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Camera settings clarified: shutter speed vs. frame rate

Story & Heart
September 9, 2015 by Story & Heart PRO

Shutter speed and frame rate are two often confused, yet very important, camera settings. The good news is that with a deeper look into what each setting actually controls, you can use them in combination to really bolster your storytelling game. Ray Tsang, multi-Emmy Award-winning filmmaker from the production company Locomotive, explores the differences.

The big shutter speed and frame rate takeaways:

Shutter speed is the duration of time each individual recorded frame is exposed to light. Just like in photography, the higher the shutter speed for video, the more you’re going to freeze any moving objects in each of your frames. Conversely, the lower the shutter speed, the more blur will occur for those same moving objects.

Frame rate is how many individual frames you’re capturing per second. The industry standard for playback is 23.976 frames per second or, as it’s listed in most camera menus, 24p. Any more or less frames than 24 per second — if played back at that same speed — feels strange to audiences.

A good starting place for natural motion blur in your film is to set your shutter speed as double your frame rate. For example, if you’re filming 24p, set your shutter speed to 1/48th (or 1/50th if that’s the closest your camera can be set to). This will create the motion blur that your audiences have been conditioned to accept as the most natural by years of watching Hollywood films.

Don’t be afraid to deviate from the 180-shutter degree rule (shutter speed = double your frame rate) when it’s story-relevant. A higher shutter speed than double your frame rate can yield footage that stutters, which is great for those action-packed kinetic scenes. On the other end, a slower shutter speed than double your frame rate can yield blurry footage, which is great for flashbacks or mind-altered scenes.

There are a lot of good articles out there on the interwebs that explores these topics further, like the “Persistence of Vision,” Phi Phenomenon,” 180-Degree Shutter Angle,” or The Hobbit: An Unexpected Masterclass in Why 48 FPS Fails.” You can also visit the Academy of Storytellers, which has 100+ filmmaking tutorials, to help you boost your visual storytelling skills.

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17 Comments

Harbour_Media Plus

Nice little video and well explained. - One thats always stood out for me, is that of saving private ryan. The opening beach scene is more frightening because of how it's shot. As you say, it all depends on the story as to what you do with it.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

..I used a 45-degree shutter on the explosions, and a 90-degree shutter on most of the running shots. But we alternated at times. Sometimes the 45-degree shutter would appear too exaggerated and the 90 turned out to be better. But for extreme explosions like this, where we really wanted to practically count each individual particle flying through the air, the 45-degree shutter worked best. [STEVEN SPIELBERG]

Haoyang Zhao Plus

Indeed. While researching on bullet time, I realised that specificity of the slower shutter speed in the Saving Private Ryan in the beach scene, and how much it adds to the drama.

Mike Hirsch

@Haoyang Zhao – You mean faster shutter speed. The 45-degree angle makes for less time for light to be exposed to the frame, hence a faster shutter. The 90-degree is double the amount of time than the 45, so it has twice the motion blur. 180-degree would be the "normal average" speed. It is confusing at first!

Harbour_Media Plus

He certainly is! Apparently they used a rig that shook the camera even more than you would get if you ran with it. I suppose to mimic the explosions and chaos going on in the scene.

Vera Matson

Thanks for this great, informative video! I have a Canon 5d miii and I'm pretty advanced with my understanding of photography, but I am clueless about video. I'm excited to start learning about video and learn what my camera is capable of!

ELECTRIC CHAPTERS PRO

Please do not believe these people they want to turn you into their video scientology like cult. Their agenda is that shooting must be done one way and only one way it is an agenda to push zombie conformity. What they tell you is not honest. They want you to think that ONLY 23:98fps or 24fps is acceptable to viewers PLEASE watch one of my video files...while the opening is shot on DSRL most of it was shot on a SONY EX1 at 59:94i fps and then posted as 29:97fps...does this look wrong to you ?
None of it was shot 23:98 or 24 vimeo.com/130768031
When viewed off our Bluray the quality is miles better than on VIMEO.
vimeo.com/user25839371/videos/sort:alphabetical/format:thumbnail
REVISED: THANK YOU for increase in views
Please ALSO watch these two pairs of corresponding chapters.
Chapter 4 and 6
Chapter 7 and 8.
I forgot to mention there is also some GoPro footage among the material that either runs
at 29:97 or 30 I do not recall but it was all conform to 29:97.

ELECTRIC CHAPTERS PRO

SAYING
"Any more or less frames than 24 per second — if played back at that same speed — feels strange to audiences." is neither honest nor true.
What they are really trying to tell you is that VIMEO upload and playback tech is so rudimentary that is makes any high frame videos look far worse than they should. Because the site lacks the data to do it properly. In an age when cameras can do 59:94i, 60P as well as 29:97i&P there is no reason not to have full frame rate freedom and encourage higher frame rate usage and I do not mean for bloody overcranking . I know that my documentary looks awesome when viewed off our high quality BD-R DL copies that are MPEG 2 (DL stands for Dual Layer) 29:97fps (most material was shot 59:94i some at 29:97 and some 30fps due to a mix of cameras so it was conformed to 29:97 in post) 1080i with LPCM running at 36mbps BD video playback. Many of those same segments look like crap on VIMEO even though they look beautiful with no blemishes when viewed off the BD.
vimeo.com/user25839371/videos/sort:alphabetical/format:thumbnail

ELECTRIC CHAPTERS PRO

I find the people who run VIMEO to be cult members and like all cult members anything that does not conform to their singular Scientology style notion of filmmaking is essentially heresy.

Neuesquire PRO

There is nothing inherently wrong with any frame rate. But to accuse Vimeo of being a cult because the Story & Heart people, not Vimeo make a video saying that 24p is what we are accustomed to seeing in most films is silly. I watched part of your video, without you telling me what frame rate it is, I can tell. That's not a bad thing, its just a thing. Does your video look like film no. Does it look more like HD tv, yes. Is that a stylistic choice that you made? I don't think so. The way you are accusing Vimeo of pushing an age old standard, you are doing the exact same for faster frame rates. Remember, all of these options are tools for us to tell better stories. Choose the frame rates that allows your story to shine and not get in the way. Keep making good films! Try to be a little slower to call criticize people and calling them cults for trying to help others learn the art of good visual storytelling. :-)

ELECTRIC CHAPTERS PRO

What about television in North America and Japan ? 29:97fps as is a huge amount of material on Youtube. There was nothing normal about watching 23:98 or 24 in the home until Bluray before that DVD could be used to do a reverse pulldown but it was often worse than with the 3:2 pulldown. So prior to BLURAY and VIMEO which is most of all historical viewing people in 60hz countries only watched at 24fps off film stock prints in a movie theatre. My movie does shine best in my chosen frame rate but on BLURAY and off hard drive file not off VIMEO where the technical bias toward 23:98 undermines other standards.
BTW this joint is a total cult just look at what they promote DSLR, 23:98, Scope,
endless over cranking, constant hyper editing. ALMOST EVERY SINGLE STAFF PICK CONFORMS TO THOSE CULT CHARACTERISTICS. Any filmmaker that tries to force me to watch a short or a doc in which people walking down a street or by the side of a road are slow-mo walking in over cranking has a 100% certainty of me switching off.

Summer Hill Seven

As I remember Wolf of Wall St. - I recall some very distinct and valuable (from a story pov) messing around with Shutter speeds - especially in the drug use scenes - do you have any knowledge or thoughts about that films use of frame rates and shutter speeds?

Lee Terkelsen PRO

My camera has several frame rate - bBoth 23.98 and 24. There's also 29.97 and 30. Seems like a small difference, but which one should I select? and why? Thanks for the informative video.

Pavel Badrtdinov

Could anyone help me with one question?) My camera (Sony a65) shot only 25 and 50 frames per second, but I really need exactly 24. If I convert my videos in Sony Vegas from 25 to 24 I'v got the films with strong strobing effect. I shot with 25 frames per second and 1/50. How can I convert my videos to 24 frame per second right? Where shoud I do it, in Sony Vegas or another program? Or should I change my camera?:Р I hope you advise me)

gnarly bay PRO

Hey Pavel. I would imagine that you figured this out...but does your Sony a65 have an NTSC mode? 25p is the PAL standard (I believe) and you can get to 24p (23.98) by finding the menu setting that switches PAL to NTSC. *Just be careful to check if you need to deliver your MASTER in 25p before starting a project...because I would imagine it wouldn't be ideal to go from 24p to 25p in post. Also, please note that we are in USA, and might not be the most reliable source to give recommendations on PAL....however, we just helped a (local) friend with this issue yesterday on their 5d mkIII.

Dave

So helpful! Thank you! I had no idea video shutter rate was adjustable in my camera. i kept getting studdering jerky playback then after checking my shutter rate in video it was 25, i cranked it up to 125 and wow what a difference that made! Sadly my camera only goes up to 30p in 4K so no slow motion 4K from me.

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