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 know what frame rate would be best for your videos. There are, after all, many factors to take into account when choosing a frame rate.
Lucky for you, in this beginner’s guide, we’ll break down the definition of what a frame rate is and why it matters. So, to sum up, here’s what we’ll be discussing:
- What is a 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 move?
This is how video works. Whether it’s digital or film, a video is essentially a series of still images that, when viewed in order at a certain speed, give the illusion 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. In the most simple terms, frame per second means how many frames are squeezed into one second of video. So, if a video is captured and played back at 24fps, that means each second of the video shows 24 distinct still images.
The speed at which they’re shown tricks your brain into perceiving smooth motion. Magical isn’t it?
Why does the frame rate matter?
Frame rates can greatly impact 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 and whether you plan to use 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 and video game recordings, often have higher frame rates because there’s a lot happening at once — this keeps the motion smooth and the details crisp.
Meanwhile, people who create animated GIFs will often sacrifice detail for a smaller file size and choose a low frame rate.
Frame rate is different than video speed, but they are related. You can change the speed of your video when you’re editing it, it’s always best to capture footage at your preferred frame rate.
The most common video frame rates
Every art form has its standards, and in the world of video, frame rates have been central to the viewing experience. Historically, these standards have evolved not just from artistic decisions but also from technological and practical considerations.
The cinematic world settled on its standards early on. Movies, with their desire to emulate real-life motion, chose to capture film at 24fps and display it at 48fps or 72fps as this mimics the way our eyes naturally process movement. This standard has stood the test of time and is deeply rooted in the film industry’s legacy.
In contrast, TV broadcasters had to contend with technical constraints related to power standards, which influenced the frame rates used. This led to regional variations based on the electricity specifications of different countries.
Fast forward to today, and technology has broadened the horizon. Modern filming equipment allows filmmakers and videographers the flexibility to explore beyond traditional frame rates, especially when pursuing specific visual effects or storytelling techniques.
In essence, while there are common frame rates that the industry leans on, the ultimate choice often rests on the blend of an artist’s intent and the technical demands of the project.
What is the best video frame rate?
There’s no such thing as the “best” frame rate. As mentioned, 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 way it looks and feels, which in turn determines how realistic the video appears. This concept ties directly to how we 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” — which is when a video shows so much detail that it looks odd. 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 viewing 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.
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.
As mentioned, 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 are complicated and, as mentioned are mostly to do with television and electricity standards set in the days of yore.
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.
However, 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 your video.
To help you decide what’s best for you, here are a few common options.
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.
With six more frames a second than 24fps, you’ll see more detail during scenes with high motion; however, the motion might start to look unnatural and suffer from the “soap opera effect.”
Anything higher than 30fps is usually reserved for recording busy scenes with lots of motion, such as video games, athletics, or anything you want to show in slow motion.
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 too so they can be slowed down to show replays while still maintaining crisp, clear video.
Frame Rate Delivery
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 videos 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.
If, for example, you’re making a YouTube video, you can relax a little with the knowledge that viewers aren’t as bothered by frame rates when watching online. However, keep in mind that older TVs and computer monitors might not have a screen refresh rate that can handle high frame rates.
When you produce a 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 as this will give your video that “cinematic” look and feel. You’ll also be able to rest easy knowing that your video will be displayed properly on most projectors.
Frame Rate 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 mean 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 TechSmith’s 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 using the most modern equipment or the fastest services might suffer from a poor experience.
Final Thoughts on Frame Rates
Choosing a frame rate requires some thought, but if you consider the four key points outlined in this guide, it should be pretty easy to find the best frame rate for you. Of course, the best way to really get to grips with frame rates and understand how they work is to play around with them. Try recording similar footage at different frame rates, and then using software like TechSmith’s Camtasia to edit your videos.
Camtasia comes with a professional editing suite that’s intuitive and easy to use for beginners and experts alike. With it, you can add music to your videos, create closed captions, and even synchronize different audio and video sources.
If you don’t have Camtasia already, you can download a free trial here. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make some great videos! Check out the video below for a great walkthrough on making your first video with Camtasia.
FAQs about Frame Rates
That depends on what type of project you’re working on! See the above sections to learn about different frame rates and what they’re typically used for.
Most people can see about 30-60 fps.
The most common frame rates are 24fps for cinema, whereas 30fps and 60fps are used for television and online content. Different projects and mediums may have their own unique standards, but these are the most typical benchmarks.
To change a camera’s frame rate, access the camera settings or menu, locate the video or frame rate option, and select your desired fps setting. For more specific instructions, take a look at the user manual for your camera.
The shutter speed determines how long each frame is exposed to light, while the frame rate indicates how many frames are captured in a second. A fast shutter speed freezes motion, whereas a slower one can introduce motion blur. Frame rate, on the other hand, affects how smooth the video is when you’re watching it back.