Other Stuff: The Disconnect of Film and Games

Other Stuff: When we discuss different ideas of games, culture and thought that don't really fit under any one category.

The other day I was participating in my film class, which was discussing cinematography, and I asked my TA a question similar to the following. Most modern televisions are 60 Htz or higher, meaning they are capable of displaying 60 frames (or images) per second. Why have movies never used that framerate? This lead to an interesting discussion. For those who didn't know, here is an astound your friends fact: Movies are only shown at 24 Frames per second (or Fps, not FPS--which is first-person shooter), and commercial television is shown using anywhere from 30 to 60 Fps. The only thing really taking advantage of that 60 Htz rate all the time is your console.

So why don't movies take advantage of this technology? My PC often runs games at rates of up to 75 Fps or higher. The more frames, the more fluid the image appears. Why don't movies take advantage of that fluidity of motion? The answer, according to my TA, was primarily consistency. Movies started at 24 Fps, and people became used to watching movies with that frame rate. Later, when movies did try to take advantage of new technologies and move up, people didn't like it. Although they may not have consciously noticed the difference, sub-consciously they did, and the experience was seen as strange or foreign. It wasn't a movie, because it felt like a TV show, for no other reason then a sub-conscious connection with the speed of the images shown. The less fluid an image is, the more movie like it becomes in our minds.

Suddenly my brain made a link. Perhaps this is why so many people find video games unusual and quickly react in a negative manner. Movies run at 24 Fps, TV at 30, but the video game medium was in its early days pushing for (and reaching) 60 Fps. No wonder so many people reacted so strangely, the frame rate was double what they were used to!

A second reason for not moving movies to a higher framerate is less credible and has to do with production design. Special effects are done for movies at 24 Fps, allowing the designers to spend a decent amount of time on each frame. Jumping higher, my TA argued, would balloon the costs and over budget the film (this is also why many older films special effects look terribly fake in a High Def movie). I call bull for one reason alone. Video games have been pulling off nothing but "special effects" at 60 Fps for years. Crysis, one of the most visually stunning games ever made (hit for an in game pic) runs at 60 Fps or above. Did video game developers suddenly discover how to make superb 60 Fps effects by clicking their heels? No, they budgeted, spent time and decided not to let space be a factor (ID Software's upcoming Rage is over 1 Terrabyte, or 1000 Gigabytes uncompressed).

Interesting isn't it? It made me curious, if I hobble the framerate of one of my games to 24 Fps would someone who traditionally does not like games enjoy it?


Stephen said...

That is really interesting. Lots of people do find video games disorienting and difficult to follow. Perhaps it has something to do with this framerate issue.

However, I don't think that intentionally hobbling your framerate on purpose would attract your parents or the nearest apartment of girls to the game. There may be other factors involved that overshadow this one...

Stephen said...

This also may explain why those who aren't bothered by higher framerates may become immersed in video games. I'd argue that higher frame-rate equates with more realism--at least in that respect.