About Michael

I'm passionate about movies and technology and hope for this site to be a catch-all resource for news regarding high frame rate (HFR) movies and related technology, starting with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at 48 frames per second in December 2012. I also maintain a list of theaters that are capable of showing HFR 3D movies, a page filled with as many sample HFR videos as I can find, an HFR movie list, and a page compiling significant articles and technical information regarding high frame rates. I wrote for marketsaw.com for a number of years about 3D and other cinematic tech. You can email me at mstat1@gmail.com

It’s time for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in HFR 3D


To be honest, I was left in a bit of a funk after seeing Desolation of Smaug last December.

Well, it was actually more than a “bit” of a funk. Since childhood, seeing Smaug portrayed in a “Hobbit” movie just as Tolkien’s words and book cover artworks portray him – lying on top of a tremendous pile of gold in all his golden, coin-encrusted, venal glory – was a great dream of mine.

To see Smaug on the Big Screen was one of the top things in life I was looking forward to, ever since I first read the book at the age of 10. Up until I watched the movie, it was one of the most important possible joyful future events that got me out of bed every morning. Having that joyful moment (for the most part) taken away from me was heartbreaking.

The final encounter with the dragon starts so well! At first I was excited as can be – it was like Tolkien’s words somehow teleported into the theater, leapt onto the screen in front of me. Smaug was finally, for the first time, given form, color, and, most importantly, life. Smaug’s reveal wasn’t in the book, but it was pretty cool and the conversation with Bilbo was staged beautifully (for 80% of the time, at least), and took some dialogue straight from the book.

But then comes that ending. First off, the conversation scene was much shorter then I was hoping for, and much great dialogue from the book was left out. And then from that point on nothing happens even somewhat close to the way it does in the book, and thus many scenes I’d been looking forward to since childhood were left out. Scenes such as as seeing Smaug fly out of the mountain to attack the dwarves waiting outside, and seeing him attack the party and chase after Bilbo’s ponies.

And then, that last part with the molten gold. That now-infamous and interminable scene is what put me into that funk.

It was like watching Return of the Jedi but with the final epic and dramatic confrontation between Luke, Darth Vader, and the Emperor replaced with a 3 Stooges scene with Darth and Palpatine chasing Luke around the death star with Looney Toons characterization and action, with Bugs always keeping ahead, making Darth and the Emperor objects of slapstick.

So anyhow, that’s where I’m at mentally before going in to see Battle of the Five Armies. To be honest, at this point I’m almost more interested in seeing the quality of the CG and animation, and, of course, the high frame rate 48 fps.

After the criticism of many scenes in Desolation, I feel like Peter Jackson and WETA likely upped their game.  So that will be interesting to watch.

What I’m most eager to hear, though, is the announcement of more HFR movies!!  The forthcoming Avatar trilogy will be shot and shown in HFR 3D, but I want more.

And isn’t it about time we start hearing much more about those Avatar movies? I predict that soon we’ll know for sure whether Cameron will shoot at 48, 60, 72, or something else entirely. I’ve seen some reports from a couple blogs that he’s settled on 48 fps, but I don’t give them much credibility. (Pyronaut points out a link to an Empire interview where Cameron states they he has chosen to go with 48 fps 3D for the Avatar sequel trilogy.  Looks like the case may possibly be closed on this one, but we’ll see if he sticks to this when filming starts).

When Fox releases that first big press release that official announces the new trilogy, reveals the final titles of the 3 movies, the cast, etc, we’ll probably get our answer as to see how Cameron plans to push HFR 3D technology forward.

James Cameron: Avatar sequels may be variable frame rate


James Cameron tells European broadcasting company RTL that he’s deciding between making Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4 at variable frame rates (VFR), and making them at a single consistent frame rate:

“[We're] looking at high frame rate. I’m studying that. I haven’t made a final decision yet, whether the entire film will be made at high frame rate or parts of it. You know, we’ll be shooting at a native resolution of probably 4K and so then there should be a lot of true 4K theaters by then as well.”

I think VFR makes the most sense and I predict that’s what Cameron will choose for his Avatar sequel trilogy.  In fact, I think VFR makes the most sense for just about every movie: Why restrict yourself to a single frame rate when different scenes and shot types, or even distinct objects in a shot, may look better at different speeds?  Even if a filmmaker goes into a production with the idea that the movie will be at a single frame rate, it would be wise to keep all options open by capturing footage in a way that allows multiple frame rates to be extracted and layered over each other.

If Cameron does indeed choose variable frame rates, I’ll be very interested in the camera equipment and setup he uses.  Would he shoot all scenes at the same ultra-high frame rate using one particular camera type, and then extract different frame rates during the editing process (assuming the targeted rates are factors of the master frame rate)?  Or would he roll multiple cameras, each capturing at a different rate, for each shot?  Or something else completely?

Hopefully we’ll find out soon – Cameron and his team are currently developing the production pipeline software.  Knowing how he is going to shoot the movie would certainly make that process easier.

For more on the Avatar sequels’ current status, check out this article over at comingsoon.net

Avatar 2, 3, and 4 will release in December 2016, 2017, and 2018

Andy Serkis’ 48 fps Animal Farm will shoot later in 2014


Principal photography on Andy Serkis’ planned HFR, performance-capture adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm is set to begin “in the middle to third quarter of next year”. Pre-visualization has been underway for at least a few months on the movie, which will be Serkis’ directorial debut.

Back in October 2012 Serkis spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about his plans to make Animal Farm at 48 fps:

“The wonderful thing about 48 fps is [how it handles] the integration of live action and CG elements; that is something I learned from The Hobbit,” Serkis said. “We are so used to 24 fps and the romance of celluloid … but at 48 fps, you cannot deny the existence of these CG creations in the same time frame and space and environment as the live action. It works incredibly well.”

We hadn’t had any news on Animal Farm since its announcement, so I’m glad to hear the project is going well – although there’s no update on whether the movie is still planned for 48 fps, or whether it’s been upgraded to 60 or 72 fps.

Serkis tells Screendaily that the film will be independently financed (financing has not yet been finalized) with a projected budget of $50 million. It will be the first project by Imaginarium, the performance-capture studio founded by Serkis and producer Jonathan Cavendish.

I’m excited for this: a performance-capture movie made by the guy who pretty much invented the art, and who is now quite experienced in directing, should be great. Serkis booked about 200 days of 2nd unit directing on The Hobbit, and is now directing pre-vis on Animal Farm from his trailer on the set of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

The cast will be announced once the business arrangements behind the film have been ironed out.

For more on Animal Farm, including recent advances in performance capture, check out the article at Screendaily.

Vizio “Reference” 4K TV’s will display at native 48 fps

Vizio Reference HFR

Good news from CES 2014:  Vizio’s forthcoming line of 4K TV‘s, dubbed the “Reference Series”, will be the first with the ability to show 48 fps content without 3:2 pulldown or any other type of meddling.

From Vizio’s press release:

For consumers who are passionate about content, the performance of the Reference Series also makes available two unique viewing modes: High Velocity Mode which enables the TV to display an ultra-fast 120 frames per second over HDMI, ideal for fast action video or gaming content, and Pure Cinema Engine for a true film-watching experience. With Pure Cinema Engine, the Reference Series presents films in their native 24 or 48 fps for the most authentic cinematic experience

This is very cool, even despite the strong possibility that 48 fps may not have much longer to live as a common format, since the Avatar sequels will likely be at 60, or perhaps even 72 fps.

As for HFR 4K sources, the only currently available solution as far as I know is RED’s REDRAY Cinema Player, which is listed at $1750 and is capable of 4K 3D at up to 60 fps.

The Blu-Ray Association began working on a 4K spec and associated disc/player technology about three months ago, but there’s no word yet on HFR capability.  They stated earlier this month that they predict consumer 4K blu-ray players and discs by the end of 2014.

Xbox One will show live NFL football games at 60 frames-per-second


Microsoft is collaborating with NeuLion, a cloud-based online streaming company, and the NFL Network to provide games at 60 fps (in 720P) on the Xbox One.

Access will require a subscription to Xbox Live Gold and a cable television plan that includes the NFL Network.

NeuLion co-founder Chris Wagner promises that they will “deliver for Xbox fans a tremendous live sports experience on the game console.”  CED magazine reports that viewers will have the option of streaming at 7 different qualities, thereby eliminating buffering issues:

Wagner said the company provides seven profiles that range from 6 Mbps, at 1280 x 720, at 60 fps at the high end, to 600 kbps, 464 x 264, at 30 fps; the rate depends, of course, on network conditions and viewers’ bandwidth. There will be no buffering at any rate, Wagner said.

NeuLion’s cloud-based platform will capture multiple live sports feeds and then format the content for delivery to the Xbox One.

NeuLion is also reportedly working on getting their app up and running on the PS4.

This all sounds great to me – a high frame rate is essential in order to follow the quick motion of the relatively small-sized ball/puck/etc.  Hopefully they’ll get it working at 1080P soon (although I’m unsure as to whether the Xbox One’s graphics card is capable of 1080P processing of cable feeds).

I also hope other sports franchises and broadcasters get on board with HFR soon…I have a feeling that once sports fans get a taste of true 60p 720P they won’t want to go back.

X-Men: Days of Future Past will NOT get an HFR 3D release

XMenAfter many conflicting reports regarding whether X-Men: Days of Future Past would be given an HFR 3D release (most are in agreement that, at the very least, the movie was shot in such a way that a 48 fps version could be extracted), Bryan Singer has given an official denial to The Hollywood Reporter:

“Creatively, though, Singer decided HFR wouldn’t be right for his new X-Men outing, which takes place in 1973 and the present.  While he did use a Phantom 3D rig to shoot at 3,600 fps for effects sequences involving the super-speedy character of Quicksilver, he declined to use HFR for the bulk of the movie. “In The Hobbit, which takes place in a more fantastic environment, it brings a magic and brightness,” says Singer. “But the same effect that benefits The Hobbit might not benefit the look of the particular movie I’m making. Especially in the 1973 sequences, it might look a little too strange, slightly too vivid”

“I had concerns about how certain sequences would look, and there is also a cost factor in rendering the visual effects.”

The article points out the fact that Peter Jackson was able to absorb much of the cost of making the movies in high frame rate 3D due to the fact that he owns WETA.  James Cameron, who is friends with Jackson, will likely get a similarly good deal even though he isn’t a direct participant in WETA.

And knowing Cameron, he’ll likely be enthused to have the opportunity to be the first filmmaker to demonstrate the true, full potential of HFR 3D with his Avatar sequel trilogy, hopefully making it at least as popular as Avatar made 3D.

Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman is another HFR evangelist:

“Exhibitors who put it in were bullish on it, and audiences liked it…I think it’s getting better and better. While it certainly was a slow starter, it’s going to be a game-changer.”

Which upcoming Warner Bros. movies do you think might be made in HFR or HFR 3D? Potentially Batman vs. Superman in 2015?

Report: HFR 3D theater count doubles for Desolation of Smaug


The number of theaters capable of projecting movies at high frame rates (48 fps, 60 fps) has nearly doubled since The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrived a year ago, according to The Wrap:

The studio is substantially expanding the number of theaters this time around. As many as 750 theaters will exhibit “The Desolation of Smaug” in the enhanced projection — up from roughly 450 theaters the first time.

Internationally, the increase in HFR 3D theaters is even more impressive, with Desolation playing on almost 2,500 screens, up from 1,669.

Warner Bros. has intentionally been very quiet about HFR 3D in the months and weeks leading up to Desolation‘s release. Last year, of course, discussion of AUJ’s 48 fps 3D was ubiquitous, with Peter Jackson, WETA and others writing articles and doing interviews about it, and with critics, movie/Hobbit fans, and tech enthusiasts all weighing in.

The response from critics leaned towards the negative, even though the great majority of movie fans seemingly either loved the experience outright or appreciated it while desiring improvements/tweaks.  So it makes sense to me that Warner Bros. wants the media’s focus to be on the movie and not its format this time (Peter Jackson told a reporter that “technology drove a lot of the reviews” of AUJ).

Press screenings for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug have all been in standard, 24 fps 3D to prevent this.

I think this is a good thing – this year the talk regarding HFR 3D will almost all be from Hobbit fans, and not fogey critics.  I’m very much looking forward to reading people’s thoughts especially given rumors that Jackson has taken steps to mitigate the most` common complaints people has regarding AUJ’s HFR 3D.

I’d bet that the overall buzz will be very good for HFR 3D this time around, thereby building support and momentum for future high frame rate movies.  Last time the negative noise from 24 fps traditionalists (most professional movie critics) was just too loud, resulting in the specious and commonly parroted conclusion that the HFR 3D experiment was a failure, an d coloring reviews of the movie.

The Wrap’s story confirms what I had long suspected due to my observations of packed HFR 3D showings: that HFR 3D was in great demand, selling out theaters many weeks after opening night:

“With the original ‘Hobbit,’ we kept selling out of tickets for our high frame rate auditoriums,” Russ Nunley, a spokesman for Regal, said. ” There was a huge demand from moviegoers who wanted to see the film exactly the way director Peter Jackson shot it.”

Regal’s HFR 3D screen count has increased dramatically, going from 100 last year to almost 400 this year.

IMAX has doubled their worldwide HFR 3D screen count to 100+, IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster tells The Wrap, adding that the number will rise since IMAX is still negotiating HFR 3D locations in China.

Latest video blog highlights the groundbreaking visual effects of The Desolation of Smaug

This video blog has some fantastic peeks at the state-of-the-art technology used to create some of the envelope-shredding stuff you’ll see in Desolation of Smaug. I’m particularly impressed by the sheer volume of complex fluid simulation required for the barrel sequence, and, most of all, the breakthroughs in complex object interaction and physics needed for the Bilbo/Smaug encounter amongst billions of coins and other assorted treasure. There’s also a great bit showing Peter Jackson using the virtual camera. I played with one of these a few years ago, and I’m as thoroughly amazed watching this kind of stuff now as I was back when this kind of tech debuted circa the production of Avatar.

Anyway, check it out below:

Official list of IMAX theaters that are HFR 3D capable

brnd_imaxlogo2925c_300dpiIMAX has posted a list of IMAX theaters that are capable of projecting HFR 3D content, but they take care to note that not all of these locations are guaranteed to be showing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in high frame rate 3D later this month:

“All playdates are pending. Please check with your local IMAX® theatre directly to find out if they will be showing the movie in HFR 3D.”

Here’s the full list of IMAX theaters “that are capable of projecting in HFR 3D for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”, as of December 5:



Scotiabank Chinook & IMAX – Calgary 


Regal Tikahtnu Commons Stadium 16 & IMAX – Anchorage


Edwards Aliso Viejo 20 & IMAX – Aliso Viejo

AMC Burbank 16 & IMAX – Burbank

Regal Hacienda Crossings Stadium 21 & IMAX – Dublin

AMC Glendora 12 & IMAX – Glendora

TCL Chinese Theatres IMAX – Hollywood

Edwards Irvine Spectrum 21 & IMAX – Irvine

AMC Century City 15 & IMAX – Los Angeles

Edwards Ontario Palace Stadium 22 & IMAX – Ontario

Edwards Mira Mesa Stadium 18 & IMAX – San Diego

AMC Mercado 20 & IMAX – Santa Clara

AMC Del Amo 18 & IMAX – Torrance


AMC Orchard 12 & IMAX – Westminster

AMC Westminster Promenade 24 & IMAX – Westminster


Penn Cinema Riverfront & IMAX – Wilmington


AMC Altamonte Mall 24 & IMAX – Altamonte

AMC Aventura 24 & IMAX – Aventura

Regal Hollywood 16 & IMAX – Ocala

Regal Pointe Orlando Stadium 20 & IMAX – Orlando

Muvico Parisian & IMAX – West Palm Beach


AMC North Point Mall 14 & IMAX – Alpharetta

AMC Avenue Forsyth 12 & IMAX – Cumming


Navy Pier IMAX – Chicago

Regal City North Stadium 14 – Chicago

AMC Barrington 30 & IMAX – South Barrington


AMC Studio 30 & IMAX – Olathe


AMC Columbia 14 & IMAX – Columbia


Paragon Odyssey 15 IMAX – Burnsville

New Jersey

IMAX, Tropicana Casino & Resort – Atlantic City

AMC Loews New Brunswick 18 & IMAX – New Brunswick

AMC Garden State Plaza 16 & IMAX – Paramus

New Mexico

Regal Winrock Stadium 16 Theatre & IMAX – Albuquerque


Regal Red Rock Stadium 16 & IMAX – Las Vegas

New York

AMC Loews 34th Street 14 & IMAX – New York

Regal Destiny USA Stadium 19 IMAX & RPX – Syracuse


AMC Grove City 14 & IMAX – Grove City


Landmark 10 Central & IMAX – Kingston

Cineplex Odeon Courtney Park & IMAX – Mississauga

Empire Empress Walk 10 Cinemas & IMAX – North York

Landmark Whitby 24 & IMAX – Whitby


Regal Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 & IMAX – Tigard


UA King of Prussia Stadium 16 & IMAX – King of Prussia


Mega-Plex Deux Montagnes 14 & IMAX – Duex-Montagnes

Mega-Plex Taschereau 18 & IMAX – Greenfield Park

Mega-Plex Marche Central 18 – Montreal

IMAX, Les Galeries de la Capitale – Quebec City

South Carolina

Regal Sandhill Stadium 16 – Columbia


Regal Pinnacle Stadium 18 & IMAX – Knoxville


AMC Northpark 15 & IMAX – Dallas

AMC Studio 30 & IMAX – Houston

Santikos Palladium IMAX – San Antonio


Megaplex 17 & IMAX Jordan Commons – Sandy


AMC Hoffman Center 22 & IMAX – Alexandria

AMC Tyson Corner 16 & IMAX – McLean

Regal Short Pump Stadium 14 & IMAX – Richmond


IMAX Lincoln Square Cinemas – Bellevue

Regal Issaquah Highlands Stadium 12 & IMAX – Issaquah

Regal Cascade Stadium 16 & IMAX – Vancouver


Carousel Hoyts IMAX – Perth, Australia

Cineplexx Salzburg – Salzburg, Austria

Cineplexx IMAX Donauplex 13 – Vienna, Austria

Cinepolis JK Iguatemi Shopping Centre IMAX – Sao Paulo, Brazil

Cinestar Berlin Sony Centre (Potsdamer Plaz) – Berlin, Germany

Cinestar Karlsruhe – Karlsruhe, Germany

UA iSQUARE IMAX Theatre – Hong Kong

Cineworld IMAX Dublin – Dublin, Ireland

Skyline Multiplex & IMAX – Milan, Italy

Cinepolis Universidad – Mexico City, Mexico

Cinepolis Angelopolis Puebla & IMAX – Puebla, Mexico

Pathe Arena Amsterdam – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Pathe Eindhoven – Eindhoven, Netherlands

Event Cinemas Queen Street & IMAX – Auckland, New Zealand

SM Cinema Mall of Asia IMAX Theatre – Manila, Philippines

SM Aura Premier IMAX – Taguig City, Philippines

Shaw Theatres Lido & IMAX – Singapore

Ster-Kinekor Gateway IMAX – Durban, South Africa

CGV Wangsimni IMAX – Seoul, South Korea

CGV Sangam & IMAX – Seoul, South Korea

CGV Ulsan Samsan – Ulsan, South Korea

Formula Kino Piterland IMAX Sapphire – St. Petersburg, Russia

Formula Kino Gemchuzhina & IMAX (Pearl Plaza) – St. Petersburg, Russia

Cinema Pathe Balexert – Geneva, Switzerland

Vieshow Banqiao Mega City Mall IMAX – Banqiao, Taiwan

Miramar IMAX Theatre – Taipei, Taiwan

IMAX Central Festival Chiang Mai – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Central Festival Hat Yai & IMAX – Hat Yai, Thailand

Glasgow Science Centre IMAX Cinema – Glasgow, United Kingdom

Bluewater Shopping Centre – Kent, United Kingdom

Odeon IMAX Swiss Cottage – London, United Kingdom

Odeon Manchester IMAX @ The Printworks – Manchester, United Kingdom

ODEON Trafford Centre & IMAX – Manchester, United Kingdom

Cineworld Nottingham & IMAX – Nottingham, United Kingdom

Cineworld Sheffield & IMAX – Sheffield, United Kingdom

Many theaters still don’t know whether they will be showing Desolation of Smaug in HFR 3D

I’m getting many reports from people across the United States who have called their local theater asking if they will be showing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in HFR 3D (48 fps 3D), and gotten a response of ”we don’t know yet.”

In just about all of these cases the theater representative goes on to say that they aren’t sure whether Warner Bros. will be sending them the HFR 3D version of DOS, even if they did show An Unexpected Journey in HFR 3D last December.

Perhaps Warner Bros. wants a smaller number of theaters to offer the high frame rate version of DOS this year than offered it last year?  Or maybe they’re still crunching the numbers to figure out which HFR 3D locations were the most successful, and adjusting this year’s list of theaters accordingly?

In any case, it’s definitely annoying that many locations still haven’t confirmed one way or the other.

I’m curious to hear from more of you regarding your experiences in regards to finding a theater near you showing Desolation of Smaug in HFR 3D.  And if any theater owners/managers want to chime in, we’d really appreciate it!