Special Effects maestro Douglas Trumbull has reported recently that James Cameron has been seriously investigating HFR (High Frame Rates) in excess of the paltry 48 frames per second used by Peter Jackson on the Hobbit. Doug is highly knowledgeable in this area and created staggering Special visual effects for Blade runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and a little film called 2001: A Space Odyessy.
As a guest at Trumbull’s facility way back in the day I was privileged to see Showscan as the process was then dubbed, at a special screening for Studio executives at Westwood Village in Los Angeles. At that time the image was shot on 65mm film (70mm when projected) at 60 fps instead of the usual 24 frames per second. I can tell you it’s a stunning process, like 3D without the glasses! It’s as if the cinema screen is a window and you are looking freely into a scene with depth and clarity like never seen before.
Showscan stalled in my view because it meant three times as much film stock had to be shot and printed for projection. It also required Cinemas to upgrade. Now as we move towards non film projection via D.C.P’s its less of a technological leap. Films are no longer coming from huge slabs of film but straight off hard disk.
In fact it’s becoming palatable for the big players like James Cameron, Peter Jackson and their peers to embrace the benefits of greater audience immersion, without the negatives of 3D glasses. You can read Doug’s comments here.
RED under the lead of Jared Land are pushing the technical envelope well past the current move towards 4K acquisition and delivery. Weapon Cameras operating at 8K resolution (8192 x 4320 pixels) are slated for live action unit use by the production. There are rumours that Cameron will out do the wonderfull underwater work he did on The Abyss by actually shooting in the Marianas trench for Avatar 2. Yes that means feature filmmaking at depths not for the faint hearted.
Weta Digital are probably right at this minute steeling their reserve in anticipation of animating, lighting, and rendering of previously unheard of pixel dimensions and frame rates! But then they like that challenge don’t they?