For many new filmmakers, framerate is just a number you may see (and often ignore) in your camera or computer preferences. But in order to make your projects more professional, knowing the difference between your framerate settings is critical in bringing your production to the next level.
The concept of a framerate started back in the days of ye olde film production. The value refers to the number of frames (cells on a film strip) that whip through a camera and capture an image each second. The higher the framerate, the more information that was recorded — this produced a smoother moving image. Early films recorded at various framerates, but it wasn’t long before an industry standard was set at 24 frames per second. Any lower and the image would appear choppy; any higher and audiences couldn't really tell the difference.
Today though, in the digital age, framerates are much more variable. There are many more options to choose from: 24p, 29.97, 60i… But still, what’s the difference?
The numbers still always refer to the amount of information captured each second, but now that we’re working in digital, the values aren’t always nice and round. The different standards will vary with format and region, but in the US, there are three preferred formats: 24, 30 (sometimes noted as 29.97), and 60. You may also see the letters p or i to differentiate between progressive and interlaced formats — Travis and Slavik do a great job explaining this in this week’s video.
The main difference from a creative standpoint is the smoothness of your image. As you can see here, the difference between 30 and 60 fps becomes very clear in quick-moving images — for smoother motion, higher is better. However, because our film industry has grown up with a 24 fps standard, a lower framerate isn’t always a bad choice. Blurred motion can look much more professional, even if there is technically less information captured on screen. With the right knowledge and practice, framerate is a great tool to help finetune your next video project.