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.


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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It is interesting to read about stuff like the new video cameras being produced by companies like Blackmagic, where they are talking about Ultra HD and HFR as if it is an entirely natural progression.

I suppose stop-mo has already got there, as we use even higher than Ultra HD for capture, and could render out at 4K if the computer didn't melt trying to squeeze it through.

I have always been of the opinion that if you tell a compelling story the audience will forgive any amount of technical shortcoming. But a crappy story (listen up, Hollywood!) is still crappy on Ultra HD at 60fps. Just what you said, Don, except you were more polite!

Politeness is an interesting concept that depends on context and intent. I've seen co-workers be ruthless to each other, and that is their way of bonding- but it wouldn't fly in a business meeting. The most trouble I've ever gotten in was when I was trying to be funny where humor was not accepted or even discouraged. I'm much more conscious of that these days, unless someone is trolling me. Then I can dish it as well as I can take it. But no one trolls me on this board, so I try to be as polite as possible.

I agree that crap story is crap story. It's the same in pop music, where a bad song is not saved by good production. But, equally, a good song can be ruined by bad production...Just not as much, because the underlying story can still be heard through the mess. So if you consider HFR "the mess", you can convince your brain to ignore the weirdness after it has found the story and sympathetic characters to latch onto.

Simon Tytherleigh said:

It is interesting to read about stuff like the new video cameras being produced by companies like Blackmagic, where they are talking about Ultra HD and HFR as if it is an entirely natural progression.

I suppose stop-mo has already got there, as we use even higher than Ultra HD for capture, and could render out at 4K if the computer didn't melt trying to squeeze it through.

I have always been of the opinion that if you tell a compelling story the audience will forgive any amount of technical shortcoming. But a crappy story (listen up, Hollywood!) is still crappy on Ultra HD at 60fps. Just what you said, Don, except you were more polite!

I'll check that.  It's a 6 year old Mac Pro and although the graphics card was good for its time, it may not be up to today's standards.  But I did watch about a third of Ultron in the slightly larger window, before going full screen, and it still looked the same.  I think you are right, I'm used to watching 24 fps film and 25 fps video, but am not  gamer, so I am not trained to see higher frame rates.  I guess that means I can't rely on all of my my audience seeing things the way I do.  

It's also possible that your version of Chrome is not up to date. I forget that occasionally and have to check the latest version at least once a year, often wondering what features I'm missing out on by using an older one.

I only installed Chrome a month ago, when my older version of Safari stopped being able to play videos.  So it can't be too far out of date.  I'll check the version... yep it's up to date.

I saw the video and my impression is it looks irreal, but I think it's more cause its sharpness and detail than the framerate. If you see really those robots under day light, the shadows don't let you see all those details. The film looks like HDR photos where you can see all details in lights and in shadows, so looks spectacular but irreal. The overload in details remembered me the Transformers saga where the CG images are  insufferable for me because the thousands of little mechanisms and details overload my brain. I think all these issues are subjectives; I suppose lot of people is indiferent to it and only see the overall figure ignoring the details. I cannot do it; my mind tries to process all mechanisms and its interrelations and definitively can't. I don't know what role has HFR in those sensations but it looks not be really important (may be my computer cannot play at correct framerate). In any case, for me, the image is far away of reality, it is sharp, high quality aspect and spectacular but totally artificial. I don't understand somebody can confound this with real life images, real life is not so sharp!

Antonio has a good point, and I also noticed this when compressing some HFR tests at a low bitrate (using Cinepak) to a quarter of the resolution. It was harder to see the difference because of the loss of detail, which I suppose the mind just accepts as being motion blur.

Another aspect if HFR that is not immediately apparent but makes perfect sense is that filmmakers don't tend to work with just one speed of motion. There is often super-slow-mo mixed in to make scenes more dramatic. Some scenes are even sped up. This can make the unnaturally smooth motion seem too real.

As I scrub through the Ultron trailer, there is a lot of motion blur in that footage.

Let's go back to the motion blur for a second, though- given that up to this point in the conversation, it was assumed that greater motion blur = greater reality. Maybe the key to making HFR seem more artificial is to have LESS motion blur...It could be that the presence of motion blur, which will smooth out any motion, is calling attention to the added smoothness, and if we go back the other way (high shutter speed, as little motion blur as possible), it will appear to us subliminally that you don't see that little blur in high speed moving objects in real life.


Notice something? Because of the small chip size, there is no motion blur, but in 720P you can see that the 60 FPS was preserved.

At this time, my conclusion is that the cinematic world is mixing two different things together that work against each other. For now, I hold that the higher the frame rate, the LESS motion blur you would want, because that does not look like real life. You get that effect with a strobe light, which can even make motion seem slowed down to a crawl... But generally speaking most things you see with your eyes in the natural world are blurred when they move quickly.

Digital HFR cameras have large sensor chips which mimic film, and I think that might be working against the illusion of fantasy. It's probably a combination of things, but I am positively mesmerized by high shutter speed video at 60 FPS in a way that I'm not as lulled into a hypnotic trance by low shutter speed 60 FPS with little motion blur.

I have to wonder if high resolution + motion blur + 3D are not the best combination when considering the construction of fantasy narrative and the trick of making it convincingly not real. The high resolution is going to make things sharper, which does take away from the sense of reality, BUT it also makes any motion blur more apparent, because of the greater contrast between blurred motion and static picture- which calls attention to the smoothness. Because of the fact that low resolution video loses a great deal of sharpness in the down-resolution, that contrast between sharp and blurred images is not there, so the high frame rate is not as noticeable.

The main problem I can see with 3D in this day and age, is that it's been combined with high resolution- which could cause a greater headache with looking at sharper movies due to the increased contrast between static and moving shots with a lot of motion blur. And that eye strain could be increased even more if you were to combine high resolution with high shutter speed or a smaller sensor, with 3D.

That said, I'd rather take the 3D, high-shutter, high-resolution, HFR cinema and live with the eye strain (or possibility of eye strain) over 3D, motion-blurred, high-resolution HFR movies. It just seems like there are too many advances in the film-going experience thrown in and clashing with each other. Maybe we could look at it like a production triangle (or, in this case, a rhombus)- and  ascribe four possibilities, of which you should use only two options to achieve the most convincingly unreal illusion. We haven't even touched on high-contrast gamma and color curves, which could also interfere with the perception of fantasy. Crushing the blacks and desaturating colors in movies is another technique that is often used to differentiate from real life- given that we don't see the world like that. The Hobbit has a lot of high contrast lighting in it. But add in the 48 FPS and the motion blur, and the fantasy has just been smoothed out, and we saw a flaw in the actor's make-up.

Too many technological advances in the film-going experience can be like too many cooks in the kitchen. You want these different...flavors, if you will... to complement each other, but in the case of HFR, etc I only see them clashing and confusing the audience out of being swept up in the story.

In regards to the video above (since I ran out of time to edit this post), you first notice the sharpness, which draws the eye toward any possible motion blur. Because there is none, it looks a little surreal. If you were to add a music track and someone ran across the parking lot carrying a gun and a big bag of money, would it seem like real life? Maybe... Things like that happen in real life. But would it seem more to be scripted, or an event that was actually happening? If we have any live action filmmakers on this board, it would be interesting to see a dramatic test of exciting action in HFR with a high shutter speed as compared with a version that has motion blur (added in post or captured in-camera with the scene shot again).

In FACT... I've got just the guy in mind to test this.

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