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How High Frame Rate 3-D Works

A Question of Content

For years, critics have lambasted movies that incorporate 3-D. Much of that criticism is valid, in large part because many recent movies were shot in 2-D and then converted to 3-D after the fact. Those results can be pretty dreadful, with cluttered, multi-dimensional scenes lacking visual coherence of any kind.

Just as viewers may need time to adjust to the clarity of HFR 3-D, so too do the studio personnel who make the content. Not every director has access to the kinds of budgets allocated to films such as "The Hobbit," meaning other films may look rather amateurish by comparison until cinematographers learn to use their new tools.

In addition, directors must learn to envision stories as HFR 3-D experiences from the outset. They'll have to set up each scene ultimately from the perspective of moviegoers, thinking about how to use 3-D to draw each viewer's eyes to a particular part of a scene at each moment of the film.

However, high frame rate video is incredibly easy to mishandle, largely because it reveals any flaws in movie sets, costumes and makeup. Viewers see each and every teensy detail of every moment of the movie, and any aspect that doesn't suspend your disbelief becomes a glaring mistake that detracts from the experience and makes it less satisfying.

To that end, many critics and proponents alike believe that HFR 3-D may have a place only in certain types of feature films. Director Peter Jackson says that epic, action-oriented films with sweeping battlefield views are some of the best applications of the technology. In these sequences, HFR 3-D adds many layers of depth to the scene, making it more realistic and more engrossing. It's as if viewers are plunked right into the middle of the action. But is that enough to drive HFR as a defining technology in cinema?