08 Jan

Why is 24p so good? Here's a new theory

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Why is 24p better for storytelling than 48 fps? Why is 24p better for storytelling than 48 fps? MGM/Peter Jackson


We've talked about high frame rates before, and why they look "too real".  Now, Redshark contributor Fanjan has a new, fascinating and plausible theory

The Hobbit has now been showing for a while and the discussion is intensifying about the question of 24fps vs. 48fps. What I have noticed from those who took the trouble to watch both the 48fps and 24fps versions is that, at least in my country, the 48fps version is in 3D, whereas the 2D version is usually shown in 24p.

All of this has given me some thoughts, excitement, and tribulations about my future in film and how, if it comes to pass, to adapt. In other words, what we can learn from this debate. 
But first some random questions.


Has anyone seen The Hobbit at 48fps in 2D and compared that to the 24fps 2D version? (Although I believe that is impossible, at least at this time). Has anyone watched any 48fps movie in 2D and compared it to the same movie in 24fps? 

If higher frame rates are better, and for the argument let’s assume they are, why do we not skip 48fps and go straight to 60fps in cinema? The new Panasonic GH3 does 60p at HD (last I checked) natively. My GH2 does it with a hack I believe (I haven't tried it or investigated yet due to recording media implications)


24fps is cinema's "misdirection"

I have thought, and still think that 24fps is to cinema what misdirection is to the magician. Most of us know that the magician is playing tricks on us, yet we like it,  because it gives us enjoyment when he does “magic”. We want to know how the magician did the trick, but we have an even stronger urge not to know because then the enjoyment of the trick is lost on us. The same can be said for telling stories through film media, dramatic and epic stories. You notice the effect of 24fps but our brains process it "out of sight" so that you are “seeing” a story. You see a lie but you like it; you see the magic trick but enjoy the deception.

For cinema we like that this story is fake reality. 24fps gives us that unrealistic reality if you will; 24fps allows us to live in the fantasy world of this story and accept it as reality. But this cinema "misdirection" might have absolutely nothing to do with fps. (Please note that I am not referring to the 3D experience which is an experience in itself.)

However, 48fps seems to be here to stay even if it just becomes a tool like depth of field, lighting, composting etc. Faster frame rates, as many have pointed out from watching The Hobbit, makes the movie look "fake", “like a soap opera" or "a theatre performance". But the movie goers have also commented on how awesome it looks; but again that is in 3D. I also suspect that those for whom it really doesn’t matter, and this might be the majority of the viewers, will not even comment on the difference.

When I watched the movie Public Enemies, I got the impression that the director Michael Mann (due respect given) didn't realise what HD does, in terms of letting the audience get lost in the story. There was so much detail it was distracting; at least I found it distracting. I found it too real. I watched it again a few nights ago and got kind of lost in the story, but suddenly a scene where Edgar and his entourage walk down the corridor... BAM! It feels like I'm watching behind the scenes footage, real world footage; footage of actors playing an act. Then again, maybe it has nothing to do with HD and just the way Mann shot the movie that threw me off? I must add, most of my movie watching happens at home, on a 32inch LCD (or my 15inch laptop) and as for the cinemas where I live, I cannot comment on HD projection.

When I watched 300 - the sound alone makes that a big screen movie, for me.

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  • Consider the 12 and 4fps rates that directors like Wong Kar Wai use. There is blur and stutter for a reason. Your mind is made to fill in gaps, much like it would between the panes of a comic strip. A picture is worth a thousand words, but 48 pictures per second doesn't mean 48 thousand words in that second.
    Shutter angle and fps are wonderful tools that affect perception and 24p is a (fortunate) happy middle where it's just smoothe enough to be comfortable, but blurry enough to separate you from reality.

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  • Previously everyone spent a lot of time and money desperately trying to get the film look with video. 50i Interlaced video was a big negative because it looked too real. Motion was too smooth. 25 Progressive was the way forward. Much more 'filmic.' Now however, as frame rates increase, film itself will begin to look more like video. Obviously, in terms of the quality of the image, there is no comparison between interlaced video and 48fps film. But the lack of motion blur, the 'too real' look, reminds me of what everyone has been trying to avoid for the past 6 years or so.

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  • If it aint broke...

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  • Whilst I haven't managed to watch the HFR version of the hobbit yet (not in any cinema near me), from what people are saying, it sounds like the effects are "hyper-real" meaning too much details. Could this be used as a deliberate device? E.g. as a Wizard of Oz moment, (perhaps in some form of Cyberpunk film, when someone first connects to the internet, or other similar moment, describing a altered perception of reality)

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  • I think 48fps, 24fps et al, are going to end up being style choices on the production side, and the options will become more numerous on the projection side. It'll come down to a matter of preference rather than technological limits.

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  • I think the answer is simple really, we associate HFR to video. When video cameras got HD and tried to emulate cinema the 1st thing they did was "reduce" the frame rate going from 50i to 25 or 24p. Yes we all know the difference between p and i, but the visual impact if both is big. 50i gives us by interlacing a smoother playback, movements are fluid, no jerkiness in the pans and less and different motion blur. I thing our brains associate that smoothness of movement immediately to video, to TV and the flicker of 24 or25p to fantasy. a RED IS a video camera, it has higher contrast and less latitude then film, so if you shoot it a HFR.... your not far from a TV camera, its " too real", too smooth, too sharp, too contrasty. We basically loose all the "Magic of Film" that video cameras have been trying to emulate for years.

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  • A late side note to fill-in a couple details.

    The Hobbit was not released in 2D HFR. So unless it is seen in post or some future seminar by some chance, it doesn't seem as if there will be comparisons. As far as, if it ain't broke...3D starts out broke on so many levels. HFR is one (partial) remedy. Cameron made the remark several times that he thought more engineering attention should be paid to HFR before putting time into higher resolution (this, before 4K.)

    Park Road representative at SMPTE/NAB event said the reason for 48 rather then 60 for the Hobbit was that it was unknown whether manufacturers could get 60fps gear in the field while they were willing to bet that 48 could be done.

    At the same SMPTE event, several presenters showed several reasons why 48 would not be as good a choice as 60does including a discussion that there is a speculated threshold above 48 that needs to be crossed.

    There are not many other HRF projects – so except for the further releases of The Hobbit, there won't be much to compare. Cameron stated that Avatar II was in line for 60fps...with no script announced, that seems far away.

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  • Hi, film student here... while this conversation is interesting, I think it could use some cold hard facts about video.

    "The Film Look". The film look refers to the way film adds color and grain to an image, along with the dynamic range and frame rate of film. Most people think 24p means "film look", which is partially true. The way 24p is displayed has a certain look to the motion used in cinema because of the illusion it creates. There's multiple ways to describe the difference between that and 30p.. but it all depends on how it's displayed...

    So a TV or monitor these days usually display is 60p, some 120p. My Panasonic's only do 60, but have a 24p mode that unfortunately introduces flicker.

    Some of you may know the math. 24 frames doesn't fit into 60 frames nicely. Most monitors or players do what is called a 3:2 pulldown. Frame A gets 3 frames, frame B gets 2 frames etc... until we reach 60p. 120p monitors can evenly distribute 24p (24*5=120) but just know that's it never "true 24p" on your laptop there.

    Now I didn't see the Hobbit in 48p, but I can imagine what people described as "too smooth". It'ls like when your new TV turns on that smooth motion setting that only I can notice in room of people for some reason... :P But I haven't seen 48 so I can comment on that.

    We can talk about motion blur though. Now most videodudes will recommend you the half rule of setting your shutter speed to twice your frame rate. The reason for that is motion and camera movements look natural at that point, go to far and your video won't mimick the human eye.

    For those who don't know, shutter speed determines the amount of time each frame or pictures records. Obviously you can't go below 1/24 with 24p without it looking funky, but any higher than 1/50 and your video might lack some blur to the motion.

    A big problem in special effects is that while cinematic video requires a slow shutter speed, digital effects artist need a high shutter speed to map and track points on the footage. James Cameron solved this, I believe, by making a camera that records it's own motion data so that it can be used to map and track visual effects.

    THE FUTURE I think is in 4K RAW VIDEO, because you can kill two birds with one stone between viideo and photo. Especially with documentary work, you will no longer have to make a choice between taking a video and shooting pictures (if your in single-servo mode that is). Just imagine a camera like that with lytro's focus-after-capturing technology...

    SO while I didn't give any insight on the future of frame rates :P Hopefully you learned something about the current technology before making assumptions.

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  • Maybe I am wrong, but for a 3D films, there two images instead of one. So, would it be possible that it is only a 2x24fps, so 24fps for each eye ? It would explain why we see a difference between a 2D film at 24fps and a 3D film at 2x24fps: the two eyes don't see exactly the same thing.

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  • I saw the Hobbit in 48p 3D, and momentarily in 48p 2D when the cinema computer had to reboot. It got us a free pass to see the movie again which was very good. My first impressions were that it was so very smooth I felt I was editing a video, and so real I felt like it was a documentary on discovery channel or something. It was so real I also felt like I was on the set, or location, and even felt fake. I am from New Zealand , so it was disconcerting to have dressed up people running around places I know. All that, was quite a mind war at first. Basically so real, it looked fake, and was hard to get into the story. HOWEVER, I got used to it by 3 quarters way through the film.... and the second time through I had got used to the frame rate , 3D and realism, and I did get into the story, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The 482d moment, I actually liked it, as without the 3D I felt I was back in the movies again, and it was just as good in 2D.
    After having said all that about my personal first experience with 48p 3D, I think it is here to stay, but not sure to what degree. The deal is, that I believe we are at another crucial historical time where we must redefine 'Movies' again. I think what we have come to think of as cinema, is what we have gotten used to. 24p was not based on what is a good frame rate, but hard solid dollars. It was the slowest rate that could be gotten away with, for the price it cost to produce. Anime went down to 5 frames , and even slower.. and still is accepted. Color also, was due to limited processes (I watched a video where Kodak was working hard to get its film stock to imitate video colors) and grain and scratch, dust, jitter, vignettes, etc, were all failures of the system , that we have gotten used to, and which has helped define the 'look' we now call cinema. The duration of 90 to 120 minutes was summed up by Alfred Hitchcock as being intrinsically connected with the capacity of the human bladder. Cinema used to be anything goes.. just like TV. But when TV came along, cinema suffered a crisis and a two hour movie was the only thing people would pay a ticket to see. Celluloid film and projectors were what defined cinema for a long time, along with all its 'failings'. ...that, and all the above is now no longer true. Video projectors and even LED screens are replacing film. We are back at square one. What is cinema? Frame rate, color , method of showing it, length , content, no longer figure. The only factor that makes cinema now , is the cinema. Who is willing to go out for the night to the cinema. ALL the rest is now on a par with other delivery methods. It all boils down to what will people want to see, and pay to see, no matter what way you show it and any number of technical details. It's now ALL THE SAME. Youtube, TV, Cinema, Mobile device... all delivered in similar manner... digitally. Now we need to redefine what a movie is. 48p 3D is only another flavour we have on the menu.

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