Making Sense of Action Camera Video Quality

Frame rate, resolution, field of view… There’s a lot that goes into recording a video! It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the factors and options available on your action cam. Luckily, we’re here to help out.

From which frame rate to use to the different field of views, we’ve got you covered on making sense of video quality on your action cam.

What frame rate should I use?

Frame rate is the number of images that your camera takes per second. These pictures are then combined to create a video recording. If you have a frame rate of 24fps, then that means your camera is capturing 24 images per second.

The frame rate that you use will dictate how the world looks in your video recording.Choosing the right frame rate all depends on what your desired video style is.

Using Frame Rates Creatively

Lower frame rates will slow things down and make them almost dreamlike. Fast movements will become blurred and you might lose detail in your video.

Higher frame rates, on the other hand, will capture more frames in each second, creating a buttery smooth effect.. Higher frame rates allow you to slow down your video in post production to create stunning slow motion clips. Higher frame rates tend to be more popular among action camera users, since most users want their film to capture every possible movement. However, because of the higher frame rate, your camera will have less time to let light in so your video will be darker.

Most action cameras have multiple frame rates you can choose from. . Here are some of the most popular options:

  • 12fps: Unusable for all but extreme low light conditions or no movement., You will find all motion to be choppy. However, if you want to speed up the video in post production you can create a motion blur effect.
  • 24fps: The frame rate used in major motion pictures.This is best for using in average light conditions to create a motion blur or to create a cinematic like quality to your video.
  • 30fps: The most popular frame rate option on action cameras and for good reason. The most flexible frame rate allows you to record in most light conditions and capture motion without blur.
  • 60fps: This frame rate allows you to record video with motion that can be slowed down 2x to when editing your video to export in 30fps. The best choice for any action sports that you may want to slow down to show any tricks.Keep in mind that good light is required or you will end up with a darker video.
  • 120+fps: If you are shooting in direct sunlight and want the ability to slow down a video up to 4x than you can continue to raise the frame rates to find the right balance between video quality and frames.

Make sure you keep in mind post production when shooting. Typically, it will be easier to slow down footage rather than speed it up.

However, this doesn’t mean you should just shoot at 120fps all the time. You’ll have to spend more time editing the video to suit your needs, the frame rate of your shoot may not match up with the frame rate of the rest of your project, and depending on the light conditions, you may be sacrificing details in your footage.

What resolution should I use?

Resolutions are the horizontal lines stacked on top of each other in a video that dictate how sharp the image quality is. The higher the resolution is, the more pixels will be available to you and the more detail you’ll be able to see in your video.

The most popular resolutions are:

  • 480p: This is the resolution found on DVD’s. You will see some pixelation even on mobile devices.
  • 720p: This is high definition quality and will deliver a sharp, crisp image on most screens.
  • 1080p: Still the standard for HD on action cameras and televisions. If given the choice you should choose 1080p at the minimum. Videos will show up well on any screen and is also the best choice for uploading and/or sharing content onto the internet.
  • 4k: Becoming the new standard for video on TV and web, 4k will give you 2 times the resolution compared to 1080p. Not all displays, such as smartphones, are suitable to handle this level of detail, so your videos may not show up in 4k to some of your audience.

Shooting in 4k also gives you an option to downsample to lower resolutions or crop your video to for stabilization. We recommend shooting in 4k 30fps or higher if your camera will support it.

Be aware that the resolution you shoot in will affect other aspects of your filmmaking. Because both resolution and frame rate increase the amount of data within your video, you may find that you can only record high resolution at lower frame rates, or vice versa. This depends on the write speed of the camera and how quickly it can store data.

Additionally, shooting in higher resolutions will cause you to go through your camera space more quickly because of the amount of data it takes up.

What field of view should I use?

The field of view (FOV) can be a confusing concept, so for simplicity’s sake, we will cover horizontal field of views. Field of view refers to how much of the world the lens of your camera can see. The larger your field of view, the more of the world you can see in your video.

GoPro Hero 5 Session - FoV (Field of View - Campi visivi) Comparison

Some common fields of view include:

  • Wide: Commonly referred to as fisheye field of view, is good for getting immersive, smooth shots that show everything that’s going on around you. You may see some distortion on the edges of videos and images. For most videos the widest angle gives you a unique view in videos.
  • Medium: A cropped view of the sensor that is a good medium between getting a wide enough shot while minimizing and fisheye effect.This FOV tends to work best for shooting casual videos.
  • Narrow: Narrow FOVs will give you a cleaner image, but are best used for stationary videos, such as an interview.

This may seem like a lot of information to take in at once, but remember that the best way to retain this info is to apply it! The more you shoot, the easier it will become to intuitively know what settings you need to shoot in to get the most out of your camera.

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