Another thing about Brainstorm that I don't see mentioned often is how real the corporate environment felt. As someone who spent the late 80s in and around university-adjacent tech startups, I really felt that part of the movie where the engineers think it's their project, until the suits yank on the DARPA-branded choker-chain and explain that, no, it's not, and it never was.
"We were seeing stuff we had never seen before, because there was no blurring," Trumbull says. "The frames were sharp as a tack, because the shutter closure was so narrow. The movie became incredibly vivid and powerful."
They settled on 60 fps on 70mm film and named the technology Showscan, incorporating a company called Future General. "The reason I choose 60 was because that's the same frame rate that television has been forever, because television is very narcotically stimulating," Trumbull says. "We did this test in a laboratory at the university [California State Polytechnic] down in Pomona, California. We found these laboratory guys that were really interested in measuring human physiological stimulation -- to gauge people's reaction. We ran tests that could show all these films shot at different frame rates and do what they call a double blind study -- mixing them and never tell anyone what the order of events are. We hooked individuals up to an electrocardiogram, and an electroencephalograph [which records electrical activity in the brain], and we measured galvanic skin response [similar to a polygraph] -- all to measure the physiological stimulation at the different frame rates. It created this hyperbolic curve that got better and better the higher frame rate you went to. It was empirical. This was like a really epic discovery about how to make movies better. That was our mission." [...]
The increased film speed and aspect ratio shocked Rubin. "I've ridden on roller coasters in real life, and I rode the roller coaster in Showscan," he says. "The memory locked in by the viewing of Showscan was stronger than the memory of actually going on a roller coaster. It registers in a very deep, impactful way." [...]
That effect was going to play right into Trumbull's vision for Brainstorm. During the parts of the story when no character was wearing the magic headset, the film would run as usual -- 24 fps, 35mm. But when a character put the headset on and entered another character's consciousness, the aspect ratio would widen to 70mm and the frame rate would jack up to 60: Everything would seem bigger, crisper, hyperreal. Viewers would feel like they were wearing that headset themselves -- a meta effect pushing the science-fiction plot into something approaching reality.
Is there a digital version of this movie that comes close to capturing that experience or that level of detail? I guess that would take 8K at 60FPS? Which would be useless to those of us who max out at 1080p.
How do you watch a movie that switches between 2.35:1 @ 60 and 1.66:1 @ 24 on a 1.78:1 device?
I'd love to see this again on a real screen.