Despite Ain’t It Cool’s two sources saying that “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” is set to be released in the relatively new 48 FPS “HFR” process, multiple sources close to the production emphatically refuted those claims this morning. No one was willing to offer us any official comment at this time, but it was quite telling that one person I reached out to had not yet heard the story and another, when I explained it, seemed unsure what HFR was. Even the studio seemed a little surprised and confused by the story overall when contacted about it, hardly the slick denial that they normally have ready when they’re not yet prepared to announce something.
To be clear, 20th Century Fox is not planning to release “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” in the HFR process.
If it were true, it would be big news. Right now, Peter Jackson is still the only major studio filmmaker who has been willing to shoot and release something in the format, and the response to last year’s “Hobbit” release had me wondering if they were even going to bother putting out the other two films in the trilogy that way.
After all, it’s one thing to release your movie in 2D and 3D. The post-production pipeline has been somewhat set up to accommodate those two choices. But 48 FPS is a whole new animal, and a far more aggressive aesthetic decision. I think there’s absolutely room for HFR to be a part of big-budget blockbuster filmmaking, and it really does transform the experience completely. I’m personally happy that Dolby Atmos seems to be something the entire industry is starting to embrace, and much more emphatically than with HFR, because it’s just as important that we continue to push the sound experience forward.
It’s so different, though, that many people were simply unable to get past the shock of the new. It also seems that Jackson really threw his entire production team into the deep end of the pool on the film, and you can see how everyone, from the camera department to the art department to costumes and make-up and landscaping and anything that ended up in front of the camera all had to go through a radical learning curve just to be able to make their work look right again. HFR doesn’t look like film at all, and realizing that all those small things that film hides are only amplified by HFR must have been upsetting at first. It’s like when Hollywood jumped from black-and-white to color. Just learning how to capture a human’s skin tone must have seemed like a whole new challenge.
I have no investment, one way or another, in the idea of “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” being in HFR or not being released that way. Sure, I think some of those sets, like the one in the photo on this story, would look amazing that way, and I’m sure men and women around the world would welcome the chance to study Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender in HFR. There’s not a lot of middle ground on a story like this, and I know that Quint is very good about vetting sources. At this point, Quint knows people working on movies on what seems like every continent on the planet, and he does not just fly off the handle with scoops. If he reported this, then he feels very good about the information. I did not visit the set of “X-Men: Days Of Future Past,” and if I had, I’m sure that would have been the first thing that was apparent on set. UPDATE: I am hearing now that the film was shot in 48 FPS, which would suggest that this decision about whether or not to release it that way was one they made during post.
The film is set for release at the end of May, so there have to be holiday trailers for it. I’d bet money you’ll see them in front of films like “Thor: The Dark World” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” in theaters, and at that point, if they are doing a HFR release, then it would only be logical for Fox to work something out with Warner so they can get a special HFR trailer attached to “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug,” which I assume is still moving forward with a 48 FPS release in the theaters that were fitted for the process last year. At that point, if Quint’s right, the question will be pretty conclusively answered.
But that’s not what I’m hearing, and so it makes me wonder how this even gets started. How does that information pick up enough momentum to end up with Quint? Repeatedly? Were tests done? Was it a conversation they had at some point? Singer is a guy who is more than willing to let others steer him to new tech, and he seems genuinely curious about what’s next in terms of visual effects and camera innovations. I would believe it if you told me the film was shot in 48 FPS, and I’d look forward to seeing someone else’s take on the process.
One thing… I don’t think this is like 3D. I don’t believe you can just double the frame rate on something that was shot regularly and gain the same benefits or experience as if you shot it that way. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but it seems far less likely. 3D conversions took a while to figure out, and they’re still constantly refining it, and that’s because it is a labor-intensive process. It’s not automatic, and just doubling how many frames you’re showing doesn’t change how the material was shot. Either they shot this film in 48 FPS or they didn’t, and I’d think getting that answer conclusively is the only way to sort this one out now.
Right now, I’d say it’s likely that you’ll be stuck with plain ol’ giant-budget 3D when “X-Men Days Of Future Past” opens in theaters May 23, 2014.