Why a Higher Frame Rate Doesn’t Automatically Make Animation Better
May 3, 2021
Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about why, in animation, a smoother frame rate is not necessarily a good thing.
To paraphrase a wise man, sometimes people are so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they don’t stop to think if they should. Recently, a video showed up on my YouTube home page titled “What If Jason and the Argonauts Had Smoother Stop-Motion?” The video runs Ray Harryhausen‘s iconic stop-motion sequences through an algorithm that uses artificial intelligence to “animate” more frames.
The process is known as motion interpolation. And it is, effectively, a perceived increase in frame rate. In the “updated” segments, the clunky movements of the Colossus of Rhodes appear fluid. The jerky joints of the sword-wielding skeletons are all lubed up. But is it an improvement?
As another video essay — shared below — explains, “smoother” animation, via increase in frame rate, isn’t necessarily “good” animation. Coming from the perspective of an animator, the essay offers a pointed response towards videos like the Jason and the Argonauts one I came across. As the essay underlines, applying the process retroactively to existing animation is a bit… problematic.
To be clear: there is nothing wrong with animation with a higher frame rate, let alone using interpolating software during the animation process, as some animation studios are starting to do. But problems arise when you apply interpolation to an existing work of art, especially when the application itself is marred with a superior sense of the process of “enhancing” the original footage.
Originally created for live-action footage, interpolation ignores many of the core principles of animation (especially timing and easing). But that is, as they say, just the tip of the iceberg.
Watch “Smoother animation ≠ Better animation“:
Who made this?
This video on animation frame rates is by Noodle, a YouTuber, animator, and essayist based in the United States. Their videos span a range of subjects, from the ups and downs of virtual reality to what makes the 1995 film Hackers a good (bad) movie. You can subscribe to Noodle on YouTube here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.
More Videos Like This
- If you’d like to learn more about the delicate science of “adding more frames” when it comes to live-action filmmaking, you can check out this video from StudioBinder which breaks down everything you’ve ever wanted to know about frame rates.
- In this video from WIRED, the makers of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse discuss the rationale behind their film’s ever-shifting frame rate, and how those choices worked in tandem with character development.
- Here’s Filmmaker IQ with a defense of 24 FPS and why it’s here to stay when it comes to live-action cinema.