HFR (High Frame Rate Cinema): A trick of the MIND.

Hi folks,

This is not technically animation-related, but it does have to do with the illusion of motion when watching animation and live-action and the way our minds perceive that motion to be either realistic or fake.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfwjzNB--5k

You need to use Google Chrome and select 720P in the video playback to watch it at the correct speed (60 FPS).

The first time I saw that, I honestly scoffed: "that's not a movie". But watch it several times... You will be amazed that once our eyes are trained to expect a certain playback speed, they will *actually get used to it*! This is why it's so hard to convince some gamers and people who own large screen televisions with motion interpolation that HFR "looks like video". At first, it does seem kind of sped up and fake...We're not used to processing that many still images per second.  But keep watching...At some point, your mind will play tricks on you and you'll be drawn in by the story. High Frame Rate Cinema may just be another optical illusion among many.

As far as I can tell, this only works with progressive imagery. But I don't know for sure that it has to be progressive. All I know, is that our eyes can adjust for a different rate of playback IF they're expecting it. Once I got used to seeing the super-high speed/smooth motion, I was not able to see it as I first saw it, making any comparison tests difficult. Truly a trick of the mind...

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But HOLD ON, let's not so easily be swayed...It's never a good idea to have a conversation without more than one point of view to make our own informed opinion. Anything less than two perspectives comes off like disingenuous propaganda.

http://movieline.com/2012/12/14/hobbit-high-frame-rate-science-48-f...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3ytuFiQsgc

If these sorts of tests were not important, then Disney would not have spent so much time researching them and attempting to manipulate our perceptions of time and motion cadence especially so dangerously close to what we subconsciously reject for being in the Uncanny Valley.

The speed we perceive motion in everyday life is said to be around 40 images per second. We're seeing more than that, but we are only aware of that much.

That said, this Uncanny Valley beyond that which we consciously see the world is higher than the normal frame rate, and we are led into it easily as a pothole in a broken road. It can take up to two hours to become used to even 48 FPS (at the time of starting this thread, I had already spent four hours studying a single clip trying to find the elements in it that deterined whether it seemed too real or dream-like. Upon viewing the same footage today after a night of sleep and giving my eyes a chance to reset, I was once again seeing the sequence as being sped up" and too much like looking through a window into the real world) and this is problematic for a movie with a screen time under two hours.

Despite the difficulty with which we acclimate to HFR, the one thing that seems to help the illusion to be successful is a good share of motion blur. To really drive this point home, the first Hobbit movie did not have much motion blur in it, and the sequels were given more. So far, critics have complained the most about the first film.

There have been attempts to create 60 FPS in the world of stop motion as well as live action. This is the best example I could find on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofXidNQ7ILo

It is deliberately comical, but you'll notice that with abrupt stops and changes of direction (or sharp banking on curves), 60 FPS is not very forgiving. While fun to watch such hyperrealism, the process of creating the animation poses its owntechnical challenges. The above clip might look really convincing with motion blur added, however. That's definitely something to try and see if it cushions sharp turns or motion that does not have well-defined arcs. My hat's off to this guy for trying 60 FPS. Given that you have to move the objects 60 times for just one second of animation, the format is not for the faint of heart. It's also kind of fun to see how creative he gets with such a limited range of motion (scooting tanks around and turning their gun turrets).

As a final thought before turning the floor over to anyone who wants to discuss this, one area of a film in which a high rate of motion could be very beneficial is in the credit crawl at the end. Limiting that to 24 FPS can cause it to seem very jerky rather than smooth if it is scrolling too fast. 30 or 60 FPS would smooth it out if it was an independent short film and needed to scroll up faster than a feature film (which can have a crew of hundreds rather than five or six).

Really interesting thread.

So if we perceive reality at about 40 'frames' per second, why does HFR video look strange? Is this in that odd category with e.g. normal walking, in that we need the animation to be somehow exaggerated for it to look acceptable?

And are we not just playing it back at 25fps, so gaining no benefit?

Apparently whenever cinema appears to be in the doldrums, they throw something technical and supposedly spectacular at it, just to get audiences back in the theatres. 3D has done the rounds several times now, and mostly seems a disappointment (except for films like Gravity). Widescreen was another gimmick when introduced. So HFR may just be one more...

I was fortunate enough to be present at the first demonstration of HD video in the UK, by Sony at the BBC Television Centre in about 1985. They showed a video of a singer cavorting about in Venice. I recall seeing the pigeons in the corners in sharp definition, and a sense of visual information overload. It was not easy to watch, but we admired the technical innovation. There were also some tests on current BBC drama stuff. The sets looked really tacky, and you could easily see wig lace on the actors. Even the costumes looked rough. Conclusion was that if this was the future, the cost of TV production was about to skyrocket!

By contrast I also worked with a (16mm) film cameraman celebrated for the lovely soft quality of his shots. In truth he used to smoke big cigars on set (it was the 80's!), and the resulting smoke gave just the right amount of diffusion.

Aha! The article on the Hobbit may have got it. The willing suspension of disbelief requires that we know that what we are watching is not real, while believing in the story - otherwise it would be impossible to see someone killed in a drama, if we thought it was a real person being killed.

When i worked on 'Casualty' for the BBC ('ER' was a later spin-off), the producers would occasionally suggest that some footage of real operations could be dropped into the drama, presumably hoping to save money on us effects people. We argued that this would be a betrayal of the audience's trust, the point being that they could watch wounds and injuries so long as they knew it was all fake. They enjoyed the illusion, the magic trickery.

So in the same way we don't want our films to appear too real, because we need that little reminder that it's not really happening. This seems to me to be the definition of the Uncanny Valley, and applies to frame rates as much as injuries. 

Sorry if this is slightly at a tangent to your original thread, Don. It interests me that as an audience watching an animated film we can be looking at a completely immobile face, knowing it to be a puppet made of clay or even wood, and we invest that puppet with emotions, our own projected emotions. Film is a place where we find out things about ourselves through a medium that has to appear in some way artificial. HFR goes against that.

Not at all, Simon! I welcome all opinions and deviations from the topic. As long as you are speaking from the view of passion, it is relevant because watching films is an emotional event. Tangent away! :-)

What I find the most interesting is that I used to think 30 FPS was too smooth for storytelling. But then I saw some movie trailers that were rendered at 60 FPS (with software) and played back at 30 in browsers that do not support the full 60 (I have studied the statistics in the Youtube player). Even at 30, the trailer still had me captivated and suspended in anticipation of what would happen next. The 60 FPS version left me cold and in examples of something that was supposed to be scary, it came off as cheesy instead.

Humans are not the only mammalian species that is aware of the Uncanny Valley. If you show an ape something that looks too much like it but does not move in the way it does, the ape will also reject it. There have been movies that attempted to render realistic humans in CG that caused same reaction from the viewing audience. Some even commented that the motion-captured human characters in Beowulf, Monster House, and The Polar Express resembled living corpses. And that was before HFR...

The argument of knowing it's not real before you can enjoy it is an important one. When I was a kid, I had night terrors after watching scary things on television. I was too young to know that what I was seeing wasn't real. I believe that this would have a similar effect on the general public if you showed an HFR broadcast of a fictional but catastrophic event on a legitimate news site or television network. People would panic because the high frame rate would cause them to think it was actually happening. This has been the subject of a prank where an office window was actually a large screen TV and it started playing horrific images of a natural disaster (a nearby mountain erupting, in one case).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCLYh4JSus8

As much as frame rates can be used to subversively manipulate the perception of reality in the mind of a viewer, this also comes with a responsibility to be careful with it, as we are hardwired with survival instincts that take over when something artificial too closely resembles immediate danger. I don't see panic happening in a movie theater during an HFR viewing, but there are definitely other conditions under which it could cause a scare resulting in a stampede. You just can't predict how some people will react to being led into the Uncanny Valley and if they already suffer from mental illness, it would take even less to push them over the edge because they weren't in touch with reality to begin with.  In those cases, HFR is not something to mess around with.



Simon Tytherleigh said:

I was fortunate enough to be present at the first demonstration of HD video in the UK, by Sony at the BBC Television Centre in about 1985. They showed a video of a singer cavorting about in Venice. I recall seeing the pigeons in the corners in sharp definition, and a sense of visual information overload. It was not easy to watch, but we admired the technical innovation. There were also some tests on current BBC drama stuff. The sets looked really tacky, and you could easily see wig lace on the actors. Even the costumes looked rough. Conclusion was that if this was the future, the cost of TV production was about to skyrocket!

By contrast I also worked with a (16mm) film cameraman celebrated for the lovely soft quality of his shots. In truth he used to smoke big cigars on set (it was the 80's!), and the resulting smoke gave just the right amount of diffusion.

Beautiful post Simon!! When you put it this way, it reminds me all too much of some of the current popular trends in illustration, toward extreme realism with almost infinite detail and everything rendered out completely, as opposed to some of the great illustrators of the past who knew how to suggest and to make great eye catching compositions that were simple and with no extraneous detail. For instance artists like Frazetta or Jeffrey Jones. This extreme realism is being done on computers, based on CGI and video game work, and often includes copious photo-bashing, meaning bits and pieces of photos are included - sometimes painted over a bit, sometimes painted over extensively, and sometimes not at all. And then of course the fully painted parts need to match, ergo extreme realism.

To me it's a case of artists working way harder than they should to create something bland and ordinary. 

I love the look of films shot on 16 mm or in some cases even super 8, as long as the DP knew what he was doing or managed to capture some great shots. Atmosphere is so much more compelling than harsh clarity. 

In fact lately I've been struck by the fact that new technology almost always reduces the quality of what's being replaced in order to make things faster, easier and cheaper. For instance the color film of today just doesn't look as beautiful as some of the great Technicolor classics like Ben Hur, as difficult and expensive as that process was. CDs don't capture the same sound fidelity as old fashioned records. Digital video compared to real film; digital painting compared to traditional.. 

However I do think HFR might be alright used in 3D movies, since each eye only sees every other frame anyway. It would smooth out the pans and other fast camera moves - but please Cameron, Jackson et al - for the non 3D versions reduce it to standard framerate!! 

Not to derail the thread with levity, but the second half of that line made me laugh. I pictured an inept cameraman saying "I'm just going to close my eyes for this and point the camera wherever, hope it looks good."

Strider said:

"as long as the DP knew what he was doing _or_ managed to capture some great shots"

"Humankind cannot bear very much reality." T S Eliot, from 'The Four Quartets'.

I looked at the fake window vid, and felt really sorry for the victims of the prank. I'm sure the advertisers want people to think: 'Wow, isn't Ultra HD amazing because it can fool you'. I wonder if they might achieve the opposite -'I don't want to be fooled in this way because I lose control'?

Recalling another era, there was the infamous radio broadcast of Orson Welles' 'War of the Worlds', which caused widespread panic. And the early cinema where a shot of a train coming into a station alarmed the audience.

Perhaps there is a development where we gradually become accustomed to images that are ever closer to perceived reality? Certainly our video-literacy has greatly evolved and is doing so at an accelerating pace. But - and this is a huge but - the images that people increasingly take for reality are all manipulated and created, even if only by the simple act of pointing a camera at something. And that's where you are right about the responsibility.

What's the end point for Cameron, Jackson et al? Is it an immersive experience indistinguishable from real reality, just less messy and with a happy ending? Count me out, I prefer the attitude that Bertolt Brecht wanted to cultivate in audiences - one of critical appreciation. He regarded it as dangerous to put an audience's rational faculties to sleep.

Ask any bunch of children if they have seen a shark, and I guarantee that almost all will say yes, even though 99% of them will only have seen an image of a shark.

When posting the link, I didn't realize it was an ad. I'd seen it before, but it might have been edited to look more candid in the version I watched. Sorry about that. It's probably not the best example of creating panic through manipulation of unassuming people. But it's sure a clever gimmick.

I ALMOST mentioned War of the Worlds, but after looking into it, it would appear that the panic it induced was so small it almost didn't register with the general public.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-15470903

Most people didn't fall for it. People are more intelligent than they get credit for. They have instincts to fill in the gaps when their rational part runs away.

I think the end point for Cameron, etc is where the illegal uploading and increasingly louder demands for substance over style meet. A new format is not going to solve that problem, it's only going to point out more flaws in its flaws. There's a reason why butts aren't filling seats, and it has more to do with the quality of movies being made than people not wanting to pay for them. Hollywood, as a whole, really needs to change their flat rather than trade for a new car. It doesn't seem like a good business model to charge people more for a less-satisfying movie experience that could result in diminishing returns- on TOP of hemorrhaging money due to piracy. That just seems too much like burning the midnight oil to light a trick candle at both ends.

Ok, so I used Chrome and selected 720p to watch that Ultron trailer.  And I couldn't tell it was at a different frame rate.  It didn't make it dreamlike for me, didn't add value, didn't wreck it.  It made no difference.  (And it didn't make me at all interested in going to see Age of Ultron either.)  

So then I watched the Lucid Dreams of Gabriel, which did have a dreamlike quality, but that was there regardless of frame rate.  It was in the cinematography and effects added that produced the unreal quality, as they intended it to.

I can usually pick the steppiness at 12 or 12 1/2 fps, am not quite so sure at 15 fps whether it is on twos or not, and honestly can't tell the difference between 24, 25, and 30 fps when watching.  So I'm not that surprised that 60 fps looks the same to me.   I don't see why a fast frame rate would look odd to anyone - if they can perceive 60 frames, they can also perceive that in the real world.  And if their brain can't register that many images per second in the real world, they probably can't when watching HFR video either.    So for me, most of the time it adds nothing to the viewing experience, as far as I can consciously tell.

There are exceptions - the wagon wheels appearing to roll backwards at 24 fps might stop doing that.  Maybe I do see it, but don't know I see it, because I don't think wagon wheels look like they go backwards in real life for me.  Do people vary in how many fps they can see?  I might have a lower ability than the 40 fps conscious or 66 fps unconscious perception quoted in that article.  

Looking at that article -

I don't buy the clash between the artificial conventions of acting and the high frame rate - acting on stage is just as unreal, usually more so, and since it's live it is at the highest frame rate we can perceive, and I still get drawn into it when it's done well.   It has to be a learned association of acting with a frame rate that is not quite like reality, not inherent.  Indeed, early audiences reacted very strongly to the image of an oncoming train, even though it was grainy, black and white, and 16 fps.

  

That may well be, Nick! It has been said that you must be trained to sense one frame at  1/225th of a second (in a darkened cockpit) as well. The acclimation to a high frame rate is apparently also possible- interestingly enough, a lot of gamers are so used to first person shooters at 30 and above- some even think 30 is too jerky. So like I've realized it made no difference to my parents, the perception of "too realistic" frame rate may be a subjective thing. To that end, when I was shooting 30 on ones, I got so used to it that it didn't bother me. I guess this whole conversation is a somewhat moot point. Pick what you like and shoot at that. And make films that please you. If if the film you make is a personal enjoyment, there is bound to be someone else out there who likes it too.

StopmoNick said:

Ok, so I used Chrome and selected 720p to watch that Ultron trailer.  And I couldn't tell it was at a different frame rate.  It didn't make it dreamlike for me, didn't add value, didn't wreck it.  It made no difference.  (And it didn't make me at all interested in going to see Age of Ultron either.)  

So then I watched the Lucid Dreams of Gabriel, which did have a dreamlike quality, but that was there regardless of frame rate.  It was in the cinematography and effects added that produced the unreal quality, as they intended it to.

I can usually pick the steppiness at 12 or 12 1/2 fps, am not quite so sure at 15 fps whether it is on twos or not, and honestly can't tell the difference between 24, 25, and 30 fps when watching.  So I'm not that surprised that 60 fps looks the same to me.   I don't see why a fast frame rate would look odd to anyone - if they can perceive 60 frames, they can also perceive that in the real world.  And if their brain can't register that many images per second in the real world, they probably can't when watching HFR video either.    So for me, most of the time it adds nothing to the viewing experience, as far as I can consciously tell.

There are exceptions - the wagon wheels appearing to roll backwards at 24 fps might stop doing that.  Maybe I do see it, but don't know I see it, because I don't think wagon wheels look like they go backwards in real life for me.  Do people vary in how many fps they can see?  I might have a lower ability than the 40 fps conscious or 66 fps unconscious perception quoted in that article.  

Looking at that article -

I don't buy the clash between the artificial conventions of acting and the high frame rate - acting on stage is just as unreal, usually more so, and since it's live it is at the highest frame rate we can perceive, and I still get drawn into it when it's done well.   It has to be a learned association of acting with a frame rate that is not quite like reality, not inherent.  Indeed, early audiences reacted very strongly to the image of an oncoming train, even though it was grainy, black and white, and 16 fps.

  


One last thing- your video card might not be able to play back 720P 60 FPS video at full screen (mine can't). As an experiment, you could try watching it in the smaller Youtube window. That is the only way I can see the full 60.  It could be skipping every other frame at full screen just like my card,  and effectively halving the frame rate, which is why you aren't seeing the difference. The Youtube player offers statistics so you can see if it's frame dropping.

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