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Is 24fps becoming outdated?


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#1 Thom Stitt

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 05:13 PM

Here's a question I've been pondering lately: Is it time for filmmakers to find a faster framerate for telling cinematic stories?

We're all used to 24 and 25 fps having a "cinematic" quality. We're used to cringing if it moves at 30 or higher - it looks too much like "the news." This is what we're USED to.

I got back from seeing Coraline in 3D recently. I understand that in order to get the 3D effect, the RealD setup is essentially duplicating frames 3 times per eye, and with the alternating L/R polarized angles onscreen, we're getting 144 frames being flashed in our face every second.

But the movie is still shot in 24 fps. So anytime the camera pans, or tracks, or a character or object moves with any swiftness across the screen - It all turns into a shuttery, blurry, eyeball-piercing mess. It just felt like something was wrong.

When we play videogames, it's misery to be stuck with a framerate anywhere near 24. We hope we're playing at closer to 60 fps, it's smooth, it's responsive, it feels real. Obviously this has to do with our input devices having a fluid translation to the screen, but nonetheless video games are becoming extremely cinematic these days, and they all look better at silky smooth framerates.

Obviously our eyes see nothing close to 24fps, but this is kind of a "duh" point in the discussion.

For me personally, when I shoot in slow mo, and watch the monitor while filming (at say 60 fps), it looks like such a hyper-real uber-video look it's off-putting. But I have a hard time reconciling this ingrained reaction with my experience noticing that we may be outgrowing the 24fps standard in certain contexts.

With 3D becoming so widespread in the coming years, and certainly with all that James Cameron has had to say about it, is it time to start trying out faster framerate standards for films? We may have to re-train our eyes all over again, but perhaps CG and 3D films are the place to do this.
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#2 Chris Durham

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 05:34 PM

Here's a topic that has been and will be debated for a long time. I agree that 24fps is poorly suited for stereo - particularly during fast actions or frame moves - however, knowing this limitation I'd say the filmmakers should shoot around it until another standard is established. In my opinion, that standard should be applied to that medium. What applies for stereo doesn't necessarily apply to standard film, which doesn't necessarily apply to the evening news of football. I like watching the Cowboys in hi-def 60i - it's crisp and I get to see every detail which is good because technical minutia are important. Not so much the case when I'm watching a movie. I like my 24 frame motion blur. I don't want to be distracted by the crispness of an image. I don't want to see in intricate detail that portion of the screen where the receiver's hand would be grasping the ball. In cinema I want to be concerned with the whole image and how it tells the story. This is something I cautioned an editor friend about recently when he was moaning over minor bumps in a dolly movement when the rest of the image was otherwise good. The advice I gave was that if you spend too much effort worrying about a PERFECT image you might lose the opportunity to produce a BEAUTIFUL image. This argument over frame rates is analogous to the argument over video vs film. The technology chosen should suit the subject. 48fps is probably optimal for stereo, as James Cameron has suggested. That doesn't mean that we have to re-think the frame rate of standard cinema. 24/25 works, works well, and is beautiful.
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#3 Patrick Neary

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 11:09 PM

With 3D becoming so widespread in the coming years,...


That's quite an assumption. (I mean people in general who are assuming that)

3D is still a gimmick and pain in the butt for the viewer (my experience at least) I know I would hate to have to put on grimy, used, ill-fitting 3D glasses for every movie I see in the theater.
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#4 Thomas James

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 12:54 AM

I shoot most of my movies at 30 frames per second. This gives my footage the ultimate hybrid video film look. 30 fps handles motion a lot beter than 24 fps but it still retains that film look. 30 fps is also the original Todd-AO format. However for some shots 30 fps is too slow and the picture falls apart. 60 fps handles motion better but if the action is not fast the footage ends up looking like a cheesy soap opera video. So I think the future is variable speed ramping where the photographer instantly selects and changes the frame rate on demand according to the conditions in which he is shooting.

Edited by Thomas James, 06 March 2009 - 12:56 AM.

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#5 Will Earl

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 11:02 AM

I have real trouble with shuttered stereo3D glasses. Even with high refresh rates, 24fps does suffer during fast pans and action on screen - and I think it is a case of the temporal resolution being too low. Passive glasses though are a lot easier on the eyes and I can watch stereo3D films without getting headaches or eyestrain, provided of course the filmmakers don't do any thing stupid.

I haven't seen any tests of 48fps stereo. But I do think stereo3D could potentially benefit from a higher frame rate. 24fps is fine for films shot 2D (if it ain't broke).
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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 12:40 PM

3D is still a gimmick and pain in the butt for the viewer (my experience at least) I know I would hate to have to put on grimy, used, ill-fitting 3D glasses for every movie I see in the theater.


3D isn't for every movie. It's great if you want monsters jumping out at you. But for the vast majority of films, nah. Imagine a 3D re-make of, say, "Death of a Salesman" -- who needs that?

Back on topic, Steven Jolly of the BBC has done some work on higher frame rates, which he presented at HPA this February. His conclusion is that the best choice is 300 fps, but with a 360 degree shutter. Shown as shot, you get an extremely sharp image. Because the 360 degree shutter leaves no gaps between frames, you can combine consecutive frames to convert to slower rates. 10 x 30 = 300, and 12 x 25 = 300, so you can convert easily to the existing TV frame rates, and have a single worldwide new frame rate standard. You could also, for instance, combine 6 frames and skip 6 frames to get the equivalent of 25 fps with a 180 degree shutter, and so forth.




-- J.S.
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 01:36 PM

I'd say, if anything, 24fps is becoming more popular than ever. So it is more that "30FPS" in NTSC countries is on the endangered species list.

I prefer higher frame-rates myself. What ever happened to "MaxiVision" 48fps?

I take it then, that everyone but me on this thread agrees that a new standard*has* to be digital, with the casual assertions of the "360 degree shutter" being the best one?
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#8 Thomas James

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 02:20 PM

30 fps is very popular with consumer high definition camcorders even more popular than 24 fps. It halves nicely to 15 fps for you tube videos. 30 fps will never die because it is actually displayed at 60 fps with each frame being doubled.
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#9 John Sprung

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 04:07 PM

...., with the casual assertions of the "360 degree shutter" being the best one?


The 360 degree shutter is only an absolute necessity if you want to shoot very high frame rates for later conversion to lower rates. With a 360 degree shutter and many hundreds of frames per second, you can combine consecutive frames to get whatever rate and shutter angle you want. If you shot with a smaller shutter angle, you'd have gaps in the images of moving objects -- undersampling -- which would be very obvious artifacts in the combined frames. Filling in those gaps is an extremely difficult image processing problem, which can be completely avoided by using a 360 degree shutter.





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#10 Karel Bata

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 06:08 PM

You could also, for instance, combine 6 frames and skip 6 frames to get the equivalent of 25 fps with a 180 degree shutter, and so forth.

Interesting idea. But it wouldn't really look like a 180 degree film shutter would it? The beginning and end of any motion blur within any frame constructed in such a way would be well defined. Motion within that frame would just start and stop, thus maybe giving the final motion a slightly staccato look. In a film camera the shutter opening and closing isn't an instantaneous event. I reckon at least 10% of the time the shutter is opening and another 10% closing. But that's a guess. (Anyone here know?) Anyway, the blur in a single frame of film would have edges that 'fade' a little which must surely add something to the perceived blur.

Point is, wouldn't it look different?

Edited by Karel Bata, 06 March 2009 - 06:10 PM.

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#11 Freya Black

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 06:51 PM

Just to point out that the whole 30fps thing is a U.S.A/Japan thing only. The rest of the world does 24 or 25fps all the time! As a result we don't especially think of these frame rates as being "cinematic", they are just the normal frame rates. We also don't associate 30fps with video news, maybe we associate converted 30fps video with american 80's soap operas or something?

Also, not to upset anyone but I quite like frame rates that are less than 24fps too!

Lastly I'm also really suprised when people say that the current 3d fad is the future. I find it a little odd as there have been many phases of 3d films. They are kind of fun for a while and then everyone gets tired of it till next time. I don't see it being any different this time around tho I'm sure it will be fun while it lasts! :)

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#12 John Sprung

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 07:47 PM

The beginning and end of any motion blur within any frame constructed in such a way would be well defined. Motion within that frame would just start and stop, thus maybe giving the final motion a slightly staccato look.


No, the blur would exist for the entire distance that the object moved. Consider a simple example:

Suppose we have a locked off shot of a blue sky, and a ball is thrown thru the shot from one side to the other. Suppose the ball moves three times its diameter in 1/300 second. We shoot this with one camera at 300 fps, 360 degree shutter, and another at 25 fps, 180 degree shutter. Each frame we get from camera #1 has a blur on it that is one ball diameter high by four ball diameters long (the distance it moves, plus its own length). The beginning of the ball blur in any frame is exactly where the end of the ball blur was in the previous frame. Every point along the center of the the ball blur is made by exposure from the ball for 1/3 of the time, and exposure from the sky for 2/3 of the time.

Now suppose we take six consecutive frames from camera #1, and combine them by adding up all the pixel values and dividing by six. The result is a blur on the path of the ball that is one diameter high by 19 ball diameters long. The ball moves 6 x 3 = 18 times its diameter over the six frames from the high speed camera. Every point on the trajectory of the center gets ball exposure for 1/18 of the time, and sky exposure for 17/18 of the time. Compare that with the matching shot from camera #2, which exposed one frame during the same amount of time that camera #1 exposed six frames. The blur would be identical, provided that we have the same speed of edge passage on both, as could be the case with CCD's. Even if camera #2 had a significantly slower shutter edge passage, the difference wouldn't be all that great. It's mostly the averaging of frames from the fast camera that makes the blur in its downconverted material match the slow camera.

Well, OK, so maybe it's not such a simple example.... ;-) But if you really want complicated, imagine it with a shutter under 360 on the fast camera, and figure out how you reconstruct the ball blur for the five gaps between frames. That's undersampling.




-- J.S.
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#13 Thomas James

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 11:49 PM

Actually high definition networks in the United States broadcast up to 60 frames per second and in Europe high definition broadcasting goes up to 50 frames per second. So in both areas of the world we have the infrastructure both in broadcasting and with Blu-Ray to display cinematic footage using variable speed ramping. For the dramatic portions of the cinematic broadcast 24 frames per second would be speed up to 25 frames and would be output to a 50 frame per second stream using frame doubling. If a faster framerate is desired for a hybrid video film look 36 frames per second would be outputed to a 50 frame stream using a 1:2 pulldown with a frame being displayed once and the next frame being displayed twice. For extremely fast action the photographer would shift the displayed output to 50 frames per second with each individual frame being displayed once. Thus the end result will be that the footage will retain its cinematic feel but the picture will not fall apart with fast action.
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#14 Karel Bata

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 05:39 AM

Thanks John. I must confess I had to read it more than once (and take the dog for a walk to get some fresh air, followed by a couple of stiff coffees) but I got there! :D
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#15 Simon Wyss

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 06:58 AM

I wait for a producer to decide on a silent again, hand cranked, lit with the sun and carbon arcs. It may be a one-reeler, poetic, black and white, madly made. I wait for someone to rediscover the charme of 16 frames per second projected with three-blade shutters on the projectors, with carbon arc lamps. And no popcorn. Slower, please, slower, more intimate. More upright.
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#16 Karel Bata

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 07:00 AM

:D

Edited by Karel Bata, 07 March 2009 - 07:00 AM.

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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 08:06 AM

Actually high definition networks in the United States broadcast up to 60 frames per second and in Europe high definition broadcasting goes up to 50 frames per second. So in both areas of the world we have the infrastructure both in broadcasting and with Blu-Ray to display cinematic footage using


At least in my part of Europe we don't actually have much in the way of infrastructure for broadcating in H.D. at present. Theres some talk of bringing in some kind of Mpeg4 based thing at some point in the more distant future (maybe around 2012) and there are some satellite based subscription channels.

Blu-Ray is preety unpopular here so far but maybe that will change after people are happy it has all settled down a bit.

variable speed ramping. For the dramatic portions of the cinematic broadcast 24 frames per second would be speed up to 25 frames and would be output to a 50 frame per second stream using frame


Everything here tends to be shot at 25fps anyway. Not sure if that would change if we went all Hi-Def in the future.

doubling. If a faster framerate is desired for a hybrid video film look 36 frames per second would be outputed to a 50 frame stream using a 1:2 pulldown with a frame being displayed once and the next frame being displayed twice. For extremely fast action the photographer would shift the displayed output to 50 frames per second with each individual frame being displayed once. Thus the end result will be that the footage will retain its cinematic feel but the picture will not fall apart with fast action.


As I say I don't think anyone here has the same association between frame rates and things being "cinematic". Maybe frame rates lower than 24, like say 18 or 12 might be seen as more cinematic. People here make the distinction more on whether images are progressive or not perhaps. *shrug*

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#18 Freya Black

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 08:10 AM

I wait for a producer to decide on a silent again, hand cranked, lit with the sun and carbon arcs. It may be a one-reeler, poetic, black and white, madly made. I wait for someone to rediscover the charme of 16 frames per second projected with three-blade shutters on the projectors, with carbon arc lamps. And no popcorn. Slower, please, slower, more intimate. More upright.


Now I'm sure we can all agree THAT would be cinematic!

Isn't there a DVD like that? I seem to remember David Lynch making an incredible little film on an ancient Lumiere camera! I think he was spared the carbon arcs tho!

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#19 Thomas James

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 01:51 PM

Of course variable frame ramping gives you the ability to shoot in lower frame rates as well . For example if you are shooting a snail it may be more cinematic to shoot at 16 frames per second which is then displayed with every frame repeated 3 times which is outputted to a 48 fps stream and speed up to 50 frames per second. And of course the frame rate can always be changed on the fly if the photographer decides to shoot other faster moving creatures.

In America it was actually the Playstation 3 gaming console with its built in Blu-Ray high definition player that first gained the most popularity. Blu-Ray supports the 720p format which can be displayed up to 60 frames per second
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#20 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 09:34 PM

Guy Maddin films have that "Turn of the century" feeling. Or at least some of the early ones do. There are still film makers out there who desire an antique (maybe that's not a very fair term) feeling.
I can't think of a time I was ever sitting in a theatre and felt a lack of fps and I've never heard a layman mention it to me either.
As far as HDTV being broadcast in 50fps or 60fps I'm not sure that's true but I'm happy to be proven wrong. Thomas do you mean 60i or 50i? This isn't really the same thing which I'm sure you're aware and I'm fairly certain that the broadcast streams aren't robust enough to stream variable framerates even at 720p. I have a bluray player and I haven't seen a single 50fps (I'm in a PAL territory) disc.
Is it happening in sports? And how?
I think it would look distracting and obvious. I'd trade the extra bandwidth for less compression rather than more frames and so would most others here I think. Its taken this long to get progressive scan at home.
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