The move to 48 frames per sec

RED Digital Cinema company has been very active in pushing a cinema quality experience. We spoke during the week to RED founder Jim Jannard, who also founded Oakley, Inc. The RED Digital Cinema Camera Company is one of the companies behind the move to shooting stereo films at 48 fps rather than the traditional 24fps – in fact it’s safe to say RED is the strongest force behind this move. RED’s first camera, auspiciously named the RED ONE, was developed specifically to match the look and resolution of 35mm film by recording RAW 4K digital images at 30 frames per second. RED launched the Red One and the company at NAB 2005, at a tiny 20×10 booth in the South Hall.

RED’s founder Jim Jannard started the camera company in the hope of replacing film as an ageing, and what he says had become disrespected, medium.

“The industry was not going to develop a suitable film replacement for motion capture,” said Jannard. “They were trying to sell the idea that 1080P was adequate. It isn’t. I have shot for over 30 years and it killed me how film was being disrespected. Film deserves to go to the retirement home being proud of its successor.”

Since 2007, a number of high profile directors have filmed with RED cameras. David Fincher’s ‘The Social Network’ and Rob Marshall’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ were both shot on RED cameras, with ‘Pirates’ being captured in 3D with stereo camera rigs.

Now, with RED’s next generation EPIC cameras, (the Epic X started shipping this week), people can shoot in much higher resolution and at higher frame rates. As such these new cameras are being used on major films like ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’.

The EPIC contains a 5K or 14 megapixels Mysterium-X sensor, capable of capturing up to 120 frames per second. In many respects it is a high end stills camera, shooting SLR style stills 120 times a second.

So why do we need such high resolution? According to Jim Jannard, it’s all part of making the experience at the cinema something ‘big’.

“You need to see something special like the old 70mm days,” he said. “If the experience at the theater is not important, the industry loses. 5K has enough information to knock your socks off, which is the desired effect.”

Add to this the EPIC’s ability to shoot at a super-wide dynamic range – up to 18 stops – using RED’s proprietary HDRx. The EPIC actually films two image tracks ‘A’ & ‘X’ during one normal exposure cycle, an ‘A’ track for normal exposure and an X-track for highlights, hence a much shorter exposure, these can then be manipulated in post and combined into one image, either as a mix or temporally adjusted using Red’s innovative Magic Motion option.

These advancements are not lost on some of the most tech-evangelistic directors of today. James Cameron, for example, happens to own 50 EPIC cameras.

Then there’s Peter Jackson, who is currently filming ‘The Hobbit’ with EPIC cameras, in stereo, and at twice the standard frame rate.

“He’s shooting his movie at 48 frames per second giving you twice as much visual information,” said RED’s Ted Schilowitz. “He has now 30 of these cameras in multiple rigs all running around New Zealand.”

Other filmmakers, too, are pushing higher frame rates as the next cinematic evolution. Visual effects legend Doug Trumbull, known for his work on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Blade Runner’, recently announced an upgrade to his patented high-speed, large-format Showscan film technology for the digital realm.

Although it may still take some time to convince every filmmaker to move to higher frame rates, or even to move away from shooting on old fashioned film, the technology is here and the results, according to Schilowitz, speak for themselves.

“It’s so incredibly immersive that you feel like you’re being literally thrust into the screen,” he said. “So it’s no wonder that guys like Peter Jackson are excited.”

In the meantime, Jim Jannard favors a “never-ending quest to make things better” in terms of image quality and options for the RED cameras, and suggests that consumers, not just professionals, will soon be using and watching 4K footage in their homes.

Here is an interview fxguide recorded for News Corp’s The Daily.

20 thoughts on “The move to 48 frames per sec”

  1. OK.. May I see a 48fps shot? I speak for myself in saying that ALL… ALL.. I mean ALL of the movie experience we know is in the “flavor” of film’s traditional cadence… 24 frames per second.

    When you leave that movement of imagespace(24 frames per second/180 degree shutter).. that blur.. that strobe… that feeling you get when watching a movie becomes something else… and it’s not the kind of film I want to watch. So.. rather than talking about how “awesome” it is… please show us the look of 48fps?… and I promise the community of artists that respect film will give you their verdict. Stop telling what we are supposed to like.

    They keep coming up with new gimmicks to wow us, proudly announcing that they could, and never really asked themselves if they should?

  2. Your point is well made – for many people 24fps is what they want, and that is importantly valid. Still others – especially in the area of stereo like the look of 48fps, stereo displayed at 4K resolution. I personally watched footage at 4K – 48fps etc and it was great – but your right it was not filmic – it was something else. I did not mean to imply this was the only option moving forward – but that RED was leading the move to go this way, but I certainly dont advocate 48/stereo/4K for everything and if the story sounded like it was saying that I am sorry.


  3. – BTW, Do you think Ted is the type of guy that would say anything negative about the choices of a filmmaker who just bought 30 of their expensive cameras? Or 50 of them? I would say anything to make them look like the most brilliant artists in cinema history if I were him.

  4. I agree with you on using tech to display tech based entertainment.. like extreme sports, science/planetarium displays and such… but my fondest memories as a kid are of the journey to the movies and the escape and wonder that they provided…. you don’t change that experience.. you should just do more of it…..

  5. Oh I doubt any equipment manufacturer would say negative things about their cameras or clients for that matter.
    I guess the interview was not to your taste – and I am fine with that – thanks for your feedback – I personally always like hearing good or bad comments when they are expressed reasonably and respectfully

    all good


  6. I am blown away that James Cameron (idolized his films) and PeterJackson would want to go there? Maybe they are not the type of artists I thought they were?

  7. I am not being sarcastic but if you think you know better than Jim Cameron – go make that film ! 🙂
    – I’d love to watch it – we need more of those sort of movies… I’d love to see an old style Jim Cameron film by Matt Moses … really there is little stopping us all these days… Go for it Matt – Seriously make a short – make “that” film 🙂 and contact us so we can cover it at Sundance and Cannes 🙂
    (No sarcasm)

    Thanks again


  8. I have to see what this actually looks like before I can cast a comment about it really.
    Surely some demo clips are up somewhere ?

    ‘If the experience at the theater is not important, the industry loses. 5K has enough information to knock your socks off, which is the desired effect.’
    I think the other components in a film are more important, story, acting, cinematography, sound etc etc
    Although I may not be reading that how he meant it ? (but I do agree that epic + lovely lenses look fantastic)

  9. Having just worked with a Red Epic recently at 48fps, I could tell you it doesn’t rip you away from the cinematic experience as much as you might think – but of course that is my opinion. I think something that a lot of people miss with shooting at a higher frame rate and also in stereo, is that it seems to make a lot of sense. Take James Cameron’s “Avatar” for example. It was an incredibly immersive film. Imagine how much more realistic it could have felt without being in 24fps and having that film look; Granted that is what he was going for. Pushing those higher frame rates makes that “real life immersion” just that much closer to grasp. It sounds blasphemous, but things evolve, even filmmaking.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, look at it as another option that adds a different and new experience. It may not be loved by diehard film fans, but it really seems like a logical step in comparison to legitamit gimmics. D-Box anyone?…

  10. From a technical standpoint, as a VFX artist, I want the most information that I can get to work with but this isn’t like the development of colour or sound, it’s more like Betamax vs VHS or better yet, SD vs HD.

    Most consumers haven’t moved onto Blu Ray yet, they’ve only taken HD cable/satellite because it’s been pushed so hard by the suppliers, and how many people have bought 3D TV’s?

    Content is king. Formats are not a driving force.

  11. Richard Butterfoss

    Thank you for this great presentation! I have heard so many great things about the Red camera. I meet with many great producers and actors in Philly. P.E.N. AND M.P.E.G. meeting each month brought my attention to ‘Big Red’. You can find the groups on Facebook. I have won a few awards with my Canon XL1s. Got to walk the red carpet in NYC! I now use a Canon XL-H1 shooting at 24fps. I have been very happy with it. I am very interested in the Red and would like to see it in action in the Philly area. Cameron, Scott, and Jackson are my favorite Producers. I take their word on Red.

  12. I’m in my 40’s, and have been making movies for 20 years. I remember when film was 24 and video was ALWAYS 60i – and it was instantly obvious whether you were watching film or video. And the immediate calculus was “film=expensive/good” and “video = cheap/bad”.

    We’ve since seen 24p video (that “movie look!”, 60fps HD – even iPhones at 720p30 video. (And we add noise to simulate film grain!)

    My teenage daughter (and her generation) do not see the stark differences between film & video – it’s all just moving digital images to them.

    I think my generation will always see film’s characteristics (grain, motion blur, jitter, etc) and associate them with the “movies”. Anyone seen a classic movie on an HDTV that is artificially doubling the frame rate with “Smooth Motion” or whatever they call it? It looks horrible (to me!)

    But the more we see clean, digital images in “movies” and other high quality content, the less the equation of “film=good and digital/video=bad” will be true.

    When I first saw Red 4K theater at NAB, it was amazing – definitely different than film – but trying to describe it… it was like perfect film – without the artifacts of grain & jitter.

    This year, I saw SONY’s 24p-4K projections, and again – it was incredibly pristine, no grain, no jitter/weave and the images looked almost lifelike… until there was motion in the shot! Then, all of a sudden these weird motion blur artifacts jump into my pristine image, and quite frankly – distracts me from what I’m watching!

    At that moment, I understood the push for higher frame rates. It will take decades, but I think that 24 fps will eventually be remembered as a “retro look” like technicolor film and 4:3 TVs. And the kids will ask us old timers – what is it about that degraded stuttering image that you like?

    But it’s going to be a bumpy ride along the way. Imagine the deliverables for “The Hobbit” – 3D/2D, 48fps, 24fps, Film and DCP – I’m guess there will be at least 6 THEATRICAL formats. Good times!

  13. I was lucky enough to see that RED reel featured in the above video at the REDucation UK Open House. The demo was screened in stereo, projected at 4K and I _think_ Ted said it was running 48fps. I was sat in the front row and the experience was quite amazing.

    What isn’t shown in the above video is a great sequence where the camera helicopter is following extremely closely behind a second helicopter (Ted said about seven feet behind at some points). Ted had to preface the footage saying that what we were about to see was not a miniature, it was not CG and it was not compositing. It was an extremely engaging and hyper-real sequence given the interaxial settings on the stereo rig at the time.

    I’m a fan of stereoscopy. I’m rooting for the tech that allows better rigs, better control and better 2D to 3D conversion because I genuinely enjoy that extra level of engagement and interaction that a stereo image brings. Having watched most of the stereo films released in the past two years I am quite looking forward to the 48fps stereo experience coming from Peter Jackson and James Cameron. Maybe I’m an optimist, but let’s give those chaps the benefit of the doubt.

  14. My main concern is the effect it has on post-production. Being a compositor working at 48fps seems like a big task. Ive heard the Hobbit is going 48fps but managing the extra data seems like an extra strain. When you couple this with faicilities adopting deep compositing, they must be spending some serious money on extra disk space.

  15. I’m 100% behind this for 3d. 3d at 24fps is a joke, but if the projectors can kick out enough light and a higher framerate 3d will be awesome.

    Do I want to see every movie in 3d? Hell no. Will that happen? Probably not. TV is different from film is different from video games is different from books is different from 3d. All can be fantastic ways to tell a story, but they’re all different.

    Halo would make a derivative sci-fi movie. The Wire would not have been enjoyable as a series of films.

    Until now people have lumped 3d and film together because they’ve shared the same talent pools and form, but hopefully they diverge in the same way TV and film have. It’s a genuinely different way to tell a story and some stories will benefit from it while others won’t. I saw Avatar in 2d and felt like I missed nothing. If Avatar 2 is 48fps in 3d I’m definitely missing something if I see it at 2d/24.

    I suppose it’s always been this way with new art movements. Monet was scandalous back in the day.

  16. Making a big VFX movie at 48 fps… hmmmm…. maybe it’s something that roto artists won’t be happy to hear that too soon…. eh

  17. ‎4k (minimum for film-like experience) is unwieldy enough right now, nobody yet has a pipeline for it, and you want to DOUBLE the storage, throughput, archiving, et cetera? For what, a “more life-like” representation?

    I have news for you. 24 fps was chosen BECAUSE it was cost-effective, and BECAUSE its blurred motion is unrealistic. 24fps puts the watcher immediately into a dreamlike state. He suspends disbelief, and goes into your story.

    You’re trying for what? Your Viewer can point out moles and wrinkles on the Heroine, that she was up too late last night? I watched plenty of Showscan movies (60fps) in the 1980s, it was across the street from where I worked, Boss Film. (We made 65mm film, and I made 65mm film equipment). Showscan was pitched as a whole new way to make movies. It was sharp and clear, like looking out a window, but it didn’t really serve any story they threw at it. While 2 1/2 times normal frame rate heightened the reality of things, you could definitely see all the artifice. The stories I saw became laughable.

    And what of the cost of labor with animation and visual effects? You’re talking MORE money, not lower costs.

    I was at a Showscan demonstration for Ray Harryhausen, who stopped it part-way through. Mr. Harryhausen had just suddenly “got it,” that all the painstaking frame-by-frame work he did so brilliantly for a lifetime would now need 2 1/2 times the effort, in this new Showscan process. He was aghast, and kept repeating “Two and one half times the work.” I really felt for him. If you’ve spent time laboring to make animation, you know what I mean.

    All Engineering is a trade-off, bang vs. buck. 3D is a gadgety headachey way to tell a story, costs way too much in time and labor, and I admit I don’t like the way its new technology has been dumped on us. For example, High Definition has a 16×9 Aspect Ratio, which is not any established ratio (1.33, 1.37, 1.85, 2.2, 2.4 etc). Rather, it is an entirely-new ratio, 1.77, some sort of arbitrary Frankenstein average of them all, derived by Japanese Engineers in some laboratory in Japan. Not by showmen, not to an existing standard. Cinematographers had no input to that process. Every classic movie suffers, shown in HDTV, all cut off somewhere.

    Likewise, all the new frame rates, aspect ratios, formats, have no basis in established standards, they are just put up by new companies, which go out of business, leaving their users in the lurch. Which format did you make your movie in? Sorry, that company’s out of business, we can’t play your movie any more.

    I don’t like it. Not good at all. I don’t want to dicker with new formats and processes any more. I want to make movies.

    Sam Longoria
    Camera Engineer
    Visual Effects
    Hollywood CA USA

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