Thoughts about 120 fps / 4K / 3D
BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK premieres
in New York and Los Angeles
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The image was terrifically bright
Many years ago I toyed with a Super 8
projector and noticed that at a very fast frame-per-second rate -- say
64 fps -- the projected image became much more vivid and dimensional.
When Douglas Trumbull developed Showscan, I thought it would turn out to
be the next Cinerama; I was disappointed when no groundbreaking feature
film was ultimately presented in the process. I was intrigued when Peter
Jackson used his considerable clout to try out 48 fps with THE HOBBIT,
but the film's complex visual design and multitude of effects shots
simply did not come off to best advantage in the screening I saw; it
looked strangely stylized and artificial. After reading Trumbull's
MAGI, I became excited all over again with the idea of
high frame rate. Such promise. But judging by what I saw at the
screening of BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK the other day at the AMC
Loews Lincoln Square in Manhattan, the promise remains as yet
The movie has a strange look to it. It isn't a vivid film look; it's a
softer in tone, hi-def video look. One critic compared the picture's
visual quality to a telenovela. While no telenovela has anywhere near as
immediate, bright or indelible an image as BILLY LYNN, the comparison
has some merit. This almost doesn't look like, well, a movie. Which is
actually more than a little offputting in feel. The exterior scenes shot
in bright sunlight have the strongest this-is-real, this-is-happening
effect; many of the interior scenes feel much more subdued and diffused.
A lot of the faces -- there are many close-ups -- seemed plasticized and
unnatural. I was never unaware of the 120 fps rate, but it's hard to
evaluate its effectiveness. Ang Lee told The New York Times, “It’s just
good to look at. You look at it, you just get it.” But I don't know -- I
don't know whether I got it. It isn't that I was expecting something as
visually dramatic as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or even
McCABE & MRS. MILLER (to
cite two films notable for their striking cinematography off the top of
my head), but for the most part I wasn't terribly impressed or moved by
way the picture looked or felt.
I will say that
the image was terrifically bright -- probably the
brightest I've ever seen in a theatre. Even given the 3D glasses, there
were a lot of lamberts. I believe the house had installed a special
(flat) screen in addition to the powerful projectors. The 3D worked
fairly well (I have mostly given up on 3D because of poor illumination
and bad post-conversion jobs). The Dolby Atmos was okay, but not so
immersive as I had expected.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, This is MAGI Cinema
The Future is Now
This is based on an acclaimed novel, and it's possible a lot of the
story works better on the printed page. At any rate, there's little
suspense or surprise in the narrative, or in the way it is told. The
picture's pointed thoughts about the corrupting power of the media and
what is lately allowed to pass for support for the troops aren't new or
even particularly trenchant. While some of the war sequences are
involving and well staged, the scenes aren't quite as intense or
gripping as they might be -- actually, as these need to be, given their
importance in the way the story is structured. The performances are
mixed. I don't think Joe Alwyn has ever been in a feature film before;
he has a fresh quality, but I didn't always believe him (and I never
believed he was a Texan). Much of the picture rests uneasily on this
guy's shoulders. Most of the actors playing the soldiers seem to be
overplaying (Garrett Hedlund is considerably over-the-top as the squad's
Sergeant), though Vin Diesel has effective moments as the colorful
Shroon. [The camera just likes this guy.] The cast includes Kristen
Stewart (one of the few performers clearly wearing makeup, though for a
plot-related reason) Chris Tucker, Dierdre Lovejoy, Tim Blake Nelson and
Makenzie Leigh. Steve Martin plays the weaselly owner of the football
team hosting the soldiers at the Thanksgiving Day game; please forgive
me, but during some lengthy close-ups, I could sometimes think only of
how the actor now slightly resembles W.C. Fields in his later years.
There was almost no ballyhoo for the film at the theatre. Oh, there were
two large vinyl posters for the picture (an image of one is attached),
and when I purchased my ticket, I saw that the letters "HFR" followed
the film's title in its listing on the wall behind the booth... but
there was nothing visible to explain what this meant, or that there was
anything remotely special or different about the picture or its unusual
manner of exhibition. This surprised and disturbed me; it was as though
the theatre was keeping this a secret. I would hope the Cinerama Dome in
Hollywood is making a bigger deal of this.
I didn't love the movie. The future isn't here yet. Let's keep hoping
that someone uses this tool in an unforgettable way.
B. Baker, New York
It was the sharpest, brightest and noise-free
presentation I have ever seen
page advert in New York Times. Click to see enlargement
I saw it today, which is how I knew about the screen change. I’m not sure
whether the 3D, screen brightness, incredibly sharp focus, lack of any
visual noise, high frame rate or the resulting hyper reality was the factor,
but I felt eyestrain throughout most of the film. It was the sharpest,
brightest and noise-free presentation I have ever seen by a huge factor.
It was more like watching a stage play than watching a movie.
One thing I was surprised about was that in spite of the fact that very high
quality lenses had to of been used due to the incredible sharpness, the
bokeh (the quality of the out-of-focus components) was very poor – as bad as
a $100 DSLR lens.
The film itself was interesting and had some good performances, but I didn’t
find it compelling. It did raise some interesting issues about how we treat
our veterans. I think if I had seen it as a ‘normal’ 35mm presentation or
regular 2D digital presentation, it wouldn’t have made a huge impact on me.
I think some people will think this technology is the greatest thing they’ve
ever seen and others will think this is the worse thing that’s ever happened
to cinema. It’s definitely a different approach to cinematography and will
require its own vocabulary. IMO, it’s quite different than the way the HFR
"Hobbit" film looked. While it was hyper-real, this was not “soap
opera” effect – it was something else entirely.
It does lend itself to certain genres of films, but I’m not sure which ones.
It would be great for documentaries and concert films. Judging by the way
the cheerleaders looked in the film, it might be great for erotica although
it will reveal every pore and every flaw in an actor’s face. IMO, it would
be terrible for fantasy films because it would reveal every flaw in makeup,
masks, prothesises, set design, etc. I would like to see a film using the
same process, but in 2D.
Because the theatre switched screens, I did not see this in Dolby Atmos – it
was standard 5.1 or 7.1.
Forest Hills, NY
The picture was quite good
saw it Friday at AMC Lincoln Square in 3D, $16 for senior and I could pick
my seat from a monitor. The 3D glasses from Real had a tint on the inside
lenes, one greenish, one redish but when you look at the front, they are
The 3D effects were very minimal, just one football appeared to be headed
towards the audience but nothing else in the picture appeared to be made for
3D. I believe it is just a marketing ploy for higher prices and would look
fine in 2D.
There is one startling image of Steve Martin's face that fills the screen
for a minute or two that appears incredibly "clean" due to the digital
cameras/projection/3D? I don't think it would look the same in 70mm,
probably more natural.
The picture was quite good but parts seemed to be manufactured for on screen
action, like the security guards angrily pushing the vets off the stage at
Douglas Trumbull was not credited on the titles at the end nor was the
digital camera used credited.
New York, USA
Nonetheless, it was impressive
I saw BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFWAY WALK in
Ultra HD 120 frames per second at the Cinerama Dome. I was impressed. I was
reading the comments from others in your bulletin who saw it in New York. I
really enjoyed the look and feel of the movie in that format. It was
advertised in Los Angeles extensively with huge advertisements in the Los
Angeles Times. Ang Lee had a Question and Answer session after one of the
showings. The film was ONLY presented on the center portion of the great
Cinerama screen (the sides of the great screen covered by the famous blue
curtain). Nonetheless, it was impressive. The use of the center portion of
the Cinerama screen is almost exactly the dimensions of an IMAX screen. The
Dome can transform the huge Cinerama screen into an IMAX presentation with
ease. Just to show you that Cinerama is MUCH better than IMAX. I saw BILLY
LYNN as a satire and it felt like that. The sound was immersive to me unlike
the New York commentaries that felt that the sound was one dimensional. The
sound in the Dome is always immersive and multi-dimensional.
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