Getting started with video can be a little 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 choice is best for your videos. After all, there are multiple factors to take into account when choosing a frame rate.
Not to worry! We’ve broken down the definition of frame rate and why it matters in an easy-to-understand guide.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- What is frame rate?
- Why does frame rate matter?
- 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 every page, and when you flipped through the pages quickly, the image would appear to animate and move?
This is how video works. Whether 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 motion. Each of those images is called a “frame.”
Frame rate, then, is the speed at which those images are shown, or how fast you “flip” through the book. It’s usually expressed as “frames per second,” or FPS. So if a video is captured and played back at 24fps, that means each second of video shows 24 distinct still images.
The speed at which they’re shown tricks your brain into perceiving smooth motion.
Why does frame rate matter?
Frame rate greatly impacts the style and viewing experience of a video. Different frame rates yield different viewing experiences, and choosing a frame rate often means thinking about multiple factors, such as how realistic you want your video to look or whether or not you plan to use techniques like slow motion or motion-blur effects.
For example, Hollywood-style movies are usually displayed at 24fps, since this frame rate is similar to how we see the world and creates a very cinematic look. Live videos or videos with a lot of motion, such as sporting events or video game recording, often have higher frame rates because there’s a lot happening at once. A higher frame rate keeps the motion smooth and the details crisp.
On the other hand, people who create animated GIFs will 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 such thing as the “best” frame rate. As stated above, different frame rates yield different results, so selecting the best one means going with the option that best fits what you’re trying to create.
Even though frame rate is a relatively straightforward concept, there’s a fair amount of controversy around which rates provide the best viewing experience, and there’s research that builds the case for just about any frame rate. Controversy aside, here are four things you need to keep in mind when choosing a frame rate.
The frame rate of a video greatly impacts the look and feel of a video, which in turn determines how realistic the video appears. This concept ties directly to how we naturally see the world.
When we see motion, such as a person throwing a ball or a car driving by, 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’s too high, things will start to look unnatural and the video will suffer from what’s called the “soap opera effect.”
Essentially, the video actually shows too much detail, which makes it look unnatural. On the other hand, if you choose a frame rate that’s too low, the video will start to look choppy and will provide a poor experience. To help figure out which frame rate is best for you, let’s look at a few common options and how they’re used.
24fps –This is the standard for movies and TV shows, and it was determined to be the minimum speed needed to capture video while still maintaining realistic motion. Even if a film is shot at a higher frame rate, it’s often produced and displayed at 24fps. Most feature films and TV shows are shot and viewed at 24 fps.
30fps –This has been the standard for television since the early days, and is still widely used despite producers moving toward a more cinematic 24fps. Videos with a lot of motion, such as sports, will often benefit from the extra frames per second.
The reasons for using 30fps is strangely complicated and it mainly has to do with television and electricity standards set a long time ago. If you want to learn more, check out this article on frame rate and jump down to the section titled “modern video standards.”
60+fps – Anything higher than 30fps is mainly used to create slow-motion video or to record video game footage. Additionally, as technology continues to evolve, many smartphones are now capable of recording at 60 fps as well.
The next key variable to take into consideration when choosing a frame rate is the amount of motion in your video. This one’s pretty straightforward. If you have a lot of movement, you’ll probably want to capture at a higher frame rate.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to produce 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 a few common options.
24fps – As stated above, this is the minimum speed needed to capture video while still maintaining realistic motion. If you capture a really busy scene at 24fps, you’ll see a lot of motion blur.
30fps – With six more frames a second than 24fps, you’ll see more detail during scenes with high motion; however, the motion will start to look a little unnatural and suffer from the “soap opera effect.”
60+fps – Anything higher than 30fps is usually reserved for recording busy scenes with a lot of motion, such as video games, athletics, or anything you want to show in slow motion.
Video gamers record at this rate because there’s a lot happening on their screen at once, and more frames equals more detail. Sports are often recorded at a high frame rate so they can be slowed down to show replays while still maintaining crisp, clear video.
The way a video is delivered, such as via YouTube or broadcast television, and the device a person uses to view your video can greatly impact the options you have for frame rate.
Not all devices and delivery methods support all frame rates, so it’s best to look into this before you start filming.
To help tackle delivery, let’s look at a few of the most common places people watch video and how the video is delivered.
Streaming video on the Internet
This is quickly becoming the most common way to deliver video, and many streaming services support a wide array of frame rates. Viewers tend to be a little more relaxed about frame rate online; however, it’s important to keep in mind that older TVs and computer monitors might not have a screen refresh rate that can handle higher frame rates.
When you produce video for television, it’s best to stick between 24 and 30fps. This ensures that your videos look realistic and fit what people expect from broadcast television. Live broadcasts, such as news and sports, are almost always shot at 30fps, whereas TV shows and movies are usually shot at 24fps.
Movie theaters and projectors in general are still an incredibly popular way to consume video. Much like TV broadcasts, the frame rate should be kept to 24fps. This will give your video that “cinematic” look, and you can feel confident that it will show properly 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 are packed into each second of video.
More images means more information, and more information means bigger files and longer export times. This is especially important to consider when uploading videos to online streaming sites such as 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 its highest quality. This means that people who aren’t on the most modern equipment or fastest services might suffer from a poor experience.
Choosing a frame rate requires some thought, and if you take into consideration the four key points outlined above, you should find success. If you’d like to play around 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 walkthrough on making your first video with TechSmith Camtasia.
Frequently asked questions
That depends on what type of project you’re working on! See the above sections to read about different frame rates and what they’re typically used for.
Most people can see about 30-60 fps.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.