When Peter Jackson opted to shoot and release "The Hobbit" at 48 frames per second, he predicted the higher frame rate would become the new standard for all of Hollywood's biggest films.
Instead, it sparked a major dispute. Less than a year after the film's release, the jury is still out, but that didn't deter Freddie Wong, the most effects-savvy filmmaker on YouTube, from shooting the action scenes of the second season of his hit show "Video Game School" at 48 frames per second.
Wong, his partners and his managers/producers at the Collective Digital Studio made history over the weekend by releasing the second season of that show at a mixed frame rate on their own website, RocketJump.com. It is the first web show ever shot and released at a mixed frame rate, and so far the numbers look very strong.
The second season debuted on Friday, and garnered 1.3 million views in its first three days — on pace with the first season, which drew more than 55 million views. About a quarter of those views came from RocketJump.
You debuted new episodes of the last season on your own website (RocketJump) one week before on they appeared YouTube. This one debuted at the same time on YouTube. Why?
It was part of our deal for using the YouTube space. Because we shot there for free, they requested that we don't window stuff.
We also decided if we get everything out there at once people will have a good reason to come to our site. We have a high-frame rate version and a high-frame rate player on our site. Only a few people could see "The Hobbit" in 3D at a high frame rate and there's nowhere else you can go to watch high frame rate anything.
Jackson got a lot of negative feedback for that.
It's the technology that Peter Jackson and James Cameron are saying is the future of cinema. People will watch things everywhere and if people like a place for watching (like YouTube), they need to have a good reason to watch things somewhere else. We accomplished that by being the only thing on the internet in mixed and high frame rate.
How was it shooting with high-frame rate?
There were more hard drives [Laughs]. The Red Epic has the ability to select that 48 frames per second. We shot action scenes in that and the rest in standard 24. On the edit, our final video file that comes out is a 48-frame video file so all the 24 sequences are just doubling the frames.
How did you decide you wanted to do that?
Matt [Arnold] and I were talking about the idea of split frame rates almost when we started talking about the show. If you're a gamer, you know 60 frames per second is the gold standard of gaming. It's important for reaction times and smoothness.
We knew how cool it would be if in the show games were 60 FPS and the rest were 24 FPS. But that particular combo is not possible.
How do you gauge that fan response?
Through various social channels. It's probably how most people gauge fan response when it comes to their movies too, but the director isn't out there talking to everybody.
I can talk to a lot of people and get a statistically significant sampling of people through comments, social media and all the tool sets available to us.
Do you have a sense of how many of your fans on YouTube are willing to cross over to RocketJump? The early numbers showed about one quarter of your views coming from your own site.
We're in the infancy of it. We're just starting out having ancillary content and podcasts.
Realistically I know there are people who love that stuff and want to get into it and will hop over anywhere. Then there are people who have YouTube on their phones and have decided that's how they watch things. Those people will be harder to transfer, but the only thing we can do is keep putting out interesting things on our site.
What are you plans for building out the site?
We're exploring other kinds of content that aren't video — podcasts and blog posts. It also lets us have more of a handle on the community and the experience so we'll offer rewards and achievements and games. We also want our site to be a more interesting and engaging experience than YouTube. Engagement and rewards and gamification is something we can build out.
Also, the player. We offer selectable audio-commentary tricks, a high frame rate player and subtitles to whatever.
Last season was more like a movie chopped up into short bits. This time around you decided to make TV-length episodes. How have viewers responded?
The response has been very good, which echoes the sentiment we saw at the end of the first season. The last episode was 22 minutes long and everyone said 'why couldn't the whole season have had episodes this long?'
TV length lets us expand the universe a lot better than in the movie. In a movie you have your plot and plow through it. In this we can explore side characters and there's more diversity in terms of plots and themes.
As far as I can tell from other web series, most people think no one will sit around for a show this length. But most people are more than willing to.
What else separates this season from the previous one?
There's a jump up in quality in pretty much every aspect you can measure — production value, cinematography, acting.
Would you want to bring in more professional actors?
We have story lines we wanna tell and we love our actors. This season we have the inclusion of new character played by Cynthia Watros; she's been on "Lost" and "Titus" and "House."
The opportunity to work with some heavyweights would be awesome — if it fits into the "Video Game High School" universe.
So what's next for you? "VGHS 3"?
We're working on an anthology kind of show with sci-fi/actions projects. The plan for "VGHS" is to go three seasons and then think about it. I don't want to get into a position where we're just doing one web series over and over again. We want more series and more diversity.
We have some ideas for an animated version of "VGHS." When we were shooting we thought, "Wouldn't this be easier if we could draw all this?"
Watch the first episode: