Yesterday an anonymous guy from Definition magazine, a high-tech camera site, tweeted an observation about Ang Lee‘s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a high-frame-rate groundbreaker that will have its big hoo-hah premiere at the New York Film Festival on Friday, 10.14.
Definition: “Just watched 12 minutes of Ang Lee’s new 120 fps movie. It’s the new reality, like live theatre, you are there, like stepping into the scene.”
This prompted a tweeter named Henrik Cednert to ask, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing? For sure different, but good or bad…? Gives me a bad flashback from The Hobbit.” Definition dude replied that 120 frames per second “gets rid of judder and strobing. Film has no makeup, actors had to bring A game. Intense experience. Much better than Hobbit.”
Some guy named Tweets of Rage, reflecting the concerns of untold millions, rejected Definition’s enthusiasm out of hand. “Doesn’t it still feel hyper real?,” he asked. “Like watching a play uncomfortably close up?” Definition: “I think less so than Hobbit‘s 48fps. [This] might be a case of using 120 as an effect to start with. Ang will only shoot 120.”
Ben Schwartz then mocked Definition by re-tweeting something Schwartz alleges he said in 2015: “All 3D films gave to us was a headache and an increased determination that we didn’t want to see another one.” Definition: “Correct. Now they’ve got an answer. Do the math.”
I can only repeat an observation I heard during a demonstration of high-frame-rate cinematography at a tech conference in Los Angeles three or four years ago, which is that to most viewers the differences between 48, 60 and 120 fps photography are barely noticable. I myself was having trouble detecting a big difference between the three formats, and I know my shit.
I’m presuming that the conservatives will be less dismissive of Billy Lynn than they were of Jackson’s The Hobbit as it operates in real-world milieus, which on some level will, I suspect, seem less jarring or challenging.
I myself am a total whore for HFR photography. Bring it on, please. And make 30 fps (i.e., the frame rate of Todd AO back in the mid ’50s) the industry norm. The more fluid the movement, the better the film seems. I’ve been saying for years that HFR has the potential of making banal FX-driven films feel at least diverting. If Antoine Fuqua‘s dreadful The Magnificent Seven had been shot at 48 or 60 of 120 fps, I would have said “shitty film but very cool to watch.”