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

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.

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!

Advance tickets for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug available at 9am EST

***** Just a quick reminder that advance tickets for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug go on sale today at 9:00 am EST. *****

Fandango.com and Movietickets.com are already marking some of the showings of The Desolation of Smaug as HFR 3D (high frame rate 3D) showings.  They will continue to mark HFR 3D screenings as we get closer to release day.

Most, if not all, of the theaters on the 48 fps theater list will be showing Desolation of Smaug in HFR 3D, since they all showed An Unexpected Journey in 48 fps last year.

I’ll be updating the list continuously – if you have any additions or corrections, please contact me at mstat1@gmail.com

Eminem’s video for The Monster is shooting at 48 fps!

Eminem48fpsTheMonsterI’m a huge Eminem fan, so I was happy to learn today that he’s in Detroit with Rihanna shooting a video for his single “The Monster”, which is currently smashing the charts. But when I clicked over to Eminem’s Instagram page and saw the above photo of the slate revealing that it’s being shot at 48 fps, my excitement increased tenfold.

Eminem24fpsRapGodThere’s no news yet on whether The Monster will be released at 48 fps. But director Rich Lee obviously chose that frame rate for a reason since his most recent video for Eminem (“Rap God”) was shot at the traditional 23.976, as you can see on the slate to the right.  He also shot Eminem’s video for “Not Afraid” back in 2010 at 24 fps.

The version of “The Monster” that will be on YouTube/VEVO will almost certainly be 30 fps, since for whatever reason YouTube still doesn’t support anything over 30 fps.

Unless….YouTube will be using this video to debut an upgrade enabling HFR videos!

This could very well be the case, as the Monster video will no doubt be hugely popular – Eminem and Rihanna’s last video together, Love the Way You Lie, has wracked up 623 million views. Youtube could hardly choose a better way to show off a new 48 fps playback feature.

The 48 fps could also be for some kind of album promotion where the music video would be played before trailers in theaters that support 48 fps.

Em and Rihanna on the set of 'The Monster'

Em and Rihanna on the set of ‘The Monster’

Or maybe none of this will happen, and they decided to shoot at 48 fps to future-proof it or because it will be packed with slow motion scenes.

In any event, I’ll dig into this and see what else I can learn.

“The Monster” (featuring Rihanna) from The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is currently skyrocketing up the charts. It’s #2 on today’s new Billboard Hot 100 list and widely expected to reach the top next week.

HFR Movies is now on Twitter!

HFR Movies is now on Twitter! Here’s our twitter page:

twitter.com/HFR_Movies

I’ll always tweet when a new article goes up.  And as we approach The Desolation of Smaug I’ll be tweeting about any new theaters that will be showing Desolation in 48 fps 3D.  I’ll also tweet any theaters that for some reason either are no longer HFR 3D capable or won’t be showing the second Hobbit movie in HFR 3D.

I’ll also use Twitter to liveblog from events like The Hobbit Fan Event and HFR-related conferences / trade shows, and to share my thoughts regarding any news – and whatever pops into my head!

A huge thanks to everyone reading this site, and for being such insightful, intelligent commenters.  And, importantly, thanks for helping to push the world towards a motion blur and judder-free utopia.

If you want to keep up with all things HFR, please follow HFR_Movies!

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

Desolation of Smaug trailer #2 at 60 fps

Thanks to Nic727 for creating this interpolated 60 fps version of the new trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and to Joel May for providing fast hosting.

Nick727:

I’ve made this 60fps version of the trailer. Hope you will enjoy.

Desolation of Smaug trailer #2 at 60 fps

PS: It’s in English with french subtitle (because I’m french)

It’ll be interesting to see how much the press (and Warner Bros.) will talk about the HFR 3D this time around. The scuttlebutt is that the Hobbit team treated the HFR aspect of An Unexpected Journey (and the criticisms) as a learning experience, has worked out all the kinks, and is now primed to deliver, with their work on Smaug, the same sense of wonder and dazzlement people got from movies like Jurassic Park, Avatar and the newest addition to that list of classics – Gravity.