Earlier this year Peter Jackson made the decision to shoot The Hobbit movies at 48 frames per second, despite 24 fps being the film industry norm since the late 1920s. His reasoning was because at 48fps “the image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness” and “looks much more lifelike, and it is much easier to watch, especially in 3-D”.
This decision was a risk as there has never been a wide release feature film shot at this higher frame rate, so Warner Bros. and Jackson are “hopeful that there will be enough theaters capable of projecting 48 fps” by the time the first movie hits next December. Now James Cameron, who is familiar with technology-related risks, wants to go even higher by shooting the Avatar sequels at 60 fps.
Cameron told THR that he would “personally favor” 60 fps, but “other people may choose 48 for other reasons.”
“The reason I went down that path is because I believe it makes for better 3D,” Cameron said of his advocacy of higher frame rates in a new interview. “There were lots of arguments for why 48 and why 60. My feeling is if it is a software upgrade (for digital cinema projectors), do both. It doesn’t change anything at the projector; you don’t have to change the lamp house or the lenses. If you are uploading software you can upload it for 48 and 60 and let the filmmakers decide.”
In terms of how he will decide at what rate to shoot the Avatar sequels, Cameron said, “If the exhibitors will adopt the idea of a dual standard, than I’ll probably want to shoot 60. If they don’t, then I will have to look very carefully at the pros and cons of 60 and 48.”
When Peter Jackson announced his 48 fps decision he said 24 fps was by no means the best film speed, and it has only been used for so long because “it was the cheapest speed to achieve basic acceptable results back in 1927”. I’m always up for technological advancements when it’s clear there’s room for improvement, so hopefully The Hobbit can be shown at 48 fps next year. As Avatar 2 isn’t hitting screens until December 2014 Cameron has plenty of time for exhibitors to adopt the higher frame rates.