08 Jan 2013

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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