Busting Myths About High Frame Rate in Cinema

Usage of high frame rate is still seldom in theatrical movies, but despite that, there are opinions that it is going to prevail over the 24 frames per second standard. John P. Hess from Filmmaker IQ takes the unpleasant task of debunking some predictions about high frame rate.

The general line of opinion John Hess is dealing with is aimed towards the myth that high frame rate is a new technology that will inevitably replace the "old" 24 fps look and everyone who opposes that "advancement" is hindering the progress of that generation of filmmakers. The response of Hess is methodical as usual, but makes it clear that all he focuses on is the way the classic look feels to the majority of viewers.

I remember when I shot a corporate video for a client they said to me that there was something in the video that looks like a movie, not like TV reportage. This is what Hess is trying to make clear in his detailed presentation. It is this way that "feels right" when you see it in 24 fps as opposed to higher frame rate. The latter has its place in the filmmaking universe, but for cinema, it doesn't make any good either for the viewer or for the perceived performance of the actors.

I will leave John Hess' advice to all who think otherwise:

If you believe high frame to be the future, go out and make that change yourself.

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6 Comments

Ken Flanagan's picture

HFR is terrible IMO. It’s a jump that doesn’t not need to be made, and I feel like it takes away from the cinematic experience.does it have a place? Yes. Should it replace? No.

William Faucher's picture

High framerates also increase the vfx budget exponentially. We vfx artists already have a ton of work to do with 24fps, but doubling that to 48fps doubles or even triples (or more) the work involved, not the mention the I/O increase. Not only do we have twice the frames needed to render, but due to the total lack of motion blur in 48fps, it means our work needs to hold up a lot more, and we can get away with less, which in turn means more time in production. Then sending this off to the compositers means they now have twice as much work to do in post. It is a HUGE increase in cost, for very little return. In fact most would argue HFR is a detriment. So why bother? It's not "hindering the progress" in any way, it's all about economic sense.

/rant over

VINICIUS YUZO ZUCARELI's picture

I find 24fps relaxing, hfr feels precise, but there is something about high shutter speed that makes it unpleasant to watch.

Spy Black's picture

I only saw the first 3 minutes of this video, and although I don't understand the advantages of high frame rates, I don't agree with his 24fps is the way God intended us to watch cinema,etc. I saw the Hobbit flick, at 48fps I think, and it didn't bother me. There may very well be advantages that people that still think the cinema world is flat may not realize (or want to). For one thing, he pooh-poohed discussing video game frame rates and tries to steer it to cinema, comically ignoring the fact that there's a generation of kids under him that grew up looking at high frame rate video, and may find a movie made as such more attractive to them, than to someone who is obviously a 24fps zealot.

I'm not entirely sure what benefits there are from high frame rates in cinema, I'm sure there are, but there's something else I thought about as I read this. Years back I remember reading something in a video rag about human vision, which supposedly is something like 30fps at bright 12 o'clock noon sun (scanning rate, actually), and the scanning rate drops as it reaches less levels of light. In really dark spaces your scanning rate can be as low as 4 fps, which is why it's hard to track fast moving objects in the dark and we rely more on echolocation in the dark. So if that's true, and I don't know for sure, but the author appeared as though he had done his homework, what does that mean for all of this high frame rate stuff?

So other than some people finding it objectionable and others not, what can we benefit from the high frame rate tech in cinema? As someone has pointed out, that's a shitload more strain on your hardware, storage, and overall production. So if anyone can point them out, what are the benefits of high frame rate shooting in cinema, other than slow-mo?

"I don't agree with his 24fps is the way God intended us to watch cinema,etc."
It's not so much that he's arguing that (he admits 24 is an arbitrary number), but rather that's what cinema "feels like", so anything different ruins that experience.
I love HFR and don't feel the same way about 24fps as him, but i can see where he's coming from.

Spy Black's picture

Yes, but his underlying tone is 24 fps or die. It's almost written as such on his shirt. :-D Just because it's what we've been accostumed to doesn't mean it's the be all, end all option. It's similar to the argument that video will never look as good as film. His argument reminds me somewhat of the character dipicted in LCD Soundsytem's song LOSING MY EDGE. :-D

For the first time in motion image history we have options to 24, 25, and 30 fps in making and viewing motion images. He didn't grow up in that world.

I personally don't care, but this a new age and there are new ways to do things. Kids today perfectly relate to high frame rate video, and eventually they may not care to having to look at video otherwise.

I'm 64 years old, and I've witnessed a lot of change in the world around me in my life, and seen plenty of people that can't accept the reality of whatever change has occurred, and maintained a preservation act mentality about it. While I don't expect 24 fps to go away anytime soon, it may very well reach a point where it doesn't matter anymore.

Like film.