CinemaCon: James Cameron Ramps Up His Calls for Higher Frame Rates

Director says speeds of 48 or 60 frames per second will improve 3D

James Cameron came to CinemaCon preaching the gospel of higher frame rates. 

The "Avatar" auteur took the stage at Caesar's Palace on Thursday morning to convince a far from capacity crowd that rates of 48 to 60 frames a second will solve the distortions that mar the 3D experience. 

"Oh no, here's this guy again. Every time he shows up at one of these things it costs me money," Cameron joked to exhibitors. 

When he previously popped up in 2005 at the Las Vegas trade show it was to convince theater owners to invest in digital so they could begin showing 3D films. But the director assured the audience that this time the investment would be far more cost efficient than the $100,000 many paid to upgrade their theaters the last go round. 

As an incentive, Cameron said he plans to make the next two "Avatar" films at a rate of 48 or 60 frames per second. Don't hold your breath for those movies; Cameron told the crowd that he's still in the script stage and is at least 18 months away from filming. 

He also said that George Lucas and Peter Jackson are big boosters of the higher frame rates. Jackson even initially intended to film "The Hobbit" at 48 frames, before deciding it was impractical, Cameron told the crowd. 

To show off the improved quality of higher frame rates, Cameron screened a test reel of medieval scenes shot at the various speeds. The effect was startling. At the standard 24 frames, many foreground objects and the actors' hands blurred whenever the camera panned quickly. 

At the higher rates of speed, the shakiness vanished. 

As Cameron noted, many 3D televised sports events are already shot at faster rates, leaving exhibitors at a competitive disadvantage.

With theater owners already worried that audiences are abandoning the cinema for the comforts of their home entertainment centers, Cameron argued exhibitors cannot afford to make the case that: "What you're going to see is special and better than what you have in your home, except the motion sucks."

One big question was left unanswered. Sure, it looks great, but how much is this all going to cost?