When it comes to selecting digital video cameras, either for personal use or to build a security network, one of the most important things to consider is what type of frame rate you want your camera capable of achieving. However, what a “frame rate” is and how it even works might not be something you understand; thankfully it’s not difficult at all. In fact, here’s all you need to know about frame rates and how they work.

 

Know the Code

 

Whenever you see any type of digital video camera’s specifications, you’re likely to see a “maximum frame rate” section that’s has a number and then a letter or collection of letters. It might appear as 30fps or 30/s, both of which mean that the camera is capable of capturing 30 frames, or individual images, over the course of just one second. This also means that when you play back the images recorded by a camera they will display at this speed; a 30fps camera will show you all 30 images in a second, while a camera that is capable of different speeds will have playback at that speed as well.


At very low speeds from 1 to around 25 frames per second, the human eye can obviously tell. Cameras with slow speeds appear choppy, much in the way a homemade flipbook would; however, when presented with speeds of around 25fps and higher it’s increasingly difficult to see individual frames. As a result, most television shows and films are presented at speeds of at least 30fps. That’s not to say that there’s no discernable difference with video recorded at higher than 30fps – the playback simply becomes smoother as more detail is captured over time. This is why many digital video cameras designed to capture sports and recreation events can record at 60fps, 120fps, or even higher in some circumstances.

 

So How Does it all Work?

 

A digital video camera is essentially a digital still camera capable of taking several still images at a time and then playing them back at the same speed they were captured. This isn’t that different than a traditional film camera, which captures individual pictures and then plays them back by running them on a reel quick enough to give the illusion of movement. However, digital cameras can be paused and advanced frame-by-frame, making them much better for surveillance or security measures – but this means that a good security camera needs a relatively high frame rate in order to capture enough images to be useful; if an unauthorized person moves through the field of view of a security camera with a slow frame rate, the camera might only capture a handful of images, making it difficult to identify the person. This is why the best security cameras typically have a recording speed of at least 10 frames per second, though most high-end cameras will be capable of around 30fps or more.