NAB 2012: Christie High Frame Rate 3D Demo

By far the most important demo at NAB was presented by Christie, one of the foremost makers of digital-cinema projectors for commercial theaters. It was a comparison of the effect of shooting and displaying 3D movies at different frame rates—24, 48, and 60 frames per second. The entire demo was created and narrated by James Cameron, who started by pointing out that digital cinema cameras and projectors are fully capable of shooting and displaying higher frame rates, which greatly reduces or eliminates the motion blur and stuttering endemic to 24fps.

The demo was played on a Christie CP-2220 2K projector fitted with a RealD ZScreen polarizer firing onto a Harkness silver screen; the source was a Christie Integrated Media Block (IMB) media server attached to the projector. We were told that last year, such a demo would have required four projectors and four servers, illustrating how quickly digital-cinema technology evolves.

After an on-camera introduction by Cameron, we were shown several scenes of a medieval banquet and sword fight, each one shot and displayed at 24, 48, and 60fps, with Cameron describing what to look for in voiceover. At 24fps, objects in motion—either by themselves or as a result of camera movement—were quite blurred as always with this frame rate. At 48fps, the objects were much sharper, and at 60fps, they were razor sharp and perfectly clear.

There were also some examples of slow-motion effects created by "double printing" (displaying each frame twice to achieve half speed) and "overcranking" (shooting at a faster frame rate than that used to display the image), and the overcranked slo-mo looked much smoother and more natural with no edge artifacts. Finally, we saw some examples of footage shot at 48 and 60fps converted to 24fps for theaters that cannot display higher frame rates, and the result was no worse than images shot at 24fps in the first place.

Cameron pointed out that 24fps is the last vestige of 20th-century movie technology still in universal use today. It was established about 100 years ago as the slowest frame rate that can create the illusion of continuous motion to the human eye and still allow soundtracks to be printed on the film. But it suffers from serious motion blur that we've all become entirely accustomed to, and modern technology allows moviemakers to transcend this limitation.

There are many who argue that higher frame rates don't look like film, but more like video, and they are right. Cameron even used the term "hyper-real" to describe the effect. But I'm not one who prefers the blurry look of film just because that's the way it's been for the past century. I think 48 and 60fps look incredible, and I can't wait for movies that use them, such as The Hobbit and Avatar 2. My only concern is how consumers will know which theaters are showing them at the higher rates. I'll certainly let you know anything I find out about that, so stay tuned!

clausdk's picture

Will shooting in 48fps have a different look than using CFI on a movie shot in 24fps?

I'm wondering, if the directors will use a different technique, now that 48fps is available?

Hence, they can create a "filmic" look using 48fps - that usually looks hyperreal when using CFI on 24fps material.

I guess they have become masters of creating a cinematic look using 24fps.

I use CFI on my infocus SP8602 projector sometimes. It looks quite hyperreal to be honest. It's very relaxing on the eyes, but it removes the suspension of disbelief for me...

Am I too oldschool?

kevon27's picture

As with every new tech which will make a current piece of tech obsolete you will get a lot of people saying no to the new.
Just recently with Bluray and HD-DVD, we got the DVD is just fine crowd. Going back when DVD with introduced, the VCR crowd said no, you can't record on DVD, blah, blah, blah (I was actually in the VCR crowd).
24 FPS video had its purpose and was used in the beginning because of limitations of the technology: "It was established about 100 years ago as the slowest frame rate that can create the illusion of continuous motion to the human eye and still allow soundtracks to be printed on the film."

We've had motion smoothing on TV's for a few years now and some people object to using it while some like myself like it.
When the 'Say No to change' crowd start to see more and more movies shot at higher frame rates, they'll get use to it.