Video Frame Rate Finally Explained

The term frame rate is one of the oldest terms in cinema history but is as important now as it was when the first camera was invented.

Fun fact that you may not know, digital cameras don’t capture motion, they capture still images in quick succession; which gives you the illusion of motion when played back. Now the rate that this is played back to you is measured by frames per second (fps) and is what we all have come to know as frame rate.

Photo by Jony Ariadi on Unsplash

Inception of motion capture

Check out this video by @KKD1247. It perfectly demonstrates how frames rates came to be.

The major categories that frame rate can be divided into are

  1. Playback Frame Rate

  2. Capture frame rate

Playback Frame Rate

This is the rate at which your audience views your content. Here are some common frame rates. This can usually be set in your editing software (under sequence settings).

24 fps is considered to be the most cinematic. 30fps used for broadcast television

60fps used in some films to look hyper realistic

Lord of the Rings in 24fps

Hobbit Trailer In 60fps

Capture frame rate

This one is self explanatory, it's the rate at which your content is captured by a device or camera. This is set on your device under the video recording menu. As a creator you can choose to capture your content at the same rate as your playback or you can capture it at a higher frame rate and slow it down in post.

Most commonly used capture frame rates

24 frames per second

As we mentioned before 24fps is the most cinematic frame rate and can be seen in movies, films and documentaries. From the perspective of art, this frame allows the film to be separated in the mind from reality as movies are designed to escape reality for entertainment purposes.

60 frames per second

The next common frame rate is 60fps and this where things get interesting! At this point we are pushing the limit of what the human eye can experience fluidly without having to add major amounts of motion blur and other visual noise to avoid those nausea-producing headaches. Of course, the true difference in these frame rates comes in the experience of viewing them in action. You also have the ability to slow down your footage, in post, by 60% if your playback frame rate is 24fps.

120 frames per second

SLOW MOTION! If your camera can shoot 120 fps it’s likely that you’ve gone out and shot some epic slow-mo footage that made you feel like a filmmaker. While this does look really cinematic and powerful the instances that you can utilize 120 fps are few and far between. For example 120 fps is great for those opening scenes where the slightest movement looks like a grand sweeping masterpiece that will immerse your viewers but it won’t be your go to frame rate for moving your subject from point A to B.

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