What format should I use? What resolution? What frame rate?

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“What frame rate and resolution should I use when I’m shooting video of a sporting event, and I’m going to upload the edited video to Vimeo?”

This is the essence of a question I recently received from someone, and I suspect it’s similar to questions that many people have.

Now please be aware — Like most of my answers to questions, this is only my opinion.

I’ll share what my answer was along with my thinking here…

First of all, we need to consider the subject of the video: it’s a sporting event. I think it’s a good idea to anticipate that the video will be paused at some point when it’s played back, or maybe even in the edited video. Freeze frames are common with sporting event video.

This means that I would probably want less motion blur in each frame. And that, in turn means that I’d want to shoot my video with a faster shutter speed because the rule of thumb is: the faster the shutter speed, the less motion blur there is in each frame.

And if that sporting event is outside during the day, the fast shutter speed shouldn’t be a problem because there’s likely plenty of light.

Also because it’s a sporting event, I like to assume that a portion of the footage might be converted to slow motion in the final edited video. If that’s the case, then a faster frame rate might be a good idea at the time of capture.

Over the past several years, more and more cameras can easily capture 60 frames per second. This is double the speed of the typical (approximate) 30 frames per second playback speed (depending on where you are in the world).

If we capture video at 60 frames per second and then play it back at 30 frames per second — tada, we have 50% slow motion. It plays back at half the speed. Good stuff, and useful.

And that’s why I’d recommend capturing the video at 60 frames-per-second with a fast shutter speed to keep motion blur low.

How fast should it be? As fast you can get it without underexposing the image. The faster the shutter speed, the less motion blur, sure, but also the darker the image.

(When we adjust one thing, it affects other things. This is common when we capture video. Another example — when we increase gain, we brighten the image, but we also add noise.)

Okay, that’s what I recommend for frame rate and shutter speed, but what about the frame size — in other words: resolution, or frame dimensions?

And this makes me think of that great Stephen Covey quote:

“Begin with the end in mind.”

Sage advice.

So what’s our “end” in this specific case? Vimeo!

Vimeo can handle plenty of different resolutions, and it can lower the resolution as needed for each person who views the video, depending on their connectivity.

In my experience, this is something that a lot of people don’t realize is happening behind-the-scenes, so I’ll add a quick explanation here:

When we upload a video to Vimeo (or YouTube, or Facebook, etc.), the platform will take our video and then transcode it to various levels of quality.

So we upload one video, but the service stores many different versions of the video. And when a user clicks “Play” on the video to view it in their browser, Vimeo does a quick test of the connection to see what the speed is, and then it delivers the highest quality version it can deliver and still maintain smooth playback for the viewer.

Different viewers see different versions (different files) of the video.

If you’re on a slower connection, you might watch a low resolution video (maybe 360p for example) with a lower data rate and file size (which translates to lower quality).

And if you’re on a super-fast connection, you might watch the version of the video that’s full resolution at the highest data rate.

(I’m undoubtedly oversimplifying this, but the general concept is accurate.)

So now let’s think about this… If Vimeo is going to make several different versions of the video from my original video, then it makes sense for me to give it a high quality version to begin with.

(By the way, here I’m talking about a high quality delivery file, not the master file — which is something different.)

That way, when Vimeo starts making new versions from the original version I uploaded, it’s starting with the highest possible quality.

As I write this, Vimeo likes to receive H.264 videos, so that’s what I’ll give it. I’ll use the highest quality settings I can use and at the highest resolution.

If I have 4K video, great, I’ll upload that. If the best I have is 1080p, great, I’ll upload that. You get the idea.

In this person’s case, they could shoot up to 1080p with their camera, so that’s what I recommended:

Shoot in 1080p. Edit in 1080p. Upload a 1080p version to Vimeo.

That gives Vimeo a good quality video file to start with, and then it can go to work transcoding different versions of the file for different connection speeds.

This is an example of how we make a lot of little decisions along the way when we’re shooting and editing video.

Some of these small decisions can have a big impact, so I think it’s smart to spend a little time thinking about the project in advance.

Anyway, it’s a good question, so I’m happy to answer it and share my answer with you.

22 thoughts on “What format should I use? What resolution? What frame rate?

  1. Good stuff!
    You mentioned “(By the way, here I’m talking about a high quality delivery file, not the master file — which is something different.)”. Please explain this. I am a FCPX user and see all the options.

    1. Thanks, Steve. :)

      That’s a good question. If you scroll back up, you can click the link in that phrase (the one with “delivery” and “master files”) which will take you to another article that should clarify things.

      I hope that helps!

    1. Hmm… I’m not sure I understand your question. The same information would apply when editing in Final Cut Pro or any other video editing program.

      If I’m missing something, please feel free to clarify. :)

  2. Thank you so much. that was very useful. However my major concern is mixing frame rates. I use Final Cut and am concerned that these days we have equipment which use different frame rates. I use a Dji Mavic Air, a Go Pro Black 7 as well as a Panasonic HC-X920 and want to maximise the results. What is best practise?

    1. Thanks, Alan. I’m glad you found it useful.

      And your question is a good one. I could write a whole article about frame rates, but I guess I’d have two suggestions:

      My first suggestion: try to match the frame rates when you’re shooting, at the time of capture. That makes things easier.

      My second suggestion if you can’t match their frame rates for some reason: Use the lowest frame rate from the different cameras.

      For example if one camera is shooting at 60 fps, another at 24, and another at 30 — my recommendation would be that your video project be 24 fps and then Final Cut Pro will automatically reduce the frame rates of the other cameras to match the project’s 24 fps (and it does this by dropping the frames).

      That’s what I would usually do unless there were special circumstances. :)

  3. Thanks for your good advices. In Europe all the camcorders works in 50fps or 25 fps. Some in 24fps. The most TV ‘s has 24fps. But my new 4K Sony oled kan automatically 50, 25 and 24.
    The mix of video’s from iPhone ( 60 fps ) and Sony in 25 or 50 is , not a problem. FCPX , I think, use de frame rate from the first clip .
    Is it better convert prores4444 to hevc or via Prores proxy?

    Thanks again

  4. Thanks Izzy for this very clear clarifying explaination.
    One question: would changing the shutter speed or the frame rate influence the color temperature in the same cicumstances as if they would be used in ‘standard’ speeds and rates?

      1. Thanks Izzy.
        My Sony camera needs some time to adapt when the automatic setup of camera white balance is used after changing speed or rate. This is why I wondered.

  5. Once I create a master file from my project then I want to export the project to Vimeo. Does FCP automatically make a H264 file for export to Vimeo? Or do I need to do that in Compressor?

    1. Hi Robert — Yes, once you’ve exported a master video file, you can use Compressor to transcode for Vimeo, using the master as the source. Alternatively, you can export a separate H.264 version of your project directly from Final Cut Pro and upload to Vimeo. Both options would work.

      1. Thanks for such a quick response. I am assuming that when exporting to Vimeo from FCP, that FCP transcodes the project file to H.264, otherwise I am not sure how to do that in FCP before exporting.

        1. Oh, it’s in the share menu, similar to sharing a master:

          In the menu > File > Share > Master

          Then in the options pane, change the video codec to H.264.

          That’s one way to do it. :)

          You’ll have a high quality H.264 video file to upload to Vimeo after that.

  6. Thank you Izzy,
    Very useful and practical and towards a much better comprehension of editing technique. I hope to see more of this stuff, please.
    Much appreciated, Sohrab

  7. Hi Izzy, I have a question please. What is the norm (time/frame) for switching between cameras during a multi camera video? What I am asking is… the main camera displays for (say) 15 secs and the 2nd camera display for (say) 5 secs? Is that an acceptable time frame or what should it be?
    I do the Church preach for YouTube and now started using multi cam recording (and editing) where the main camera is in front of the preacher and the 2nd camera around 45 degrees from the first. I don’t want it to be cheesy and want a professional look and feel.

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