HFR 3D digital movies

Movies have been shot and displayed at 24 frames per second for over 80 years (before that silent films were filmed in somewhat lower frame rate somewhere between 16 and 18 frames per second). In 1927, when sound came along, the industry needed to agree on a motor-driven, constant camera speed. 35mm film stock is very expensive, so it needs to be as slow as possible. 24 fps was a commercial decision — the cheapest speed to provide basic quality — but it produces movement artifacts, like strobing, flicker and motion blur.. When you shoot movie at 24 fps you need to take into account the slow frame rate when designing for example camera movements (some camera movement speeds look good and some other pretty bad). In film era there were film system where higher frame rates were used: IMAX HD used 48 frames per second frame rare.

When movies are shot and displayed more and more with digital equipment, there seems to be some interest to change that old habit. In the digital cinema age, there’s no strong reasons whatsoever to stick to 24 fps anymore. Digital filming equipment can easily capture higher rate and digital storage is considerably cheaper than traditional film based movie distribution.

High Frame Rate 3D (often abbreviated to HFR 3D) is a Digital 3D motion picture format where a higher frame rate than the industry standard 24 frames per second is used. The format is widely introduced with the release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film series, beginning with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in December 2012. The system used in those movies use a frame rate of 48 frames per second. There are already many digital movie theaters that can show this new format, also in Finland.

Proponents of the format say that the use of a higher frame rate improves the quality of 3D footage by reducing strobing and motion blur. The 48 framer per second is a very practical frame rate for film industry because the practices learned on 24 frames per second filming will apply there well and the movies can be easily converted to traditional 24 frames per second film distribution when needed. Other potential higher frame rate for film production is 60 fps (frame rate used in HDTV productions and some 4K resolution cameras). According to Wikipedia other film-makers who intend to use the high frame rate 3D format include James Cameron (Avatar sequels) and Andy Serkis (George Orwell’s Animal Farm). Peter Jackson has a Q&A ON HFR 3D.

High frame rate is intended to improve especially 3D viewing. Theaters show 3D movies at 24 frames per second (FPS), but actually flash each frame image three times. Called triple flashing, this technique means viewers are actually seeing 144 frames per second, of triplicated content. Unfortunately, flashing the same frame three times takes some of the inherent flaws of standard frame rates and accentuates them when done in a 3D image.

Producing and showing feature films at higher frame rates will minimize or stop the motion blur, judder and strobing audiences see today, providing a more picture-perfect 3D display. Shot at higher frame rates, new 3D movies will be double-flashed by projectors to remove any hint of flickering. Fans watching a film produced at 48 FPS will see the same frame flashed twice per second, resulting in 96 FPS seen by each eye and 192 FPS overall.

Criticisms of the new high frame rate format include assertions that the “cinematic look” is lost with the use of high frame rates. Using higher frame rare does not unfortunately take out all 3D movie technology problems.


  1. Tomi says:

    ‘Hobbit’ Creates Big Data Challenge

    “In the past five years there has been an 8x increase in the amount of content being generated per every two-hour cinematic piece. Although 3D is not new, modern 3D technologies add from 100% to 200% more data per frame.”

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  3. The future of cinema and TV « Tomi Engdahl’s ePanorama blog says:

    [...] Some movies are being shot at raised frame rates, generally to audience approval. For example HFR 3D digital movies are shot often at 48 frames per second rate. The 48 framer per second is a very practical frame [...]

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