Ever since the advent of “talkie” motion pictures, the standard frame rate for films has been 24 frames-per-second (fps). Although innovators like Michael Todd and Douglas Trumbull have experimented with higher rates over the years, 24 has remained the standard, for various reasons. Peter Jackson broke this tradition, filming and showing The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey at 48 fps — but the audience reaction was mixed, at best.
On April 16, Oscar-winning director Ang Lee will deliver a keynote address at NAB Show’s Future of Cinema Conference in Las Vegas. There, Lee will preview footage from his upcoming film, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. The footage will be shown in the format Lee intended: 3-D and a whopping 120 fps.
The film is an adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel about veterans returning from the Iraq War and receiving a hollow heroes’ welcome. Its star-studded ensemble includes Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and Chris Tucker, among others.
Speaking with EW in 2012 in the aftermath of initial The Hobbit screenings, Trumbull said that he had found “there’s a perfect curve of increased stimulation with increased frame rate,” and that higher frame rate fixed some of the blurring problems with the 3-D format. It’s safe to say Billy Lynn will look unlike most films, but given the initial squeamish reactions to The Hobbit, there may be some blowback as well. Trumbull, for one, thinks that increased frame rate helps movies take advantage of their unique strengths.
“I think you have to start constructing movies differently in terms of cinematic language…” Trumbull says. “Because if people are going to go out to a theater, it better be like a live show or Cirque du Soleil or something – not like something they can see on their iPad.”
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk opens in theaters on Nov. 11.