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24 FPS, 60 FPS, 120 FPS, NTSC or PAL? And how does slow motion actually work? We answer these questions in this article. So next time you know exactly what frame rate you should be filming in!
Depending on the situation, you should choose a suitable frame rate for your recording, you have to consider several things.
The frame rate | NTSC vs PAL
The frame rate is given in FPS, which means “frames per second”. So basically the number of frames you take in a video that is one second long. There are different standards that can be found in cameras. Here in German-speaking countries, the PAL format is usually used, which uses standard rates such as 25, 50 and 100 FPS.
In contrast, in the US, the NTSC format is commonly used as the standard, which includes standard rates such as 24, 30, 60, and 120 FPS. Although we live in a German-speaking area, we use the NTSC format ourselves, because during our first attempts as videographers we mostly watched English-language tutorials and it makes no difference for our purposes. Do you want that too? Then you simply have to go into the settings of your camera and change the standard format from PAL to NTSC! You can now also use frame rates such as 24, 30, 60 and 120 FPS. PAL is now only needed if you want to create DVDs in PAL format.
If you want to publish on YouTube and Co. instead, you should use the NTSC format with the higher frame rates. You should also know that although we are talking about 24 FPS, the exact frame rate is 23.98 FPS. Likewise, 60 FPS is actually 59.94 FPS and 120 FPS is actually 119.9 FPS. You don’t really have to pay attention to that, but you should have heard it if you want to create a corresponding sequence in Premiere. Since we only use the NTSC format ourselves, we will only talk about this format in the following, although all information can be transferred to the PAL format.
As already mentioned, you will probably find the following frame rates in your camera: 24, 30, 60 and 120 FPS, whereby the 120 FPS is not always available depending on the camera and the resolution set. Special slow-motion cameras can sometimes record more than 16,000 frames per second. But what are these different frame rates needed for?
Film in 24 FPS frame rate
24 FPS is the standard for you when filming interviews or vlogs where you don’t want to change the playback speed in post-production. We use this frame rate, for example, to record our YouTube videos. Since we’re recording voice, it wouldn’t make sense to slow down the recorded material afterwards. So if you want to produce simple videos without slow-motion effects or the like, film your video in 24 FPS, cut it in 24 FPS and export it in 24 FPS. 24 FPS offers you a look that comes closest to Hollywood movies and gives your video a cinema flair.
However, material in 24 FPS has a relatively big disadvantage: you cannot make slow motion from this material. If you take 24 FPS footage and slow it down in post-production, the image will stutter, which is an absolute no-go and pretty unprofessional. So this is where the higher framerates come into play…
Film in 30 FPS frame rate
You usually don’t need 30 FPS if you record in 24 FPS by default, as there are not enough pictures taken for particularly exciting slow motion. However, if you only want minimal slow motion, you can try 30 FPS. Otherwise, 30 FPS is often used in TV or news programs, since no cinema look is necessary here.
Film in 60 FPS frame rate
With 60 FPS you now have the opportunity to add another stylistic device to your videos. Slow motion, also known as slow motion, offers you the chance to make your videos even cooler, even more professional and even more cinema-like. They are essential when it comes to sports or action videos or if you want to stylishly stage special moments such as weddings.
If you now want to use slow motion, you simply have to record a video in 60 FPS and then interpret and export it in the editing program of your choice in a lower frame rate, such as 24 FPS. For example, a 5-second clip would be 12.5 seconds long and run in slow motion because the 60 FPS clip captures 2.5 times as many frames as the 24 FPS clip. As you can see, the slow motion is not created during filming, but when you subsequently adapt it to a lower frame rate, in which your final video is cut.
Film in 120 FPS frame rate
120 FPS or even higher frame rates then give you the opportunity to slow down your footage even more. With 120 FPS, for example, you can slow down your material about 5 times, i.e. play it back to about 20% of the original speed. This ensures that you can stage even the shortest moments effectively. So if you want very slow slow motions, you should film with 120 FPS or higher.
When choosing your camera, pay attention not only to the resolution, but also to the sensor size.
Application examples for higher frame rates
Now let’s look at what slow motion is commonly used for. Slow motion is particularly suitable for B-Roll, i.e. cut material which, for example, is intended to make a Talking Head video like our YouTube videos more exciting. In addition, slow motion is often used for travel videos, wedding videos and product videos to give them more cinematic flair.
Now you might be wondering why not always film in 120 FPS and later only slow down the parts you want and just leave talking heads at the original speed. That is relatively easy to answer. If you pack a clip with 120 FPS into a 24 FPS timeline and don’t slow it down, individual frames from the material will be skipped during rendering because they are superfluous and don’t fit into the frame grid. This creates a slight jerking, which damages the quality of your recordings. As soon as you know that you want to play a clip at the original speed, for example because a person is speaking, you should definitely switch to 24 FPS and avoid slow motion. Click here for more info.
Limitations at high framerates
Now there are still some restrictions that can be encountered when using different frame rates. The choice of your frame rate is logically also dependent on your chosen camera and its setting options. Different cameras offer different frame rates at different resolutions. Our camera, the Sony a7 III for example, lets us record 4K with a maximum of 30 FPS and Full HD with a maximum of 120 FPS.
As you can see, our camera is not suitable for filming particularly slow slow motion with a resolution of 4K, since the 120 FPS are only possible in Full HD. The recently announced Canon EOS R5, on the other hand, is said to be able to record 4K at 120 FPS and would therefore enable very slow slow motion with a resolution of 4K. So when choosing your camera, pay attention to the possible combinations of resolution and frame rate and whether you need slow motion in 4K quality. You can read more about this in our blog post about cameras for filming.
The next limiting factor is the lighting conditions when filming, which has to do with the exposure time. When filming, the exposure time is usually set depending on the frame rate, whereby the divider here is twice the frame rate. So if you are filming in 24 FPS, your exposure time should be 1/48 second. Since these settings usually do not exist, they are rounded to 1/50 of a second. So you get exactly the motion blur that you know from Hollywood. If you’re filming in 120 FPS instead, your shutter speed should be set to 1/250 second to preserve the appropriate motion blur. Due to the significantly shorter exposure at 120 FPS, your recording will be significantly darker compared to the 24 FPS. So if your surroundings are too dark, you may be forced to to do without a slow motion or you have to get artificial light. Speaking of artificial light: If you film near cheap LED lamps or other flickering light sources, it can happen that the flickering of these light sources becomes visible at higher frame rates. However, adjusting the exposure time can quickly remedy this. We will make a separate post for you on the subject of exposure time, aperture and ISO!
Conclusion: In which frame rate should you film
In summary, you can generally shoot at 24 FPS as long as you don’t want to slow it down in post-production. However, if you want to use slow motion, you should be aware of this when filming the material. Because then you would have to record in higher frame rates like 60 or 120 FPS. The frame rate at which you can record primarily depends on your camera and its performance. In addition, external factors, such as the brightness at the location, can also have an impact on the possible frame rate. Have fun trying!