Whenever a new technology begins to emerge in entertainment, a bitter war is fought over its artistic merit. It seems strange, but this has roots going back all the way to sound being introduced to film. Filmmakers like Charlie Chaplin saw it as simply a gimmick, refusing to use it for years. While at the time his reasoning may have seemed valid, today we see how ridiculous that was as sound is an integral part of cinema. Film is a new medium, compared to other forms of art, that is. Due to its relatively young age, film is continuing to progress and evolve. Some may argue that film has stayed largely the same over the last half-century, but considering that CGI and digital filmmaking are somewhat new technologies, we can see that film is continually evolving.
New technology being accused of being a price-raising gimmick is not something of the past, as many respected film critics and filmmakers today see 3D as being just that. And while the debate of 3D still wages, a new technology is going to be introduced that will change the way we see cinema forever, that is, if it isn’t booed off the screen.
Since the 1920s, with the introduction of sound, films have been shot and projected at 24 frames per second. It is this frame rate that gives film the distinct look we all recognize. We may not realize, but this frame rate gives the image a slightly blurred look, something to which we have become accustomed. The introduction of digital changed the look of film, but kept the frame rate. The explosion of 3D added depth to the image, but still, once again, the frame rate stayed constant. All of these developments throughout film history, and yet we have kept the frame rate the same.
It is only now with the possibility of filmmakers shooting in 48 frames per second, that we may see a change in the look of film. James Cameron has been talking about wanting to shoot in a higher frame rate for years, and with his upcoming Avatar 2, he may finally get the chance. However, he will not be the first to implement this new technology, as Peter Jackson is currently shooting The Hobbit at 48 frames per second. Whether or not movie theatres will have upgraded their systems in time for The Hobbit is still up in the air, however, it may be a big enough film to convince theatre owners to pay for the upgrade.
While some are calling this move a gimmick, it seems harder to justify that point than it is with 3D. This is simply a progression in filmmaking, one which is decades overdue. It will change the way film looks, and whether or not that is for the better remains to be seen. Film is a continuously changing format and people do not seem to realize that with ever progressing technology, comes change to the medium.
I have never seen a film projected at 48 frames per second, yet I welcome the change. I am a purist when it comes to film, as I need the image to look as good as it possibly can. This is why I do not mind a change, as shooting at a higher frame-rate will only improve the image. Unlike 3D, this change is not marketable to the average film-goer. It will be up to the filmmakers to want to make this change themselves, and prove that it is a development in film that was long overdue.