Getting started with video can be a bit intimidating, especially when you hear so many technical-sounding terms like frame rate or fps.
Even if you’ve heard of frame rate, it can be hard to be sure which is the best option for your videos. after all, there are several factors to consider when choosing a frame rate.
don’t worry! We’ve broken down the definition of frame rate and why it matters in one easy-to-understand guide.
This is what you will learn:
- what is frame rate?
- why is frame rate important?
- how do I choose the best frame rate for my video?
- what are the different types of frame rates?
what is frame rate?
Remember those cool little flipbooks where a pad of paper had an image on each page and when you flipped through the pages quickly, the image seemed to animate and move?
This is how video works. Whether it’s digital or old-school film, video is a series of still images that, when viewed in order at a certain speed, give the appearance of movement. each such image is called a “frame”.
The frame rate, then, is the speed at which those images are displayed, or how quickly the book “sheets”. It is usually expressed as “frames per second” or fps. so if a video is captured and played back at 24 fps, that means each second of video shows 24 different still images.
the speed at which they are displayed tricks your brain into perceiving smooth motion.
why is frame rate important?
Frame rate has a huge impact on the style and viewing experience of a video. Different frame rates produce different viewing experiences, and choosing a frame rate often means thinking about multiple factors, like how realistic you want your video to look, or whether or not you plan to use techniques like slow-motion effects or motion blur. movement.
For example, Hollywood-style movies are usually shown at 24fps, as this frame rate is similar to how we see the world and creates a very cinematic look. Live video or videos with a lot of motion, such as sporting events or video game recording, often have higher frame rates because there is so much going on at once. a higher frame rate keeps motion smooth and details sharp.
On the other hand, people who create animated gifs often sacrifice detail for a smaller file size and choose a low frame rate.
how do I choose the best frame rate for my video?
First of all, there is no “best” frame rate. As stated above, different frame rates produce different results, so selecting the best one means choosing the option that best suits what you’re trying to create. Although frame rate is a relatively simple concept, there is a lot of controversy around which speeds provide the best viewing experience, with research supporting almost any frame rate. Controversy aside, here are four things to consider when choosing a frame rate.
The frame rate of a video has a huge impact on the appearance of a video, which in turn determines how realistic the video looks. this concept is directly related to the way we naturally see the world.
When we see motion, such as a person throwing a ball or a passing car, we naturally see a certain amount of motion blur. Ideally, the frame rate you choose will mimic this motion blur, keeping the experience as realistic as possible. if you choose a frame rate that is too high, things will start to look unnatural and the video will suffer from what is known as the “soap opera effect”.
Basically, the video shows too much detail, which makes it look unnatural. On the other hand, if you choose too low a frame rate, the video will start to look choppy and give a bad experience. To help determine which frame rate is best for you, let’s look at some common options and how they’re used.
24 fps – This is the standard for movies and TV shows, and was determined to be the minimum speed needed to capture video while maintaining realistic motion. even if a movie is shot at a higher frame rate, it is often produced and displayed at 24fps. most feature films and TV shows are shot and viewed at 24fps.
30fps – This has been the standard for television since the early days and is still widely used even though producers are moving towards a more cinematic 24fps. videos with a lot of motion, like sports, will often benefit from the extra frames per second. the reasons for using 30fps are strangely complicated and mostly have to do with long-established electrical and television standards. for more information, see this article on frame rate and go to the section titled “modern video standards”.
Over 60 fps: Anything above 30 fps is primarily used for creating slow-motion video or recording video game footage. Also, as technology continues to evolve, many smartphones can now also record at 60fps.
The next key variable to consider when choosing a frame rate is the amount of motion in the video. this one is pretty straight forward. if you have a lot of movement, you’ll probably want to capture at a higher frame rate.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you want to output at a higher frame rate, but capturing at a higher frame rate ensures a higher level of detail for the amount of motion captured. the higher frame rate also allows for more flexibility when editing. To help you decide what’s best for you, here are some common options.
24 fps : As stated above, this is the minimum frame rate required to capture video while maintaining realistic motion. if you capture a crowded scene at 24fps, you’ll see a lot of motion blur.
30 fps : With six more frames per second than 24 fps, you’ll see more detail during scenes with a lot of movement; however, the movement will start to look a bit unnatural and will suffer from the “soap opera effect”.
Over 60 fps: Anything above 30 fps is generally reserved for recording busy scenes with a lot of movement, such as video games, athletics, or anything you want to show in slow motion.
Gamers record at this rate because so much is happening on their screen at once, and more frames equals more detail. sports are often shot at a high frame rate, so they can be slowed down to show replays while maintaining crisp, clear video.
How a video is delivered, such as via youtube or broadcast television, and the device a person uses to view your video can greatly affect the options you have for frame rate.
Not all devices and delivery methods support all frame rates, so it’s best to research this before you start shooting.
To help address delivery, let’s look at some of the most common places people watch videos and how video is delivered.
streaming video over the internet
This is fast becoming the most common way to deliver video, with many streaming services supporting a wide range of frame rates. viewers tend to be a bit more relaxed about frame rates online; however, it is important to note that older televisions and computer monitors may not have a screen refresh rate that can handle higher frame rates.
When producing video for television, it’s best to stay between 24 and 30 fps. this ensures that your videos look realistic and fit what people expect from broadcast television. Live broadcasts like news and sports are almost always shot at 30fps, while TV shows and movies are usually shot at 24fps.
Movie theaters and projectors in general remain an incredibly popular way to consume video. Just like TV broadcasts, the frame rate should be kept at 24fps. this will give your video a “cinematic” look and you can be sure it will be viewed correctly with most projectors.
file size & export times
The final factors to consider when choosing a frame rate are file size and export times. These two are pretty straightforward: the higher the frame rate, the more still images will be included in each second of video.
more images means more information, and more information means larger files and longer export times. this is especially important to keep in mind when uploading videos to online streaming sites like youtube, vimeo, and screencast.
higher quality video is always the most desirable, but larger file sizes require better internet connections and computer hardware to stream at full quality. this means that people who don’t have the latest equipment or the fastest services may have a bad experience.
Choosing a frame rate requires some thought, and if you keep in mind the four key points outlined above, you should be successful. If you want to experiment with frame rates and see a little more about how they work, this site offers some fun ways to experiment.
Get out there and make some great videos! check out the video below for a great tutorial on how to make your first video with techsmith camtasia.
frequently asked questions
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and completeness.