Frame Rate Vs. Shutter Speed - Setting The Record Straight

In this day and age of constantly changing gear and technology, there’s a growing set of vocabulary that we video creators are all expected to learn. With so much jargon being thrown around, it can be easy to forget certain concepts or confuse them with others. A prime example of this is demonstrated by the confusion between frame rates and shutter speeds. Let’s take a minute to clarify.

First, check out this video from --jL, which does an outstanding job explaining the difference between the two concepts:

Now let's recap: Although frame rate and shutter speed are related, they are completely separate concepts.

Frame rate refers to the number of individual frames that comprise each second of video you record, also known as FPS (frames per second.) The most common frame rates in video are 24, 25 and 30 frames per second.

Shutter speed refers to the amount of time that each individual frame is exposed for. In video, the shutter speed you use will almost always be a fraction of a second. The number used in setting a camera’s shutter speed refers to the denominator of that fraction of a second. For example, if you set your camera’s shutter speed to 60, that means that each frame is being exposed for 1/60th of a second.

People often make the mistake of equating frame rate with shutter speed. In other words, some people determine that if they are shooting with a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second, that they are in turn shooting 100 frames per second. This is not the case. Depending on the camera you are using and the frame rate you have selected, you are probably shooting at either 24, 25 or 30 frames per second and exposing each individual frame for 1/100th of a second.

As a rule of thumb, you want the denominator of your shutter speed to be approximately double the number of frames per second that you are recording. In other words, if you are recording at 30 frames per second, you want your shutter speed to be 1/60th of a second.

Even though we generally set the denominator of the shutter speed to be double the number of frames per second, you can achieve some interesting stylistic effects by straying from the norm. Shutter speed can have a very noticeable effect on the look of your video, particularly when it comes to motion. A fast shutter speed such as 1/400th of a second will produce a series of crisp frames that have a choppy look when played back. A slow shutter speed such as 1/30th of a second, on the other hand, will produce a series of slightly blurred frames that have a smoother look when played back.

If you'd like to see for yourself, go find some running water (a park fountain, a faucet, rain, etc.) and film it at different shutter speeds. Or, watch this test video by Paul Hamilton:


The faster shutter speed renders crisp droplets of water and has a frantic mood, while the slower frame rate renders flowing water and a has a relaxed mood. Play around with it! You may find that a higher or lower shutter speed will better suit your style or the mood of your piece.

Category:
DSLR
Gear
Shooting
Difficulty:
Advanced

44 Comments

David Salas

David Salas Plus

Thanks for this. I have always religiously shot at 1/50th of a second (25fps) as i was taught but I was less than clear as to why this was so. This tutorial explains the why and now I feel I will experiment more. Thanks peeps: )

Morinaga Kuni

Morinaga Kuni

So why was it? I dont think it mentioned why, only the classic "shutter speed to be approximately double the number of frames per second" . My own idea is that this is to emulate film better where some time is lost to drive the film cart...

D.R. Win

D.R. Win

There is also good reason when using digital cameras.
If you are shooting at, say 25fps, and your shutter speed is an even multiple of the inverse (say 1/50th), your shutter speed is always perfectly synchronized with your frame rate. This means that the shutter is always open at the right time for each frame. If you set your shutter speed too far away from this number, in some frames the shutter will not be fully open for the entire frame.
Of course, at some frame rates there will not be a shutter speed available that fits the formula precisely. But the closer you approximate it, the higher percentage of frames will be crystal clear.

Maureen McGloin

Maureen McGloin

thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

Joe Westcott

Joe Westcott

This was very helpful, thanks.
Particularly If you are going to motion track your shots, then a higher shutter speed is vital to a good track.

Bob Parker

Bob Parker Plus

Wow, I finally am starting to understand! The videos included really make it clear.
I am trying to get video of some raptors flying at a wildlife center here in Oregon, and with these tips I can do better.
Thanks again.

corey_kaye

corey_kaye

Super helpful!

When Frame Rate (FR) = Shutter Speed (SS) you're shutter is open for 100% of the frame capture, and 1/30 is pretty slow but very natural to the eye.

When the FR > SS there's a lot of blackness captured with each frame, keeps the frame sharp, especially when things are moving fast.

Is recording a FR < SS even possible? I think no.

Lastly, if videoing something really fast like cars on a track that you intend to slow down, shooting at 60fps is a given. Question is... will the slower motion look better if shot 60fsp @ 1/120 or 60fps @1/400? I'm guessing it's going to look more natural at 1/120th, so when and why would we EVER video faster than 1/120th of a second?

Rockwellian Films

Rockwellian Films Plus

Hi there. Love the clarity of this video. Thanks a million. Question: let's say I'm shooting at 30 frames/second using a DSLR, and I want to shoot wide open. F/2.8. And if I follow the twice-frame-rate-rule, I set the shutter speed at 1/60. As you see, I've just locked in three parameters (F/stop, shutter, and frame rate). How can the camera give me proper exposure if I've already told it what to do with those three controls? Through ISO? Or is it better to also lock in the ISO, then just let the lighting condition dictate the F/stop? And use ND filters to give more flexibility? Thank you.

Darnell Witt

Darnell Witt Staff

This lesson is ridiculously clear and helpful. Great vids. Thanks, Sam + -- jL + Paul!

aaron nevin

aaron nevin

Great video, super informative, thank you very much!

nsb!

nsb!

Excelent, great work, thanks a lot!

Willi Kampmann

Willi Kampmann

Thanks for the explanation! This makes me wonder: sometimes I record handheld video with a not stabilised lens. I usually stabilize it later in FCPX, but micro stutters tend to basically destroy individual frames. The resulting video looks twitching and almost makes your eyes tear! This is especially evident in low-light video (when using auto settings), but not necessarily only there.

I believe this is because the shutter speed is so slow that quick camera motion smears the frame and therefore, when the video is stabilized, the smearing stays and becomes even more visible. Previously I thought only a faster framerate could solve this, but now I think this can be remedied by just increasing the shutter speed, right? Of course this becomes more difficult in low light situations, but I would take increased noise instead of this twitching any day. If the video gets too choppy I think there are digital solutions available for re-adding motion blur as well. What do you think?

Miles Prinzen

Miles Prinzen Plus

This is an excellent explanation and really helped for me to get my head around what I suspected, but did not fully understand. Also, I figure they use a high shutter speed (~400) for those war-action scenes in many films and TV shows.

Martin Sne

Martin Sne Plus

WO-HOW! I feel like a fool. Why haven´t I figured that out myself! O, Sancta Simplicitas" Thank you very much!

Trig  Simon

Trig Simon Plus

In the first video, he says the shutter speed should be double the frame rate...1/60th second for 30 frames per second, stating that was ideal. But, why not 1/120th of a second for 30 fps? Would that not give me a sharper image when I am taping dance recitals...less motion blur?

Jose Ventura

Jose Ventura

there was a comment above which read " thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you" and I share her sentiment.

Arvind

Arvind

Perfect....crisp and clear...great job

Michael Keller

Michael Keller

Great video. This is the first time I've seen this explained clearly. Thanks a lot.

Tom Kaszuba

Tom Kaszuba

Thank you. This explanation was superb. Made a difficult topic easy. Sign of a great teacher.

Shiply

Shiply PRO

Simple and useful guide. Thanks for sharing with us Sam.

Paul Elliott

Paul Elliott

This article is a lifesaver. Thank you so much, this is something critical that had me baffled as a photographer moving to film.

John Link

John Link

Why does the practice of setting the shutter speed to twice the frame rate result in a good result? I understand the general idea but why is the suggested multiple 2 rather than 1.5 or 3 or a greater number? Does this have anything to do with the Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyquist–Shannon_sampling_theorem

Joao Santos

Joao Santos

In the running water video the plane of focus is different between fast and slow shutter speed examples...

Leonid Mutti

Leonid Mutti

Hi all,
May I ask you a strange question?
Exists any way to record with a camera at a frame rate >>1/24?
A way to create a time lapse movie with a video camera and not with a photo camera?

claudio286

claudio286

Sono perfettamente al corrente della differenza tra frame rate e shutter speed da tempo ma non sono assolutamente d'accordo nel dover impostare uno speed shutter, per esempio lavorando con un frame rate di 25 fps di 50 come shutter speed! Io lavoro con una sony FDR AX100 quindi parlo di una 4k con frame rate di 25 P e non mi sognerei mare di impostare uno shutter speed cosi basso ed amaramente ne sono costretto quando c'è poca luce... L'effetto scia che produce è intollerabile per un video in 4K! Comunque per esperienza mia personale acquisita nel corso degli anni, il problema dell'effetto strobo che si produce lavorando con shutter speed elevati si evidenzia solo su i monitor dei pc in quanto hanno la maggioranza un refrech rate intorno ai 50 60 Hz alla massima risoluzione e non hanno altri sistemi di correzzione, ma in campo di televisori di ultima generazione e mi riferisco agli ultimi televisori della panasonic che sono arrivati addirittura ad un refrech rate di ben 2 KHz vi assicu

claudio286

claudio286

ro che è praticamente indistinguibile la differenza tra i 25 ed i 50 frame rate al secondo, ma addiritura senza arrivare a questi tipi di tv. Ho un samsung UE555D7000 quindi non recentissimo, al quale ho collegato un riproduttore tipo MINIX 8H ed invio tramite hdmi uno streem 4k che il tv me lo converte in tempo reale in maniera perfetta alla risoluzione dello schermo full HD ma con una fluidità incredibile, senza effetto scia! e con gli shutter speed della videocamera in automatico... indistinguibile da un 50p!

ian ferguson

ian ferguson

ok i'm no expert in fact i came looking to refresh my memory on settings and using them as a prelude to pressing my camcorder into service while not simply accepting the auto as the only means.
but to answer some of you regarding frame and shutter rates i'll cover projection instead as i'm not so sure i could do the subject justice from the recording angle.

initially movie making involved taking 8 frames per second as the human eye (generally) sees this as a quite smooth movement due to something called persistence of vision,(persistance of vision is a bit like looking at a brightish light then looking away you see the image of that light superimposed on whatever you are now looking at) the problem was the human eye does detect flashes at 8 times per second, watching a movie flashed at this rate would give you a steaming headache, will have to continue in another post if i'm allowed as it's too long:-(

ian ferguson

ian ferguson

since film and processing was very expensive this was solved by projecting each of the 8 frames twice so raising the flashes to 16 times per second which most would see as a continuous (solid) light.
so far so good, but to add sound (which was an optical track along the edge offset from the image track) the film transport was too slow to give quality sound.
to increase the transport was clearly going to mean speeding up the film (using more feet per minute) what was settled on was increasing the frame rate by a factor of 3 so 24 frames up from 8. with the large installed base of very expensive projectors it meant to upgrade then, simply meant changing the gearing and adding an audio unit, rather than replacing the entire projector, bearing in mind production rates then were not anything like now it would make the roll out quite quick across the country.
as a foot note as i recall, edison built the first cinema called i think the black maria, see part 3 if i'm allowed

ian ferguson

ian ferguson

the word orange comes to mind as some reference to the place name, although i could be wrong on the place name.

anyway it was the projection needs that dictated the frames/shutter speed which was itself dictated by the audio track needs, in this case it was frames/flashes (or times it was projected) so you got 24 frames projected 48 times.
i will have to have a think about what it means for frame/shutter speed when taking a movie, although clearly one that matched the projectors would have been ideal then, methods are different now so the rules my no longer apply.

i'm sure you can google to check/correct anything i've said, it's all from memory, so dont shoot me ok:-)

and hello to all from a newbie :-)

Life in Digital

Life in Digital Plus

I love shooting with a really high shutter speed at times cause the results can be really interesting but it's not without its drawbacks. Either way, it's fun to experiment. I was taught the same rule as most mention, 1/50 for 25 frames, 1/60 for 30 and so on but once I got comfy with all that, I began to venture out and again, I sometimes love the results and other times, not so much. It's hit or miss but it also depends on what your shooting, the lighting conditions, etc. etc. etc. It never hurts to experiment and most of us shoot digital, so it's easy to hit DELETE if you dislike!!!

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Lesson Summary

Nowadays, with so much technological jargon being thrown around, it can be easy to forget certain concepts or confuse them for other ones. A prime example of this is demonstrated by the confusion between frame rates and shutter speeds. Let’s taken a minute to clarify.

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