60 fps: A can of worms

If it’s one piece of technology that I get very excited about even if I have no idea how to use it (much like getting excited about NASA’s Atlantis control panel) that’s the RED ONE camera. The camera, still in beta, is expected to revolutionize the film and TV industry and fully digitize the process with the help of Apple and its Final Cut Studio (although some of AVID’s tools are better than Apple’s). Nevertheless, at just $1300 for the Apple software, $23,000 for the camera+extras, $3000 for a PowerMac and $2000 for a big monitor, you can create a small professional studio for just $30,000 (and you can quickly make your money back if you rent your equipment). Consider that to do the same until recently you would need $150,000– maybe more.

So, I thought, what would be more enlightening but to ask about 60fps video to the RED ONE forum, where all the beta tester directors are hanging out. So, I popped the question as to when we would see some high frame rate movies.

Originally, each and everyone of the people replied were against the idea mostly because it would make a movie look “like video, and therefore look cheap”. Then, some others replied wishing that we didn’t have to stay stuck at 24fps. Needless to say that within 10 hours, there were over 85 replies from professionals debating the issue, thus making the thread one of the most active ever in that forum! Apparently, the 60fps issue is a can of worms, a thorn, in the industry. An issue that no one wants to address out of fear of alienating the viewer, for losing the “look” of a 24fps movie. It’s a legacy matter mostly, even if there are some technical reasons not to go there yet (e.g. makes the life of stuntmen harder, special effects will take more time to be done, more hard drive storage required etc)

Thankfully, towards the end of the thread someone replied that if 60fps is done the right way, it can still retain the movie look & feel, and look smooth at the same time: “Shooting wide open with digiprimes on a 2/3″ chip camera is about the same as T4 on 35mm. Its been done many times. The important part IMHO is that the camera should have no digital sharpening, that’s what screws up the Bokeh.

Apparently the RED ONE does not do digital sharpening, so it would be an ideal camera to experiment with 60 fps, without losing the ideal “look & feel” that you are used to.


Luis wrote on June 4th, 2007 at 1:46 AM PST:

I just wonder if the “smoothness” you’re referring to is really about movement or about refresh rate. I mean, if you see a movie with a car moving, do you mean you can actually “feel” that the car is not moving but that it’s a series of still images? Personally I can’t. Or do you mean that you can see the screen flicker? As far as I know, movies are played in theaters at 72 “fps” (not really 72 fps, since the same frame is repeated 3 times to reduce the “black” time between each frame, but the “refresh rate” is like 72Hz).

I mean, do you feel that movies are very smooth when there is no action/movement going on but you feel it becomes “choppy” when faster movement starts? Or do you feel them “not smooth” all the time?

If it’s the first case, 60 fps might help, but in the second case it won’t.

What I personally dislike about the idea of 60fps is the waste of resources for little improvement. I just feel the same about high resolutions. Take this example about digital video:

If I have a 17″ screen with a resolution of 1280×1024 and I watch a 640×480 video at 30 fps, I would probably feel that the video is good enough. Now, if I had a 17″ screen with a resolution of 2560×2048 and would see the same video but at 1280×960 and 60 fps, the video *might* look slightly better if you can really compare them looking at both at the same time, but I don’t think I would even notice if I’d see them separately. They will look roughly the same. However, the second one will be 4 times bigger (in MB size), thus require 4 times the bandwidth and a _much_ more powerful processor to playback it. I just hate this kind of “improvements”.

Besides, and this is a more personal opinion, most movies that would benefit from a higher frame rate would be better not shot at all.

mikesum32 wrote on June 4th, 2007 at 1:59 AM PST:

The spools of film are already huge enough as it is.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on June 5th, 2007 at 2:22 AM PST:

>Or do you feel them “not smooth” all the time?

Non-smoothness can be seen in fast movements only.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on June 5th, 2007 at 8:39 AM PST:

Quicktime is able to playback 60fps easily. When played the same 60fps video with VLC, it looked like 30fps. Weird.

Alastair M wrote on June 5th, 2007 at 10:16 AM PST:

For playback purposes with a computer involved … why does frame rate have to be the same throughout a movie? The action sequences could be 60 fps and romantic scenes could be 24 fps.

Probably a mad thought but why not.

Richard wrote on June 5th, 2007 at 12:33 PM PST:

It is interesting how people get emotional right away when discussing such an issue.

In my opinion, it’s just another interesting technical feature, that might have a number of creative uses, and obviously it would be great if everyone could play around with it and see what you can do with it.

btw. I really start to like high fps stuff, I played around a little and made a simple video player to play 25i DV Video as 50p in realtime in my computer. Works quite well, I am beginning to wonder why all those videoplayers I am aware of (mplayer, xine, etc..) are “insisting” (or at least suggesting) on using crappy deinterlacers instead of upsampling to 50p. It’s not really difficult to do software-wise.

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