The HUGE problem with all those "How X would look in 60FPS!" animation videos in YouTube

matbezlima

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Let's get one thing out of the way: I'm not gonna discuss HFR (High Frame Rate) Cinema in general here. I don't want to attract anyone's wrath. What I'm gonna "rant" about is taking perfectly fine 24FPS animation footage, throwing it into an interpolating software and then saying "This how it would look 60FPS", or worse "ENHANCED in 60FPS!"

I'm far from an expert in technique of animation. But I know that it is an extremely intricate and laborious art. It's not about replicating reality, it's about caricaturing it, exaggerating it, artificiality for effects of all kinds on the viewer.

Inbetweening key poses, drawing the frames in between two strong poses of a movement, are far more than just that. It's a painstaking work in which every small detail matters to what kind of movement you want to make, the effect you want, the poses you want to reinforce, the timing, and so on. If you look at books such as "The Illusion Of Life" by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and "The Animator's Toolkit" by Richard Williams, showcase how intricate all of that is even in the most basic and simplest animation, and how every detail of the key poses, the in-betweens, and so on, makes a huge difference.

Also, remember what I said about animation being the art of artifice for greater impact, and how less can be more in such. Perhaps the easiest example to understand for a person like me, with zero technical knowledge, is the timing of cartoon comedy. It has been well developed and perfected in the Golden Age Of American Animation how you can really sell a gag's surprise and impact more strongly if you do as few frames as possible. In some cases, even no frames of animation between the two extreme poses. Tex Avery (all-time great of the medium, who was perhaps the most key figure in codifying and perfecting so much of extremely fast-paced, creative, meta and silly cartoon comedy as we know it, and he also shaped the Looney Tunes style more than anyone, and he also invented many now classic cartoon jokes, such as the painted tunnel that behaves as if it was real, or a character walking off a cliff and not falling until looking down) was known to edit and trim the timing of his films (cartoon shorts) down to the frame. He reached the conclusion, based on his own tests, that the human eye can perceive an action as fast as 3 frames, or 1/12th of a second. Look at this wonderful gag, from his 1950 cartoon Garden Gopher. There are 0 frames of animation between Spike calmly eating the red pepper, and the supremely hilarious wild take (which Tex Avery invented and perfect, with Northwest Hounded Police being a masterpiece of wild takes) of flames coming from Spike's mouth! You could add frames of transition between these two frames, but the joke would lose part of the impact.


This basic example showcases why more frames doesn't mean better. It's art, it's not just numbers. This is like the loudness wars in music.

Tex Avery also loved to use a type of very over-the-top and obviously artificial motion blur effect for speed, and that's not a criticism. It enhances the sense of absurd speed more than a natural motion blur effect could. It enhances the comedy of his cartoons.


Love the cartoony way the car runs at the end of Little Rural Riding Hood, one of his masterpieces:


Another good example of such is how the smears in a lot of anime add punch to lots of actions.

Chuck Jones, another all-time great of classic american animation and responsible for so many classic Looney Tunes cartoons, perfected a brand of comedy that was simultaneously over-the-top, but also extremely precise and subtle. The laughs often come from a character just raising their eyebrow. Ever since The Dover Boys, which Jones released in 1942, he experimented with strong and precise posing, how to use timing and stylization of movement to reinforce the impact of those strong poses (while not making the cartoon seem static), and stunning facial expressions, eventually reaching his stride and forever cementing his place in history with the cartoons he made in the 50s. Bully For Bugs is my go-to example of Jones' greatness and eternal legacy, despite what some might say...


And we also had Bob Clampett, who (with the immense talent of Rod Scribner) took the squash-and-stretch 30s animation style and gave it such elasticity and wackiness that made the characters of his cartoons so energetic and deranged, they never stop moving and distorting! And I think that Clampett's brand of pure and chaotic, often seemingly random (but not truly random, modern attempts to emulate the style of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons often put too much focus on superficially emulating the wackiness, while forgetting the extremely delicate and precise timing and craft of those cartoons, qualities shown in Friz Freleng's High Diving Hare, for example), brand of wackiness make his cartoons more enjoyable than ever in this age of "lol random" meme humor.


Messing with finished and wonderful animation by artificially adding frames that are not only not needed, but actively distract and ruin the intended artistic effect from all the intricate hard work of the animators in drawing their poses and inbetweens, is terrible.

Look at this popular video: Mulan in 60FPS. There is a scene of an avalanche. The careless inbetweening done by the software, to make the animation be 60FPS, erases the impact, makes the avalanche seem like a fragile cake breaking down, instead of something solid, unelastic and strong as rock! And there are many other cases in the video of the intended effects of the movements being ruined!

It's really sad to see some people in the comments defending and taking seriously the 60FPS animation as "better", they can't think outside the no-nuance idea of "smoother=better". It's the gaming crowd that seems to be most victim of this misconception, applying logic of videogames to entirely different artforms! Even the uploader of this video says it is just an odd experiment, it shouldn't be seen as anything else! Sad to see some people analogies of 24FPS with 60FPS being just like a new car being better than an older one. Art does not work like that, more frame rates doesn't equal better (this seems like loudness wars' logic in music)! The next thing I'll hear is that painting is "obsolete" because we now have photography! We shouldn't do grafitti anymore too!

It's infuriating to see people saying "we should maximize the frame rates in all mediums, unless there is a reason not to". No, it's the opposite. "Maximize the frame rates if you need it".

What Mulan (1998) would look like in 60fps

Interpolation software can help a lot in the actual animation work, but it does not replace the animator, and it doesn't know artistic intent, style and effect, it just adds more frames without the many crucial intricacies of the process!

Last, but not least, even the most expensive animated films and animated TV shows don't have 24 frames per second (24FPS is the standard frame rate of all films ever made, you can count the number of films with higher framerates just with your hands) all the time. Far from such. It's common for smaller scenes of characters just standing around and talking with each other to be only in 12FPS. Animation is an extremely laborious, intricate and tough work, and you need to be wise in saving the higher frame-rates for when you really need them. I only know of Richard Williams as being willing to make an entire feature-length animated film in 24FPS (The Thief And Cobbler), and he wasn't able to finish it. Richard Williams loved smooth animation, but he also said that 24FPS animation can turn into goo blobs if you don't have very strong discipline. 60FPS only exacerbates those risks, and it's currently not worthy animating in it, specially with film as a whole not needing to be above 24FPS, and considering the amazing amount of stuff animation can do so wonderfully already (and often with less being more). Imagine drawing 60 frames for a second!

If anyone wants to see great animation in higher frame rates than 24FPS, go look at animation that was made in those higher frame rates to begin with! Not interpolation of perfectly fine 24FPS animation and ruining all the effects of it and much more. Videos such as Mulan in 60FPS are just fun experiments.

I don't want to say that there isn't artistic potential for animation in higher frame rates than 24FPS. But so far, to quote Jurassic Park, you shouldn't do anything just because you can. Animation is such a laborious and insanely hard work.

I also recommend this video essay:

Smoother animation ≠ Better animation [4K 60FPS]
 
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