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DSLR Video Weekly: Choosing the Right Frame Rate

This is article #10 in the DSLR Video Weekly series.  If you’d like the whole thing in one shot, check out the book Creating DSLR Video: From Snapshots to Great Shots.

Once you get the hang of video, be sure to monetize it by becoming a contributor to Adobe Stock.


Choosing a Frame Rate

When you record a video file, you are essentially creating a container to hold multiple still images, or frames, that are captured in rapid succession (at a constant interval).  The rate at which you capture these still images is called the frame rate.

Video works because of a concept called persistence of vision, which identifies how the human brain can connect a rapidly shown series of still images to perceive motion. The human eye starts to see smooth motion at about 8 frames per second.  However, motion really starts to smooth out at rates of 24 frames per second and higher. For video on a DSLR, your camera will typically support multiple frame rates. When describing video, this frame rate is measured in seconds (and may contain a decimal value):

One second of video is actually 30 still images recorded in rapid succession (when recording at 30 fps).
  • 60 fps (59.94 fps). Standard frame rate for 720p HD used in the United States and other NTSC (National Television System Committee) based countries. NTSC is a set of video standards used in the United States and a few other countries.
  • 50 fps.Standard frame rate for 720p HD used in Europe and other PAL (Phase Alternating Line) based countries. PAL is a set of standards for video used in Europe and other parts of the world.
  • 30 fps (really 29.97 fps). The most common frame rate for broadcast in the United States and other NTSC based countries
  • 25 fps. The common video frame rate used in Europe and additional markets around the world that are based on the PAL standard.
  • 24 fps (can also be 23.98 fps). A rate that closely matches that of motion-picture film.
The Nikon D7000 supports several frame rates to choose from.

Don’t See a Frame Rate?

If you’re can’t find the desired frame rate, you might have to tweak the camera settings.  Some cameras allow you to switch between NTSC and PAL modes.  This can affect the available frame rates and sometimes even frame sizes.

It is important that you minimize mixing frame rates in a video editing project because it can lead to extra rendering time and jerky footage. Choosing a frame rate is often dictated by what you intend to do with the footage:

  • If you want a motion-picture film look, 24 fps is very popular. This rate works well for Web, DVD, and Blu-ray distribution.
  • If you are shooting footage that’s destined for traditional broadcasting, 25 fps for PAL or 30 (29.97) fps for NTSC is a common choice.
  • If you want to achieve slow-motion effects, overcranking is the way to go. With overcranking, the camera records at a higher frame rate, and you can stretch the clip in postproduction to make smoother slow-motion effects.

Join us each Saturday for the next installment of this weekly series.

Once you get the hang of video, be sure to monetize it by becoming a contributor to Adobe Stock.

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