Frames per second (FPS) in TV, cinema, and gaming

For us to see videos and films in a fluid way, a certain number of images that follow one another in quick succession is required. This sequence is measured in frames per second (FPS).

Depending on the medium, different numbers of frames are used in an image sequence, so that the actual values sometimes greatly exceed the value that can be detected by humans. While frame rate or frame frequency have been familiar terms in video technology for quite some time, FPS has become particularly important as a measurement in gaming. 60 FPS standard output is often referred to. What is behind the different terms, what effect does a large number of images in a sequence have on the human eye, and what is the minimum number of FPS?

What does FPS stand for?

FPS stands for frames per second. This number is the frame rate or frame frequency, which indicates the speed of the image sequences within a video.

The frame rate directly indicates whether a film or video file is displayed smoothly to the eye or appears to be in slow motion. The general rule is that the higher the frame rate, the more refined the movement in a video. A higher frame rate is generally better than a lower rate.

How many frames per second can humans perceive?

For the human eye, high FPS is no longer significant above a certain value. This limit isn’t actually that high. Our brain can only process about 16 to 18 frames per second for a smooth interaction of the images. The more frames beyond that in the image sequence, the smoother the view appears to the human eye.

A standard 24 frames per second has become established in film and video technology. This frame rate ensures that we perceive videos from a sequence of images as a smooth overall picture.

What FPS is used in cinema etc.?

Depending on the medium, the frames per second differ significantly. Here is an overview of the common frame rates in different media:

Medium FPS
TV and Video on Demand 24
Cinema 24
YouTube and other video portals 30 or 60, depending on output
PC and video games 30 minimum, 60 optimum

What is the importance of FPS in gaming?

In gaming, FPS are an important criterion, which is often emphasised in game reviews. Unlike other types of media such as film or television, where the frame rate is already determined during rendering, a computer or console game constantly recalculates the images, for example when a character moves through the game world.

As a result, the frame rate fluctuates in games and does not remain constant at one value. If the environment changes frequently in a game and has to be reloaded quickly, for example in a racing simulation, this recalculation effect can lead to jerking if the FPS is too low.

Other criteria like latency are also improved by a higher FPS rate. This means that the input via controller, keyboard, or mouse is also processed more frequently in an output image with more frames per second. As a result, input is more direct and is not first calculated on a post-rendered image.

This is a pivotal factor, especially in games like first-person shooters, because it improves the aiming. In practice, a higher frame rate, for example 120 FPS, leads to more accurate shots. This is one reason why especially high frame rates are used in e-sports — triple-digit FPS are the order of the day there.

What is the minimum FPS required for video games to run smoothly?

Most games already run smoothly at 30 FPS, but higher frames per second are recommended depending on the genre, since this avoids stutters. Simulations or real-time strategy games run stably with a frame rate of 30 frames, while first-person shooters, racing games or action-packed jump and runs do better with 60 FPS to guarantee a smooth gaming experience.


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Differences between PC and consoles: What are the maximum FPS values?

The basic difference between the platforms is that consoles use a fixed hardware composition compared to PCs, whereas PCs have very individual combinations within the four walls of the gamers. The interaction of the individual components of a PC has an effect on the overall performance, so a better graphics card can definitely cause a noticeable jump in frames per second.

On consoles, 30 or 60 FPS is usually the standard, but depending on the developer, gamers have the option to choose one of the two FPS variants in the settings. This usually has an impact on the overall performance. For example, higher frames per second affect the graphics performance, which may then reduce game quality.

Older consoles like the PlayStation 3 or Xbox Classic are only capable of outputting games in 30 FPS. With the current console generations from Sony and Microsoft, 120 frames per second are already possible in some games, and the standard is a stable 60 FPS across all current systems. This frame rate is also possible for many games on high-end smartphones.

For PCs, 60 FPS is usually the standard for current devices. Gaming computers, on the other hand, often reach 120 FPS during gaming due to the usually very powerful components.

What FPS is the ideal compromise between hardware and smooth gameplay?

Basically, 60 FPS serves as a benchmark for smooth gameplay, where there is also — as described before — a more direct input. At 30 FPS, delays can occur, which can result in noticeably delayed input in action-packed games. 120 FPS is not yet a standard for gaming, but it lowers the latency, so this setting is recommended for high-performance PC systems. However, the genre also plays an important role.

Game genre Recommended FPS
Indie/Pixelart 30
Role-playing games 30
Strategy games 30
Adventure 60
First-person shooter 60
Racing games 60

Although the abbreviation ‘FPS’ in gaming often stands for Frames per Second, it can also mean First-Person Shooter. You’ll be able to guess from the overall context though!

What are the advantages of higher numbers of frames per second?

Apart from powerful systems that limit the number of frames upwards, high FPS in gaming has no real disadvantage. The more frames per second a game puts out, the smoother the gaming experience. This is beneficial for content creators when creating videos for YouTube and other video platforms, streaming on portals such as Twitch or for action-packed games like shooters or sports games.


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