AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

The problem with High Frame Rate (HFR) films

December 04, 2014

Today I read an article on The Technium on why High Frame Rate (HFR) films don’t look like traditional films, and why some people don’t like it. The article contains excerpts from a conversation with John Knoll, who gives a great explanation in layman’s terms. Via Coudal:

Imagine you had the lucky privilege to be invited by Peter Jackson onto the set of the Hobbit. You were standing right off to the side while they filmed Bilbo Baggins in his cute hobbit home. Standing there on the set you would notice the incredibly harsh lighting pouring down on Bilbo’s figure. It would be obviously fake. And you would see the makeup on Bilbo’s in the harsh light. The text-book reason filmmakers add makeup to actors and then light them brightly is that film is not as sensitive as the human eye, so these aids compensated for the film’s deficiencies of being insensitive to low light and needing the extra contrast provided by makeup. These fakeries were added to “correct” film so it seemed more like we saw. But now that 48HFR and hi-definition video mimic our eyes better, it’s like we are standing on the set, and we suddenly notice the artifice of the previously needed aids. When we view the video in “standard” format, the lighting correctly compensates, but when we see it in high frame rate, we see the artifice of the lighting as if we were standing there on the set.

That makes a lot of sense, but it only explains why HFR movies look different, not why they feel different. Image quality is one thing, but motion is a separate problem, and the article doesn’t negate the fact that, for most people, the extremely fluid motion typically associated with HFR movies feels extremely awkward, placing the entire viewing experience right into the uncanny valley. Typically, that fluid motion effect is explained away as a side effect of HFR films being more realistic, but I certainly wouldn’t describe them as such. Life, after all, isn’t viewed at 48 fps.

The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies

Hyper-realistic Middle Earth is not so fun, after all

I also take issue with this statement:

I told Knoll that these complaints about the sterility of the new digital format reminded me of the arguments against CD music albums. Digital was “too clear” “too clinical” not “warm and fuzzy enough” according to audiophiles. CDs missed the musical ambiance, the painterly soul of a song. The critics were not going to buy CDs and the labels would have to pry their beloved analog vinyl albums from their dead hands. Of course, for average music fans, the clear hiss-free quality of CDs were soon perceived as much superior, particularly as the “frame” rate of the digital sampling increased past the point of most ear’s perception. “That’s exactly what it is like, ” exclaimed Knoll. HFR is the CD of movies right now.

I believe the comparison between digital movies and digital audio vs. their analog counterparts is mostly fair, but there’s quite a bit more to it than that, and it’s not all rosy. HFR movies are not a new digital format as that paragraph seems to suggest, they just have a higher frame rate. To use their own analogy, in digital music processing a higher sampling rate does not increase playback fidelity beyond a certain point. In fact, a too-high sampling rate — above 96 kHz — may actually degrade the listening experience due to a phenomenon known as “intermodulation distortion”. In a very interesting article, Justin Colletti explains how this works:

192kHz digital music files offer no benefits. They’re not quite neutral either; practical fidelity is slightly worse. The ultrasonics are a liability during playback.

This runs counter to many initial intuitions regarding super-sonic sampling rates – my own included. But the evidence is there. Since analog circuits are almost never linear at super-high frequencies, they can and will introduce a special type of distortion called intermodulation distortion.

This means that two super-sonic frequencies that cannot be heard, say 22 kHz and 32 kHz, can create an intermodulation distortion down in the audible range, in this case at the “difference frequency” of 10kHz. This is a real danger whenever super-sonic frequencies are not filtered out.

There’s nothing strange or non-factual about that. It’s not a matter of opinion or personal preference, either: it’s just basic signal theory. I’m not sure how it relates to digital video processing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the effect was similar: there’s probably an optimal playback frame rate for the human eye, and exceeding it may bring unwanted side effects such as the uncanny motion we’ve seen in the HFR versions of the Hobbit movies.

There’s certainly more work to be done in this area, and these are early days. The movie industry may eventually find a higher-than-24 fps frame rate to be the optimal compromise between image quality and motion realism, but judging by the looks of it, 48 fps isn’t it. And if I had to bet, I wouldn’t place my money on going higher.

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Jon Stewart Gets Serious to Talk ‘Utterly Depressing’ Eric Garner Case →

December 04, 2014 |

Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show:

I honestly don’t know what to say. If comedy is tragedy plus time, I need more fucking time. But I would really settle for less fucking tragedy, to be honest with you.

I’ve avoided posting anything related to this topic because, not living in the US, I wasn’t entirely sure I could be objective. This case, however, is just too much to stay silent.

Again, I’ve embedded a YouTube clip of the segment in this article, but if the video is removed — it happens sometimes — the title link will take you to Comedy Central’s official website, where you can watch it on their Flash-based player. Sorry about that.

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The title's Spectre, just Spectre: new James Bond movie named →

December 04, 2014 |

Ben Child, The Guardian:

The 24th Bond movie will be titled Spectre after the evil global terrorist organisation first introduced by Ian Fleming in the 1961 novel Thunderball, it was revealed today.

At a live-streamed press conference from Pinewood Studios, producers also confirmed previous reports that the new film will feature Christoph Waltz and Léa Seydoux among the supporting cast.

Exciting.

Also, check out the new Aston Martin DB10, which was built specifically for the movie. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

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TED-Ed animation explains the nature of floaters, the blurry moving things that sometimes swim across our field of vision →

December 04, 2014 |

A couple months ago I started noticing some weird floating things in the corner of my left eye. I became somewhat concerned, especially because once I noticed them, it became really difficult to stop noticing them all the time. I even started to obsessively check my corner vision every few minutes to see if they were still there and whether they changed position/size. As you can imagine, believing there may be something wrong with your eyes is not a particularly fun experience.

Luckily, today Laughing Squid pointed me towards this excellent TED-Ed animation, in which the nature of such phenomena is explained. It turns out, these things are commonly known as “floaters”, and they’re usually safe. They’re caused by tiny particles floating in the liquid vitreous humor inside the eye and casting shadows on the retina.

So, while in some extreme cases floaters may be the result of a more serious condition, their presence in small quantities is a very common occurrence and is usually no cause for concern. That said, if you’re experiencing similar symptoms and are still unsure as to what it could be, the best course of action is always to check with your doctor.

Update (01/07/2017): Check out this comprehensive guide to floaters at Laser Eye Surgery Hub for more information.

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Stephen Colbert settles the three-bladed lightsaber debate for good →

December 03, 2014 |

Ok, this is admittedly silly, but it’s just too funny to not link it.

The three-bladed lightsaber that appears in the teaser trailer for ‘Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens’ has proven to be an incredibly controversial topic on Twitter, with people arguing ad nauseam over the feasibility of such an exotic design.

Thankfully, the other day Stephen Colbert took it upon himself to settle the discussion once and for all:

[The little beams] don’t start where the little metal hilt ends, OK? They’re attached to the other beam inside. The metal hilts are just casings around the little beams to protect your hand. Even if someone slices through the metal they’re gonna hit the beam right there. Any Padawan knows that! That’s science!

Well played, Mr. Colbert. Well played.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the YouTube video that was embedded in the original version of this post has since been removed due to a copyright claim. Follow the title link to watch it on Comedy Central’s official website (Flash-based, alas).

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One year in one image →

December 03, 2014 |

Norwegian photographer Eirik Solheim used 3,888 different pictures to capture an entire year in one image:

I’m currently working on a new time lapse project. Not a sort-of-time-lapse. But a true one. To put it short: I’ve had an SLR camera in my window at the same spot for one year. Snapping an image every half hour. Resulting in some pretty nice time lapse videos I’ll post here in a couple of days. But first a still image.

One year in one image

Whoa.

It shows one whole year. January at the left and December to the right. You can clearly see that we have a pretty long winter and a decent summer here in Oslo, Norway.

This is easily one of the most amazing images I’ve ever seen.

Via Laughing Squid.

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BitTorrent Goes Legit With Its First Original Web Series →

December 03, 2014 |

Michelle Castillo, Adweek:

Next fall, BitTorrent will distribute its first original Web series, Children of the Machine. The series is helmed by Marco Weber (producer of Igby Goes Down and The Thirteenth Floor) and takes place in the year 2031, in a futuristic society where androids take over and force humans to band together to survive. And, if you’re interested, the only place to get it is to download it via a BitTorrent Bundle, a service that allows artists to release content directly to consumers.

“This is a science fiction show catered to the typical tech-savvy, male-dominated audience,” Weber said. “We’re not trying to launch a romantic comedy, so the concept of this show moved us toward BitTorrent.”

Translation: “Robots, guns, and boobs”. Robots with boobs?

Also:

The pilot and an ad-supported version of Children of the Machine will be made available for free download, but those who want to skip ads can pay $4.95 for the eight-episode season or $9.95 for bonus content.

Good luck with that.

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The Right To Be Heard →

December 03, 2014 |

Richard J. Anderson makes an excellent point:

Freedom of speech is not, and has never been the same as freedom to be heard. Censorship is an organized effort of a governing body to silence something they don’t like, and it can be done by a government or a corporation alike. Individuals choosing who they do not wish to hear, and collaboratively tuning them out is within their rights by any legal framework. If Twitter, or any other service, were bound to force users to see replies from any Tom, Dick, or Harassing Harry on their service, it would be akin to Fox News having the legal right to pre-empt you watching CNN on your TV. (And that analogy works if you flip the networks around.)

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Volkswagen’s New 300 MPG Car Is Not Allowed In America Because It’s Too Efficient →

December 02, 2014 |

The Mind Unleashed:

If the XL1 was equipped with an 18 gallon fuel tank, and you did all highway driving, you could fill it up with an oil change and when the next change was due you could change the oil and keep driving without filling up for and additional 2,400 miles. But it comes with a much smaller fuel tank, because if it could go that long on a single tank chances are the fuel would foul before it got used. The tank is only 2.6 gallons to prevent fuel age related problems from happening. So fill ups are cheap.

That’s impressive. But why wouldn’t such an efficient car be allowed on American roads?

The answer is obvious. Simply for the sake of raking in huge profits from $4 a gallon gas, getting guzzled at 10X the rate it should be, the corporations have via campaign contributions and other types of pay outs succeeded in getting the FED to legislate the best cars off the road for irrelevant trumped up reasons. The XL1 will not meet American emission standards NOT because it is not clean enough, it will not meet them simply because inefficient parts that are mandated by the EPA are not part of the XL1′s power train.

Despicable.

Via The Loop.

UPDATE: Apparently, the conspiracy claims implied in this article may not be entirely reliable. Here’s the flip side of the story:

First of all, it’s not true that the XL1 has “been denied a tour of America because it is too efficient for the American public to be made widely aware of.” Existing safety and traffic regulations do limit where the current XL1 models can be legally driven in public roads in the U.S., but Volkswagen has taken at least three of the vehicles on tour around the U.S., and the staff of Jalopnik drove one around Manhattan at the end of 2013.

Second, the primary reason the XL1 won’t be seen in the U.S. anytime soon is that Volkswagen is only producing 200 units for retail sale (not 2,000 as claimed above), all of them to be sold in Europe via some sort of selection (i.e., lottery) process.

Frankly, I’m not entirely convinced of either version, but it’s only fair to present both sides of the argument. That said, a healthy dose of skepticism is always a good habit to maintain and as ever, it’s your duty as a reader to make up your mind in light of the facts.

Thanks to Mark Bylok for the heads up!

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