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How to Understand Digital Video Terms

What should you keep in mind when taking or editing digital videos?

By
Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #225

What Is FPS?

When you’re watching a video, you’re actually watching a ton of pictures one right after the other. It’s basically a flipbook where as you flip through the pages, an image appears to move. When you’re watching normal TV, the screen will typically show around 30 pictures a second, also known as frames. That’s where the term FPS comes from—frames per second. 

If you’re trying to catch the perfect moment of a sports game, or are riding your mountain bike down a hill and want a clear image, high frames per second would be best.

Why does frames per second matter? Well if you take a video at 120fps, that is 120 frames in one second. That’s 120 separate pictures. Higher FPS is best for fast moving video, or when you want to slow a video down for a slow motion effect. You’ll see camera’s advertised as being able to take a range of video from 480fps all the way down to 30fps. High fps is great for action cameras like the Sioeye and GoPro because it can easily capture everything that is happening, avoiding most blur.

What’s interesting though is that you’ll see cameras that can take videos in 1080p at 30 frames per second, but if you reduce the resolution to 720p they can take video at a faster framerate say 60 frames per second. Basically you can take really nice high definition video at lower speeds because the picture quality is much better, or you can take a lot of smaller pictures pretty quickly.

This becomes important when considering what you’re videotaping. If you’re trying to catch the perfect moment of a sports game, or are riding your mountain bike down a hill and want a clear image, high frames per second would be best. If you’re trying to take a video of slow moving scenery where speed isn’t an issue, you’ll opt for a higher resolution video over high fps.

What Is Hertz?

On TV’s you’ll often see hertz, abbreviated with Hz. This is for all intents and purposes framerate; it’s how often a pixel can change color on a TV. Hertz by definition is cycles per second and is typically used with radio. When a TV is advertised with having a 120Hz refresh rate, you can take that to mean it can display 120 frames a second.

The higher the hertz the more frames a TV can show, which for sports and action movies means a much better experience. However, keep in mind that anything passed 60hz is pretty much overkill and you’ll never notice the difference, nor will much video content be produced past 60fps.

Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post them on Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker.

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About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.

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