This frame rate comparison shows why you shouldn’t just shoot everything at 120fps

With the influx of new cameras these days capable of shooting 120fps and even faster, it’s natural that many of us acquiring such a camera will want to have a play with it and see just how it performs and how our footage looks. A lot of people complain about certain cameras that can shoot 120fps overheating, but is it really that big a deal? Are you going to be shooting 4K 120fps all day?

Well, no. It’s unlikely. And you probably shouldn’t, either. In this video, Mark Bone takes a look at frame rates and when and why to use them and why shooting 120fps for anything other than slow motion is just a waste. And, well, even shooting 60fps is over the top for a lot of content you might shoot – particularly anything cinematic.

It’s not a new argument. A lot of people complained about The Hobbit and other movies being shot at high frame rates that made them feel almost hyperreal. Of course, there are times when you won’t want to shoot at standard 24p or even 30p frame rates. Like when you’re shooting the aforementioned slow motion. Or perhaps you’re trying to simulate that 90s sitcom video look or old Super 8 film.

The vast majority of the time, though, especially for something cinematic, 24p (23.976fps) is your friend. Sort of. It’s the frame rate that tends to let most of us absorb ourselves in the story because it’s less realistic than we see in real life. We can disconnect it from what we experience every single day. And 23.976fps is something that our brains have been trained to accept in movies for decades. So, it’s the one that feels most natural to the viewer, because it’s what we’re used to seeing.

There is, of course, the question of motion blur, and while our eyes don’t quite see the motion blur of footage shot at 24p if we’re filming moving subjects, they do indeed see some level of motion blur. It’s why things like Persistence of Vision work. It’s the principle that allowed CRT televisions with interlaced footage to work (and why bad ones would appear to flicker) before we switched to better technology progressive displays with almost constant lit output.

With regard to 120fps specifically, though, there’s not really anything out there capable of even playing it yet. At least, not if you plan to distribute your film. Blu-Rays are maxed out at 60p (59.94fps) and so is YouTube. So, you’ll just send out your file to people to watch it, but even many desktop media players will choke with those kinds of frame rates – even assuming it’s on a system with a graphics card and monitor capable of playing it.

There will no doubt come a time when faster frame rate playback is available to the masses, but until that day comes, unless you want to shoot slow motion, 120fps is just a waste. As Mark’s video points out. After all, many games can run well over 100fps these days on the latest high-end hardware. It’s something gamers are used to.

But until those platforms come along that can play 120fps video and we’ve had a whole generation of new filmmakers raised since birth on movies and documentaries shot and played back at that frame rate, it’s never going to be the norm. And, personally, I’m glad.

I’m with Mark on this one. And aside from footage I know will be played back in slow motion, I shoot about everything at 23.976fps. There is one other possible exception, though. I really wish we had a 180° stereo VR camera capable of shooting 120fps (and a platform capable of playing it back). With VR content, a fast frame rate with as little motion blur as possible is definitely a good thing to me. That 24p motion blur doesn’t look great in a VR headset.

What do you think? What frame rate do you usually shoot your video at?

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