As a weeb growing up in the late 2000s, I’ve seen enough AMVs (Anime Music Videos) to last me a lifetime. They were an integral part of the anime internet culture when it was just starting, with anime fans putting their favorite characters with popular songs. Nowadays, AMVs are a stunning art form in their own right, with a new trend that has caught on like fire: 60 FPS (Frames Per Second) renderings of beloved anime.
Now, what does that mean, exactly? It’s basically a form of animation where you add more frames to an existing scene, which are often animated in 24 FPS or less, lending ‘more’ fluidity and detail to it when airing. It often makes things look smoother and has been picked up by AMV enthusiasts, thanks to AI programs. Yup, gone are the days of badly spliced 144p footage of Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto Shippuden set to Cascada’s Bad Boy. Now you have these stunning, gorgeous fight scenes with near cinematic rendering, garnering millions of views on YouTube. But is that a good thing?
I mean, in retrospect, it sounds like a good idea, right? To have animation be more fluid helps in making it look good, makes it ‘better’. And having anime be better animated is a win-win for both the creator and the audience, yeah? Sure, a 60FPS render of Nobara Kugisaki’s fight scene in Jujutsu Kaisen sounds amazing in theory but that doesn’t always translate in real life.
Now, there are several reasons why more frames don’t equal better animation, especially when it comes to anime. Simply put, an excess of anything, especially without intent, ends up ruining more than it improves. But let’s dissect this issue properly! And this is something animators have tried explaining for years, especially since the dawn of AI programs that automatically convert lower FPS pieces into higher ones.
Higher FPS Anime: Time Is Money
This is a common point brought up. Animation doesn’t happen overnight; it takes a lot of time and effort to create every frame of a scene in an anime. It’s why high-quality anime tends to come with a shorter run time, often amounting to less than 20 episodes per season.
That’s because it isn’t an easy job to animate a masterpiece. And once that time is lost, you can’t get it back. Take the case of the Violet Evergarden movie, which was slated for release earlier than last year, but had to be put on hold after tragedy struck the animation studio responsible, Kyoto Animation. Imagine having to recreate specific scenes, and pivotal moments to be exactly like they were before. The time and money it must’ve cost, going into crunch mode to put it all together again.
Animators work hard, very hard, to give us the anime we love. And for that to be done sincerely, they need time and incentive. Increasing the normal frame rate of 24 FPS by 3 times the amount would not only overburden the animation studio but make it look sloppy instead of how it is intended to be.
The Animator’s Vision Isn’t a 60 FPS Anime
Another important aspect that fans tend to overlook but are integral to the creative process for any anime, is the intention of the animators or their artistic liberties. It’s little nuances and quirks that are signature to any animator’s art style and important in how they create anime.
For example, anime isn’t set to one exact amount of FPS. Some scenes require more frames, some require less. Animators often work in rules of ‘twos’ or ‘threes’ – this is where they put a pause in between frame transitions to make the scene hold out for longer, adding more impact to the action happening on screen. This means an already 24 FPS scene is further brought down to something like 12 FPS. This doesn’t mean the animation looks bad, not by a long shot. It only improves it, adding depth and making it look more dynamic without exaggerating the scene.
Pauses like these, or changing the frame rate up randomly, is something that is determined by the animator. These kind of decisions are something that requires a humane touch. It isn’t something an automated AI can emulate, no matter what algorithm you feed it.
Using The Wrong Tool At The Wrong Time
That doesn’t mean animators haven’t used higher frame rates in anime before. There are programs built-in with techniques that help render timing and easing already, with a technique called Interpolating. But it doesn’t always work properly or is even needed, which is why animation studios use it so little, let alone make 60 FPS anime.
Often it blurs the frames in between, leading to wonky animation and leaving key moments barely comprehensible. Not to mention, there is an entire job description for this kind of in-between animation work. It requires a whole other team to work on these frames, again something that can’t be emulated by AI alone.
So, this is why even though a higher frame rate (60 FPS) anime sounds amazing, it isn’t a good idea in practice. And remember, anime is a labor of love. If anyone could do it, they wouldn’t be so special, now would they?