February 15, 2013
48 FPS Revolution
The basic differences between 24 and 48 frames per second is as noticeable as a funky looking speed effect for the audience, and for most of us, is defining of whether or not we can sit through something. The switch in standardized film isn’t much of a big deal for the audience, but to Peter Jackson, it’s the method that can be used to forge a new revolution in media.
To kick off that revolution, I’ll discuss the ethics of 48 FPS film and the naked eye. (You can view this article that sheds some light on the subject.)
Firstly, 24 FPS has been the industry standard for 99 percent of studios and filmmakers since its beginning in the first few decades of the 20th century. We’ve stuck to the standard for so long because, just like the filmmakers of that time, we need high-quality looking films for low costs. Quite simply, computers have an easy time rendering 24 frames per second, compared to double that frame rate.
Have you ever seen video playback on an HD digital camcorder at 60 frames per second? The video itself looks like it was shot at a very high frame rate, and thus, has a very speedy effect to it. It’s not that the film is moving faster; your brain is just reading more frames than usual. The best way to explain it is by stating that the less frames your eyes read, the less the brain has to work, which will make the picture look slow.
For a while I thought that 24 fps was the best way to see anything, since it was my definition of the word smooth. But on PC, the standard frame rate for any game is around 45-60 frames. The game play on PC seems much quicker and smoother by their standards, so the film and movie industry has two different takes on visual perception.
Peter Jackson argued for the capitalization of 48 FPS because he claimed it was a new stage in continuity for audiences. This theory of his came from the idea of frame rates in general. For over ninety years, we’ve accepted 24 frames per second, yet we know that traditional film doesn’t portray the outside world at all in the way that our own eyes do.
Our brain captures at a maximum of around 60 frames per second, so everything seems quick and smooth in most cases with us. To see 24 fps film is to develop a new acceptance for continuity in a slower sense. We’re seeing the events happen much slower, so we often perceive those experiences in a different form of reality.
But if we were shown The Exorcism of Emily Rose in 48 frames per second, we’d be startled at how realistic the perception would have become.
To understand continuity at its most basic level, we can take a look at comic books. The story is told through panels that sit stationary on the page without moving. The job is mostly left to your own idea of continuity and imagination to work out what happens next in a sequential order. That respect for sequence is what drives your perception for the reality that the comic is trying to pull you into.
It’s literally a different form of media that pulls you into its world, and films are no different with frame rates. When I consider this, it becomes apparent that frame rates are the most important thing about filmmaking. So why hasn’t anyone bothered to question the general norm of 24 frames?
Well, that’s what Peter Jackson was doing when he decided to show The Hobbit in 48 frames. Jackson understood continuity and perception of reality very well, and wanted to bring that ‘Bad TV’ look into the modern film era.
Because we know what reality is when we watch TV sit-coms. We can picture our own atmosphere fused with shows like American Idol and Desperate Housewives, but we can’t see the connection with our world and Avatar. So in essence, we’re talking about making The Shire or Tatooine into a new perceived medium of continuity with our perception of reality.
It sounds like nothing on paper, but in practice, it could be a new revolution in movie making. Let’s hope that Jackson’s theory picks up some momentum in the future.
Image Credit: Photos.com