Accepting a rare honor previously reserved for the likes of Walt Disney and George Lucas, Avatar director James Cameron told a group of entertainment industry engineers about major improvements he is cooking up. From The Hollywood Reporter:
For the sequels to Avatar — the most successful movie ever made — the filmmaker, tech innovator and explorer said, “I’m going to push. Not only for better tools, workflow, high dynamic range and high frame rates — the things we are working toward. I’m still very bullish on 3D, but we need brighter projection, and ultimately I think it can happen — with no glasses. We’ll get there.”
Cameron didn’t specify how 3D without viewing glasses would work. However, he did expound upon other improvements to the film-making process which could result in wider adoption of 3D.
One of the reasons influential filmmakers such as Lee and Cameron are exploring high frame rates (HFR) is to learn how this tool might reduce or eliminate the issues in 3D that can cause viewing discomfort.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet, Cameron elaborated: “I think [high frame rates] is a tool, not a format. I think it’s something you want to weave in and out and use it when it soothes the eye, especially in 3D during panning, movements that [create] artifacts that I find very bothersome. I want to get rid of that stuff, and you can do it through high frame rates.
“In terms of that kind of hyper clarity, there may be some films that benefit from it,” he continued. “But I feel you still have to have a little bit of that veil of unreality that comes with [today’s commonly used] 24 frames per second. This is my conclusion now. I don’t think you do it wall-to-wall, I think you do it where you need it.”
This use-it-where-needed approach distinguishes Cameron from other film innovators who have erred in the direction of shoehorning an entire film into an experimental new format. By using high frame-rates only in situations where it will truly help, most of the film will remain familiar to audiences.
Most viewers probably don’t notice frame rates explicitly. But they do get a sense of whether a film “looks weird” or “feels strange” because something like the frame rate is different than they’re used to.
All this is good news for film exhibitors. As home theaters continue to improve, theaters need to provide more value to draw audiences away from their couch at home.