A Beginner’s Guide to Frame Rates

by Katelynn Mitchell
Read time: 4 min
Posted 19 June 2023

Even if you’re a video editing beginner, you’ve probably heard at least something about frame rates. No wonder ‒ all in all, frame rate plays a significant role in how the video is intercepted by the end viewer.

Let's quickly review frame rates, their basic definition, and how to choose the number of frames per second that will work best for your projects in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Frame rates vary depending on the medium and the location of video distribution. However, the frame rate you choose for your shot may also significantly alter the appearance of your project and the possibilities for using the video material when it's ready. 

What to use for online video content

What is framerate?

The term "frame rate," often known as FPS or frames per second, is used to define how many static frames make up one second of motion on the screen.

For example, if you slow down any random video on your video editing timeline, you’ll be able to count how many still frames fit within one second of footage.

Frames per second, which might seem a little outdated for digital production, refers to how many frames would be shown each second on film. Although digital cameras don't utilize film, they electronically process individual still frames in a manner similar to that of conventional cameras, therefore, the terminology is interchangeable.

Why are there so many different framerates, anyway?

With frames per second, the settings often comply with a set of standards, and frequently, you'll only be able to choose from a small range of them. The most common framerates in video production are 23.976, 24, 25, 30, and 50 frames per second.

Humans can usually distinguish around ten passing frames as distinct unique pictures. The distance between each image narrows as more images pass inside that second, though, and our brains begin to perceive the images as motion. However, there was no such thing as a set frame rate in the early 1900s. Early filmmaking studios aimed to keep them low since the fewer frames you have in one second of your movie, the less film you will spend on it.

While there’s no one specific reason as to why we start at 24fps, we can conclude the primary reasons are math and the introduction of recording sound.

Which framerates to use for different kinds of media?

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As already established, 24 frames per second are considered to be the standard for "cinematic" video formats. However, a few avant-gardes experimental filmmakers have begun to investigate their choices. If you were looking too closely, or perhaps if you're into the technical details of modern filmmaking, you'd notice frame rate experiments in Avatar or Lord of the Rings.

In the end, even though there are many different frame rates to film with, the majority of which streaming services and projectors can accept, movies are still often shot at twenty-four frames per second since we are accustomed to its distinctive appearance.

Although broadcast television uses 29.97 fps, it's commonly called 30 fps as it has long been the American video standard. 

  • The perfect synchronization with the American 60Hz power standard was achieved by using a frame rate of thirty frames per second. The name of this format is NTSC. 
  • Due to its 50Hz power standard, Europe uses a 25fps video standard. PAL is the name of this format. 

See — it's easy to remember if you divide the power standard frequency by two. 

When there is a lot of activity in the video, it may even be uploaded at 60 frames per second.

Many people ask if it's possible to film with NTSC frames per second in a PAL region, regardless of the difference in power standards. The short answer is yes, you can record with NTSC 23.98 settings in a PAL area, but the image will look slightly different, although smooth enough.

Other things you need to know

When color television initially became available, an additional signal frequency that supplied hue and saturation levels interfered with older black-and-white televisions by producing visual static. Fortunately, this static was removed when the frame rate was down to 29.97. Since then, 29.97 format broadcasting has been the rule. When you cut out a single frame like this, it's called the drop frame.

But there's even more to the drop-frame: this format skips 00 and 01 frames only once per minute instead of once a second in order to make up for this frame rate discrepancy. Additionally, even 24fps and 60fps Drop-Frame variants exist — the 23.97 and 59.94 formats representatively. For broadcast video, this difference is kind of essential.

Why are there so many different framerates, anyway

What to use for online video content?

Online media content, such as YouTube and videos on social media, is not required to follow broadcast standards, nor is it required to correspond to cinematic frame rate standards. So, what frame rate should you use for video content that's going to be viewed online? Actually, there isn't one since internet platforms are just so adaptable. 

You can opt for 23.97, 24, 30, 48, 50, or 60 FPS, and even more ‒ YouTube and other major video player platforms will adapt to the frame rate encoded.

This will ultimately depend on the kind of material you're producing. Use 24 or 25 frames per second while recording vlogs or short films if you want to create a cinematic mood. You should choose a high frame rate when vlogging in motion or filming fast-moving activity to eliminate blur caused by smaller frame rates.

Although there is much more technical information about frame rates, armed with this information, you can at least understand them and select the one that is best for your current project.

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