Persistence of vision

Unfortunately it’s not really practicable for me to go to see The Hobbit screened in 48 frames-per-second. I should be very interested to see what it looked like: it’s an obvious improvement in quality. The long-established standard (since 1929) of 24 fps is plainly inadequate: even Thomas Edison commented at the time that it wasn’t enough, and I for one can clearly see strobing on fast movement. I expect most people can (though I do seem to have a slightly shorter persistence of vision than normal) but they are so used to it that they don’t notice it.

So why, if it’s an obvious improvement, are so many people complaining about it? It’s an observable phenomenon that people get used to imperfections and find difficulty in adjusting to improvements.

Quad_ESL-57_luidspreker
Example: The Quad Electrostatic loudspeaker which appeared in the 1950s was far and above the most accurate loudspeaker available at that time - even over 50 years later it’s still better and more accurate quality than many modern conventional box-type speakers. At the time it showed up almost every other ‘hi-fi’ speaker for the unpleasant squawk-box it really was. And yet many people complained that it was ‘clinical’ - meaning, I suppose, that it lacked the colorations and distortions they were used to hearing, and so they didn’t like it.

Another example: many people complain that transistor amplifiers don’t sound as good as valve amplifiers (I’m talking about high-quality ones here - there are plenty of bad ones about, and always were, but that’s not relevant) - meaning that they missed the warm, fat, cuddly sound of many valve amplifiers (which is caused by microphony - the valves being vibrated by the sound from the speakers, and so colouring the sound).

An extreme example - some years back I was working on a BBC World Service programme in an Indian language, which included some LPs of songs from films (almost all Indian films have lots of songs in them). The quality was terrible, despite their being (then) modern recordings. I commented on this, and was told that the bulk of the population, living in the countryside, had got used over the years to the very poor quality of the soundtracks in local cinemas; and if they heard the songs in a good quality recording they wouldn’t accept them as sounding correct.

I could go on: but the point is that 48 fps must surely be an improvement, but once again it will meet with considerable resistance from people to whom cinema is not authentic if it doesn’t display the same faults it always has.