What are frame rates? The concept can seem tricky, but it’s really quite simple. When you record video, you are basically taking pictures very quickly then stitching them together. When you view pictures stitched together at a fast rate, it creates the illusion of watching real movement – which is what we call film or video.
A frame rate is simply the frequency at which the images are displayed. Frame rates are usually expressed in frames per second (FPS). Depending on where you live and what type of footage you’re working with, there are several different frame rates that you may use.
Let’s look at some of the most popular options.
This is the most universally accepted and widely used frame rate. It is the standard FPS for movie theaters around the world. We associate the 24 FPS “look” with cinematic film and movement, although it’s not easily discernable by everyone. The majority of video cameras will offer this FPS as a default along with 30 FPS. (Technically, many cameras actually record at 23.976 FPS due to NTSC video compatibility, but the difference is more for transfer purposes.)
This is the European video standard, which derives from the PAL television standard. It is very similar to 24 FPS in its cinematic qualities.
Again, technically 29.97 is the color NTSC video standard. 30 FPS is associated with non-cinematic television and video like broadcast news and sports. Because you are seeing more frames in a given second, you get a smoother look which makes action and movement easier to follow.
These are high definition rates which double the 24 and 25 FPS rates. Both reduce motion blur and flicker in what would be considered cinematic rates, but also may appear too lifelike. When working recording for slow motion, these rates are ideal for conversions back into their 24 and 25 FPS standards.
Many high definition cameras can record at 60 FPS (or 59.94 FPS) and possibly represent the future of high end broadcast and television. For many DSLRs, the 60 FPS option is your best option for slow motion. If you record 60 frames for a second, but edit the footage to only show 30 of those frames in a second, you’ll see your footage at a rate half of real life, but with the same amount of information as you’re accustomed to seeing.
With your higher end digital cameras, many now offer FPS options like 120, 240 or even 480. In a similar way to slowing down 60 or 48 FPS into 24 or 30, you can create better slow motion at slower and slower speeds based on the higher FPS capture.
Interlaced vs Progressive
If you look closely at your video FPS settings, you might notice a “p” after your 24, 25 and 30 options, while an “i” after your 60 option. They stand for “progressive” and “interlaced” and represent how the frames (or “fields”) are transitioned.
Progressive video is made up of consecutively displayed video frames that contain all of the horizontal lines being shown. This gives a smoother look and helps in fast-motion sequences.
In interlaced video, each field of a video image displays every other horizontal line of the completed image. While this seems un-ideal, our eyes meld the images together so quickly that it actually creates more detail to be created than otherwise possible. However, it does create an image softening during fast-motion as well as more moiré and strobbing with certain objects.
Top image via Jim Barber