The release of Ang Lee's Gemini Man has resulted in an old conversation being pulled out of storage: the one about high frame rate (or HFR) technology. The tech, which drastically increases the number of frames you're seeing per second onscreen, was first notably used in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy (where it looked bad) and then again in Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (where it also looked bad).
Lee gave the format another go with Gemini Man, but - if the box office tallies on that wildly expensive film are any indication - audiences aren't exactly frothing at the mouth to see more HFR movies (in all fairness, audiences might also be staying away from Gemini Man because the trailers were boring and the movie's a dull slog, but who's to say?).
The future of HFR seems uncertain, in other words, and now it appears it won't be employed by James Cameron, one of the industry's biggest tech geeks, in his long-gestating and currently-shooting parade of Avatar sequels. Well, not for the most part, anyway. In a new interview with Collider, Cameron says:
“I mean, I have a personal philosophy around high frame rate, which is that it is a specific solution to specific problems having to do with 3D. And when you get the strobing and the jutter of certain shots that pan or certain lateral movement across frame, it’s distracting in 3D. And to me, it’s just a solution for those shots. I don’t think it’s a format. That’s just me personally.
I don’t think it’s like the next 70 millimeter or the next big thing. I think it’s a tool to be used to solve problems in 3D projection. And I’ll be using it sparingly throughout the Avatar films, but they won’t be in high frame rate.”
“To me, the more mundane the subject, two people talking in the kitchen, the worse it works, because you feel like you’re in a set of a kitchen with actors in makeup. That’s how real it is, you know? But I think when you’ve got extraordinary subjects that are being shot for real, or even through CG, that hyper-reality actually works in your favor. So to me, it’s a wand that you wave in certain moments and use when you need it. It’s an authoring tool.”
So, to recap: the Avatar sequels may incorporate a smidge of HFR here or there, but by and large, Cameron will be eschewing the format. You are, of course, free to agree or disagree with Cameron on this approach. I happen to be with him on this one: HFR makes me feel like I'm watching a cheap soap opera, which is never my aim when going to the movies, and while I can imagine it being used effectively in small doses (as Cameron suggests above) or for VR technology (to better sell the illusion of being in an actual 3D space), I have serious doubts about presenting entire films in that format. It's just not something I'm interested in.
But, hey, everyone's got an opinion, so let's hear yours: are you pleased to learn the Avatar sequels won't be going the HFR route? Displeased? Are you still skeptical that we're really gonna get four more Avatar movies? Did you see Gemini Man, and if so, how many naps did you take during it? Please let us know in the comments below, and stay tuned for more as further updates roll in.