HFR Video Production: Moving Beyond 24p
Written by Andrew J. Allsbury
While almost everyone involved in video production has a serious opinion on this topic, very few have properly educated their clients, or themselves, on why and when this technique could/should be used to achieve a desired result. In this article I have set out to do exactly that. To understand HFR, which we will define in this article as 60p, you must understand both standard frame rates and why they are the way they are. So here we go.
Here are a few examples of the differences between 24P and HFR 60P
First a brief history lesson:
Why is 24p the film standard of today? The answer is simple, at the time that moving filmmakers first developed their standardizations, those in charge found that 24 film frames per second was the lowest rate (cheapest) they could go while still maintaining a roughly life like image without negatively impacting the audio playback. I know this does not paint a real romantic view of our beloved 24p, but it’s a fact.
Current standard frame rates:
24P – A video playing at a rate of 24 individual full frames per second.
30P – A video playing at a rate of 30 individual full frames per second. (Irrelevant for this article)
60i – A video playing at a rate of 60 half frames per second. These half frames interpolate to be 30 full frames per second. (Irrelevant for this article)
New HFR frame rates:
48P - A video playing at a rate of 48 individual full frames per second. (Irrelevant for this article)
60P - A video playing at a rate of 60 individual full frames per second.
Now to understand what that means…
First main point, no matter what you do, one second of video at 24P and one second of video at 60P will both be exactly one second of video. *Gasp* Most people incorrectly believe when they see 60P mentioned that people are talking about slow motion, this is only factual if you are playing back a 60P file at 30 frames per second, thus showing 60 frames per second at half speed. 60P as a frame rate has the same real time playback as 24P, just more samples/instances of the same second in time. Does your head hurt yet? Good, that means you are likely grasping some of this concept.
Now onto the big question, why should I care?
Well, hypothetically the more samples you have per second, the smoother and more lifelike motion should become, also temporal resolution or sharpness/clarity should increase greatly. Both of these changes should increase the perceived quality of the video. Furthermore, since we are no longer limited to physical film, the cost of frames per second is negligible. This opens the door to practical use of HFR on productions.
So what is the catch?
Currently there are many. In this article I will not go in depth into the distribution issues of HFR, but instead leave it as a blanket statement. Currently HFR can only be shown correctly under certain distribution circumstances. Example, you can put it on your website and show it in a theatre, but you can’t put it on YouTube or broadcast it on cable TV.
What are the other catches you speak of?
Ahhhh…here we get into the really polarizing portion of this topic. Some people find that it looks “weird” or “overwhelming”. On this topic I somewhat concur. We as humans are creatures of habit and as long as I have been viewing videos, they have primarily been shown in 24P, therefore when I see 60P, it ends up being perceived as just downright odd. The phrase, “too real” is often the way I hear it described. However, this perception of “too real” has its advantages. In my opinion these advantages are primarily found in both advertising and documentary production. How often do you skip ads or let them play by unnoticed because they look like every other ad? Now, what if instead of seeing an ad just like every other, you were caught off guard by this “abrasive”, “odd” and “too real” advertisement? Chances are you would pay a little more attention to said ad. Another way to look at this format is the creative use within an ad to show a better representation of past and present, as well as a change in mood or health. Showing one scene in 30P then one in 60P can draw a pretty stark difference in mood and style. These are just a few great examples of how 60P could be utilized.
Is HFR going to become the everyday framerate of the future? I personally don’t know yet, however if I was to venture a guess at this point I would say no. While 24P may be antiquated, it also has a bigger than life feel that just can’t be quantified on paper and we as viewers have a deeply engrained love that I don’t see slipping anytime soon. However, unlike some seizure inducing gimmicks of yesteryear *cough* 3D *cough* I believe HFR does have some valid uses. And when utilized correctly, I believe HFR to be a wonderful creative tool that will expand more and more as we find the best ways to use it.
Who can I contact if I want to hear more about HFR video production?
That would be us over at CreativeWave of course! This is because we are one of the very few production companies (maybe the only one?) in Idaho capable of shooting HFR @ 4K. Not to mention our unparalleled style and experience. Please feel free to call or e-mail for more information.