Powerful New 4K System for 3D to Be used in Avatar Sequels (Maybe)

by on September 15, 2014

by Stephan Jukic September 15th, 2014

At 120 frames per second, the new system for 4K 3D offers some of the best frame rate density of any Ultra HD system found on the market today

Developed by one of the founders of IMAX, Douglas Trumbull, the MAGI process, as it’s known is designed for the capture and display of images at a rate of 120 frames per second in Full HD, 4K UHD and in 3D on giant screens that use conventional digital 4K projectors to show movies.

Given that most films shown in theaters today are actually filmed and shown at a measly 24 fps, The 120 frames of Trumbull’s system are a drastic departure from conventional film projection and the hope of its creator is that by upping the frame rate so high that there’s absolutely no discernable jump between stills in the film, his MAGI system will create a deeply realistic simulation of reality on the screen. This realism would apply even more so if you factor in the massive 4K Cinema Grade resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels that the screen would show.

According to Trumbull, “I know that Cameron admired Showscan [Trumbull’s earlier version of a high frame-rate projection system for large format viewing] and that he is a huge advocate of high frame rates [HFR]…. The use of HFRs for Avatar would be very appropriate and very successful.”

However, Trumbull also says that he hasn’t yet discussed the use of his 120 fps MAGI system with Cameron, “I don’t know if Cameron is interested [in the use of MAGI for the expected sequels to Avatar].

Trumbull mainly unveiled the MAGI HFR system at the recent IBC conference in Amsterdam and has indicated that he has already received a lot of interest from additional directors about using it in their movies. He also said that if directors like J.J Abrams and Peter Jackson, both known for movies with a lot of fast action, decide they’d like to pursue MAGI, then a lot of traction was possible.

Avatar in 4K 3D

Avatar’s sequels are major contenders for using 4K 3D MAGI system for UHD at 120fps

Specifically, MAGI is a technique which involves shooting 4K 3D at 60 frames per second and with alternate shutter speeds. What this technique then means is that when the video is played back through a 3D theater projector, the picture synchronizes with the projector’s alternative left/right eye cadence. The end result is an extremely fluid rate of motion that gives no strobing, flickering or other effects.

In total, the picture that results is a viewing experience orders of magnitude more realistic than any conventional picture projection at conventional frame rates and settings. It almost resembles a large window view into another reality.

Trumbull explained at IBC that he had to embark on the creation of MAGI using his own resources because there was a distinct lack of interest from any major studios. According to him, the film studio industry essentially didn’t want to change their filming medium because it would disrupt an already established system too much.

However, he claims that “….I don’t personally feel we should limit the impact of what we can do as filmmakers just to milk the market.”

HFR technology in general (but not specifically the MAGI system) garnered its largest mainstream exposure during the release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, which was filmed at a much smaller but still well above normal 48 frames per second. However, many detractors claimed that the visual effect produced was extremely unappealing.

In response to this criticism, Trumbull claims that 48 fps creates a disturbing “uncanny valley” look to film but that dramatically upping the frame rate to 120 fps would cause this to go way, instead replacing it with hyper realism.

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