Photoshop Frame Rate Essentials

When I set up a new Photoshop Animation document I generally start by setting the size and then change the timeline to the preferred Frame Rate.
FYI the process of creating a new Animation Project is simplified when you use the “New Project” button/function of the Animator’s Toolbar.

Frame Rate is the most essential thing the get right before labouring away at a new sequence. Although these settings can be changed at any time, it might cause your layers to shift timing to half or quarter frames forcing you to go over every frame/layer to correct in- and out-points That’s why I start of with some general information about Frame Rates and look into the options you have in Photoshop to experiment with.

Frame Rate in general

The Frame Rate specifies how many frames are shown per second of playback of your animation. The standard Frame Rate for film is 24 Frames per second (Fps). Common Frame Rates for video are 25 Fps and 30 Fps. A lot of animation is done at 12 Fps and later transferred to 24 Fps by duplicating every single frame. This is known as animating on two’s (two exposures for every single drawing). It effectively halves the amount of drawings needed per second of animation. Some animators cut Frame Rates even further: most for economic reasons but for some, like Bill Plympton, esthetics also plays a big role in choosing a specific Frame Rate.

I feel that shooting on fours, which is basically six drawings per second,
gives it a certain look that I like. ~ Bill Plympton

 

Animated gif of The Tune
Excerpt from “The Tune” (1996) by Bill Plympton

Some animations are done at 24 Fps, this means that every frame is a new drawing, which is known as animating on ones (or Full Animation). This is mainly used when the animated sequence contains fast action. When animating normal action on two’s the difference between frames is small enough for the brain to register it as “acceptable” motion. With fast action the difference per frame becomes so big, a strobing effect becomes noticeable. You may have noticed while animating in Photoshop, there are two location where a Frame Rate can be specified.

Frame Rate setting #1 – Main Timeline

The first location where a Frame Rate can be specified is very straight forward, being that of the Timeline Panel (or Main Timeline). When you click the dropdown-menu icon in the upper right corner of the Timeline Panel you’ll see the option Set Timeline Frame Rate. This is the main Frame Rate of your project. This setting specifies the Frame Rate of your timeline playback and that of your final output, being a video or image sequence. When you create Layer Animations, his is the only Frame Rate that really concerns you.

The Timeline Frame Rate is also the default Frame Rate for New Blank Video Layers. When importing a Photoshop-Timeline into other applications like Premiere and After Effects; the last saved Timeline Frame Rate is the Frame Rate at which your Psd-file’s timeline will be interpreted by the application.

Timeline Frame Rate Panel
Timeline – Frame Rate Panel

Frame Rate setting #2 – Video Layer

The second Frame Rate setting is that of the Video Layer and is name Interpreted Footage. First you’ll need to have a Video (Layer)/ Footage present and selected in your project before this option is available.

To create a Video Layer Goto: Layer > Video Layer > New Blank Video Layer
To open the settings select a Video Layer and Goto: Layer > Video Layer > Interpret Footage…

When clicked you’ll get the Interpret Footage panel where, apart from other video-related settings, you can specify a Frame Rate. It’s a bit buried and probably only noticed when you’ve worked with Video Layers before. This setting specifies the Frame Rate of the selected Video Layer and does not alter the Frame Rate of the Main Timeline. By default, new Video Layers are created matching the Timeline’s current Frame Rate.

framerateVideoLayer
Video Layer – Interpret Footage Panel

Note: The duration of a new Blank Video Layer will match the total combined length of the footage on the Timeline.
Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, this may or may not be what you want. The easiest way to counter act this is to create an “Assets Document“.

Combining Frame Rates

When doing Layer Animation* the frame rate is only set in the Main Timeline, therefore it’s only possible to have different Frame Rates combined in one project when using Video Layer.
Switching between animating on one’s and two’s is probably the most obvious reason to use different Frame Rates in one project but I want to show you some caveats to look out for when different Frame Rates are combined.

When opening the Frame Rate Settings you’ll be presented with some common presets and given the opportunity to specify a custom value. As long as the Frame Rate of the Main Time and the Video Layer are derived from the same main Frame Rate sequence (1/24, 1/25, 1/30), playback behaviour is pretty predictable;

When the Frame Rate of the Main Timeline is higher than that of the Video Layer, frames of the Video Layer are being “held” to match the Frame Rate of the Main Timeline.

When the Frame Rate of the Main Timeline is lower than that of  the Video Layer, frames of the Video Layer are being “dropped” to match the Frame Rate of the Main Timeline.

If you choose to combine Frame Rates that are “not related”: predicting how long and which frames are held or dropped becomes a case of trial and error.

Frame Rate or Speed?

When you animate on Video Layers you’ll have the option to alter the speed of your animation without the “Interpret Footage dialog”.
Right-click a Video Layer to display the layer’s Duration, Speed and Audio settings. The Duration setting will move the out-point of your Video Layer to match the duration value entered in the Duration field. The duration of a Video Layer can’t be changed beyond the duration of the footage of the Video Layer at the specified speed (percentage).

Video Layer - Duration, Speed and Audio settings
Duration, Speed and Audio settings

The Speed setting will speed up your Animation by dropping frames and slow it down by holding frames, very convenient! This means that switching between animating on “ones” and “two’s” using Video Layers is easy.

framerate_switchOnesTwos
Using the Speed parameter of a Video Layer makes it easy to switch/adjust Fame Rates

Lets say you want to animate on two’s. You can create a new blank Video Layer has the same Frame Rate as the timeline by default (24fps @ 100% speed) and then change the Video Layer’s Speed to 50%(24fps @ 50% speed = 12fps). If at any moment you need to switch to animating on ones; use the scissor button to split the Video Layer and change the Speed of the new segment back to 100%.

I’ll end this rather long post with a little reference table.

Frame Rate 100% 50% 33% 25%
30 fps 30 fps 15 fps 9,9 fps * 7,5 fps *
25 fps 25 fps 12,5 fps * 8,25 fps * 6,25 fps *
24 fps 24 fps 12 fps 7,92 fps * 6 fps

* these settings result in irregular distribution of frames opposed to animating on one, two’s or thirds

39 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing! I was having a nightmare trying to increase fps to an animation, until I got here and read about the layer frame rate setting.

  2. Hello! I imported a short video sequence into Photoshop and did some manipulation on it. When I imported it initially, I believe that Photoshop treated it as 30 fps when it is actually 23.98 fps. When I tried to export it by rendering it at a Quicktime, it went from a seven second video to a five second video (it got sped up) even though I exported it as 23.98 fps. I’ve tried to change it’s frame rate within the Photoshop project as well, but this doesn’t seem to help. Did I screw this up by not importing it properly in the first place? Thank you.

    1. Hi Paul,

      I would suggest to go trough the following stept to see if all settings are correct.

      1. Set the frame rate of the time line to 23.98

      2. Check if the frame rate of the videoLayer is correctly Interpreted;
      Layer > Video Layer > Interpret Footage

      3. Right-click on the video in the timeline and check if the speed is set to 100%

      4. Double check the frame rate setting before rendering the video file

      Let me know if you found the problem.

  3. Hi Patrick,
    I’m trying to convert a long video (7.5 hours) into a printable flip book. The problem I’m running into is with the fps part – the lowest PhotoShop will let me do is 1 fps, and I need to do 1 frame per 3.84 minutes to end up with my goal of 120 total frames. Is there a way to do this? The video is time lapse of an outdoor art installation (think sundial, basically). If you can figure out a way to do this easily I will totally send you one of the finished flipbooks from the gallery, if you want it! I have CS6.
    Thank you,
    Amy

    1. You could do it manually:

      • Load your 7.5 hour videofile with the current frame rate (if possible)
      • Create your 120 segments by splitting the video at intervals of 3.84 minutes (with the scissors icon)
      • Place the timeline playhead at the BEGINNING of the timeline if you want to use every FIRST frame of your video-segments (or at the END of the timeline to use every LAST frame).
      • Goto Layer > Rasterize > All Layers

      Now you can export every layer as a separate file for printing the flip-book. Let me know if this works for you.

  4. This is a huge headache. I follow the adobe.com instructions, and yours, but I’m not seeing what they’re describing. I’m using the latest CC2015 trial version.
    Screenshots so you can see:

    http://i.imgur.com/Oep1OVe.png

    You say: “When you click the dropdown-menu icon in the upper right corner of the Timeline Panel you’ll see the option Set Timeline Frame Rate. ”

    But I see no ‘Set timeline frame rate’ option.

    Am I losing my mind? Has adobe changed it (again?) HELPPPPPPP

    1. Gahhhh. So it’s only available for the video layer; every frame in the timeline format needs to have individual rate set.

      I was hoping they’d have fixed this for CC2015. Boooooger.

      1. I checked out your video on the issue.
        I must say I only use the video timeline. There you can re-use body-segments and position them based on (hold)keyframes.

        I expect the problem lies in the fact that the original position of that (hidden) layer is recorded, therefor it appears in the wrong place by just changing visibility.

  5. Have you ever experienced lagging while animating over video files? I’m trying to do a rotoscope animation on filmed footage at 23.976 fps, and the lagging is just awful. its a HQ mp4 but only 1:40 min. The only layers I have are the original footage layer (video group 1) and the drawing layer on top (layer 2). Please help if you can. When I try to play the video it lags at about 7fps instead of the full 23.976 which makes it impossible to see what I’ve been working on. Thanks

    1. Hi Kelly, sounds all too familiar.
      I’m afraid that’s the reality of working with video in Photoshop. There are a few things you can do to get a little bit more performance out of Photoshop.

      • First set the timeline resolution to 25%.
        Click the gear button next to the playback controls.
      • Turn off the timeline audio next to the gear.
      • Use the work area markers to playback small parts of the timeline.
  6. I accidentally created my animation at 10 FPS. I had some background images panning from left to right and they always appeared choppy. Is this because of the slow frame rate and is there anyway to correct it. I have a voice over and if I do increase the frame rate, will my timing be off?
    Thanks,
    Bob

    1. Hi Bob,

      It’s always a problem to switch frame rates mid-project.
      Your timing will be off. Keyframes and frame duration will be off by the percentage you’ll increase the frame rate. Meaning you’ll end up with layers and keyframes not ending on whole frames. The only way to fix it is to check all keyframes and Layer in- and out points after you’ve changed the frame rate.

  7. Hi Patrick,

    Could you help me with how to convert a series of frames from my DSLR camera [an animation] to an animation on photoshop, then I will put some dialog over it.

    Thanks,

    Mike

    1. Hi Michael,

      If your photo’s are numbered sequentially the easiest way would be load them as an image sequence resulting in a video layer.

      File > Open
      Select the first image of the sequence and tick the Image Sequence option before clicking the open button.

      Or use the script “Load Files into Stack”
      File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack…
      Takes a lot longer to process because all images are loaded to their own layer. After that you could use my toolbar to trim and sequence all selected layers

      Kind regards,
      Patrick

  8. Hi!
    I am desperate trying to export a gif from an mp4 made in AfterEffects.
    It exports the gif ok apparently, but when I open it with Preview or I place it in my website the file is damaged and does not work and show the ‘file not found’ icon.
    Any idea why does it happen?
    Thank you so much!

    1. This is not related to Photoshop Animation but I’ll give it a shot anyway :-)
      Preview will always display the frames of your gif as separate images so that’s no good option for checking if it works.

      Drag and drop the gif on your drive directly in your browser to see if it opens, plays and loops.
      If so there is a problem with how you implemented the image on your site. That can be a typo in the html or you updated the html but did not upload the gif.
      File size limitations can be a reason why your provider or web service is not displaying the gif.

      If it does not work in your browser the gif is corrupt and you’ll need to redo the export to web procedure.

      Good luck.

      1. Thank you! Yes, I don’t know where is the problem, if in AfterEffects or in Photoshop exporting. Anyway, I will give it another try.

        Thanks!

  9. Hello Patrick,

    Thank you for all the useful information and selfless help you are offering us all. I am just starting my first full blown short animation and your website has been of invaluable help.

    And thank you for your patience dealing with the many questions, I bet that has been developed through drawing endless frames :)

    Best,
    R

    1. Hi Rozalina,

      Thank you for the kind words :-)
      It has been and still is, a process of trial and error I just choose to share it with everyone.

      Wish you all the best with your (big) animation project.
      Let me know when it’s online, I’d love to see what you’ve made.

      Kind regards,

      Patrick

      1. You are welcome, Patrick and thank you. By “full blown” I didn’t exactly mean big, more like bigger than a GIF.

        Speaking of, could I ask you, if the plan is to make separate animated sequences in Photoshop and then to link them all together with the audio in Premiere Pro, what presets would you use to start your animations in Photoshop and what would you export them as to use in Premiere?

        (I have seen some people use video and some image sequences.)

        The final Premiere animation should be exported in two formats:

        1. an uncompressed (Pro-Res) version for broadcast
        2. a compressed version (h.264 codec, bitrate ~10mbps)

        I am just wrapping my head around codecs and formats and would love to hear an advice. Sorry if this is not on the right thread, I could repost it somewhere else if necessary.

        Thank you,
        R

        1. Hi Rozalina,

          Good question, it might make a good post in the future.

          First of all, match frame dimensions and frame rate to the highest quality output needed before creating you animations. You can always compress later to make smaller, lower quality files but you won’t be able to upscale without losing quality.

          When the animation is done you can export an image sequence (use something like png for high quality and an alpha channel if needed) or video file (quicktime with animation codec or uncompressed) from photoshop. You can also try to import the psd-file into premiere as footage. There is a good chance your frame by frame animation will be interpreted correctly and it will behave like normal video footage inside premiere without the need to create some intermediate format.

          If premiere can handle your footage and the edit is done it’s a matter of setting the right specs to render out the desired file-format.

  10. I usually make loading animations on 15fps to keep the size of the gif under control. Can you suggest a good setting? And I make gifs in photoshop, Is there a better tool for making high quality gofs for loading or such animations?
    I also tried to decrease the fps to 12fps but then the puppet tool animations vanished.

    I use the following settings in photoshop
    Selective
    256
    No dither
    Transparency
    No matte
    No trans dither
    Websnap )
    lossy 0

  11. Hi there

    Don’t suppose if you know why this is happening, it seems quite odd…
    I’ve made an animation on Photoshop CC and everything is working fine in the timeline preview when I play it. However when I render it as video or gif, certain frames that are supposed to be moving (and are moving fine in the timeline preview) are not moving properly in the exported file.

    Thanks

  12. Hi Patrick,

    Thank you for your post.

    I’m trying to animate with the frame timeline but I’m not sure how can I change the frame rate.
    If I go to the video timeline and I change the FPS to 12, for example, and I come back to the frame timeline, when I add new frames, or if I change the duration of one of them the frame rate changes to 30FPS again.

    I’ve seen in a video tutorial that the standard FPS in the frame timeline is 60FPS, if you put 0.01 seconds you are animating with 60FPS, so if you want to animate with 24FPS you must use 0.04 seconds, 0.08 seconds for 12FPS, etc…
    But I don’t know if it is ok…

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Isabel,

      The “Frame Timeline” does not have a set frame rate. Instead you’ll have to specify the duration of each individual frame. Your assumption is right, you can simulate a set frame rate by imposing the same frame duration on all frames.

      Do you have a specific reason for using the “Frame Timeline”? You won’t find much information about the “Frame Timeline” on this site because the “Video Timeline” offers so much more control.

  13. Frame Rate setting #1 – Main Timeline
    can you please repeat this? i am unable to find the option mentioned in it for frames

    1. Can’t find it either. I’m in the video timeline. Right clicking on a video layer, I get a popup to set “Motion”. Nothing about “Speed”.

      1. You are either mistaking an ArtLayer for a VideoLayer or you have converted your VideoLayer to a SmartObject.
        The latter will nest the VideoLayer’s timeline, moving the speed settings to the nested document (SmartObject). To change it you’ll need to open de Smart Object from the layers panel.

        Does that solve your question?

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