Director Mr Ang Lee said that his experience of shooting at high frame rates on his latest feature Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk has convinced him that the industry is on the brink of a new era in filmmaking.
The Oscar-winning director said that he found the experience of shooting his latest film at 120fps in 3D and 4K an “exciting, intimidating and humbling” experience, but pledged that he would continue to make movies at higher frame rates and urged other filmmakers to join him.
Delegates at a packed Big Screen Keynote on Monday were treated to an extraordinary and pulsating excerpt from the movie about a 19-year-old US soldier’s return from the Iraq war, which was displayed at 120 3D 4K resolution using Christie Mirage laser projectors and Dolby Atmos.
Ang Lee said: “We are about to bounce into the next era of filmmaking”, but it would require filmmakers to get to grips with a series of new aesthetic and technological challenges.
“I am very excited because there is a new cinematic language to be explored and the rules of the game have changed. Everything is so clear – you see everything which is really intimidating and scary [as a director].
“It meant that I couldn’t use make up [on Billy Lynn]. In fact a lot of the things that we have done for filmmakers for 100 years no longer apply.”
One of the big benefits of the hyper-realistic 120fps image is that it reduces motion blur. “But there is little depth of field so you have work out how are you going to pull focus, how you are going to light scenes and how you direct actors. For every answer I came up with I found ten new questions.”
The Life of Pi director said the format can give audiences a very intimate, emotional experience but there is nowhere to hide for actors, with performances needing to be more subtle and realistic. “It’s like experiencing everything in the first person. As an audience it allows you to feel how they [the actors] feel. Actors really have to go through it and as a director you have to try harder to make it feel real.”
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk will be released in the US in November but will be shown at 60fps as no cinemas are currently equipped to project at 120.
Another repercussion of new high-resolution formats is that it impacts the post production pipeline with Billy Lynn shooting 7.5TB of footage a day.
Editing is a challenge because the footage could only be displayed at 60fps on set and in post. Editor Tim Squyres, who took part in a technical debrief following Ang Lee’s keynote, said that they tried to get as close to the format as possible in post but had to imagine what the images would look like at the full frame rate.
For the future Ang Lee said that he would like to use smaller cameras with bigger and better sensors because at 120fps you lose three f-stops. “Bigger and better sensors usually means a bigger camera, but I want a smaller camera – I’ll leave it to the manufacturers to figure that out!”