Eye of Siva

Ars longa, vita brevis

Watching movies – the format impact

I had the opportunity to watch a couple of recent movies more than once. In different formats. Since I watched the different formats within a short interval of each other, it was a good opportunity to compare these formats.

1. IMAX vs. “normal”

I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in normal (is it fair to say 70mm these days when all cinemas are digital?) and IMAX formats. The movie was not in 3D, so this was just a comparison of the image size and resolution. There is a visible difference. I watched the IMAX first, so watching the normal show, the lower resolution image was immediately obvious. I did not expect that. I wonder if the image was actually out of focus. To be fair I don’t think so. The larger format is actually better. And in this movie at least the grand imagery works really well in the larger format.


2. IMAX 3D vs.HFR 3D

Peter Jackson has been pioneering the use of HFR or high frame rate in The Hobbit series of films. Unlike the normal film speed of 24 frames per second, HFR uses 48 frames per second. This improves the fluidity of motion. After all motion picture uses persistence of vision to create the illusion of motion. Fast action creates a “tearing” effect at 24 fps. We are so used to this that higher frequency images like NTSC’s 30 fps$ (60 interlaced frames per second) itself is visually discernible to many. Because of the use of 30/60 fps in (American) television, people associate the lower frame rate with movies and the higher frame rate with TV. Indeed the term “soap opera effect” is used to describe how un-film-like higher frame rate appears. PAL broadcasts like they use in Britain and India use 25 fps, which is closer to film speed, by the way.

So I wondered if I would get a TV-like experience in HFR. The first movie when shown in HFR had a lot of people disliking it. I found it very nice in fact. In calibrating my new TV set earlier this year, I tried playing around with various frame rate options and found I did not dislike the higher frame rate option. So this is a personal opinion. In fact with the fast pace of action in the film, the higher frame rate made for a much more smoother movie watching experience. No more “motion blur” or tearing effects. Now if only a theater near here had HFR+IMAX, that would have been wonderful.

$ The true rate is closer to 29.976 frames per second. These crazy Americans. PAL is a sensible 25 frames per second.

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