screened at 24 frames
per second. When you go to make a movie, if it is not 24 fps, it will not look right.
The focus is on filmmakers because after all, they are the ones who make the films. And
if you can’t get filmmakers to supply high frame rate films – there is no breaking up
the feedback loop A simple graph comparing all the High Frame
Rate movies in recent years to all the 24 fps movies released in theaters the US and
Canada is all you really need to see that high frame rates is all but dead in cinema.
And this graph only shows the theatrical movies – never mind the narrative TV shows both broadcast
and streaming that are using 24 frames per second. Now despite these rather apparent facts, I
get comments every day saying 24 fps needs to die and HFR is just the next natural step
for cinema. The pushback that old stogeys like me are just echoes of the pushback that
other advancements in film technology has experienced – High Frame Rates will ultimately
prevail and you’ll be sorry you stood in their way! Now I don’t always control my snark and
disdain in my comment response because they are just people of the internet, the common
clay of the new west – you know morons… But I will try to keep the snark to a minimum
as we explore a few of these analogy conjectures I am constantly getting and why they fail
the reality test. Analogy Conjecture #1: The rejection to High
Frame Rates is just like the backlash that occured when color took over black and white
movies. I have heard this dozens of different ways,
Including why don’t you go back to making movies black and white you old man. The problem
here is, movies were always in color. First let’s be very clear, our relationship
to the moving picture as entertainment, media, and art is very very different than the relationship
that our great gre at grandparents had to their media at the turn of the 19th century.
This is what makes discussing Protofilm, the very first moving images from the late 1890s
to the mid 1910s – kind of difficult to comprehend. You need to step outside of your own existence
and imagine a world before we got accustomed to staring at screens for 90% of our waking
hours But back to the color point. The thing is
color and black and white film have co-existed since the very beginning of film. Here is
Edison’s 1895 short film – the Serpentine Dance. The film was hand tinted by an artist
that went through frame by frame coloring in the film with a brush. Going a few more
years ahead when films became a little more narrative but not quite the features we think
of today: Here are several examples of Georges Melies color works from 1902-1909. Jumping
ahead to the mid teens where we start seeing the first feature length silent films, film
were often tinted and toned depending on the mood, red, blue, yellow – as you see in D.W.
Griffith’s Intolerance. Then by 1922 you have the first natural color processes, Technicolor
2 strip in The Toll of the Sea. It was such a success that the labs couldn’t print the
film fast enough. Directors flooded Technicolor’s office, wanting to make their films in this
process, demand for the process ultimately sank Technicolor as they couldn’t maintain
quality control . But they came back with 1935’s Becky Sharp that brought in the new
process of Technicolor 3 strip that gave us the color we’re familiar with in the greatest
epics of the Golden Era, Gone with the Wind, the Wizard of Oz, and Robin Hood just to name
a few. For economic reasons, color being more expensive
to produce, Color didn’t take over a majority of films until the mid 60s when new Eastmancolor
– a single strip color film format was produced. In fact 1966 would be the last year that the
Academy stopped giving separate awards for best cinematography in black in white and
in color. The point is, at no time was there ever a
popular backlash against color. Again remember that in these developmental years, film was
considered an amusement, it wasn’t even protected as Free Speech in the United States
– it was far from considered art. Later down the line, sure maybe you had one or two filmmakers
that eschewed the use of color for artistic reasons, you have filmmakers today that like
to experiment with black and white – but the industry itself never rejected color. And
the steady growth of color through the years looks nothing like the non-starter that is
High Frame Rate today. Analogy Conjecture #2 The rejection of HFR
is like the initial rejection of sound in movies. As I stated earlier, it’s hard to discuss
Protofilm because it was a relationship so radically different than today. To me, the
silent era from 1914 to 1927 is almost as alien. First is the misnomer in the word “silent”
– No one watched silent films during this time period in silence – they were always
accompanied with live musical performances. But the idea of marrying synchronized sound
to motion picture, actually goes back again to Thomas Edison – with the kinetophone in
the mid 1910s. The real problem with sound in cinema was not necessarily recording it,
it was how to project so it was loud enough in a theater hall. Well that issue didn’t
get solved until the mid 20s – and the first thing they tried to do with the technology
– replace the live musicians in the theaters! In fact it was really more of a fluke when
Al Jolson spoke for the first time in the Jazz Singer in 1927. Wait a minute, wait a minute you ain’t heard
nothing yet Guess what you could use sound to record dialogue
too! And people LOVED it. The marriage of sound and picture was when
the movies, as we recognize it today, really began. I mean I could show you a movie from
1935 and sure the acting style and dress look a bit different but it feels like a movie
to today’s sensibilities. But if I show you an earlier silent film, it obviously something
a little different – a little more primitive. Because sound was so incredibly popular, In
a manner of just 2 years the entire industry was retooled from top to bottom. Everybody
got on board the sound business. And luckily the change happened quickly as 1929 would
bring the end of easy financing options. Now you will hear that there was some backlash
here, as cameras needed to be buried inside big sound proof booths. The visual style that
silent films had cultivated with free moving cameras became stifled with the realities
of recording sound. The difference however is that sound was,
again, a massive hit and again supported enthusiastically by the industry. Incidentally sound ushered
in the regulated film speed of 24 frames per second because sound needed a consistent reliable
frame rate to maintain synch and audio consistency. Analogy Conjecture #3 The rejection of HFR
is like the transition from Standard Definition to High Definition. This conjecture I actually have some first
hand knowledge of. First let’s dispel the myth that old movies were shot in standard
definition. They were shot on film. And you can scan film to some pretty high resolutions
– a lot of the work done on restoring old films begins with 4K scans. So resolution
was never an issue with cinema – at all… case closed But what people are getting at is the transition
from standard definition to high definition in broadcast television that occurred in the
early to mid 2000s. Stories go that news stations had to redo their entire sets as they looked
cheap and makeup artists had to relearn their craft as HD showed off every imperfection
in the skin. Well as someone that worked professionally
during this time period, let me set the record straight – yes there was some growing pains
in the transition to HD but the most exaggerated parts were due to the inadequacies of early
HD cameras, not that you had to shoot HD that differently than you shot SD. I know that because, honestly, other than
just watching my focus more carefully, I didn’t do anything when I transition from SD to HD.
I did transition a little later, as I’m frugal and don’t like to pay the early adopter
tax and I generally shot on location but by the time I got an HD camera, the kinks were
pretty much worked out. Skin tone handling and sharpness were really pretty good when
I finally got on board – there was nothing extra special I had to do with makeup. Now to throw another wrench into that conjecture
– this transition between SD and HD was done at high frame rates – 60 frames a second be
it the 720 60p standard or 1080 60i. So comparisons to shifting frame rates don’t really make
sense. Analogy Conjecture 4: The pushback to HFR
is just like the pushback in the transition from film to digital Standing here at the close of 2019 I can pretty
safely say that the dividing line between film and digital is all but gone. At the highest
end of movie production you have cinematographers shooting film and cinematographers shooting
with digital and that’s perfectly fine. It’s an aesthetic choice. On the lower end
of film production, it is mostly digital. It took a long time to get digital to get
accepted and again I speak from first hand knowledge as I have always been firmly in
the digital camp. But what did digital need to prove itself
worthy? It needed to emulate the look of film. We needed sensors that matched the size of
the film gate, we needed the kind of color rendition that film gave us and yes we needed
24fps. I hit this topic harder in my first defense
of 24fps. We’ve been shooting video at 60hz in the United States since 1950. It wasn’t
until 1997 did we get the first digital cinema camera and the 2000s until we have a consumer
camera capable of shooting 24fps. Video had to catch up.
. Analogy Conjecture 5: They’re saying the
same thing about 4K I recently read this one and frankly, no one
is seriously rejecting 4K the way we’re rejecting high frame rates. What some cinematographers
are questioning is the limits of how much resolution can give in terms of a quality
image – but there is no real aesthetic backlash to 4K in the image acquisition realm. Now for viewing 4K – there’s a factor that
can’t be ignored… viewing distance. As you get further away from the screen your
eyes just won’t be able to resolve the 4K image. So the effects of high resolution can
be countered by distance. But the same cannot be said of the look of high frame rate. Analogy Conjecture 6: The discussion between
24fps and HFR is like the discussion between Vinyl and Digital I don’t want to spend that much time on
this one because my ears simply aren’t good enough to always pick up the difference. That can’t be said of 24fps vs high frame
rate. I can always tell the difference. A small study has shown that you only need to
go up to 26fps in order for about 90% of subjects to notice a difference (so all my European
friends, relax – when I’m talking about 24fps, that includes you guys with your 25
as well). The fact is the psychophysics of how or brain
responds to sound is so vastly different that you can’t make a true and accurate comparison.
In fact there are more neurons connected to the retina of our eyes than connected to our
sensory organs of sound, touch, taste and smell combined! So the way these things play
visually in on brains is totally different than any other sense. But if you held me at gunpoint and demanded
I draw a Vinyl-Digital analogy, I would say Digital is more like watching a TV with the
sharpness turned all the way up and Vinyl might be more like putting a softening filter
put on the image – They’re inherently the same thing but filtered differently. Changing
the frame rate drastically changes character of what you’re watching – It’s not just
a filter – it’s watching something completely different.. Now that I’ve covered some analogy conjectures
of history, let hit on some new High Frame Rate arguments that I have been getting. Argument 1: 24 fps looks terrible when ever
the camera pans. First I was going to chalk this up to partly
the toupee fallacy and partly people who don’t know how to operate a camera. Because the
pans I shoot all look great in 24fps and the pans of every movie I see are almost always
very smooth – and the instances where it isn’t smooth I just see that as normal judder that
comes with the territory of 24 fps. To me it’s never been terrible. But then I had kind of a change of heart that
was sparked by a monitor. I had plans on a video which required me to buy a 144hz monitor
– well I got a cheap Acer XFA20 that had good reviews on Tom’s Hardware and was only like
$150 bucks. I installed it, tried to tune it up so it would look right colorwise – but
it was on my reception computer which I don’t use that much and didn’t really think much
of it. Then I started researching for this video
– watching stuff at 24 frames per second and I noticed something startling. Yes a pan like
this from the masterpiece Too Many Cooks looks terrible on this Acer 144hz monitor – it stutters
like crazy. More than just regular jutters – things strobe as they slide across the screen.
But when I drag the window to my side monitor at 60hz, it looked fine. Ultimately my tentative conclusion is it was
this monitor – it’s a terrible monitor for viewing pans! The problem just doesn’t plague the cheap
– high end OLEDs have the same issue. People who were perfectly happy with the Plasma TVs
displaying 24fps have taken to the forums and reported unbelievable amounts of stuttering
in their brand new high end OLED sets. It doesn’t plague all sets and frankly I don’t
know enough about it right now to give you more answers but if pans in movies look terrible,
it could very well be you’re watching it on a monitor that’s not capable of displaying
it correctly. This is becoming a serious issue as just this
past August 2019, a consortium of filmmakers and TV manufacturers came together to try
to create a standard for watching films on TVs called Filmmaker Mode – we’ll see how
this plays out as it comes to screens in 2020. Now the next possible reason why 24 fps might
look bad is simply because it was terrible encoding. When you Search “Intro to the
Shining” this is the first clip that pops up with 730 thousand views. Yes, ladies and
gentlemen, that looks like garbage. Something is seriously wrong with that encoding – because
this is what it’s supposed to look like. And YouTube is full of this poorly encoded
videos – people ripping TV streams, 24 presented at 30 frames per second, bad deinterlacing.
And strangely enough Soap Operas are a huge culprit. On YouTube General Hospital’s promos
are in the network standard of 60 frames per second, the clips from aired shows on YouTube
get down converted to 24 and look insanely stuttery because there’s no motion blur…
and then if you go to the official site, all the clips there are what looks to be 30 frames
per second. So the lesson is, if it looks bad, it may
either be your screen or your encoding… Argument 2: I saw a side by side comparison
of 24 and 60 and the 60 fps video looks so much better. Well first I question how good your demonstration
is because a lot of comparisons I see are done by amateurs who don’t have a clue what
they’re doing – just like that Shining Intro. But even when done properly I always try to
avoid showing frame rates side by side, because yes, you will always prefer the higher frame
rate precisely because it’s smoother. But no one disagrees that the smoother image looks
nice. What we are saying is the smoother image does not look like a movie. And at this point I’m sure half of viewers
are throwing up their hands in disgust – this guy is making no logical sense. Why would
anyone prefer the less smooth image. So let me put it a different way. Let’s say I put out before you two glasses
– one which I’m going to fill up with a lovely Merlot and the other one I’m going
to fill up with a lovely Welch’s grape juice. Now, I’m going to let you try each and ask
you without any prejudices, which tastes better? I’m willing to bet that most people, especially
if they have no experience with wine, will say the grape juice tastes better – for the
very simple reason that the grape juice is sweeter. But people still want wine even though side
by side it doesn’t taste as good. Why? It has character and there’s obvious cultural
history behind it and of course alcohol, but I’m not one to wax poetically on wine nor
am I not casting aspersions on grape juice either – it’s delicious, but it’s not
wine. Argument 3: We should switch to 30 frames
per second as a good compromise This is not a negotiation. That’s like taking
my Merlot and dumping in grape juice – it’s not Merlot any more, and it’s not grape
juice – it’s something different – a grape cocktail I guess. Seriously there’s no reason to compromise.
We know what 30 frames a second looks like – I even shoot 30 fps when I’m working with
live events because my robotic cameras aren’t capable of shooting 24 – the ones capable
of 24 cost twice as much! And for live events, I don’t need it to look like a movie. Why don’t we put the shoe on the other foot
and tell gamers, hey I know you like playing CS:GO at 144hz or higher, but let’s compromise
and have you play at 30fps. You’d get your head chewed off and rightly so. So telling filmmakers to compromise and bump
up to 30fps when they want to shoot 24… same deal. And just to be clear, I’m not knocking 30
– I mean I like sangria and that’s sort of a wine cocktail – if you want to shoot
30 just shoot 30, but if you want to shoot 24, shoot 24. And the thing is Hollywood wants
to make movies and TV shows in 24. Argument 4: Fine, maybe 24 is okay for the
theater experience but you should never upload 24 fps for YouTube I get this one every few months – the argument
goes that most people are watching Youtube on 60hz monitors – Well I guess these commenters
didn’t see the official page on frame rates from YouTube which states they accept a wide
variety of standard rates. It also hasn’t stopped every single music
video on YouTube from using 24fps. In fact the top 10 most viewed videos on YouTube representing
about 40 billion views – all of them but 2 are in 24 frames per second, the two that
aren’t: number 4 Masha and the Bear – “Recipe for Disaster” with 4.17 billion views plays
at 25 frames per second – it’s a Russian cartoon that’s to be expected. The other
one? Number 5 with 3.73 billion “Baby Shark Dance” is at 30 frames per second doo doo
doo doo. But every other video from Despacito to Katy Perry’s Roar is 24fps. So what’s the rationale behind the idea
that you shouldn’t deliver 24 to youtube? Argument 5: 3:2 pulldown is a bad thing This is where a wee bit of knowledge without
context creates massive fallacies. I’ve explained the 3:2 pulldown several times on
this channel – but a basic run down is in order to fit 24 frames into a 60hz stream
what you have to do is duplicate the first frame 3 times and the second frame 2 times
– then alternate 3, 2, 3, 2 and so on. People get really really hung up on this like
it’s some affront to a mystical frame rate god. But 3:2 pulldown is not that big of a
deal because it comes at you incredibly fast. Even though I said early that audio and visual
work differently on our brains I’m going to demonstrate this with sound because I really
can’t do it visually. I’m going to play two tones a high pitch
which represents the first frame of the pulldown and a low pitch which represents the second
frame. So if we were listening to a 2 frames per
second stream with 3;2 pulldown, the cadence would sound like this – 60% of the time you
heard the high pitched and 40% of the time you heard the low pitch. But you can certainly
make out the, as we say in jazz, the swing of it. Now let’s crank that up from 2 frames a
second to 24 frames a second. Here the higher tone gets 50 milliseconds and the lower tone
gets 33 milliseconds. Can you tell which tone gets more time just by listening to it? Compare that to a straight 24 where each high
and low tone gets the same duration of 42 milliseconds. Can you hear the difference? Maybe? Even if you can, it’s incredibly
slight. And like I said, our hearing is not the same as our sight – we hear better than
we see. So to me the 3:2 pulldown is visually unnoticeable.
It is after all, the way I watched movies looped endlessly in the background while I
played with action figures on the couch a kid. The 3:2 pulldown is even ingrained in
all our classic TV shows from I Love Lucy all the way Friends -all shot on film at 24
frames per second and utilize the 3:2 pulldown. And pulldown isn’t some voodoo either. It
happens naturally when you have one frame rate against another. In fact for fun I like
to mentally figure out pulldown schemes for other frame rate combinations. How would you
get 25 into 60 – take the largest common factor and divide both frame rates – So with 5 as our largest common factor, we
5 frames need to be spread over 12 cycles so we can use a 3:2:3:2:2 pulldown! Yeah, I know… nerd! Argument 6: The problem with high frame rates
is filmmakers just don’t know how to use it yet. Hollywood Filmmakers Need t o Experiment
More with technology and different frame rates. There are two problems with this argument.
First is that we don’t know how to shoot with high frame rate. I have to remind people
constantly that we have been working with high frame rates in the arena of broadcast
television for over 70 years. We broadcast the Superbowls and Olympics in high frame
rates… heck, I’ve spent the first five or six years producing exclusively high frame
rate 60i video. Secondly, the tech folks of Hollywood are
ridiculously cutting edge – I mean the apple watch penetration in Los Feliz is through
the roof people! Hollywood folks are not afraid of experimenting with technology – far from
it. The thing is, and everybody who actually makes
films knows this – you don’t experiment on the show. You experiment when the stakes
are low, but when there’s millions of dollars riding on the line for a feature film, you
got to know what the hell you’re doing. So filmmakers experiment with screen tests
and shorts. And everything gets tested from wardrobe to visual effects. Somewhere in there
I’m sure frame rate tests have been done, maybe not so much anymore because we all know
what high frame rates look like… But sometimes companies will produce test
footage and make that available to the public. In 2016, Netflix released Meridian a test
short noir movie that plays back at 60fps. If you want a nice heaping serving of soap
opera effect, check it out on YouTube – this test footage was designed at Netflix not to
be a cinematic movie but a real test of compression codecs because it has a lot of traditionally
difficult to compress visual aspects. Another, perhaps more interesting publically
available test is Lucid Dreams of Gabriel from Disney’s Research Hub in 2014 – a couple
years after the first Hobbit. This short film about a mother achieving immortality through
her son, unconditional love, and the fluidity of time: it attempts to blends 24fps footage
with 48fps footage and is viewable in that format on YouTube. The title gives away the
conceit – when we’re in the lucid dreams of Gabriel we’re in 48 frames per second
and when we’re in reality we’re in 24. But honestly it doesn’t really work because
of the next point I’m about to make. Argument 6: Variable Frame Rates are the Future. This is one I hear about more and more as
people are coming to grips with the fact that High Frame Rates is pretty much dead – that
we should utilize variable frame rates for certain shots that “need it” – ironically
shots that traditionally thought of as “needing it” – action scenes – actually look worse
in high frame rate. Real variable frame rate video is simply a
bad thing for professional motion picture application. Certain phones utilize variable
frame rate and it is murder to edit. Instead what we can do is use a nonvariable higher
frame rate to encode lower frame rate. This is Showscan approach – start with 120 frames
per second – show the same frame twice and you get 60fps, show the same frame 3 times
get 40fps, 4 times, 30 fps, 5 times and get 24fps. If you really want you can use pulldowns
to get any other frame rate you want! Now the problem with that is, every time you
deviate from 24fps, it stops looking like a movie. I think that’s why nothing came
of that Lucid Dreams of Gabriel – it demonstrated that a frame rate switch is not the artistic
tool that people might want to think it is. When you go up it doesn’t really feel like
we’re more in reality, it just feels like we’re no longer watching film but watching
video. So instead of a sense of reality, changing
the frame rate signifies a change in recording medium and scale. And there’s one show that
really did it brilliantly and it’s one that I think is highly underrated – the Larry Sanders
Show. The Larry Sanders Show is about a late night talk show host and the antics of his
life and office that ran on HBO in the 1990s and it’s kind of the precursor and influencer
of every other single-camera no-laugh-track comedy that followed. Whenever they depicted
the world around Larry Sanders, it was shown in 24 frames per second. Whenever we see Larry
Sanders on his talk show, it was shown in 60i. You can still see this effect for yourself
in the official trailer as it bounces between 24 and deinterlaced 30 for modern progressive
screens. And of course for the YouTube generation – there’s
Video Game High School. Unfortunately for all the hullabaloo about it shooting 48 frames
per second for the in game scenes and 24 for the non game reality scenes- it’s only available
in 24 frames per second on their official site and on YouTube. So changing the frame rate can work in those
specific stories where you want to invoke a medium switch. But if you just change it
in the middle of a movie – it feels like you’re no longer in that movie. You’re drinking
wine and occasionally getting sips of grape juice. Argument 8: High Frame Rate can’t make actor’s
performances look worse, haven’t you ever seen of live theater? So I got a bunch of these comments on my review
of Gemini Man – many people were particularly prickly about my issue with a Russian actor’s
accent becoming less believable in the high frame rate version than in the 24 version. And the reason why acting is suffers in high
frame rate is because the cinematic veneer that comes with 24 is lost. I will get into
a biological theory about why that veneer exists in a future episode but with 24, we
starve the viewer of just enough visual information so the imagination is allowed to kick in and
fill in the details – with higher frame rates, this phenomenon doesn’t happen and we’re
left with the cold harsh reality, that we are literally watching an actor recite lines
on a studio set. And yes, that extends to accents because he
was still playing a part and he was probably exaggerating his accent for the camera. With
Gemini Man I could go with the good guys because Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Windstead and Benedict
Wong were for the most part being themselves – but the bad guys – they have to put on an
act. I bet Clive Owen is a good guy in real life, but in the movie he needs to be a villain.
And in high frame rate you can see every hair in the moustache twirling – it spoils the
illusion. Vulture ran an article where a reviewer did
the same thing as I did but in reverse, watching the 24 version first and the HFR version second
and had the same reaction – that the acting was weaker in the high frame rate version in another Vulture article, HDTV pioneer David
Niles was quoted: “We would take a scene between a couple
of actors … shoot it at 60 frames per second, or even 30 frames, and then shoot
it at 24 and put it in front of audiences to see how they interpreted it. With 24 frames,
people liked the actors better — they felt the performances were better. In reality,
it was exactly the same thing.” Then the argument goes – well John I guess
you’ve never been to live theater where there’s infinite frame rate – to which I
retort, I guess you don’t know anything about live theater. First of all, when you go to the theater – you
get one seat and one viewing angle. The entire show happens in front of you from one vantage
point. And even if you shell out the big bucks for orchestra seats, you’re still a good
distance from the actors – you never get to see their closeup filling up a 50 foot screen,
no multiple cuts, dissolves. The theater and cinema have almost nothing visually in common. Next and perhaps most importantly, theater
is a medium of the imagination. You can watch a show where they put out four chairs on stage
and the actors pantomime the motion of driving a car and it’s acceptable. Theater sets
tend to play more abstract – one of my favorite theater recordings is the Great Performances
recording of the 2006 Second Broadway Revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company. The whole
play is staged on this minimalist set with a few props the actors performing their own
accompaniment. It’s as stipped down as you can get and it’s wonderful. The point is
you’re invited to play along and be in the moment with the performers, which you know
are performers. Cinema, generally speaking, goes for a different realistic magic trick. Argument 9: Well if the 24 cinematic veneer
just covers up a lot of mistakes, that just means Hollywood needs to stop being so lazy
and learn to act better and build better sets. I really hate this argument. First it’s
clear that the person making the argument has never ever made a movie. And when I challenged
someone who said this to actually make a movie – any movie, that person just threw up a bunch
of excuses why they weren’t capable of making a movie. Didn’t have enough money, didn’t
have the equipment, don’t have actors. Well guess what hot shot! even professional
movie makers have to put up with these very same problems. There’s always some restriction
somewhere that preventing filmmakers from making their visions – regardless of what
level of filmmaking you’re working in. So to begin with filmmaking is hard already.
And if you manage to get the money, get the sets, get the cast, get the crews – you’re
spending 12 hour days average trying to capture what you want. And lots of things are working
against you – landing a perfect shot requires coordination from a lot of different departments.
This whole notion that Hollywood filmmakers are lazy building cheap sets is just ignorance
– which brings me to the real reason why this statement is so offensive. Moviemaking is not rocket surgery, it’s
art dammit! Reality is not the goal of filmmaking! That’s why we have things like lights, stages,
blocking – the purpose of cinema is to transcend reality not simply depict it. To take a small side trip There’s a great
little interview with French New Wave director Jean Renoir who talks about how technology
can ruin art – he does say that this is conversational thought that must not be carried to the extreme
but the notion is a fascinating one. “when the technique is primitive, everything
is beautiful, and when the technique is perfected, almost everything is ugly, except things created
by artists who are ingenious enough to overcome technique” We treasure every single film made during
the Proto film era and we push a button to skip ads that can cost modern advertising
companies millions of dollars. When photography was rare, it was treasured, now supermarket
bulletins filled with carefully crafted photos line the bottom of our pet cages. High frame rate is this movement toward the
vulgar realism. Yes it can look great but it lacks character. Renoir’s words led me
to think that if you want to find more art and more beauty, the solution is to run away
from realism not toward it. This is not an unfamiliar tact to follow in the history of
art in the 20th century. And for film to find the ethereal, don’t head towards higher
frame rate but to lower ones. Look at what Spiderman Into the Spiderverse did by going
down to 12 frames a second for the main characters. If you want to invoke lucid dreaminess, maybe
12 frames or 8 frames is the way to go. There’s more character in the low frame rates – because
ultimately as I hinted at – movies are a magic trick. They are suppose to be an illusion.
What you are seeing isn’t real – and all high frame rates do is reinforce that fact. Myth 10: You’re just used to 24fps – being
used to something is not a good justification for its existence. I’m also used to reading English from left
to right – other languages write from right to left and in Chinese even up to down. Yet
there’s no movement to change the way we write English. Cultural legacies are very powerful things
– Of course not all customs are born equal but to dismiss and destroy something without
understanding why it is so important culturally is simply barbaric. And to be fair, a lot
of the anti-24 fps crap I read is pretty barbaric and stupid. I think the internet culture of today has
a bit too much hubris in our technological and scientific understanding. We think we
have mastered everything because we can google it, but I just spent the last 5000 words hopefully
showing that common arguments against something as frivolous as frame rate are still so amazingly
shallow. There is still so much more beyond what I covered that to pretend that you have
it all figured out to the point that you can dictate how filmmakers ought to create their
own art, that’s just flat out bullsh*t. I get that every generation wants to overthrow
the past. But I also get that every generation is naive and clueless. The kids are always
stupid, the old people are always out of touch. The irony is how the same person transitions
in between the two extremes and the hubris comes from thinking that you won’t too. In my Defense of 24fps I flippantly dismissed
the “it’s only because you’re used to it” argument by retorting, well maybe you
only dislike it because you’re not used to it. I guess my economy of words masked
the profoundness of the statement for some. Maybe if you don’t like 24fps, you simply
don’t like cinema. And that’s fine. You don’t have to like it. And there’s no
reason we need to cater to people who don’t like the product. Now that I’ve run down the clock with excessive
straw man beating I will end by repeating the challenge that I have seen not a single
person take up. If you believe high frame to be the future, go out a make that change
yourself. Make a short narrative film with actors and a real script. Put the time and
effort into it. I’ve done it myself several times and I’ve done it in non-24 frame rates.
I know if you’re serious about the craft you’re going to make the film and realize
it doesn’t quite look right – something’s missing – until you add back in that 24 frames
per second – then at least you’re speaking the cinematic language – maybe not perfectly
fluent but you’re part way there. It’s not the only element to making a film look
like a film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one of the key ingredients. And
if you disagree, you have no f****g clue what you’re talking about. I hope you enjoyed this tour of cinema through
the lens of frame rates – I’ve created a lot of videos on various aspects of this cinematic
history that we covered which I will link in the description along with links to many
of videos I discussed. Like, Subscribe, check out our Patreon so
I can hopefully cover other new topics related to filmmaking that don’t involve the words
frame and rate.. And get yourself your own Living Life 24 frames per second t shirt or
hoodie in the Merch shelf below. You’ll need them as protection if you dare journey
into the comment section below. Go out there and make something great! I’m
John Hess and I’ll see you guys at Filmmaker IQ.

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