The story is quite interesting, and in the end, it came down to economics. Film stock was a costly, consumable material, usually purchased in 1,000-foot reels. Filmmakers had to agree on a minimal FPS to achieve smooth “moving pictures.” Early on, this number was 16 FPS for silent films with external audio, but as audio technologies progressed from sound on disc to sound on film, it required an adjustment to the minimal FPS required to achieve the audio fidelity required for playback. The new standard became 24 FPS.
Fast forward several decades. The world is now conditioned to the 24 FPS “look.” To view anything other than 24 FPS doesn’t provide the “cinematic” nuances, which is why watching soap operas like The Young and the Restless or General Hospital can be jarring.
There have been several attempts to increase FPS for theatrical releases. Examples include The Hobbit (48 FPS) and most recently Gemini Man (120 FPS). However, even with these technical feats, many movie-goers were turned off by the new “look” as well as the lack of accessibility to theaters with projection systems that met the requirements to view them in their native format. These factors prevented a wider audience from experiencing these films.
The rise in real-time graphic technologies over the last 30 years has aided acceptance within the population. We came to “understand” the visual fidelity of content running at 60+ FPS. Our minds did not reject the imagery, as we understood it to fall on the initial curve of the uncanny valley. As VR devices began to develop, we learned that minimally, 90 FPS was required for the best experience. Gamers have long chased the highest frame rate possible to increase their competitiveness, often reducing visual fidelity in exchange for a few extra frames per second. Those precious milliseconds can give the player a significant advantage. We now have monitors on the market that hit 240-300Hz! Of course, you need a very powerful GPU to achieve this, but the demand is finally there.
At Falcon’s, we have been keeping a close eye on this trend in technology, as it directly lends itself to some very interesting use cases. Internally, we have been exploring innovative uses for HFR (high frame rate) tech, researching clever ways to leverage these technologies and techniques with our creative design processes. After seeing experimental hardware at SIGGRAPH for several years finally make its way to the pro AV market, we knew it was only a matter of time before we could leverage this technology for our clients.
We got word that Digital Projection had developed a HFR Dual Laser projector capable of displaying 360 FPS at 4K resolution. It was originally geared towards education and simulation applications, but we were already seeing so many interesting applications this thing could be used for in our themed entertainment projects. The projector is something special, as computationally, there technically wasn’t a GPU on the planet that could generate that many pixels every second. We reached out to DP, and they were thrilled to get this projector into the hands of technically minded creatives, like those at Falcon’s, to explore this amazing new piece of technology.
We have a long history of ideating blue sky attraction systems and immersive experiences, often waiting for advanced technology to meet our needs. In this case, it was high frame rate projection (HFR) technology. Once we realized that this hardware existed, and we were able to thoroughly test it, we knew we had a viable solution. We learned many lessons along the way regarding how to create content specific to this system, both in terms of hardware requirements and software, and how other systems will need to achieve specific requirements in order to successfully integrate within the product.
We are very excited about what we have created and cannot wait to share it with the rest of the world.
Director of Technology