By Michael Karagosian, MKPE Consulting & Co-Chair of the SMPTE High Frame Rate Study Group
… The push for HFR has more twists to it. Filmmakers understand the new capabilities of their cameras, and maybe they understand the production workflow bottlenecks that new digital cameras impose, but few if any go as far as to understand the impact that they will have in exhibition.
Just as Jackson was ahead of the market with his 3D version of King Kong, the drive for HFR with Hobbit has been ahead of the game, causing many manufacturers to drop development projects that would have been more profitable for them. As the time for movie release approaches, real problems in the field led to a legitimate concern on Warner’s part that a wide-scale HFR release will cause dark screens, or just as bad, improperly configured presentations. That led Warner to limit the number of HFR releases to 400. For all the efforts made, 400 screens is not a very rewarding market for either manufacturers or exhibitors.
More attention needs to be paid to the creative drive for HFR. The press (obviously not Creative COW) likes to say that all movies will be produced in HFR. Just like the press used to say that all movies would be 3D. But like 3D, HFR is just another tool for story telling. Doug Trumbull, ever the world champion for HFR, having been the pioneer behind SHOWSCAN in the 80’s, talks about HFR as a tool to drive emotion and intensity, as story-telling tools. Even Doug doesn’t talk about HFR as the right tool for every story. This mixed world of frame rates imposes an interesting set of challenges on exhibition systems. And the creative exploration of higher frame rates is only just beginning. There is more to learn, and it is this uncertainty that poses a problem for manufacturers, who have to tow a line. If they put too much technology into their products, they’ll drive up price with a negative impact on sales. If they put in too little, the new features won’t be useful to filmmakers, and of no value to their customers, the exhibitors.
Ready or not, a stake has been placed in the sand. Image content is compressed using JPEG2000, at a visually lossless rate. So that filmmakers have a concrete ceiling to work with, and so manufacturers could build competitive and interoperable products, DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives, a consortium of the 6 major studios) specified that products must support a minimum of 250Mb/s for compressed image. But that spec was not to exceed 4K at 24fps, and even then, the cinematographer community didn’t feel that the 250Mb/s number was enough. When we get into higher frame rates than those specified by DCI, we step into new territory. Today, the latest generation of products supports up to 500Mb/s of compressed image data. But the question is still there as to whether this is enough. [more…]
Source: Creative COW