How to Choose a Video Shutter Speed

Video Shutter Speed

If you’re new to videography, one question you might have is: “How do I choose a shutter speed based on my chosen frame rate?” Selecting the right video shutter speed is critical to shaping the look and feel of your finished video project, and is interdependent with ISO speed, frame rate, and aperture settings.

The “180-Degree Rule” and Video Shutter Speed

As with many things related to photography and videography, the rules and standards often come from the pre-digital days of film cameras. The so-called “180-degree rule” is no exception, and it basically boils down to this:

To achieve a look most like analog film (cinematic), set your shutter speed to twice that of your frame rate.

So if you’re going for that “film” look, or just looking for a good starting point, here’s a handy list that lays out the frame rate (frames per second or FPS) to shutter speed ratio:

  • 24 FPS: Use 1/50 shutter speed (most cameras don’t have a 1/48 option)
  • 25 FPS: use 1/50 shutter speed
  • 30 FPS: use 1/60 shutter speed
  • 50 FPS: use 1/100 shutter speed
  • 60 FPS: use 1/120 shutter speed
  • 120 FPS: use 1/250 shutter speed (most cameras don’t have a 1/240 option)

Other Things to Consider with Video Shutter Speed

So the 2x the frame rate is the film-look standard, but what happens if you go with a faster or slower shutter speed?

Faster: There will be less motion blur and a more “real-life” look. Think of home movies from the VHS camcorder era, or some reality TV shows. Sometimes this is the look you need or want. It all depends on context. There are plenty of reasons to go for a more snappy, realistic look/feel.

Slower: There will be more motion blur and a more “dreamy” look. But this can get out of hand quickly and is more “artsy” than it is documentary. Use with caution, but it can be cool to achieve a certain feel or emotion.

Why is it called “180-Degree Rule”?

It’s called that because older film video cameras had a half-round mechanical shutter. Something that is half a circle is 180 degrees. Because film shutters have to dedicate even time to both exposing film and waiting on the motor drive to advance to the next frame of film (not exposing film), and because the film standard frame rate is 24 FPS, to get the right exposure and look, the shutter speed needed to be 1/48 of a second.

For a more technical analysis of how this works with film, check out this great article.

Final Thoughts on Video Shutter Speed

The 2x rule (or 180-degree rule) is pretty simple. It’s a great starting point to get your camera dialed in, but don’t be afraid to experiment and bend or break this rule to get the effect you want. Also consider that you’ll have to balance the video shutter speed with with ISO speed and aperture setting. Outdoors you may need to add a neutral density filter to get your desired wide aperture in line with the shutter speed. Conversely, in lower lighting situations, some continuous lighting may be needed to get the exposure where you need it.

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