Everyone loves a good slow-motion scene or a shot that speed ramps into an interesting moment. The key to these types of videos begins with understanding and controlling frame rates.

We’ve done the legwork, and put together the best information to explain frame rates. Once you’ve finished this complete guide, you will have the knowledge to properly control frame rates, and create your own slow-motion, fast-motion, and speed ramped videos.

FRAME RATE ESSENTIALS

A breakdown of frame rates

Before film and video, we were forced to see the world at a standard speed. We take the world in at a certain pace, but human beings have never been very good at accepting the status quo. It may be our best quality.

When Eadweard Muybridge captured the first motion picture, he was simply trying to slow down time so that Leland Stanford (former governor of California) could settle a bet:

Do all four feet of a racehorse simultaneously come off the ground while it runs the racetrack?

Horse In Motion - Eadweard Muybridge

He wanted to see something the human eye couldn’t.

To change the speed at which we register information was the entire motivation behind the first motion picture. It showed us that when you slow video down, or speed video up, you are transported to a world where human beings can bend the rules. Sound familiar?

You couldn’t create any of this imagery without understanding frame rates.

FRAME RATE DEFINITION

What is a frame rate?

A frame rate refers to the speed at which individual still photos, also known as frames, are captured by a recording, or projected on a display. This is measured in frames per second. There are different standard frame rates for cinema vs. television.

Standard Frame Rates

  • The standard frame rate for cinema is 24fps, which means you will want you shutter speed set at 1/50th of a second.
  • The standard frame rate for television is 30fps, which means you will want you shutter speed set at 1/60th of a second.

You’ll notice in the definition above that we measure the frame rate by frames per second. This is similar to measurements like mile per gallon (mpg) or cheeseburgers per week (cpw).

You can’t get into the nitty gritty on slow-motion video until you understand the measurement used to determine that rate…

Frames per second (fps).

FRAMES PER SECOND DEFINITION

What are frames per second?

Frames per second (FPS) refers to the number of individual still photos, also known as frames, that are captured within the duration of a single second. This means that every second of a recording captured at 24fps contains 24 individual still photos or frames.

Slow-Motion Frames Per Second

  • 50fps or 60fps for slow-motion video.
  • 100fps or 120fps for super-slow-motion video
  • 200fps or 240fps for hyper-slow-motion video.

Standard frame rates were established in the early years of each respective medium. Cinema determined that films should be captured at 24fps, and then displayed by double and triple shutter projectors at 48fps or 72fps.

This allowed the motion in the recordings to remain smooth and natural.

Standard frame rates for television (in the US) came due to the power standard of 60hz. Images were not being projected by reels of film, but actually sent to your TV through power signals.

Human beings are used to these rates now, so anything else looks odd.

SLOW-MOTION VIDEO

How do I get slow-motion video?

Slow motion video is any display of moving images that appears slower than real time. It is most commonly created by capturing frames at a higher rate than the intended display speed.

How to Master a Storyboard like Jordan Peele: Get Out

This entire scene was shot in slow-motion, and the filmmakers definitely had to consider at which frame rate they would  record before hand.

Check out this article on How to Master a Storyboard like Jordan Peele: Get Out, where we show you how to storyboard for a slow-motion scene.

Slow motion video can also be achieved by playing your video back at a slower speed, or by video interpolation, whereby frames are digitally generated off of the already existing frames.

These last two methods provide less than optimal results and the only viable professional option is to record at a higher frame rate, and then slow the video down in your  Non-Linear Editor (NLE) like Adobe Premiere.

SLOW-MOTION CAMERAS

Cameras that get you slow-motion

Many modern cameras have the ability to capture video at higher frame rates, which in turn will allow you to obtain slow motion video, but...

One Does Not Simply Capture Video in Slow Motion

Wise words from Gondor

Your smartphone might allow you to switch over to a slow-motion mode, but that isn’t how it works when you’re creating professional slow-motion video. You capture video the same way as you would one any other day, but you capture with an increased frame rate, and then slow your video down in your Non-Linear Editor (NLE) through time remapping.

Here is 240 fps footage from the Panasonic GH5s ($2,300):

Panasonic GH5s - Slow Motion Video - Video courtesy Tom’s Tech Time

If you’d like to see a list of cameras that can do 50fps and above, you can check out our article The Best Mirrorless Cameras for Filmmakers.

Of course, you can slow down footage captured at 24fps or 30fps, and then time remap your footage in your NLE, but it will come out with a choppy, unprofessional look that most people will notice.

To slow down a video, you must first capture regular footage at an increased frame rate.

Then you place your footage into your NLE (Premiere, Final Cut, Avid) and “time remap” the footage to the desired rate.

The video below shows you step-by-step instructions for Adobe Premiere:

How to Slow Down Video - Adobe Premiere Pro CC - Video courtesy Kyle Holland

Most professional cinema cameras have the ability to capture video at extremely high frame rates, but for this example, we’ve decided to show you footage from a micro-four-thirds mirrorless camera that captures video at rates as high as 240fps.

SLOW MOTION SHOT LIST

Plan out your slow-motion videos

Shot lists are a roadmap to your creative goals. When you shot list, you are more prepared for your day, and you’ve taken the time to consider exactly what it is that you hope to capture. They are a safety net and creatie tool.

Shot lists will ensure that you get the slow motion video you want. This video shows you how a professional music video was put together, and how they increased their frame rates for slow-motion video.

Shot List Example: How ShareGrid Creates a Music Video Shot List (2018)

Here is a great video all about shooting both slow-motion and speed ramped videos while also under time constraints.

Filmmaking Shot List: How Matt Komo Plans a 24-Hour Shoot

Slow motion takes you to a world of extra detail. There is time to appreciate a falling droplet of water, an arrow mid-flight, or a look of unadulterated dread. It is sort of like the pre-production phase of your project.

You have time to consider things. Your production, however, will feel like...

Fast motion video, which takes you to a world of instant gratification. Invisible trends appear in mere seconds, entire forests grow and die, and the sun rises and sets before our eyes.

FAST MOTION VIDEO

Steps to fast-motion video

To speed up video, you will still prefer to capture regular footage at an increased frame rate. You might think that you would need fewer frames to allow a fast motion video, but the general rule is that you never want fewer frames than your medium requires.

The video below shows you step-by-step instructions for Adobe Premiere:

How to Speed Up Video - Adobe Premiere Pro CC - Video courtesy Christian Mate Grab

Most filmmakers don’t get video purely to be sped-up but prefer to “speed ramp” or “time ramp” their footage from slow motion to fast motion. The more information you have to work with, the better, even when blazing through your shots.

Then you place your footage into your NLE (Premiere, Final Cut, Avid) and “time remap” the footage to the desired rate.

SPEED RAMPS & TIME-LAPSES

Let’s speed things up

Frame rates are a necessity for more than just slow-motion and fast-motion video. You can transition from slow-motion to fast-motion by altering your time remapping.

Another fun way to play with frame rate is to create a time-lapse video. Similar to a flipbook you may have created in school, you can achieve a hyper-speed videos through your knowledge of frame rates.

SPEED RAMPS

Frame rate ramping or “speed ramping” refers to a method where footage is played at a specific speed at one point in the clip, but then “ramps” to another speed while the the viewer observes the speed transformation.

Here is a great example of speed ramping in a major motion picture:

Hot Gates - 300

This can be normal to fast, fast to slow, slow to normal… whatever.

TIME-LAPSE VIDEO

A great way to understand frame rates is to look at a time-lapse video. This is one of the best time-lapse videos you will find, and it took tens of thousands of photos to put together this three and a half minute video.

A time-lapse video is not a recording sped up, but rather a massive amount of still photos that are taken over a large amount of time, which are then strung together to create a hyper-motion video.

Let’s say you want to capture a time-lapse of a 120-minute event (like a sunrise) so that the final play duration can be 20 seconds.

If you want the video to performs like a recording at 24fps, then you need to capture a single photo (frame) every 15 seconds for a total of…

480 photos.

UP NEXT:

The Complete Guide to Depth of Field

Now you understand frame rates and have the knowledge to record slow-motion video, fast-motion video, speed ramps, and time lapses.

There is something you’ll want to brush up on before you run out to get footage… depth of field. Because frame rates and speed ramps can’t fix images that are out of focus. Only your depth of field can do that.

Up Next: The Complete Guide to Depth of Field →

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