Avatar's future frame rate

Posted by David Konow

The controversy over The Hobbit's high frame hasn’t died down, but we’ll know soon enough if real paying audiences will accept it or not.

Meanwhile, Warner Brothers is trying to downplay reports that some audience members have gotten ill from the high frame rates, but at the same time, several other filmmakers, namely Bryan Singer and James Cameron, are planning to shoot their next films in higher frame rates as well.

Cameron is especially gung-ho about doing the next installments of Avatar in a higher frame rate, apparently at 60 frames a second, but now there’s a report telling us he may do 48 frames a second. As GiantFreakin’Robot reports, even with higher frame rates, less could be more because if you go too fast, you lose the effectiveness of the technology.

 
Joe Letteri, who was the visual effects supervisor on The Hobbit, will also be working on the next Avatar films because Peter Jackson’s FX company, Weta, will again be providing Avatar’s incredible visuals.

"Jim’s still thinking 60 [frames per second]," Letteri said, "because it’s a persistence of vision artifacts and to quote Doug Trumbull and the studies he’s done, he says it tends to go away at around 64." (One of the biggest cheerleaders for higher frame rates is Douglas Trumbull, who did the incredible FX work on 2001 and Silent Running).

 
Letteri explained that once you get up to 64 frames a second, "the returns are pretty minimal and to tell you the truth, the difference between 48 and 60 is not as noticeable as the difference between 24 and 48 so for practical reasons, we decided to go with 48 because asking the theaters to have projectors that could handle 60 was not really practical in the time frame we had for The Hobbit…" 
 
Again, The Hobbit will be the best test film to see if this technology will fly or not, and Robot feels the higher frame rates could actually work better on Avatar, which is a largely computer animated world, where Middle Earth is more of a realistic environment. 
 
If higher frame rates are indeed the way of the future, there should be plenty of theaters equipped to run the Avatar sequels when they’re ready years from now.

As Letteri told ComingSoon, another problem is that audiences may not be totally ready to say goodbye to the look and feel of celluloid. 

 
"The more nostalgic you are for film, the harder it is to let go. After a while, you can’t let go, and you take it for what it is.

"Anyone who I talked to who is younger who is used to seeing film in any number of different ways says it’s like really not even noticeable, not really a big deal. I’m one of the people that’s still nostalgic for film…it’s still a really great look, but on the other hand, going digital gives you some real advantages that have been able to surpass film," he added.