Do You Care About Frame Rates? Douglas Trumbull Has A New Short Film He Wants To Show You In 120fps

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by Kevin Jagernauth
June 18, 2013 4:59 PM
11 Comments
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"2001: A Space Odyssey," "Blade Runner," "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind," "The Tree Of Life"...the resume of VFX legend Douglas Trumbull pretty much speaks for itself. But he's also been a filmmaker as well, helming two oddities from the '70s and '80s -- "Silent Running" and "Brainstorm" (the latter notable for being the film Natalie Wood died while making) -- but hasn't done anything since except for a few shorts and some theme park stuff. But he's got some big plans...if the technology can arrive to make it happen...

Trumbull has quietly been assembling a short film entitled "UFOTOG," a new ten-minute movie about a photographer trying to snap a photo of a UFO or something that is boasting some big, orgasmic tech details for those of you who are into that sort of thing. You see, it was shot in 4K 3D, on 3D virtual sets at Trumbull's own studio, at 120 frames per second (take that Peter Jackson and James Cameron!). In fact, JMR Electronics had to built the guy a customer workstation so he could playback everything in real time, because waiting sucks. But when you can see this? Not any time actually.

There are no theaters equipped to project 120fps and what's more, Trumbull is even looking at a developing a futuristic screen so it will be displayed properly. He tells THR it will be“an extremely high gain hemispherical screen that reflects all the light from the projector back to the audience. So it triples the amount of light with no increase to the [lamps] in the projector.” Speaking of projects, Trumbull is also working with Christie to get one working that will show 120fps without requiring too arduous of an upgrade.

All this is really in the service of showing Hollywood the capabilities of this new format, but considering no one really gave a shit about "The Hobbit" in 48fps, unless 120fps is mind-meltingly brilliant, we don't see theater owners retrofitting their projectors and cinema screens anytime soon. As for audiences in general, we don't really anticipate them being any more excited.

So good luck to Trumbull and "UFOTOG" -- we admit we're curious -- but with grand plans to shoot two more sci-fi features including one "that takes place about 200 years in the future" that he wants to shoot in this new fangled format, he might want to drop the future tech and get regular cameras if he wants them made and screened in anything resembling the near future. [THR]

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11 Comments

  • GARY | January 24, 2014 2:37 AMReply

    Nobody cared about Dolby Surround when it was first introduced- but who would want to go back to mono sound now?

  • GARY | January 24, 2014 2:30 AMReply

    PEOPLE ARE SO BORING. They want the same boring crap they always had and just can't seem to be emotionally moved by anything unless it's some guy running with a football.

  • jack | June 20, 2013 1:41 AMReply

    im not a grammar nazi in the slightest but dear lord can someone read over these posts just once before they are posted? so many typos. so many.

  • bohmer | June 19, 2013 10:24 AMReply

    if he can manage a 3d projection with more light, let him bring it on. the fps thing makes me very curious of seeing something like this. it's trumbull for fuck's sake!

  • LA2000 | June 18, 2013 10:00 PMReply

    The benefit of high frame rate is "realism" - it gives things a very live look. And that is great if it is appropriate for the project. It is NOT appropriate for most projects, including a fantasy fest like "The Hobbit" where the whole idea is to be transported into a hazy, mythical world that doesn't feel real.

    If Trumbull can actually come up with the sort of project that would benefit from a high frame rate, where "realism" and "liveness" are legitimately key to the experience, (something along the lines of "Cloverfield" comes to mind), then he may have something. But if he just shellacs it on something traditional, audiences will just say it looks too real, and that will be the end of that.

    There is no reason to write this off all together with blog snark. Trumbull is just creating another tool to tell stories with. Nothing wrong with that.

  • Gustavo H.R. | June 18, 2013 7:57 PMReply

    This is the most condescending piece of writing I've read in years.

    Dave and Glass have already chastised the writer, but no one mentioned the ridiculousness of dismissing a sci-fi classic like LOGAN'S RUN as a mere "oddity".

  • Dave Kittredge | June 18, 2013 7:18 PMReply

    Trumbull has said that 120 fps would be his chosen frame rate because he can make 60, 48, 30 and 24 fps versions of the movie without any frame interpolation. He's also talked about using different frame rates within the same movie-- fast for action, slower for conversation. You should take a look at some of his talks about visual perception (and in particular of his research leading up to the ShowScan 60 fps process he planned to shoot parts of BRAINSTORM in). I believe he knows there is no perceptible difference to the human eye between 60 and 120 fps. This frame rate choice isn't about theaters retrofitting projectors, it's about creating a master that is modifiable in post without interpolating new frames.

    So the last lines of your piece? You may want to rethink. Telling Douglas Trumbull to "get a regular camera" sounds, well... it makes you sound like kind of a dolt. Especially since in the THR piece he says specifically the current gen of DLP projectors can run 120 fps (if he projected that way), they simply need to be run off a server and not the current config. So-- the projector doesn't change, just the way the data is fed. Does this make more sense?

  • Alan B | June 18, 2013 7:57 PM

    Critics know fuck all about the medium. Drew McWeeny once blamed the poor sound in his Hobbit screening on the frame rate.

  • Pierre | June 18, 2013 6:30 PMReply

    I remember him saying in an interview with Harry Knowles that current projectors are actually capable of 120fps. All they need is a firmware upgrade.

  • Glass | June 18, 2013 6:11 PMReply

    Nice job coming off like a film blog jock in this article. "If you care about this nerdy technology shit, I guess here's some details we don't care about but apparently this legend of film technology made some nerdy bullshit, here."

  • David | June 18, 2013 5:16 PMReply

    But if said revolutionary screen can triple the brightness, wouldn't the cost saved on bulbs be well worth theaters implementing those? (Assuming the same light reflection ratio applies to regularly projected movies at a dimmer bulb capacity.)

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