Film is getting faster. Watch Ang Lee's latest, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, out February 10, and you'll be treated to a visual feast: hyper-rich, almost hallucinatory images brought to life with astonishing clarity. The secret: whereas almost all films are shown at 24 frames per second (fps), Halftime Walk was filmed at a blistering 120fps.
The result is certainly dazzling, but also polarising. Lee isn't the first to experiment with high-frame rate (HFR). In 2012, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit debuted 48fps to a decidedly mixed response. HFR appears brighter and more detailed, but it's also unyielding.
The falsity of the Shire's props and make-up, to some critics, were exposed under its intense gaze. Lee's use of HFR is more nuanced, however. He uses its hyper-reality for storytelling to mimic the vivid flashbacks of the film's protagonist, an Iraq war veteran. But early reviews haven't been kind.
Nevertheless, HFR is on Hollywood's agenda: James Cameron has declared his interest in using the process in the Avatar sequels. And, in September 2016, Netflix released Meridian, a short film designed to explore the challenges of streaming at HFR to its subscribers. Expect more to follow. Why? Returns.
Studios and cinemas are increasingly competing with our sofas. They hope that the dazzle of HFR and other projection technologies, such as laser and high dynamic range, will provide an additional draw. "I believe that [HFR] is something that audiences will perceive as added value for their experience," saysAvatar 2 producer Jon Landau.
"It's about the in-theatre presentation. That's what distinguishes our storytelling from the kind that audiences get at home." If audiences respond enthusiastically, hyper-reality may become the new reality.