Sunday, December 23, 2012

Will 48fps Movies Catch On?

My beloved and I just saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last night. I wanted to see it in 3D, at 48 frames per second to see what it was like. Turns out that not every cinema can display it this way. We had to travel an hour by bus to get to one. If you're interested in seeing it at a high frame rate, you can use this website to find a theater:

Normal movies use 24 frames per second-- what that means is that what appears to be a moving picture is actually a kind of flip book in which each image is presented to you for 1/24th of a second. The eye interpretes this as motion. With 48 frames per second, it looks a lot more real-- and many say that's the problem.

People complain that it looks too real, or that it looks like it was shot on video. So will 48fps be a flash in the pan, or will it become the industry standard.

I'm betting that it, or an even higher frame rate, will become the industry standard. Here's why.

I'm guessing that people's love for 24fps is because they simply associate it with movies, and they associate a higher frame rate with cheap home videos. What I do not think is that 24fps has some special quality that is objectively better for movies. I might be wrong about this, but this is my suspicion. I think that people who have grown up with regular movies might get used to 48fps, but then again they might not. Or some will and some won't.

Personally, I think that it sometimes looks terrible, and sometimes looks stunning. I liked it, not loved it, in The Hobbit, but I think I have just those associations I'm talking about. I definitely hate it watching movies on TV: what's happening here is that the TV is created frames to interpolate between the ones it's getting! If you're wondering why movies look terrible on your new TV, that's why. Here's how to turn it off:

However, the next generation, the next wave of kids, will see some movies in 24 and some in 48fps. And I bet their reaction will be simply that the picture is better. By the time they are adults, there will be no more demand for 24fps films.

Historically, the more realistic, more detailed, more information-rich movie technology has always prevailed. It happened when movies got sound, when movies went to color, and it seems that 3D is here to stay as well. And I bet at every one of these stages there were people who claimed that the old way was better.

I think it also helps that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a huge success. When people are thinking of getting an e-reader, I tell them to get a book they know they'll love as their first book--maybe the latest John Grisham or some other page-turner. What happens is that you start reading and the medium mostly melts away. You forget it's a Kindle, you're just in the story. By the end of it, you think "the Kindle's not so bad." Likewise for this movie. It's gorgeous; it's really good, if a bit slow at times. If the first new wave of 48fps movies were terrible, it might slow down the adoption.

So even though I think it looks a bit un-movielike, I think it will catch on. However, I didn't love it so much that I'd be willing to bus for an hour to see the second movie this way.

Pictured: A promotional photo from the film, depicting the dwarves. 

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Learning to Draw Big, Complicated Scenes

Drawing is a hobby of mine. Like many people who draw casually, I often draw individual objects, such as people, animals, or artifacts. But drawing big, complicated scenes is something I've always wanted to do, and always admired in other artists.

Sergio Aragones is one of those artists. He's a cartoonist who worked for Mad magazine and made the comic book Groo the Wanderer. Here is one of his complicated scenes, but in Groo they could be even more epic.

But you can't get good at something without trying. Meetings are a great place to sketch, because it often does not require your full attention. You can listen and draw at the same time. Recently I bit the bullet and tried to draw a complex scene. Here's what I came up with:

What I thought I did well was that the perspective isn't terrible, and I made the buildings in the foreground darker than those in the background, a good trick for suggesting depth. I like how the park turned out. The perspective is basically isometric, though, where ideally there would be three point perspective. 

Moving on from this, I thought I needed to copy a photograph. I searched the internet's images for "busy market" and found this photograph:

Here is the sketch I made of it. I'm pretty happy with it, but when you're copying from a photograph many of the difficult elements are done for you. 

With hope I'll get better at making complex scenes straight out of my head. I want my drawings to be more like Sergio's, with his great coherence and imagination.

Got to keep practicing. 

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Monday, December 03, 2012

I Guest Starred on The Reality Check Podcast: Bike Helmets

Recently  I participated on the skeptical podcast "The Reality Check," talking about one of my passions: bike helmets. Check it out here:

You can see my previous blog post on the subject here:

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