Struggling to decide whether you should be recording in 30 or 60 frames per second (fps)? There are a few things to consider. Footage size, camera quality, post production skills and facilities and what downgrading the FPS of your footage will look like are all factors to take into account.
In this article, I’ll break down the most important elements to consider and hopefully give you enough of an understanding to make an educated decision.
Size of the footage
Limitation of camera memory, hard drive storage and internet speed can be deciding factors when deciding whether to film at 30 or 60 fps. If you’ve got a bad internet connection, uploading a file shot at 60 fps may be a struggle. If your camera’s SD card is almost full, shooting at a higher fps also wouldn’t be advised. You should also consider whether you’re aiming to preserve this footage as you don’t want to waste time shooting things in a higher fps only to spend hours compressing it in the future. Think about what you’ll gain from shooting at a higher frame rate, and measure those benefits against the quality of equipment and tools at your disposal, as well as how you’ll actually be using it.
Quality of the camera and resolution
If your camera is part of the “transition” generation (the first generation of cameras able to record 60 fps) or it’s a low end brand, you should record at a lower frame rate. Many devices of that era were experimenting with higher frame rates, which probably means more frames would equal bad quality. Even resolution would be sacrificed because a lot of cameras couldn’t handle maximum resolutions with high frame rates.
However, devices of the current era are capable of recording high frame rates in high resolutions. For example, there are many smartphones that are able to record over 100 fps in Full HD. In fact, you’re probably reading this off of a device which can record in such a high frame rate you could slow a hummingbird’s wings down in post production, all without losing any of the quality or resolution.
Post production, downgrading, film look, human eye
Footage shot in a high frame rate is perfect for playing with slow motion. Slow motion and high frame rate are a match made in heaven. The more frames you have, the bigger the possibilities in post production to play with slow motion. It’s really quite a difference recording in 30 or 60 fps if you’re looking to slow down the footage.
Downgrading footage from 60fps to 30 is easy, but upgrading from 30 to 60 fps is impossible. You simply can’t add new frames. You can try using some plugins which claim to do that, but you will just get some new choppy and blended frames. So basically you are just wasting your time and potentially your money (a lot of those plugins are not free).
The human eye can perceive the difference between a medium and high temporal resolution (24 fps and 48 fps). Closer representation of the real world is 60 fps. Also, there is the hypothesis that because 24fps is less information for the brain to process, you can relax more and enjoy watching. Nevertheless, that is the reason why filmmakers avoid it, since movies should only be an imitation of real life. If there is a new superstar director in you just waiting to be famous, you should consider this: even Peter Jackson, the famed director of Lord Of The Rings, experimented using higher frame rates with the Hobbit trilogy, and it was a huge success. Experiment a lot and find your perfect “film look.”
The only way to make the right decision for you is to focus on your pros and cons. If you have limited storage or your camera’s not that good, record in 30fps. If you have a high quality camera, enough space on your hard drive and you’re a fan of slow motion and post production, then go with 60 fps.