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A Defense of 24 FPS and Why It’s Here to Stay for Cinema


Hi, Old Man John Hess here for Filmmaker IQ. I’ve been getting a lot of comments over
the years since I published “The History of Frame Rate” about how 24 frames per second
is a horrible frame rate and how the future of film is 60p and beyond if only the old
fogeys like me would let go of our nostalgia goggles and just embrace our technological
overlords. I, against the advice of my therapist, usually
engage in these so called “debates”. Most kids who take up arms against me think
they’re making a unique and clever argument but having dealt with literally hundreds of
these comments, I promise there is nothing new or really well thought out in the anti-24
frame rate rant. Frankly my biggest regret of that History
of Frame Rate video was giving folks the impression that there was some room for a future of film
without 24 fps. Well, friends, I’m not going to be so limp
wristed in my words here today. In the realm of VR, gaming, sports and reality
programming I welcome 60p frame rates and beyond. For as long as the cinematic arts exist, 24
frames per second is here to stay. To begin this epic rant, let me first dismantle
7 of the tired arguments I see over and over again. 1. 24 is outdated – it was only used because
it’s the lowest frame rate where we see motion and Hollywood is cheap. That’s half right – Hollywood is cheap. That’s also why Hollywood builds plywood
sets instead of constructing real starships. We’ll come back the cheap thing in a sec
because it’s true, and guess what, what it still matters. But 24 frames per second isn’t the lowest
frame rate where the illusion of motion kicks in – it’s really closer to 10-12 frames. If you watch our frame rate video…. Which why haven’t you… then you’ll know
that silent film was shown anywhere from 16-25 frames per second. But sound changed that – in order for sound
on film to work you had to keep the projector speed at a constant rate. What the exact minimum was I don’t know
but it was probably higher than 18 – so they settled on 24 because it’s an even number
divisible by 2, 3, 4. And I’m not some numerologist who thinks
that 24 is magic. It’s just a number that they decided to go
with – a number that the entire filmmaking world went with, from Hollywood to Europe
to Asia – everyone shot at 24 frames per second. It could have been 23 and in Europe they have
25 because their power lines run at 50hz. I probably couldn’t tell the difference
in one extra frame per second. But 24 is what they picked and that’s what
we have. 2. Modern Advancements in Technology has made
24 frames per second obsolete. Well not only is this argumentum ad novitatem
(whoa sounds like a Harry Potter spell) but it’s just not even true. The technological boom of the 2000s and teens
have made people think that we must rethink everything we do to incorporate smart devices. It’s this kind of ridiculous techno-fetishism
that’s responsible for the bluetooth enabled toasters. Oh how did our forefathers live without computer
chips in everything? Well this obsession with the possibilities
enabled with processing power also blinds us to rather simple solutions that don’t
require circuits. For example, you want to know how to make
a film projector show a faster frame rate?>TURN the knob Yeah, that’s all you gotta do. Okay, yes running film faster does wear down
the sewing machine mechanism of a projector making it more prone to tearing and scratching. There are engineering limitations of running
all that film through a projector, but it has been addressed before. Douglas Trumbull, one of the few long time
proponents of high frame rate, was running 70mm through a projector at 60 frames per
second back in the late 70s. But then, that’s not the only thing that
delivered 60 frames per second to a viewer – there’s this old thing called television. Yes – TV since it’s beginning in the early
50s as been delivering that silky 60 frames per second right into your own living room. But it’s not 60 full frames, isn’t it
60i you say? Yeah, and although we say it’s an effective
30 full frames per second, in experience it’s actually more like 60 half frames interlaced
with one and another. So Grandma watching Elvis Presley on the Ed
Sullivan show was watching glorious 60Hz. And it’s because this box delivered 60 hertz
that we have the so called “soap opera effect” drudged up everytime we talk about high frame
rates. They look like cheap television because 60hz
was the frame rate of cheap television. Furthermore, advancements in modern technology
haven’t made 24 frames per second obsolete, but actually made 24 more ubiquitous. See there used to be a big divide between
producing video for TV broadcast and producing for Film. If you were making stuff for TV, it was really
really hard to get 24 frames per second using a video camera because video cameras for television
were built to make 60i footage. It wasn’t even until 2002 when the Panasonic
AG-DVX100 came out did we get our world’s first consumer video camera capable of shooting
24p to tape in a 60i format using a 3:2 pulldown. It was funky work around but it worked! And it really wasn’t until the video industry
transitioned away from tape to memory card storage in the mid 2000s did we start to see
24 become a viable frame rate for video producers. Well now that interlace is starting to become
a thing of the past and our modern LCD, Plasma, and OLED displays are all progressive scan
technologies with really high refresh rates the divide between video and film is narrower
than ever. So much so that basically every non-sitcom
scripted TV show from Game of Thrones, to Breaking Bad, Mad Men and even the mockumentary
style of the Office is shot in… guess what 24 frames per second. 3. But motion blur! Every time I freeze a frame there’s a ton
of motion blur! Don’t freeze the frame! If you want a clean blur-free shot – take
a photo. With all apologies to Tony Zhou, Every Frame
is not a painting – motion picture is not meant to be experienced as a single image
but as fluid motion. As for motion blur – yeah that’s a reality. When I shake my hand in front of my face,
I see a blur! Why shouldn’t cinema have that too? 4. Higher frame rates have been proven to have
health benefits over 24 frames per second. Someone recently tried to pass this argument
off. Oh dear, all those poor people who watched
movies at 24 frames a second for the last 100 years – they were all doomed! Oh the humanity. No, 24 frames a second doesn’t have adverse
effects on people in a normal viewing setting. In VR settings, sure – higher frame rates
have been shown to create less eye strain and less nausea but that’s because the screen
is inches from your face, filling up your peripheral vision and a slower frame rate
means more input lag between head motion and visual feedback. Some more sophisticated commenters have pointed
out that Douglas Trumbull who we mentioned before has said that higher frame rates create
more intense physiological response. To quote a verge article: To test out their new discovery, Trumbull’s
team hooked test subjects up to electroencephalograms, pulse monitors, and electrodermal conductivity
readers, then showed them projections of the same footage at different frame rates. The result was a rigorous study of the physiological
effects of higher frame rate film. The numbers showed a notable jump in pulse
with higher frame rates, along with other classic signs of excitement. “That proved to us — and to the patent attorneys
— that we’d come across something that had the potential to tremendously increase the
impact of movies.” Well not to diminish Trumbull’s work on
2001 and Blade Runner, but he’s not research scientist. There’s nothing there about control groups
or methodology – he says nothing of what the actual footage was. And not to be totally facetious but.. You know what else raises the pulse and creates
classic signs of excitement? Meth… I’m just saying, maybe physiological effects
aren’t always the best measure of a medium impact. And what one person might call excitement,
another might call nervousness or unease or a freakin panic attack. Number 5: I can see 144 frames per second. No, no you can’t. Again we bump into the feteshization of technology. There are a lot of kids saying how they can
spot some super high ridiculous frame rate but the truth is the human eye doesn’t work
that way. Humans are analog creatures, we don’t sample
or quantize or pixelate our vision: I got into it way more in our Pets video – There’s
a consistent chemical and electrical connection from our eyes to our brains and how quickly
we respond to visual stimuli is based on a whole bunch of different variables from how
bright an object is, to where in our visual field it occurs, and even, yes this is why
I keep saying “kids” – how old you are. They say the eyesight is the third thing to
go as you age. Memory’s the second thing to go… I can’t remember the first. 6. The only reason you don’t like 60 frames
per second because you’re not used to it. So? Maybe the reason you don’t like 24 frames
per second is because you’re not used to it – let’s come back to this one, because
it’s important. 7. But 60 frames a second is Objectively better
than 24 in every way. I run into this a lot with pseudo intellectual
arguments. No it is not Objectively better. Stop using that word “Objectively”, I
don’t think you know what it means! The dictionary definition of Objective is:
being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent
of individual thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of
the mind. So Objective statements are measurable and
free from opinion – we can say absolutely that 24 frames per second is objectively fewer
than 60 frames a second – that is objectively true. We can probably even say that 60 frames per
second has objectively a smoother look because it samples motion more times a second – that
I will go so far as to say is objectively true. When you put in words like “better” – the
argument becomes subjective. Now it’s a question of value. What do you value? Do you value super smooth motion of 60 or
do you value a more dream like cadence 24? What I value changes from application to application. If I’m watching the Super Bowl, I love watching
super clean crisp motion of 60p. If I’m playing a video game, you better
believe I want fluid frame rates as I’m getting pawned by much better players, but
if I’m watching people pretending to Starfleet officers in a plywood set, I can’t stand
anything but 24p. I know this is the internet and everyone is
all “yeah science” but objective facts tell us very little about the artform – art
and human expression is much more firmly in the realm of subjective and this is where
the decisions are made. So now that I’ve tackled 7 arguments against
24 frames per second, I’m going to give you two solid undisputable and objective reasons
why 24 is here to stay. 1. 24 is objectively less than 60: therefore
it is cheaper in every way from capture to distribution. If I shot uncompressed 8 bit 4K Raw files
at 24 frames a second the data rate would 380 MB/s, or 1.33 TB/h. If I shot the same scene at 60 fps the data
rate would be 950 MB/s, or 3.33 TB/h – I need 2 and a half times more storage space to capture
60 fps as opposed to 24. Hard drives are cheap you might say. Sure, but I’m always going to be able to
squeeze more 24p RAW footage on a drive than 60p regardless of the cost of the drive. And a studio production isn’t dealing with
one or two BluLight specials from Walmart, they’re going to need hundreds and hundreds
of hard drives to manage the storage from dozens of productions shooting simultaneously
every day. But hard drives storage is just the start. Since I’m spitting that data off the camera
sensor I need a really fast storage format to accept that much data per second and that
means we need more bandwidth inside the camera. This is not a non-negligible limitation in
engineering. Then we need backup. So whatever cost of the drives we had before
we’ll need to triple to create 2 separate backups. Some productions upload their footage to servers
for remote editing – we’ll need either 2 and half more upload bandwidth or wait double
our wait time to upload the footage. Then when it comes to editing we need beefier
machines to work on the footage because we have shuttle 2.5 times more data around from
hard drive to graphics processor. When rendering motion graphics, doing rotoscoping,
or animation and CGI, we’ll need render out 2.5 times more frames. And then when we finally deliver a 60p stream,
we’ll need 2.5 times more space for our DCPs for theater distribution. If we’re streaming the movie to you we’ll
need more bandwidth. With Netflix already using 35% of the U.S.
Internet traffic showing it’s largely 24p based catalog, the additional weight of 60
frames per second is a little hard to imagine. Now some of you might say what about compression! Most cameras that shoot compressed video might
be able to record a 60p file stream at the same data per second as 24p. Okay but that just means each frame in the
60p stream is more compressed than the 24p stream – in this world you can’t get something
for nothing. And if you can apply that much compression
to a frame in 60 why not apply it to the 24p stream? Anything that can make a 60 frame stream smaller,
will make a 24p even smaller than that. Lets even go back to the set itself – with
24, you are shooting generally speaking at a shutter speed of 1/48th if we follow the
standard 180 degree shutter rule – shooting at 60 following the same rule we would be
shooting at 1/120 shutter speed which means we need one and a half stops MORE light to
shoot at 60 fps – that’s about 300% more light because each stop is double the previous
one. But John – look at the crazy Sony cameras
that shoot in near darkness – sure, but using those cameras, 24 frames per second will still
be able to outperform 60 frames per second by a stop and a half of light. Anything that makes 60 frames a second viable
makes 24 frames a second even more viable. All these technical limitations that I mentioned
doesn’t mean shooting 60p is outside the realm of the possible – You throw money at
this problem and it gets solved. Sports programing does this all the time and
they do it live. But remember Hollywood is cheap! If it works why spend the money if you don’t
have to? Economics is still a vitally important – in
each and every step, 24 frames per second is just cheaper to work with. But some would say, well the same could be
said of color. It’s more expensive but people liked color
so much that black and white was eventually driven out of the market. And that argument would be partly right except
for one thing – the real objective reason that 24 frames per second won’t go away
anytime soon: 2. Every Film You Love was shot in 24 fps. If I asked you to name your top 5 favorite
movies. Unless you counted, The Hobbit films, Billy
Flynn’s Long Halftime Walk and if I’m being gracious the Todd AO version of Oklahoma
and 80 Days around the World which were shot in 30 frames per second – then every movie
on your list was shot at 24 frames per second – or less if you’re a silent film buff. From Star Wars to Godfather, Casablanca to
Avengers Infinity War – its 24 frames per second right on down the line. It’s not even close – it’s literally every
movie. I mean it from high brow Kurosawa or Ingmar
Bergman to Michael Bay and Paul Blart: Mall Cop, every movie has been made at 24 frames
per second. Go ahead and try to find and list the exceptions
in the comments below… I doubt you’ll be able to find any more,
I googled it! My point is: filmmaking is hard stuff, anyone
who reaches a level where they are producing or directing major Hollywood films is doing
so because they are passionate about the medium. And when you have that love for films – you
want your film to have that look. The look of the movies you fell in love with
– it’s the look that you spend your lifetime pursuing. It’s the look that even YouTube ads about
crackers are using. But what about Peter Jackson, Ang Lee and
James Cameron? These modern proponents of HFR or at least
they were. Did they start out making high frame rate
movies? No – each of them, now established big name
star director, are trying to use their influence to be the first one to establish themselves
in, what they think is, a new high tech movie medium. I personally think they’re looking in the
wrong direction. The thing is for each of those directors encouraging
High Frame Rate, I can easily list ten more respected Hollywood Directors that would be
firmly in the camp of 24. Subjectively speaking, a lot of proponents
of 24 will say that the 24 cadence has a real dreaminess to it – it allows us to get away
with a little more fantasy because the reality gets lost in between frame. I personally agree – it’s not quite real
but it’s real enough and there’s a certain magic about it. Ultimately the choice of frame rate is subjective
when it comes to cinema. If you really really want 60 frames per second
or higher to become the norm for filmmaking, go ahead and be the change yourself. Stop whining that Hollywood won’t give you
a 60p options for your movie and start making content in 60p – make sketches, make how to
videos, make shorts films in 60p and get them seen and into the public eye. When I started working professionally I was
a strictly 60i videographer, honestly I kind of shunned the 24 when it first came out. But the more I worked with it the more, the
more I studied films, the more I fell in love with the look. Maybe that’s not you. But I have a lot more respect for a filmmaker
out there trying to make his or her vision of High Frame Rate come true, then some video
gamer trying to tell an industry he doesn’t understand how we should conduct our business. Especially because it takes a 60pLoad of
passion just to accomplish anything and make any product in the this business. But maybe I’m just an old fogey clinging
on to my nostalgia goggles. Maybe I’m just not hip to what’s it… I used to be but then they changed what it
was and now what’s it seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you too… but on the topic
of frame rate, I’m not going to be diplomatic, I’m not going to say “it’ll be interesting
to see” or some meaningless cop out… No 24 is going to be with us for as long as
there is a cinematic medium. Like and subscribe and ring that bell. Consider becoming a patron on Patreon or support
us by picking up some Filmmaker IQ merch. To celebrate this epic rant, I’ve designed
this snazzy Livin’ Life at 24 Frames Per Second shirt which you can pick up in our
merch store below. If what I said hit nerve, or more likely,
you only read the title and think you’ve got me pegged with the perfect response – well
there’s the comment section right below. Be civil and show respect and I will return
in kind. No promises otherwise. Until next time my friends, go out and make
something in 24p and by that I mean make something great. I’m John Hess and I’ll see you at Filmmaker
IQ.

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