Avatar: The way of the frame rate

From the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/02/movies/avatar-the-way-of-water-high-frame-rate.html?unlocked_article_code=WFjKTFAqPIXtE36r_cMtLj-YbX7WwiCNe0gLuwvmZpcBfYdLHaGDehJOpRo_dYVjdMrK5p3kKb1jKdZj-iY6ki-p0_vv5TRQgjBFZuvuzFHNfDrwUHdxb6xyVLDs4IAXtThxwx6RiHCorRg7-OK3HMXmH6Q-6z3kRfWXZ2f9yEnmw6lqcE88ElEtqlZncy8ks2vjq97MnkGe-ofBfF818_fnGIlzoOAiwwgoKng2wf7fu9pv_yuvc9WAHd5ikWUwXK0iNOOPxSQzEJwzA6HXRHhx-dN8b46-PeML4xb1N3aGEDfepo6fKvSiGn9s2sGJyaL0EEki7iZZMsY-vD1NcATLb2UaAqVg5bU7zLNSsiM&smid=share-url
Hopefully there is no paywall for this.

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yes there is, cant read it.

I have updated with what I think is a shareable link.

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Man, now I want to see this movie even more. There’s a single theater in my state playing it in HFR.

High frame rate is a trip, and for what it’s worth, the one time I saw it and feel it was correctly used was indeed a Douglas Trumbull setup.

I was just getting into CGI when I was a teenager and my dad took me out to Nevada to research land sailing (more on that here) and we flew into and out of Las Vegas. I knew that the Luxor had just opened and had a CGI ridefilm playing, so we went. CGI was rare back then.

Problem was, we bought tickets for the wrong thing and ended up in some live-audience “talk show” that was boring; just some people on a stage talking about Egypt.

However, near the end of the little stage play, one of the actors lept out of their chair and exploded into particles. Until that moment, I had not realized I was watching anything other than live people.

Since then I’ve always had a soft spot for HFR, even if, like Douglas Trumbull, I feel most everyone is using it wrong.

A fashion brand approached my old job for their fashion show. They wanted models walking on clouds in real life. Projections and whatnot. I immediately started talking about HFR, how it could look completely real to the viewer, and what kind of projectors they’d need.

They ordered up some CG renders of gold things rotating that they could project.


I saw the Hobbit at HFR, it was truly awful, I have no interest in seeing “Smurfs underwater”
If I recall, Trumbull was extolling the virtues of 60fps, (showscan), which alleviated the need for stereo imaging.
Now I would like to see that!

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I’m diving down a bit of a Trumbull rabbit hole today. His last big project was the Magi system which was 4k 120fps stereo.

There two US-based theaters capapable of projecting it, and one of them–Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome–is closed. The other one is Lowes Lincoln Square 13 in NYC. The other three projectors are “in Asia” according to the article I read.

The problem for all this tech is there’s nearly zero market for it. Movies are “good enough” from a visual standpoint, and if people like a film it’s because it’s beautiful or has a meaningful story. Very, very few people walk out of any film and say, “would have been good if there wasn’t so much motion blur.”


I saw HFR Hobbit at Mann Chinese and walked out within 30 minutes – life is too short to pay for something unpleasant. But then again I’ve eventually walked out or fallen asleep at most Peter Jackson films.

The Hobbit was awful with or without HFR. That’s what happens when you turn a 2 1/2 hour story into a 9 hour VFX circle jerk.


I saw Avatar 2 in Dolby 3D last week. The HFR only really pulled me out of the story when the film switched framerates shot to shot. When it picked one and stuck with it, I kinda got used to until a character would dive into the water or something and I’d then notice it again.

It was stunning to look at (were those hand closeups CG? If so, wow!!!), but the plot was somewhat boring and the film itself was probably 90 minutes too long. It was something like $75 for my family of 4 to see it at a matinee, which might have to do with how quickly its box office take is increasing. I have no desire to ever see it again.


Man I remember those “Quest for the Obelisk” rides at the Luxor. Both the simulator and the Showscan film were amazing to experience. The weird Imax thing was a little dull in comparison. It’s a shame they got rid of them.


John Knoll gets it mostly right here. Not sure I agree with the part about Analog LP’s…

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A friend of mine set up early HDTV cameras for Meet the Press in NYC. He carefully white balanced them and helped focus the huge lenses. When the crew showed up to shoot the first episode, they were horrified.
On HD they could see the pen doodles on the ancient wood desk. The Meet the Press sign behind him was clearly made of tinfoil, crudely glued to scratched milk glass.
You could see that they host’s shirt was wrinkled, and he had two very distinct red dots painted between his eyes and nose, to give separation at low resolution. And he had blobs of rouge on his cheeks. The powder no longer erased his wrinkles.
The producers had to spend tons of extra money on makeup, wardrobe and completely rebuild the set before they were ready to use the new cameras.
HFR is the same. Nobody makes movies at the level where it’s more than a distraction. All of the other crafts need to step up before it’s viable.


I wasn’t going to watch this, the first one I really hated.

But my mom, strangely, wanted to see it! And I came out really impressed. Watch it stereo IMAX!

Congratulations Mr Cameron


Yup same, saw it last night, thought it was amazing. HFR didn’t bother me, but wish I had read that NYT article before going, didn’t realise they were switching frame rates.

Was a bit like Jurassic Park or T2, where you go “Ah right, this is the next level of film making”. (the story is not as good as JP or T2, but it’s not bad either I thought) Def worth a watch in IMAX 3D if poss. The underwater scenes are the closest I’ve been to scuba diving without tanks on my back.

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if i remember correctly the industry arrived our 24fps standard in a similar calculation: 12fps looked awful, 30fps was way better but it was cheaper to shoot less film at 24fps.


Tim Farrell…FOR THE WIN! :clap:t2::fire::clap:t2:


I heard somewhere that the Dolby version was looking better than the IMAX in terms of color

Saw it in HFR 3d. It was great. Wish the whole movie was in HFR because it was kind of weird playing the, “is this HFR?” game, but I would imagine that only a very small amount of people give a shit at all.

Gonna go see it in regular old 2d with the family in a week or so. Good times.


Saw at the Chinese.
Worth seeing no doubt.
HFR is very cool.
Obviously some stuff looks better/worse than standard 24fps.
But not something you see every day.
Applaud them for the effort.
Furthering the tech is critical.

At the end of the day it’s not about whether it’s preferred aesthetically,
instead it’s about unlocking creative possibilities
that have nothing to do with marketing and ticket prices.
They’d much rather sell you lots of cheap crap, anyhoo.

Similar discussions were common w the intro of sound and color.
Before Eisenstein, Film was about documentation.
The idea of storytelling wasn’t even in the game.
HFR is jarring because it’s unfamiliar.
Back in the VFX StoneAge,
video could never be imagined to approach the quality of film.
Except it did, and in many ways, overtook it.

Some will never prefer the new tech.
Indeed we are grouchy old folks.
That’s how it always works.
Fish critiquing our own tank water.
Time will tell as it does.

Saw mentions above.
Trumbull and Brainstorm.
Visionary idea ahead of time before it was feasible technically/financially.
Saw Trumbull talk about HFR and he mentioned a simulated digital shutter.
Perhaps we’ll prefer “flickery” solves in projection?

Having seen a bunch of HFR, I found overall:


  • motion blur. The soap opera effect etc. looks weird agreed.
    Which looks worse? Better blur but more stuttery?
  • Detail can be unexpected and garish.
    Similar to stage performer makeup seen too close up.
    Hobbit dwarfs great example.


  • Brightness. Outside really feels like outside.
    Avatar proves this can be from CG, not only filmed footage.
    Honestly, 3D glasses kinda require this or looks dull.
    Billy Lynd was 120fps and the shots in Iraq felt like you were really there. Crazy but obviously jarring. Definitely worth a see if you get the chance.

Both the tech and the viewership will evolve.
I’m very much looking to see what peeps can do with the tech.
Unlike Trumbull, we no longer confront infrastructure changes across an industry.

Looking forward to more folks playing with this stuff.
Some results will be good and much of it a lot less good.
But, it’s the only way it gets better.