We often admire cinematographers and directors for creating masterpiece movies and videos. But the question is, who made this possible and How the Video Frame Rate came into the picture? Before videos and films, we were only able to see the real motion of the world at a standard speed, but thanks to Eadweard Muybridge, who accidentally invented motion pictures. Muybridge wanted to examine the running pattern of horses and thus, created a system of photo cameras that were triggered to capture the horse motion sequentially. On inspecting, he realized that closely related images in chronological succession could mimic movements.
Remember those cute little flipbooks where each pad had a single image, and when you flipped the pages quickly, the photos would appear as moving. This is how a video works. A video isn’t just one continuous recording. Instead, a series of still images, when flashed on a screen at a certain speed, give the illusion of moving objects or motion. Each of these images is a Frame and Video Frame Rate or Frame per second (fps) is the rate at which these images are projected.
Different frame rates impact the viewing experience of a video, and there are several factors to consider before selecting a video frame rate. For example, early silent films had 14-26 frames per second, and later with sound synchronization, 24 fps became the standard cinematic video frame rate. Later 30 fps and 60 fps became the new standard for broadcast production, and still, 25 fps remained the film production standard. With the advancement of technology in the videography sector, triple-digit frame rates are becoming popular (120, 144, 240,480 fps, and more).
Definition of Video Frame Rate or frames per second (fps)
Frame rate (frames per second or FPS) is the frequency or the number of times consecutive still images are flashed on display. Every single image is known as a frame. When viewed on a screen in quick succession at a certain speed, these individual images give the appearance of motion. In other words, the frame rate is the count of the number of individual still photos projected on the screen in a given second.
For example, if a video is captured and played back at 24fps, that means every second of a video shows 24 different still images. Depending on the selection of the number of frames per second while shooting and playback, the motion of a video changes, be it normal motion, slow motion, time-lapse and more.
Different common frame rates in Video
Early filmmakers and animators discovered ways to create a motion perception through trial and error, somewhere between 12 and 16 fps. Anything below this threshold gave the brain perception of the display of a series of discrete images. Most silent films were filmed at around 16 to 18 frames per second and projected around 20-24 fps. This motion made films like Charlie Chaplin so comical.
Later, with the advent of sounds in films, filmmakers felt the need for a standard frame rate, and 24 fps became the choice.
This is the standard cinematic video frame rate for movies and TV shows. 24 fps is the standard minimum frame rate to capture Video with realistic motion. It is most similar to how we see the world and has the most cinematic look. Busy scenes shot at 24 fps cause a lot of motion blurs.
Despite 24 fps being a standard cinematic choice, 30 fps has also been a standard for television for many years. 30 fps gives a slighter smooth visual presentation and detailing at high motion. However, the Video will still look unnatural in high motion and may suffer from the soap opera effect.
Anything at 60 fps and above gives the Video an incredibly smooth and crisp appearance. We use faster frame rates when a lot of movement or motions are happening on the screen. 60 fps is mostly used in scenes with a lot of moves like video games, action movies, or anything to be shown in slow motion with fine detailing and smoothness. More frames mean more detailing, and hence, sports are primarily recorded in higher frame rates to be slowed down to show replays while still maintaining the video clarity.
Super slow motion shots of an epic football kick, car drifting scenes in games, or baseball batter swinging his bat are shot in 120 fps or even 240 fps, making the scene too smooth and crisp. 120+ fps is usually preferred in gaming, making them more realistic and fast-paced. The faster the game, the higher the processing power of the hardware system. Games like Red Dead Redemption 2, when played above 100+ fps, remarkably improve the gaming experience. Ang Lee too shot the Gemini Man movie at 120 fps.
Difference between 30fps vs 60fps vs 120fps
The difference between 30, 60, and 120 frames rates has to do with how the images look. All these frame rates differ in the number of frames or photos captured in a second. Low frame rates can make the movements in the Video choppy or broken, but frame rates below 30 fps (around 8 to 10 fps) are ideal for smooth recording of time-lapse videos or ones without fast-moving objects. If the video records something fast like traffic, 30 fps gives smooth and more realistic movements. 60 fps is another television standard frame rate mostly seen in commercials on television these days. Most movies are now produced at 60 frames per second, giving more smoothness over 30 frames per second. Generally, computers have adopted 60 fps as the bare minimum output frame rate. 30 fps is slowly becoming a thing of the past in modern gaming and display.
Moving to 120 frames per second, the viewing experience gets crisper, eradicating the screen tearing problem. Slow-motion shots with fine detailing are often shot on 120 or 240 fps. At 120 fps, the input is more responsive than 60 fps, and the best way to notice the difference between 60 fps and 120 fps is by comparing them in quick succession. However, running at higher frame rates takes up more resources, and this viewing experience comes with extra cost. For most people, after 60 to 100 fps, it becomes harder to notice the difference. Moving from 30 fps to 60 fps gives a totally different viewing experience, and anything above hardly shows any difference unless a 3D game is played.
Relationship between Video Resolution and Frame Rate
Video Resolution is the amount of data you can fit in a frame (expressed in pixels per inch). The more the number of pixels, the higher the resolution. While shooting on a smartphone, there are several options to select video frame rate and video resolution. For example, 720p HD at 30 fps, 1080p at 30 fps, 1080p at 60fps or 4K at 30 fps. Let us take an example and understand how video resolution affects frame rate and vice versa.
A 16 MP resolution has 4928 x 3264 pixels. For a 30 fps refresh rate, 16 million pixels in each frame (30 frames) per second are updated, which takes 1/30 of a second to render a frame. This rendering time must not exceed the frame rate. Remember, GPU drives the frame rate while the CPU controls the resolution. If the GPU works more to render an image, the resolution suffers. A complex gaming condition will lower the resolution to display the rendered image correctly. Anything above 30 fps is the niche market of gamers and graphic enthusiasts. An average viewer may not notice the difference between resolutions like 720p and 1080p. But, at higher resolutions like 4K and 8K, the difference between them is easily noticeable.
Does frame rate affect file size?
As the frame rate increases, more frames are used per second to display the sequenced images, resulting in a smoother motion. More images packed into every second of the Video means more information and bigger files with more export time. High-quality Video is always desirable, but higher fps means more file size and bandwidth consumption. File size reduction requires lowering the bitrate or the frame rate. Lowering the bitrate while leaving the frame rate unchanged reduces the image quality. High resolution, frame rate, and satisfactory bitrate value together affect the video quality.
Standard cinematic & best Video frame rate for 4K videos
Earlier movies at their native frame rate of 24 FPS have necessarily face the pulldown process at the time of display on devices supporting 60Hz. This was to convert 24 frames per second in the video into the required 60 frames per second for the device. As a result, every odd frame gets repeated or played twice, while every even frame gets tripled, creating an uneven motion.
Due to similar uneven frame doubling, newer video standards come with a support of 30, 60, 120, 240, or 300 frames per second. These standards are suitable for both cinematic movies and 4K displays. Note that 4K is a device resolution thing and has nothing to do with video frame rates.
Best FPS or Video Frame Rate for YouTube videos
YouTube supports 24 to 60 frames per second with a maximum of 8K support. Different genres of YouTubers select frame rates based on the camera equipment, nature of the content, and target audience. For YouTube videos, given below are some of the most popular video frame rates.
- Talk Shows, Video Podcasts – 30 FPS
- Gaming Highlights, Montages, Makeup Tutorials – 60 FPS
- Academic and Learning videos, Fitness & Health Channels – 24-30 FPS
- Sports Highlights – 40-60 FPS
Slow-motion and Time-Lapse Video Frame Rate
Slow-motion occurs when the shooting video frame rate is higher than the playback frame rate. So the faster your video frame rate is while shooting, the slower things will appear in the playback.
For example, When we shoot a video at 120 fps and play it back at 30 fps, it appears four times slower. Let us look at some recommended slow-motion video frame rates.
60 FPS – Things look pretty slow (blowing candles on a cake, people walking)
120 FPS – Things appear moving slightly faster (pets running, slower sports)
240 – 480 FPS – Motions that happen too quickly for eyes to see (fast sports, water splashing, skiing, golf swings)
960 FPS – Great for balloons popping, breaking things, explosion scenes.
Time-Lapse Video Frame Rate: In the time-lapse cinematography technique, a series of still images are shot and played at a higher frame rate. This creates the illusion of high-speed movement as if the subject is moving very rapidly. Some time-lapse shots include the movement of stars at night, sunrise ad sunset, or the growth of plants. For time-lapse photography, the recommended standard shutter speed is double the frame rate. For example, a shot captured at 25 fps should have a shutter speed of 1/50.
To determine the number of images, your time-lapse requires, use this simple calculation: (desired frame rate)*(clip duration in seconds) = Total frames needed. For example, if the video is 30 seconds long and captured at 30 fps, one needed 900 images for 30 seconds of footage.
Best Video Frame Rate for Gaming
Broadly games can be of the ‘thinking type’ where the gameplay is slow-paced or can be ‘twitch reaction’ styled where gameplay is happening quickly. For example, card games, role-playing games, strategy games are generally slow-paced, while games such as racing, adventures, action, or fighting require extreme reaction speed. Typically, 30 fps is the lowest frame rate at which a game can be playable. Still, for most gamers, 60 fps is the ideal frame rate for gaming owing to fast responsiveness, smoothness, clarity, and viewing experience.
Slow-paced games such as Civilization, where visually not many changes happen in a second, opting for a low frame rate can be tolerable. On the other hand, for games like Counter-Strike, one needs to have a high frame rate as the gamer needs to turn to face several directions within seconds. Thus, playing Civilization at 30 fps is somewhat acceptable, but playing Counter-Strike is infuriating at a low frame rate.
Triple-digit frame rates like 120 fps, 144 fps, and 240 fps are for highly competitive gamers, but many enjoy playing single-player games at extreme responsiveness, reduced input latency, and zero tearing. Sony has already revealed that its next-generation systems will support 120 fps. Ghostrunner, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Borderlands 3 are some available games at 120 fps.
30 FPS – Minimum playable frame rate. Anything below this gives significant shuttering. Suited for slow-paced games
60 FPS – Ideal frame rate. Used by PS5 and the Xbox Series and most gaming PCs.
120 FPS – Ultra-smooth. Extra responsiveness. Used in high-end gaming PCs
240 FPS – Reserved for fastest 240 Hz monitors. Best experienced on eSports games
Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter Video Frame Rates
- Facebook feed video, video ads & IGTV – min 30 fps
- Pinterest video ads – min 25 fps
- Twitter Ads & Native Videos – 30-60 fps
iPhone Video Frame Rate
By default, iPhone records a video at 30 frames per second (fps). However, in the recent coming iPhones, you can choose Faster frame rates and higher resolutions like 4K with 60fps before recording a video. But do remember that choosing a higher frame rate will lead to larger file size. Your frame rates and video resolution settings lie in Settings > Camera > Record Video, depending on your model.
NTSC & PAL standard frame rate
There are three Television Standards in the world, namely, NTSC, PAL, and SECAM. Each comes with its attribute and are not compatible with each other. All the standards are limited to particular parts of the world. DVDs, Blu-rays, and many more media are still labelled on these standards.
NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) – It is the oldest existing analog colour-encoding standard developed in the USA in 1954. NTSC displays at a rate of 29.97 frames per second. Some countries that support the NTSC video standard are The United States of America, Netherlands, Japan, Philippines, and South Korea.
PAL (Phase Alternate Line) – Developed in the late 1950s in Germany, the PAL video standard format is used in many European countries and displayed at 25 fps. PAL format deals with issues faced with NTSC like signal instability under poor weather conditions and locally provides the 50 Hz required picture frequency. India, Indonesia, Norway, Spain are some of the countries with PAL standards.
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