I just read something that made me very excited about James Cameron’s upcoming sequel to “Avatar.” The first one was a leap forward in technology of 3D and motion capture (now often called “performance capture” to emphasize the contribution of the actors). And now Cameron is making what I think of as an even bigger technological leap forward with the announcement that he is going to increase the frames-per-second (fps) rate. Ever since the movies went from silent to sound, the standard has been 24 fps. Interestingly, “The Artist,” this year’s silent, black-and-white release, was shot at a 22 fps rate, prevalent in the pre-sound era. The only reason film-making has been stuck at 24 fps is that all the cameras and projectors are set up that way. But increasing the fps makes the film images stunningly sharper, deeper, and richer. Cameron has said he will shot “Avatar 2” at 48 and possibly even 60 fps, and Peter Jackson is shooting “The Hobbit” at 48 fps. This is a much more significant improvement than 3D, especially post-production 3D, which has just been announced for “The Avengers.”
As home technology improves, with HD, bigger screens, and better sound, it is increasingly important for movie theaters to find ways to stay competitive. If these films, certain to be blockbusters, can inspire more theaters to install projectors capable of giving ticket-buyers the 48- and 60-fps experience, they will raise the standard for all movies going forward.