For many YouTubers, “frame rate” is something that gamers—and occasionally cinephiles—talk about a lot, but not necessarily something that your average YouTuber needs to concern themselves with. Of course, you soon notice when the frame rate is too low, but for most of us, we simply choose a preset in our video editing software, judge whether it looks good, and then move on.
The dirty little secret is that this works, and there is no pressing need to know what frame rates look like off of the top of your head. If the video looks good in the end, what does it matter? But, like all crafts, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know more about what you do, and that is why we put this post together.
So, if you want the short answer to what is the best frame rate for vlogging, the answer is “whatever looks best”, though you probably want to start around the 30 frames per second mark and experiment from there. But, if you’d like to learn more about this subject, keep reading.
What is Frame Rate?
Quite literally, the frame rate is the rate at which frames flick past your eyes when a video is playing. Each frame is essentially a still image, and like an animated flip book, they give the impression of movement when they are shown in quick succession.
Sticking with the flip book analogy, the frame rate is essentially the speed with which you flip the pages.
Thinking of a video as a long series of images helps to understand a lot about the impact different frame rates can have on your videos.
The Impact of Frame Rate on File Size
When you consider that a video is just a sequence of regular images, it makes sense that a higher frame rate will mean a higher file size.
A single second of footage at 60 frames per second will be twice as large as a single second of footage at 30 frames per second because there are twice as many images to show in that one second.
The Extremes of Frame Rate
Every frame rate has its purpose, but there are extremes where vloggers never need to venture in the course of regular vlogging. Firstly, anything below 24 frames per second will typically looks choppy, like a video that is struggling to load.
Similarly, anything over 120 frames per second is too fast for the typical human eye to notice, so those extra frames per second will be wasted.
And, in truth, the figure at which the human eye stops being able to distinguish frames is closer to 75, but it’s always good to have a bit of a buffer.
Frame Rates for Other Uses
While the human may only be able to see frame rates under 120 frames per second, there are still uses for higher frame rates. For example, slow motion video needs to be filmed at a higher frame rate.
If we go back to thinking of video as a series of pictures being shown rapidly, slow motion is essentially just increasing the interval between each image, and the more you can increase that interval, the slower the motion.
If you had some 60 frames per second footage and wanted to run it back at half speed, that wouldn’t be a problem because you would essentially be converting it to 30 frames per second video, which will still play relatively smoothly.
However, if you had 60 frames per second footage that you wanted to play back at 1/10th speed, your footage is going to look like a slideshow.
Different Frame Rates and What They’re Used For
In this section we’re going to take a look at the most common frame rates and what you might use them for. We’ll elaborate below, but first, here’s the list;
- Under 16 FPS — Choppy, stuttery video. There’s not much use for this
- 16-18 FPS — Recreating that silent movie, black and white cinema look
- 24 FPS — The typical frame rate for cinematic sequences
- 30 FPS — A common frame rate for TV, live sports, and YouTube vlogs
- 60 FPS — Think of it as a premium version of 30 FPS
- 120 FPS — Action footage; think head cams on downhill bikers or base jumpers
- 240 FPS — Regular slow motion, popping balloons and water splashes, that kind of thing
- 480 FPS — Slower motion, good for replays of extreme sports
- Above 960 FPS — The slowest motion, rarely seen outside of cinema and the Super SlowMo Guys videos
Of course, the listed frame rates there are not necessarily the frame rates you would be showing your video at. The footage of a skateboarded doing an amazing trick might be recorded at 480 frames per second, but it would be played back at more like 30 or 60 frames per second, making it 8x to 16x slower than the original footage.
Incidentally, though it’s not particularly relevant here, it’s interesting to note that while those old silent movies were filmed at around 16 frames per second, they were actually shown at closer to 24 frames per second. This why they all have that comical sped up effect to them.
What is the Best Frame Rate for Vlogging?
We took a bit of a scenic road to get this but, now that we know more about frame rates, let’s take another look at that title question. What is the best frame rate for vlogging?
Assuming you are just doing run-of-the-mill vlogging—no action sequences or slow motion explosions—you will want to shoot your footage at between 30 and 60 frames per second.
Dropping to 24 frames per second will look fine, but our media-obsessed minds are conditioned to associate that frame rate as cinematic, and it comes across a little disjointed at times. On the other hand, going up to 120 frames per second will also look fine, but is entirely wasted, since the human eye won’t notice.
Within that range, the higher, the better because a higher frame rate means more detail and a higher quality video, but video quality might not be your only consideration.
Quality video recording equipment is not cheap. This is the driving force behind an increasing number of YouTubers using their high-end phones as their camera, since phone manufacturers are increasingly squeezing amazing performance out of their tiny cameras. And, the more you ask of your camera, the more expensive it will be if it’s going to deliver. In other words, a camera that can pull off 60 frames per second will be more expensive than a practically identical one that can only do 30 frames per second. In some cases, a camera might be able to do both, but the quality drops with the increased frame rate, so a 30 frames per second video can be shot in 4K, but a 60 frames per second video can only go up to 1440p, or even 1080p.
Regardless of the details, if you are buying recording equipment, and you are on a budget, you may find that budget limits the frame rates that are available to you.
How Important is Frame Rate for Vlogging?
This is a tricky question to answer. In a sense it is very important, but at the same time, not as important as some other aspects. For example, if your frame rate is below 24 frames per second, you will want to get that higher if you can, because that video will be noticeably lower quality than videos that fall between 30 and 60 frames per second.
Now, if your video falls in that golden range, your frame rate is probably the last thing you should be thinking about for vlogging. You will get far more substantial improvements to the quality of your video by doing things like improving the lighting and audio of your videos.
Of course, it will often be the case that improving one thing automatically improves another. For example, if you wanted to make the step-up to 4K, you might get yourself a camera that also has a higher frame rate. But you shouldn’t focus on that frame rate when there are other areas to improve.
Ultimately, vlogging is not the most frame rate sensitive genre on YouTube. As long as you get your frame rate above that threshold where it stops looking like a slideshow (or a silent movie) it will look fine.
There is no reason to stay below the typical 60 frames per second from a video quality standpoint, but just know that you’re not getting any benefit in terms of the visual experience.
Once you are in that frame rate zone, however, there are more important things to focus on. Getting your audio up to scratch should always be one of the first things a YouTuber focuses on—especially a vlogging YouTuber. And, after that, lighting is a pretty big one. Set dressing is also a big factor for vloggers. Make your videos look and sound great, then worry if there are enough frames!