Monday, October 14, 2013

Reel Facts & Opinions - X-MEN: Days of Higher Frame Rates

Over the weekend, various news outlets reported that the next installment of the X-MEN series of superhero films has been shot in the 48fps format.
FPS refers to the number of images, or frames, in one second. Since the dawn of the movies, the industry standard has been 24fps. If this story holds true, then this X-MEN film, subtitled DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, would be the second major motion picture to be filmed in 48fps...with the first being Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT in 2012. Reviews for the look and feel of the 48fps HOBBIT were mixed to dismal, with many of the reactions comparing the format to a look of a stage-show or a video game.

Moving the industry to 48fps is something that pioneering filmmakers have been advocating for years; citing higher detail and a lack of motion blur as reasons to adapt to it. Filming at a higher frame rate has been done for years when capturing something intended to be played back in extreme slow motion, but filming with that many frames played back at normal speed can be jarring to the human eye as it is a type of visual we have never seen before; imagine being able to see every spoke in a bicycle wheel as it is spinning.
It could very well be that a higher frame rate is one of those tools which has its uses, much like 3D or IMAX. Reports from THE HOBBIT point towards some spectacular visuals when the camera is swooping around mountains and landscapes, but didn’t work when the scenes went intimate. So if a higher frame rate (HFR) is merely another filmmaking tool, then the tool is only as good as the hand that wields it.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is being directed by Bryan Singer. Although Singer has put together some fine films in his career (X-MEN, X2, VALKYRIE), he has never come across as a pioneer in filmmaking. James Cameron, who will be filming AVATAR 2 in 60fps (!), has in the past invented new technologies with own bare hands to realize his visions; films on his resume such as THE ABYSS, TITANIC, and AVATAR were brought to life by blazing new trails and trying things no one else dared to try. Other filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan (INCEPTION, THE DARK KNIGHT), and Alfonso Cuaron (GRAVITY) have also pushed the limits, and sometimes broken them.
Again, Singer is a fine director, but has never before broken through any new territories. The success of a new X-MEN movie in a new filming technique depends upon how well Singer wields this new tool. While many have already shunned 48fps, those same doubters have to pull for Singer to succeed; they know as well as everybody else that the world needs more films which are the next step in evolution, and less abominations.

What say you?


X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is slated for a May 2014 release. It stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Ellen Page, Hugh Jackman, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore, Anna Paquin, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart.


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