Pushing the Frame Rate

By Deane Barker on June 26, 2012

Why do TV shows and movies look “different”?: This is a really interesting discussion over at Reddit about why movies and television look different. You know, how a soap opera looks…well, different, than a movie on the big screen.

Most films are filmed in 24 frames per second. Where as most TV is filmed using higher FPS, like above 30FPS.

What gets interesting is when the discussion segues into what filmed things should look like (higher frame rate, ideally), and how technology that we’ve been socially programmed to expect (lower frame rate for movies) is holding us back because technology that’s better (the higher frame rate) is associated with something lesser (lowly television rather than big budget movies). So, when we see the better technology, we convince ourselves that we had a lesser experience, even though we didn’t.

It’s about film over video. Film traditionally had a higher image quality, but was expensive and could not do high frame rates. Video could do insane frame rates but the image quality was crap and it was cheap. Low budget TV used video high budget Film used film. People started to associate high frame rate with low budget and low frame rate with high budget. So now that technology has caught up and we can have high image quality with high frame rates no one wants high frame rates in film. It’s a shame because higher frame rates are higher quality, it’s like image resolution.

Apparently, the 24fps limit on traditional film is slowly being surpassed.  Peter Jackson is bucking tradition and filming The Hobbit at 48fps.  He spoke at length about it on his Facebook page.

Film purists will criticize the lack of blur and strobing artifacts, but all of our crew–many of whom are film purists–are now converts.  You get used to this new look very quickly and it becomes a much more lifelike and comfortable viewing experience.  It’s similar to the moment when vinyl records were supplanted by digital CDs.  There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re heading towards movies being shot and projected at higher frame rates.

I expect when The Hobbit is released, there will be lots of talk about frame rates and why the movie “looks different.” This will be the first step down a slippery slope.

As with any Reddit discussion, you have a dig a little as it branches off into countless tangents (though, most are interesting).