There are plenty of ways to change the look of your film or video; it could be by changing the aperture, turning on a light, or even simply taking the camera off the tripod. If you really want to start experimenting, though, one of the most interesting (and fun!) ways of doing this is to start playing with the frame rates. Relatively speaking, it wasn’t all that long ago that inexpensive cameras started to shoot in Full HD at 24 fps, so we are exceptionally lucky today that options like the Panasonic GH5 are around that feature impressive specs when it comes to frame rates, including Full HD at up to 180 fps and DCI 4K at up to 60 fps. And, luckily for you, our own Doug Guerra took the GH5 out to Coney Island so he could demonstrate the many ways you can use frame rates creatively.
The best, and probably most fun way to start out on your frame rate endeavor, is to try slow motion. The GH5 excels here with its Variable Frame Rate mode, which offers speeds up to 180 fps in Full HD and 60 fps in DCI 4K, a first for mirrorless cameras. Be careful not to jump up immediately to the fastest possible settings—sometimes the slowdown can be too much for your subject and end up not showing enough movement. For example, moving to 60p on a 24p timeline will be a 2.5x slowdown of motion and going all the way to 180p is a drastically different 7.5x slowdown, which results in a much different feel to your footage. You are going to want to experiment with a range of frame rates, to find the sweet spot that works for you.
If you are brand new to slow motion, the GH5’s Variable Frame Rate mode is a huge benefit because it handles all the processing of the footage in-camera to create a video file that has already been slowed down or sped up. An experienced editor or adventurous amateur, on the other hand, can get a lot more out of shooting in slow motion than simply relying on the camera. One thing Guerra demonstrates in the video, above, is something called speed ramping. This lets you begin a clip at normal speed and then shift to slow motion without cutting away to a new shot. You can keep the normal parts of this clip at real-time speeds and then shift into slow motion when the interesting parts/action starts for a more interesting and compelling edit.
Another benefit of doing speed adjustments in post-production after shooting at high frame rates is if you are unsure about whether you will want to use slow motion for the shot yet. For example, sports videographers may leave the camera at 60 fps or higher, since there is no indication of when something exciting might happen and need to be slowed down later. You shouldn’t do this all the time though, because when you shoot at higher frame rates you end up reducing the bitrate, so the footage will be less detailed at the fastest speeds, and in the VFR mode you will not be recording audio.
Let’s move to the other side of the spectrum of fast motion, or time-lapse videography. While slow motion allows us to see all the details of a fast-moving subject, fast motion lets us speed up the motion of a slow-moving subject. For example, you might not notice how drastically the tide comes in if you are just walking around the beach for a couple of hours but, with time-lapse imaging, you can condense hours of events into a more digestible clip where it is easier to recognize more gradual changes. You will see this method used commonly in nature documentaries to help signify change, especially in day-to-night and night-to-day transitions.
The GH5 offers outstanding flexibility when it comes to shooting time lapses because it offers both a standard intervalometer for shooting high-resolution stills to be compiled later, or an undercranking setting in the VFR mode that takes care of all the editing for you. This feature isn’t solely the domain of time-lapse photographers, however, since the VFR mode features some other frame rates that fall just below the standard 24 fps. These introduce a unique and obvious effect, something you may have noticed in classic silent films from a century ago, where they simply used slower frame rates due to the limitations of the technology. Using this today can give that old-school film look though, if that is what you are going for in your project.
One thing I would like to mention is that while Guerra took a run-and-gun approach to shooting at Coney Island, shooting handheld or with a lightweight monopod, those of you looking for a more stable and professional-feeling kit should consider acquiring a baseplate or cage. These options from Zacuto will help you add video-specific gear and accessories that can greatly help the shooting experience. Another item you may want to consider is the Atomos Ninja Inferno, a 7" recorder/monitor that will enable the capture of 4K video in 10-bit at up to 60p, meaning you can capture the best possible quality for your slow-motion shots.
There is a lot that can be done creatively when you start delving into the various features available on the GH5, and frame rates is only one of them.
How are you planning to use frame rates creatively on your next project? Share in the Comments section, below!