Ang Lee, the Oscar-winning director, who is pioneering new technology by using an unprecedented 4K, 3D, 120 fps format, unveiled 11 minutes of footage from his new film, "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk", to an enthusiastic audience.
A crowd of filmmakers and tech execs at NAB 2016 enthusiastically applauded an 11-minute clip from director Ang Lee's upcoming ‘Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk’ when it screened for the first time in public in 4K resolution, 3D and 120 frames per second — an unprecedented production format for a Hollywood feature-length film. Although a few viewers complained that the results looked too much like video — the same reaction that was brought out with Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies showed at 48 FPS — most of the reactions to Lee's footage were overwhelmingly positive.
The clip cut back and forth between the war scenes, which used the high frame rates for a realistic way to put the viewer in chilling combat situations, showing the horror of war in the closeups of the soldiers. Scenes from the halftime show had a different look, with all the lights and the star-like flashes in the stadium. Lee is said to be varying the frame rates throughout the film for creative purposes. In the film, Destiny's Child performs during the halftime show, though in the clip, only the backs of the performers' heads were shown from a distance.
Visual effects master Douglas Trumbull — the director and VFX pioneer who created effects for such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner and who is a proponent of high frame rates, having developed his own system — said: "Awesome. And this was the worst possible scenario [for a screening setup]. It was like being there, which I anticipated. It looks like he will be delivering a stunning movie experience. I'm trembling."
Since there is currently no single digital cinema projector capable of playing back 4K, 3D at 120fps, a projector configuration that used two 4K "Mirage" laser projectors from manufacturer Christie, Dolby 3D glasses and 7th Sense's Delta Infinity III servers for playback was installed at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the screening.
Billy Lynn, which given Lee's track record is considered a potential Oscar contender, is currently in postproduction and scheduled for a Nov. 11 release.
It would be easy to dismiss Ang Lee for trying to do the same thing Peter Jackson failed at, but to put things into perspective it is worth to take a look at some of the things the director said:
“We are so brainwashed by how we do movies. A lot of things we always do, focus pulling, make-up, – I didn’t dare to put on make up [on the actors], apart from the cheerleader, because you see everything. I can see through the skin and see what they [the actors]are thinking. Another thing is a lot of aesthetic we do is to compensate the things we don’t have. When you strobe [in 24p]you do things to make that exciting. So we cast shadow to make it exciting.”
It will be quite interesting to see how the new movie pans out. One would hope the new movie is able to take advantage of the new technology without having to compromise, as it will most likely have to be shown at standard resolution 24 FPS as well. Ultimately the more options filmmakers have the better, the decision how to shoot their films will remain with the creators.