Video Frame Rate (FPS)

What is frame rate (fps)?

Video is basically a sequence of still images put together and played back at a fast rate. So frame rate refers to the number of still pictures (or frames) that will be captured to make up one second of footage. Consequently, frame rate is also referred to as FPS (frames per second). And the faster the frame rate, the more images will be taken.

frame rate

What are the frame rate options?

There are two sets of frame rates: one set for PAL and one for NTSC.  Europe and parts of Asia use PAL. On the other hand most countries in North and South America, such as the United States, use NTSC. The frame rates of NTSC and PAL differ so if you’re looking for 50 fps (PAL) and it’s not listed as an option on your camera, you may be in NTSC mode.

The frame rate options for the Canon 5D  Mark III listed below are typical of what you’d find on most DSLR cameras with video features. Note that these frame rates may be offered in variable recording sizes and compressions.

60 fps 50 fps
30 fps 25 fps
24 fps 24 fps

While whole numbers are displayed for NTSC frame rates, they may actually represent fractional frame rates. For example, 30 is actually 29.97 and 24 is actually 23.98. The fractional frame rates are used to be compatible with electricity, color, and a whole bunch of other technical specs that are beyond the range of my understanding.

Which frame rate do I use?

Movies are almost exclusively and globally shot at 24 fps. So if you want a film look it’s best to choose 24 fps. 24 frames per second produces natural motion and is additionally good for the web (downloads faster than 30fps and takes up less storage space).

Television broadcast work is usually shot in 30 frames per second (29.97) for NTSC and 25 for PAL. So if your final product is for broadcast, it’s best to shoot at these frame rates. At 30 fps there’s less motion blur than 24 fps, which will make the footage appear more realistic and less cinematic.

50 & 60 fps are generally used for special effects such as slow motion. Film makers overcrank, that is, shoot faster than what is needed, so that they can slow the footage down to say 24 fps to produce a nice slow motion effect. At 60 fps, moving subjects are sharper and more crisp and gives a sense of hyper reality. However, this frame rate may be good for sports or action shots. Your shutter speed settings will also determine the motion blur of your footage.

Confused between frame rate and shutter speed? Don’t worry, I’ll have an upcoming post to clarify the difference between shutter speed and frame rate.

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