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

32 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...

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.

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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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