Ang Lee's Next Movie Will Use an Even Higher Frame Rate than 'The Hobbit'

Ang Lee's Next Movie Will Use an Even Higher Frame Rate than 'The Hobbit'

Apr 23, 2015

Ang Lee is one of a small number of filmmakers we trust with seemingly gimmicky innovations. His adaptation of Life of Pi provided us with further reason to accept that 3D can be an artistic tool and not just a means for Hollywood to increase ticket prices. Now, we can put our faith in the concept of high frame rate, as Lee's next feature, the 3D war movie Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, will reportedly be shot digitally at 4K resolution and 120 frames per second. 

You are probably now thinking of Peter Jackson, another filmmaker we've tended to trust with new cinema technology. He shot all three Hobbit movies at 48 frames per second, but after viewers reacted negatively to its employment on the first installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Jackson's wish for them to also be projected at 48fps was not carried out by most exhibitors. That innovation was deemed a failure and didn't seem like it would catch on.

Will a frame rate two-and-a-half times higher be better received? Actually, it's apparently not clear that the 120fps rate is that much higher. The Hollywood Reporter reached out to projector makers Texas Instruments about the capability for screening the movie at that rate, and a representative claimed that since this is a 3D release that it may in fact be 60 frames per eye. And if that's the case, they can accommodate.

Also if that's the case, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk won't be the first movie shot at that rate. Special effects legend Douglas Trumbull invented the 60fps Showscan format almost 40 years ago, and while it never wound up being used for a wide theatrical movie release (Brainstorm was to be the first), it was employed for amusement park rides and other attractions. Lee is more likely, however, to be interested in Trumbull's more recent work with high frame rates, a process called MAGI.  

Watch Trumbull's work on his first MAGI test film, titled UFOTOG, which he presented at the Toronto Film Festival last fall:

I'm surprised that more buzz didn't come out of that TIFF screening, which seems to have been a hit for those who attended. The short also apparently was able to be projected at 120fps, making for some confusion regarding the Texas Instruments quote from THR. This may truly be the future of cinema, as James Cameron is also interested in shooting his Avatar sequels in 4K 3D at 120fps. 

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, based on the novel by Ben Fountain and set to star Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Garrett Hedlund and Joe Alwyn, is scheduled to hit cinemas, whether or not they can show it as intended, on November 11, 2016.

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