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Frames per second: 24 vs 48

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
It's no secret that I'm not a fan of 24p, in fact I think it's the most glaring deficiency in modern filmmaking techniques. Frankly I find it hard to believe that we've done so much to make films so realistic and immersive in almost every way, yet we're still stuck with the jarring, unnatural flicker-fest that is 24p.

I honestly believe that within a couple of decades we'll look back on 24p with a condescending smile and wonder how audiences ever took it seriously.

Of course not everyone shares my enthusiasm for improved "temporal resolution". The most common argument against 48p or 60p is that it's "too real" (see my previous blog post for more on this and my rebuttal).

In a nutshell, I feel that the "too real" argument is no different now to when it was first used against sound and colour in movies. In any case, if filmmakers really want to lower the technical specs in return for improved artistic quality, they are free to do so (e.g. The Artist, The Elephant Man, etc).

Peter Jackson had a severe reality check after a preview screening of The Hobbit at CinemaCon, when about half the audience reacted negatively to the higher frame rate (48p). Jackson is a big fan of both 3-D and 48p, so it was probably a bit of a shock to see the bad press he's been getting over this screening.

However I maintain that it's all about getting used to it. 24p is very much the "film look" that we're all used to, and it's going to take some adjusting to adapt to a more realistic look. Just as a movie-goers took time to adapt to talkies, movie-goers will need time to adapt to 48p. I believe younger people (especially gamers) will adapt more quickly because they are less institutionalized.

Mark my words. It may take time but eventually some higher frame rate such as 48p or 60p will become the standard and it will appear completely appropriate for a film look. Before you die you'll have come to expect it in every film you watch. Trust me!

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  1. Stefan's Avatar
    There is more to frame rate than life resemblance.
    Many people are enchanted by this juddering and blurred look. It reminds us that cinema is a fantasy. But 48 fps should work well for 3d though, what with all the strain for the eyes.
    But there is more to the topic: an interesting article I've stumbled upon discusses the use of specific frame rates for artistic purposes
  2. Dallas Video Production's Avatar
    So what would you say is the difference between 48p and 60p?
  3. Dave's Avatar
    Stefan, thanks for the link. I have no problem with lower frames rates as an artistic choice. I do have a problem with lower frame rates as a physical limit that encumbers all movies.
    DVP, I can't give a good comparison between those rates as I've never had the chance to directly compare good footage shot natively at both rates side by side. What I can say is that Peter Jackson did exactly that and he concluded there isn't too much difference. 60fps will of course be a bit more expensive than 48 so that's one reason to go with 48 but there's probably more to it than that. I suspect that a filmmaker may be more inclined to go with 48 being an exact double of 24, whereas a video producer used to working in 30fps (approximately) might prefer 60 fps. Personally I'll always go with the higher rate up to about 100 fps. I guess I'm happy to settle for 48 but there's a big part of me that's wanting to settle the frame rate thing once and for all, and have something like 100fps that we'll never need to change again except for specialist situations. I worry that 48 fps will be yet another interim standard.
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