James Cameron: Avatar sequels may be variable frame rate

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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

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

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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

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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.

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:

US/CANADA

Alberta

Scotiabank Chinook & IMAX – Calgary 

Alaska

Regal Tikahtnu Commons Stadium 16 & IMAX – Anchorage

California

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

Colorado

AMC Orchard 12 & IMAX – Westminster

AMC Westminster Promenade 24 & IMAX – Westminster

Delaware

Penn Cinema Riverfront & IMAX – Wilmington

Florida

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

Georgia

AMC North Point Mall 14 & IMAX – Alpharetta

AMC Avenue Forsyth 12 & IMAX – Cumming

Illinois

Navy Pier IMAX – Chicago

Regal City North Stadium 14 – Chicago

AMC Barrington 30 & IMAX – South Barrington

Kansas

AMC Studio 30 & IMAX – Olathe

Maryland

AMC Columbia 14 & IMAX – Columbia

Minnesota

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

Nevada

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

Ohio

AMC Grove City 14 & IMAX – Grove City

Ontario

Landmark 10 Central & IMAX – Kingston

Cineplex Odeon Courtney Park & IMAX – Mississauga

Empire Empress Walk 10 Cinemas & IMAX – North York

Landmark Whitby 24 & IMAX – Whitby

Oregon

Regal Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 & IMAX – Tigard

Pennsylvania

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

Quebec

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

Tennessee

Regal Pinnacle Stadium 18 & IMAX – Knoxville

Texas

AMC Northpark 15 & IMAX – Dallas

AMC Studio 30 & IMAX – Houston

Santikos Palladium IMAX – San Antonio

Utah

Megaplex 17 & IMAX Jordan Commons – Sandy

Virginia

AMC Hoffman Center 22 & IMAX – Alexandria

AMC Tyson Corner 16 & IMAX – McLean

Regal Short Pump Stadium 14 & IMAX – Richmond

Washington

IMAX Lincoln Square Cinemas – Bellevue

Regal Issaquah Highlands Stadium 12 & IMAX – Issaquah

Regal Cascade Stadium 16 & IMAX – Vancouver

INTERNATIONAL

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!

My Thoughts on the The Hobbit Fan Event

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Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel) tries to remember the size of the fish she caught…or something.

I was lucky enough to get a last-minute spot at the Hobbit Fan Event at the Grove theatre in LA, where I saw about 20 minutes of scenes (in 2D) from The Desolation of Smaug, along with a new production blog and a music video for Desolation’s end credit’s song - ”I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran. You can check them both out below:

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Production Diary 12:

Ed Sheeran — I See Fire — The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug:

As you may have read, this event, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, consisted of 4 satellite-linked theaters (LA, New York, Wellington and London) that had live Q&A’s with cast and Peter Jackson, with many more theaters worldwide linked into the feed to watch the happenings.  Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel) was at my location.

Technically and logistically things went very smoothly.  I have to say that experiencing an impromptu competition over who can cheer the loudest between fans thousands of miles apart while simultaneously reading a scroll of live tweets from the thousands tuning in gave me a bit of future-shock, as it was a potent reminder of the amazingly connected world we live in these days.

As soon as I entered the theater and saw so many wearing obviously painstakingly assembled costumes I knew I was in the presence of some of the most devoted fans of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. Several women cosplaying Tauriel looked so good clad in their intricately detailed elven garb sewn from expensive-looking materials that at first I thought I was running into paid models wearing wardrobe from the movie itself (they all turned out to be fans).

The event also drew a sizable contingent of people with New Zealand accents whom I’m guessing travelled here to see Lilly / Tauriel in person.  Lilly, by the way, was very funny and easygoing throughout the event, cracking jokes and interacting with the audience.  She also exuded passion for Tauriel and Tolkien’s world in general.  Since reading the Silmarillion she’d loved how badass the elves are, so this role was a dream come true.

As for the extended scenes that were screened: they were all great.  The action – particularly the badass moves pulled off by Tauriel and Legolas – was impressive, and the humorous moments were at least as funny as the best funny parts of An Unexpected Journey.  Lilly went through a ton of movement training in order to attain the fluid fighting style of the elves, and it shows.  I bet she’s going to be a huge crowd-pleaser this December.

Despite Peter Jackson and the WB representatives making a very big deal about the fact that very spoilery plot elements would be shown for the first time, it turned out that the screened scenes were all teased in the latest trailer (maybe they chose not to show the super-secret scenes at the last possible second?).

Here’s what was shown:

1. Bilbo climbing to the top of the forest canopy and then fighting with the spiders (who have great voices by the way).

2. The interrogation of the orc by Thranduil, Legolas and Tauriel.

3. Bilbo and the dwarves escape from the elves’ lair via barrels.

4. Bard, the dwarves and Bilbo have some moments of distrust while approaching Laketown by boat, before settling on a plan to smuggle themselves past the gates.

5. Outside the tunnel to Smaug’s lair, Balin remarks to Bilbo on the courage of Hobbits.

6. Bilbo descending the stairs inside the dragon’s lair, then walking (noisily) upon the seemingly endless pile of gold coins and jewels. (by the way, the treasure looks amazing, and the physics of how all of the small pieces of treasure interact is spot-on, mainly because most of it is practical rather than CG).

7. Finally, they showed the first few minutes of the Smaug reveal sequence.  This is done PERFECTLY – it’s obviously one of the most important sequences in the trilogy, and Jackson nailed it.  I had goosebumps.

The acting and action were uniformly great, and the tone/mood was consistent.  If Jackson manages to keep this tone and level of quality throughout the film we might end up getting one of the greatest adventure movies of all time.  In short, the most recent trailer rekindled my excitement for The Desolation Of Smaug, but this event sent me over the top.

Video Game High School: a 48 fps web series

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The web series Video Game High School (VGHS) is pioneering high frame rates online: every episode of the second season, which premiered July 26, has been shot and released in 48 fps 1080p.

Described as “an action/comedy web series about best friends, first loves, and landing that perfect head shot”, VGHS uses 48 fps for the scenes that take place within the game world, and 24 fps (with each frame shown twice) for the “real life” parts.

VGHS co-creator Freddie Wong sees the show’s HFR, which he says evokes the feeling of gaming, as a vital drawing point: (via startribune.com)

“There’ll be a reason to come to our site. What 48 (frames per second) brings is a gritty realism to it. It feels hyper-real.”

The show has become quite popular– the first episode of the second season has so far drawn 3.6 million views on Youtube (which still cannot play videos at high frame rates) and 300,000 views in the first two days alone on Rocket Jump, which Wong co-owns.

Wong and his co-creator Matt Arnold had to invent their own embedded video player in order to display their show in HFR.  So far, that player only exists on Rocket Jump.

What’s especially interesting to me is that Wong and Arnold employed various techniques to counteract the negative elements of the HFR in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. From StarTribune:

Some movie critics who saw “The Hobbit” said the format revealed too many details, exposing the fakery of costumes, makeup and props.

Actors can appear to move at high speed unintentionally in what co-creator Matt Arnold calls the “Benny Hill” effect, referring to the sped-up scenes common to the British comedy TV show.

To address these issues, the creators of “VGHS” added back some blurriness that high frame rate recording had eliminated in some scenes. “VGHS” actors also wore less makeup than actors in “The Hobbit,” so there’s less chance that the format’s extra detail will be distracting, Arnold says.

I’m eager to hear something official regarding the rumored tweaks made to The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug‘s HFR 3D post-production pipeline.  It’s also quite possible that Jackson, like the VGHS creators, optimized the makeup, and perhaps set design and lighting as well, during this past summer’s shoot for Desolation and There and Back Again.

• Watch the HFR (48 fps) version of Video Game High School at Rocket Jump
• Follow VGHS on Facebook
• Follow VGHS on Twitter

Dueling claims about HFR and X-Men: Days of Future Past

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There are dueling assertions regarding what’s going on with HFR and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

If you’ve been following, you know that director Bryan Singer really liked the 48 fps 3D experience of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – but that he never confirmed anything.

• assertion #1, from Variety via Devin Faraci of badassdigest.com, is that Fox is straight-out denying that the movie was shot in 48 fps.

Devin speculates that perhaps they shot the movie in such a way that a 48 fps version would be somehow captured alongside a true (not extracted) 24 fps version and the studio would make the decision later, but he casts doubt on the feasibility of this due to the cost of doubling the VFX for the 48 fps version.

assertion #2, from Eric Vespe of aintitcool.com, is that the movie will indeed be released in the 48 fps 3D format but that the studio is waiting to make the announcement because of perceived negative reaction to The Hobbit’s high frame rate.  Eric claims to have heard this from two credible sources.

• meanwhile, Drew McWeeny of hitfix.com wrote a story about Fox’s denial of the rumor, which included this tidbit:

Even the studio seemed a little surprised and confused by the story overall when contacted about it, hardly the slick denial that they normally have ready when they’re not yet prepared to announce something.

Drew later updated his story with the following:

I am hearing now that the film was shot in 48 FPS, which would suggest that this decision about whether or not to release it that way was one they made during post.

So basically this whole story is a mess, and no one seems to be clear on the issue.  Devin and Eric speculate that they shot it at 48 fps to future proof it, but won’t actually release it in HFR.  This is certainly possible.

Confusing, right?  Anyway, I’m still holding out hope for a 48 fps release.

Official HFR 3D version of the (current?) Desolation of Smaug trailer debuts

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In what appears to be the beginning of the promotion of the high frame rate 3D aspect of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, an official, 48 fps 3D version of the June trailer (there’s some confusion as to whether it contained any new shots) screened last Sunday at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) Awards in Amsterdam.

And the word is that the footage looks much improved over the 48 fps 3D from the first Hobbit movie. 3Dfocus.co.uk writes:

The trailer – which included a first full body shot of the dragon Smaug – looked pristine, and to this viewer had none of the ‘video’ quality which was a common criticism of the first installment.

THR reports:

The preview received enthusiastic applause from the technically savvy audience, which this week is exploring advancements in cinema and TV technology at the conference.

So did this trailer contain a new shot of Smaug that wasn’t in the first trailer, as 3Dfocus.co.uk reports?

Or should we trust The Hollywood Reporter, which writes that it was the “current trailer”?

In any event, we’re almost due for a brand new Desolation Of Smaug trailer – I expect a trailer packed with unrevealed footage to debut within the next 5 weeks.

Peter Jackson spoke via videotape at the IBC event about the importance of pushing the limits of cinema technology:

“Sometimes people don’t regard imagination and technology as being one and the same, supporting each other. In the case of the film industry – and particularly the films I make – I cannot exercise my imagination without the support of technology

This is a great time to be a filmmaker. Just about anything you imagine can be put on screen today. The amount of freedom I have is absolutely incredible. That is due to all the wonderful technology companies and the innovators out there who keep pushing the boundaries. There is going to be innovation in the entertainment business that we cannot even dream about today.”

That last sentence gets me hyped for the future of entertainment (not that I wasn’t hyped already!)  Jackson is right that many radical innovations are past the horizon and beyond our powers of extrapolation from current tech and trends.

Virtual Reality will be huge, as will ever increasing frame rates and resolution.  And I would count on a greater number of 360 degree dome-like theaters for full immersion without a VR headset.

But beyond that it’s almost impossible to predict which direction (or directions) entertainment will take.  Do all roads lead to The Matrix?