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Peter Jackson and “Competitive Realism”


An old (and far more talented) friend of mine responded to the discussion Rob and I had about frame rate:

The choice to go from 24 fps to 48 fps was that some filmmakers really hated the strobing effect when the camera pans in 3-D versions of movies. Their solution was to up the frame rate—giving the filmmaker more information to play around with. Honestly, the 24 fps strobing never bothered me, cause if you are telling your story right, little nitpicks like the don’t enter the mind of your audience.

For reasons unclear even to me, I responded to his gentle correction with A Brief and Inadequate History of Special Effects:

I didn’t want to get too technical in the podcast, but I was hinting at that: 3-D created a problem that didn’t previously exist, and the solution is worse than the original problem. No more strobing, but now the effects are so obviously “special” that we may as well be watching the original Clash of the Titans. An incredible film, don’t get me wrong, it just required a superhuman suspension of disbelief. Which at the time was fine, because “special effects” like George Reeves flashing across the sky were meant to be “special,” outside of the ordinary, and didn’t need to look as if they were of this world or obeyed its laws of physics.

I tend to think George Lucas ruined this fantastical acceptance of the specialness of “special” effects when he married recognizably modernist styles with space stations and star ships—the Millennium Falcon could’ve been a Le Corbusier, the stormtroopers come from the mind of an Italian fascist, and half the scenery consisted of the same brutalist style that litters my campus. Point being, his realist aesthetic made “special” effects look quaint, the people who loved them rubes, and that’s where we’ve been ever since. Realism or naught! Realism or naught! (With a few exceptions, Del Toro notably among them.)

So I could understand why Jackson wanted The Hobbit to accede to the demands of the regnant style, but in doing so he utterly ruined his film. I mentioned in the podcast that the best scene in the film, Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum, looked like exactly what it was: Martin Freeman in front of a green screen talking to a man in ping-pong ball covered suit. (I know that’s not how they do it anymore but you know what I mean.) It looked like Jackson had decided to avoid the uncanny valley by introducing its monstrous child to an actual human being and hoping the audience wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I’m not going to say it made me want to cry, but I’m not going to deny I teared up a bit at the sheer waste of it all.

Like you, I’m more interested in the story, so if the technological advances can be integrated into it—like the conference tables in Avatar—I’m fine with that because it complements the narrative. But I don’t even think we need 3-D. It took us millions of years to develop the particular sort of stereoscopic vision we have, and our brains react to an “occupied periphery” the same way now as they did before: by flooding our bodies with hormones that make us nervous, tense, excited, afraid, etc. Since our eyes still point forward, you don’t need anything more fancy than an IMAX to occupy our peripheries, and I’m fine with that.

I thought I was talking about special effects and their more cloyingly “special” forbears, but the real sore spot for me here is the blind lionization of a limited definition of “realism.” Don’t misunderstand me: I find relocating fantastic narratives to a world that resembles ours an admirable endeavor. Heath Ledger’s interpretation of the “Joker” outstrips Jack Nicholson’s because we don’t need a vat of quasi-mystical chemical slurry to believe that a child of neglect and poverty might come to resent those he believes kicked him down to choke him out. I’m all for grounding narratives that occur in fictional worlds in ones that mostly obey the rules of ours. I’m on board with Battlestar Galactica and (though I’ll never admit it) I even watch Arrow. But the “reality” of “realism” has to amount to more than a little extra grease smeared on the walls of some backlot “Brooklyn.” Because when “competitive realism” becomes a sport the audience always loses. Embracing filth for love of the slop as an ethos would be one thing, but embracing it as an aesthetic out of devotion to an empty notion of what constitutes “realism” is more than just a thing:

It’s a terrible one.

Consider the most common way to impart unrehearsed immediacy to a scene: the shaky cam, proud descendent of the cameras carried by war reporters who (we imagine) ran alongside the men whose deaths they documented. Because deep in the ancestral soul of every shaky cam is a connection to the atavism whose jittering eye (we imagine) once captured soldiers piling up in Norman shallows. Because the essence of the physical circumstances of war correspondents (we imagine) is transferred not just into the tool they used, the shaky cam, but into scenes whose style bears a family resemblance to ones shot with them. I added “we imagine” to the previous sentences because many people believe in what amounts to a form of idolatry when it comes to the shaky cam shot: God the War Correspondent infuses His essence into the totem of His Shaky Cam in such a way that all evidence of shakiness in film represent an invocation of His Brave Reportage.

Which is the height of insanity considering the ubiquity of shaky cams and shots designed to resemble them. Otherwise we must believe that the Great War Correspondent is present when a teenage girl on a soap opera throws a temper tantrum and slams her bedroom door behind her. Because shaky cams capture plenty of those. Not to mention celebrities. His Journalistic Eminence must love celebrities. Just turn on the television between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and witness the celebrity-chasing that passes for “local news” now. Those cams are all a-shaking and there’s not a single noble soldier dying lonely on a foreign shore in sight.

We’ve established that the shaky cam’s war-oriented history is partly responsible for why it’s considered “better” at creating “realistic” representations of the world. We’ve now also taken our first step toward understanding why “realism” is associated with misery: its tools are. Think about it: a shaky cam can almost perfectly approximate the swiveling eye-level perspective of a human head, so if its operator breaks into a run the resulting images are almost perfectly identical to what you would have seen were you the one doing the running. That makes sense. But before we continue I want you to take a look at this picture:

It’s from science. Which one isn’t important because, for now, I just want to compare the movement of the human head relative to the body while walking and running. Humans have evolved to walk chill. Just look at our head bob as we strut around in our hilariously skinny jeans. But look what happens when we hear a car backfire in one of “those” neighborhoods: our stride lengthens and center of gravity lowers, meaning we’re more stable than we were before we nearly shat our tiny pants. Now take a look at our running-head. What happened to our swagger? I’ll be brief: because a bipedal gait is inherently unstable, our head has a tendency to pitch forward when we run; and because evolution looks unkindly upon individuals who flee danger by planting their face where their feet ought to be, we’ve evolved a robust musculoskeletal system that keeps our head up and eyes front when we pick up the pace.*

So our head bop up-and-down atop an unflexed musculoskeletal apparatus when we walk, but when we break into a run that same apparatus yanks our head back and stabilizes our body in a way that prevents our head from bopping. Meaning that when we run our eye-level rarely varies, whereas when we walk it’s constantly moving which is the opposite of the “realistic” effect provided by the shaky cam. Consider this randomly selected clip:

While the frightened children walk the handheld camera is canted, but the level of framing barely bobs at all. We have no bobbing where a “realism” conforming to human biomechanics would require it. But when the frightened children start running at 1:33, the level of framing bobs up a foot and down another with every step. Meaning we have excessive bobbing where a “realism” conforming to human biomechanics would demand none. Shots from a shaky cam are only more “realistic” if we define “realism” as “an aesthetic commitment to seeing something and representing it the opposite.” We’re not about to do that. So where do we stand now?

We know that shots from shaky cams look more “realistic” by means of an accident of journalistic history and by virtue of the fact that they represent the world not as it is but as the opposite. Keep in mind that this is the shot whose realist credentials most would consider unimpeachable and you begin to see what an aesthetic commitment to realism entails: the perpetual recreation of the contingent circumstances in which the shaky cam shot became popular and secondary elaborations on those contingent circumstances that borrow the “realist” credentials of the original while doing the opposite of what happens in reality. Considering that this is the strongest case a committed realist could make, you can see the kinds of problems that might arise were a spirit of “competitive realism” to sweep through a generation of filmmakers. How can they be more “realistic” than journalism’s happy accident and the opposite of evolutionary development? What’s more “realistic” than the opposite of perceived reality?

Because not even they can answer questions that make no sense, they’ll change the terms of the debate to features common to the happy accident: the shaky cam will be used in scenes in which battles rage and men are confused. Then they’ll extend the purview of “battles” to include arguments and cast a net wide over all manner of confusions. Now a man will “battle” with his balance and his wife until he runs from an apartment confused because he’s sober and single and in order to imbue the scene with the “realism” it requires it’ll have to be filmed by a trampolining meth addict. My example’s admittedly extreme, but you see my point: if historical accidents and perceptual inaccuracies become the standard for “realism,” a competition can only result in increasingly random exaggerations. (That they’re mistaken for transparent representations of reality only makes the situation more infuriating.)

All of which is only to say that there’s nothing realistic about cinematic “realism,” but there is something more realistic about films that aspire to it than, say, animated features or movies starring Muppets. I’ll grant you that. But once you start talking about crafting something that’s “more realistic” than previous films, you run into a whole host of problems. In literature, when a group of young writers tried to be more-real-than-the-realists, the result was literary naturalism, and the aesthetic of the current crop of directors seems aligned with them—its cities are sullied, its fields despoiled, its masses uneasy—but the aesthetic of the literary naturalists was built on science. Bad science, I admit, but science nonetheless. Literary naturalists had a reason to believe the boot on their neck would be crusted in shit if not covered in blood: their science told them so. Not so for the current realists, for whom the legacy of perceptually incorrect happy accidents suffices. Theirs is an empty aesthetic turned pissing-contest and we’re the ones getting the golden shower.

What does this have to do with Peter Jackson filming The Hobbit in 48 frames-per-second? If, as my friend says, Jackson shot at that frame-rate because he wanted to avoid a nearly unnoticeable strobing, he presumably did so because he felt that it would break the illusion on which cinema depends. If the audience notices the limitations of the camera, it becomes aware that there’s a camera between it and the world depicted on-screen. Since we don’t see strobe effects of the sort in the real world, we shouldn’t see them on the screen because they’re unrealistic. His solution was to eliminate the strobing by making sure that illusion was never created in the first place. Because you can’t be ripped from a world you’re not immersed in.

Of course I don’t actually believe that’s what Jackson intended, but I do believe he thought it was his turn to up the competitive realist ante. The long explanation above is meant, in part, to communicate why Jackson would agree to participate in this competition. The conventions are so naturalized it’s almost impossible not to think of them as realistic, so it takes so heavy-duty defamiliarization to recognize them for what they are. Put differently, I think Del Toro would’ve made a Hobbit in a style that recognized that the “special” in “special effects” isn’t something to run away from, because such effects are only slightly less contrived than their “realist” counterparts and can be far more effective when telling a story, say, about wizards and magic rings.

*For more on that, see Dennis Bramble and Daniel Lieberman, whose hipster I borrowed above, and much of whose work can be downloaded free of charge from Lieberman’s site.

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  • SEK

    This is one of those posts where I can’t tell if I made my point too strongly or not strongly enough. It happens sometimes, in the hinterlands between “appropriate blogging material” and “academic essay.” Gah.

    • The “bit from science” was good – I hadn’t really thought about it, and it really makes you see the shaky-cam differently (in addition to being a crutch for directors who can’t/don’t want to block action sequences in an interesting fashion).

      • Bill Murray

        but when one runs very fast for a while (say 20-40 yards), the head usually starts to bob again — at least going by NFL and NCAA wide receivers in football.

      • MikeJake

        My ideal for action sequences, thought I acknowledge that they’re difficult to pull off, are the long single-shot sequences Alfonso Cuarón used in Children of Men. I’ve been hoping he’d get some big budge war movie to work his magic on.

        Apparently, his next movie is supposed to open with a 17 minute long single-shot sequence.

        • MikeJake

          *though I acknowledge

          *big budget


    • bph

      In other words, is this essay is in the uncanny valley between an academic essay and a blog post? Yes.

    • SP

      Do you let people request these sorts of posts? I saw Les Mis this weekend and noticed several visual elements and I blame you of course.
      3 things, all in the barricade scenes-
      -Most obvious was when Eponine was dying there was a partly obscured banner behind her head that said “Mort”
      -Almost as obvious, when Valjean was singing Bring Him Home as a plea to god there was an omnipresent eye floating above his shoulder for many parts of the song.
      – Finally, the one I’m proudest of noticing, in the same song where he’s comparing his worthiness to Marius, there’s a brief moment where he pauses under a chandelier and the resulting visual makes it appear as if he has devil’s horns.
      Probably you can’t do an analysis until it’s on DVD but I’m curious if you consider those effects to be more overt than most movies or if I’m noticing them thanks to reading your blog. If the latter, thanks for ruining all that realism, I didn’t need it anyway.

      • SEK

        I do take requests, but yes, I do need the DVD/Bluray, because I have to watch something a hundred times before I see what I need to see. (I have an up-coming, requested post on Drive, for example.)

  • Agreed on the merits, but what about the more cynical argument that directors on big-budget movies are pushed by studios to film in 3D to make more money per ticket, and thus are forced into ptolemaic epicycles, rather than the simple expedient of not filming in 3D?

    • SEK

      You can film in 3D without filming in 48 FPS, though. And you can film in 3D more intelligently, such that there’s no need to correct for what the 48 FPS corrects.

      • True on both counts: I saw the Hobbit Part 1 in 24fps 3D.

        Still would have preferred 2D.

        • Pestilence

          Odd, I saw it in 2D, didnt even notice if anyone was offering it in 3D in this burg. THat may explain why I didnt feel any of the disconnect or lack of reality ih the filming, that SEK is on about. My problems were all with the agonisingly ploddy script and repetitive plotting.

          • Western Dave

            Likewise. Saw it in 2d and it did not have issues with the special effects. My 7 and 10 year old were both fairly entranced. The 7 year old more so than the 10 year old who tended to notice plot things that made no sense unless one had prefamiliarity with Tolkein (which neither had). I’m glad I brushed up before I went.

  • Craigo

    One nitpick: I don’t remember Clover very well at all, but I seem to remember that the shakycam was not meant to be an eye-level point of view shot, but just a character with a handheld camera.

    I can believe that there’s actually more eyeline bobbing while walking than running, but I don’t expect people to get better at holding things steady and level in their hands while they’re running in terror.

    I agree with your point over all, but maybe a better example is in order.

    • SEK

      I chose Cloverfield just because of its dependence on the perspectival shot is infamous and, I hope, memorable. (Close your eyes and imagine a scene from the film. What do you see? That sort of thing.) Whether it’s actually through his eyes or just functions through a diegetic proxy of a handheld camera doesn’t matter, because the verisimilitude’s coming from the effect. I breezed over a lot of material in the paragraph about the history of the shot, but to be clear, what began as a physical circumstance (war correspondents with handheld cameras) became an aesthetic (imitated by people trying to film things “realistically”), and I’m criticizing the latter, which Cloverfield embraces, even if it includes a camera in the film itself.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        But doesn’t the handheld camera in “found footage” films provide a diegetic excuse for the shaky-cam aesthetic? You’re right, I think, that audiences read this as more “realistic” than, say, the classical Hollywood style because of the historical accident that you emphasize. But I think the importance of that accident for contemporary film “realism” is more clearly indicated by the shaky cam showing up in films in which there is no diegetic excuse for its presence.

        Or, to make this point in a different way: the principal “realism” claims of “found footage” films involve the plaubility and consistency of the presence–and behavior–of the man (or woman) with a movie camera. And Cloverfield, as far as I can tell, based on that clip and from what I’ve read (I haven’t seen it), plays these rules well. Your historical journalistic accident helps explain why such films register as more “realistic” than traditional Hollywood narrative cinema. But shaky cam in a well made “found footage” film reflects actual camera behavior much better than shaky-cam-as-visual-POV reflects actual human-head behavior. Which is to say, the canons of “found footage” realism are, at least in this regard, actually not that far from reality (whatever that’s worth, which, I agree, is less than is usually supposed).

  • uncle rameau

    athletes are scouted on the relative steadiness of their heads to turn and pick up the flight of the ball. My relatively bouncy head has so far prevented me from having an athletic career beyond IM indoor soccer.

    • uncle rameau

      now that i think on it, Bob Hayes was dissed back in the day cause he was fast but he had a bouncy head and (consequently?) iffy hands

  • ploeg

    I dunno what sort of framerate they used for the 2D version, but it looked OK by me. And it’s not hard to find a 2D theater.

    • SEK

      As I noted in the podcast, I saw it in 24 FPS for fun, then 48 FPS because I study film and wanted to see the difference, you know, for research.

  • Flypaper

    I’ve learnt to “see” 24fps, and it’s seriously damaging my cinema experience. Nothing quite takes you out of a film like living in constant dread of any kind of horizontal pan.

    (see the XKCD comic about learning to “see” bad kerning for reference)

  • Josh

    Because deep in the ancestral soul of every shaky cam is a connection to the atavism whose jittering eye (we imagine) once captured soldiers piling up in Norman shallows.

    What? Not “America’s Funniest Home Videos”?

    (I remember talking about this with a professional news cameraman back when camcorders first became popular; he pointed out that the vast majority of people using them had no idea how to stabilize them.)

    • bph

      I actually thought the shaky cam came from Cops. That is where I remember it.
      But, SEK is probably right. They stole the convention from war reporting to give Cops a gravitas that it would otherwise not have.

      • Anonymous

        Isn’t the cameraman in cops actually running though? And i always thought they did a really good job stabilizing the camera for someone who has to run with a police officer while carrying more weight in an awkward position.

  • John

    and (though I’ll never admit it) I even watch Arrow.

    Umm…maybe you should rethink that sentence.

    • Vance Maverick

      The E in SEK stands for Epimenides.

  • mds

    Warning: incoherent rambling below.

    I enjoy many an unaltered episode of Star Trek: TOS, dated effects and all. I enjoyed watching old BucK Rogers, because the story was fun no matter the appearance of the carboard cutout spaceships. I enjoyed Neverwhere, which had effectively zero special effects budget, viewing it as basically a stage play with a mobile audience POV. For that matter, I often enjoy stage plays, and the ways in which they create a consensual illusion with the audience. But when someone with a bajillion dollar special effects budget and a well-telegraphed fetish for “realism” allows me to confirm that Sir Ian McKellan wears contact lenses, I’m inclined to take umbrage. Because Jackson hasn’t earned my willing suspension of disbelief the way those other examples did. He insists that I don’t need to work at suspending my disbelief, and then he goes and makes it harder to do so. Does that make any sense?

    • It makes sense to me and I think it’s the reason that so many have slammed the technical choices. It’s not just that they are not good, it’s that it’s being sold as the New! Improved! and it’s not.

      I’m reminded of Milo Minderbinder trying to figure out how to get the men to eat the Egyptian cotton balls.

    • rm

      Makes sense to me; I think it may be a more concise version of the original post.

      You bring up another Thing — the difference between 20th century TV shows and, on the other hand, movies and 21st century big-budget cable shows. Those older TV shows are a lot more like theater, because of the budgets. But that allows me to suspend my disbelief more easily, because I’m factoring in the limitations of the medium. I am just disgusted at the highly-polished but entirely unbelievable settings of fantasy series like CSI or NCIS, and I don’t even get the expensive channels. Old SF and Fantasy shows were a lot more believable and realistic.

  • Ruby

    I saw Hobbit in 48fsp 3D (not my choice). Most of the movie was alright (it may help that, because 3D gives me a migraine, I tend to watch with one eye close a lot), but there were points where it clearly had that…weird, indescribable, unrealistic movement that HD tends to have. (Which I hate and am actively resisting upgrading to Blu-Ray in the hopes of avoiding for as long as possible.)

    Also, at some points, most notably in the goblin caves, I got nauseous and had to look away. (This apparently happens to most people who get vertigo and see that version.)

    I never cared to see the regular 3D, but I did see it again in standard 2D 24fps, which was sufficiently gorgeous, and did not knock me out of the story with odd, unnatural looking moment, or cause me and pain or illness.

    Thus, I remain ambivalent at best about 3D in general, and wholly unconvinced that 48fps even needs to exist.

    • Tom

      weird, indescribable, unrealistic movement that HD tends to have. (Which I hate and am actively resisting upgrading to Blu-Ray in the hopes of avoiding for as long as possible.)

      The problem is not with Blu-ray or HD, exactly, but with certain types of HD video. Blu-ray, if your TV is configured correctly, can look really, really good. But most TVs come pre-configured with the sharpness levels way up and artificial “smoothing” turned on. It’s horrible, and it’s probably what you’ve seen if you’ve ever looked at an HD TV in a Best Buy. A Blu-ray on a true, 1080/24p HD TV is quite excellent, and nearly theatrical, looking.

      All a long way of saying that HD is not the enemy, but bad HD video is.


  • sparks

    Hey! My skinny jeans are not hilariously so!

    Seriously, I find this one of your better pieces. I had noticed shaky-cam many years ago, and dread its use. Garrett Brown invented the Steadicam to save us from this!

  • calling all toasters

    So, do the actors have to move twice as fast with 48 fps?

  • gmack

    I really like this post. One thought that occurred to me has to do with the “War Correspondent” camera shot. I have not, of course, seen huge amounts of news footage from, say, WWII. However, I seem to recall that lots of movies from the era would splice in this footage into their films. If I recall correctly, films like the Sands of Iwo Jima or the Longest Day used news footage. Furthermore, these shots were, by and large, from a distance and the camera was held perfectly steady (perhaps to mimic the shots that the films used?). Anyway, all of this always led me to find it strange when people constantly praised, say, Saving Private Ryan for being so “realistic.” My recollection is that there are news footage shots in the Longest Day that actually show someone getting shot and falling down dead (it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that movie, so I could be misremembering); granted, it’s a bit off in the distance, but really, we don’t get much more realistic than that. So it’s an odd thing to me that we (a) expect and evaluate various films in terms of how “realistic” they are, and (b) that we somehow perceive the absolute fake to be more real than the actual thing.

  • Kalil

    I can’t really comment on the movie aspect, but as an avid videogamer, I’m delighted to see the move to higher framerates, because that means that televisions will begin to ship with framerates that are reasonable for gaming. 30 FPS is silly – I can count frames at 30 FPS, which allows for ridiculous things. PCs are far better at 60 frames, but since most modern games are designed with both consoles and PCs in mind, they tend to be designed on a 30-FPS baseline. I know that many gamers are buying 3d monitors with no intention of using the 3d capability, simply to have 120 FPS.

  • Jon Hendry

    Maybe 48fps would work better if it were shown on film, rather than digital.

  • Karate Bearfighter

    “God the War Correspondent” perfectly encapsulates one of the more bizarre manifestations of SEK’s competitive realism: the use of techniques to draw attention to the existence of the camera in modern space operas. Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and the Star Trek reboot all imply the existence of an impossible diegetic cameraman. At least with movies like Saving Private Ryan, you can imagine a character whose point of view you might be adopting. Who is supposed to be floating around just outside the atmosphere with a flip-phone, watching Serenity come in for a landing?

  • Mark

    Well, I’m just glad that someone besides me watches Arrow.

  • Anonymous

    I remember some of the early science fiction movies with their herky-jerky special effects and was so glad the later ones and the TV series employed smoother more aesthetically pleasing motions. Big surprise when the film of the actual spacewalks and moonwalks and liftoffs from the moon looked like those early cinematic efforts! And who would have guessed that the ponytail of the female space station astronaut would stick up like Marge Simpson’s hairdo in zero gravity?


  • BigHank53

    There’s an even simpler example of exaggerated realism floating around: go look at the trailer for Wrath of the Titans. Sam Worthington gets progressively sweatier and grimier, until at the end he has actual rocks glued to his face. Really. Stuff an eighth of an inch in diameter, which would only stick to you if you’re sweating epoxy.

    • Njorl

      Perhaps he is a werebarnacle. Then it would make perfect sense.

  • wengler

    The HFR is just better. I saw The Hobbit in HFR 3D and IMAX 3D and those huge IMAX frames couldn’t even compete with the smaller HFR screen.

    I compare it to when the 120Hz TVs came out and there were a lot of complaints that they made movies look too smooth like video. I hated it so much when I first got one that I turned that feature off.

    Fast-forward a couple of years and I see every TV that doesn’t have some sort of smoothing feature to be fuzzy and unclear. I got used to watching it and instead of my brain telling me it looked like video I got a new frame of reference that said ‘clear’ and ‘sharp’.

    People get the same way about photos. That is why they like crapifying their clear, sharp digital shots with tools like in instagram. The feeling they get from that isn’t one of superior camera technology, but rather nostalgia for a more tangible and special experience that film represents.

    Peter Jackson is just moving the ball forward and he is taking the heat for it.

    • BigHank53

      Eh, there were some glaring technical errors in LotR. There’s an extended scene with Gollum at night as Sam and Frodo enter Mordor. Despite the low light, Gollum’s head is entirely in focus in the close-up shots, which is physically impossible, either for a camera lens or the human eye. Gollum was a digital artifact, and I couldn’t see the character as anything else. Took me minutes to re-suspend my disbelief.

      Pixar, ironically enough, understands focus pulls. Watch the trailer for Brave.

      Maybe we’ll go all Lytro and everything, everywhere will be in focus. I doubt it, though, and I wouldn’t mistake a technical advance for an artistic advance. Turning your lip up at bokeh won’t make it stop mattering to people

      • wengler

        I’ve seen LOTR many times and never noticed this error. I will look for it next time I watch.

  • Wow, you lost me here. If you were going to build an argument against 48 FPS this wasn’t it. Our heads are more stable when running than when walking? Really? That’s almost a non-seqitor.

    Haven’t we spent the last 50 years in an extended search for realism? I have a career in the CGI industry that started with Star Wars. That’s what we do. At no point did Hollywood say: we want things less realistic. We want a stylized aesthetic. Never did that happen.

    24 FPS is a standard that makes money because it’s a standard. If 48 FPS is a standard it’ll make money for the same reason. Explain to me how any of this is related to art at all.

    • Walt

      This is obviously not true. 300 was a big money-maker because it was so realistic looking?

      • djillionsmix

        iron man was super real

    • KadeKo

      Since you’re on the inside: At what point does “Hollywood can make anything look like realism via CGI” overwhelm the storytelling with bludgeoning over-the-topness?

      I ask because Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis are still action movie stars (they turn 66, 67 and 58 this year), and what has to be done in post production really adds up. So much goes into making them “action” because they’re not longer, say, 40 years old, that it ruins the movie for me.

  • Atticus Dogsbody

    3D gives me a headache.

  • dave

    Isn’t the issue that we are all “used” to 28fps and so 48fps doesn’t look “right”.

    There’s nothing inherently “unrealistic” about 48fps versus 28fps, its just our expectations.

    Whats the frame rate for actual real life?

    • wengler


  • Matt_L

    Fantastic post SEK. I especially like the connections you draw between the happy accidents of journalism and literary naturalism. It opened a new world for me, something that rarely happens when I read AHR or Slavic Review. Cheers.

    (The dig on Lucas for his Corbu Brutalism and Stormtroopers as by products of Italian Fascism was insightful too. The Futurists would have really loved the Stormtroopers, especially the clones.)

  • Bloix
  • djillionsmix

    the shaking camera in cloverfield doesn’t represent a shaking head

    it represents a shaking camera, that a guy is being represented as carrying

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