As bandwidth gets more plentiful, the thirst for better quality video increases alongside. By now most people are aware that screen resolutions are important in terms of image definition, but there are important issues surrounding how that pixel density is presented as a moving image. Frame rates help to make a video nice and smooth and a recent development has the seen some of the smoothest video around hitting BitTorrent networks.
Frame rate is a term used to describe the frequency that a device is able to capture or replay consecutive images required for the creation of moving video.
If each image was played back, say, once per second, the viewer would see a series of static images, but by presenting more frames in a shorter period an illusion of movement is created. As the FPS (frames per second) increase, the smoother the video appears to the viewer.
In TV and cinema there are three broad standards – 24p, 25p, and 30p – producing 24, 25 and 30 FPS respectively, but last year there was a step up when Peter Jackson’s Hobbit was shot in 48FPS.
However, for quite a while now video has been turning up on BitTorrent networks marked as 60FPS, so are these coming from official sources or is there some other explanation?
“Full HFR [high frame rate] movies are not available online via official channels,” Michael Stat of the HFRMovies blog told TorrentFreak.
“I have heard that 60 fps torrents of Star Trek (2009) and Avatar are both circulating, and maybe others. This is indeed significant because as of now the Blu-ray spec is not capable of handling 60 fps at 1080p. There is no ‘legitimate’ way to get HFR (High Frame Rate) versions of movies as of now.”
So, we had a trawl around the BitTorrent scene looking for 60FPS torrents to see what we could find. Movies do indeed seem rare to non-existent, but the same cannot be said about TV shows. TorrentFreak found dozens of releases, mainly for sporting events (combat sports, NBA, NHL) that boast this superior frame rate.
One Pirate Bay focused releaser, known as Secludedly, is dedicated to releasing UFC/MMA, boxing events and other TV shows. He has dozens to his name and many of them are uploaded at 60FPS. Starting to feel a little out of our depth with some of the technical wizardry involved, TorrentFreak caught up with Secludedly for the lowdown on his sources and processes.
“I live in an area, as well as subscribe to a service, that uses a modified MPEG-4 container to stream broadcasts to my home using AVC @ 60FPS. There are several companies out there making the switch from MPEG-2 to this modified MPEG-4/AVC due to better compression with higher quality, though it is not highly used yet,” he explains.
“I actually needed to get a special capture device to catch an emulation of the original broadcast since, as far as I know, none of your average capture cards support anything above 29.970 in the stream.”
We asked about the attraction to these higher frame rates.
“These 60 frames each second basically make the transition from one frame to the next seem smooth and effortless. Think of it this way. If I am capturing a show on TV with the full 60FPS it was being streamed at, you’re getting the full motion of the video itself, especially in high-paced scenes where the viewer’s eye benefits from the frame-rate,” Secludedly explains.
“Take for example the 720p rips of The Ultimate Fighter that I do. Someone in the cage throws a punch at their opponent. Now, you see them punching, but it’s as if all you saw was a mere blur, and you can’t completely decipher where that punch landed because of the deduction of the frames in 24FPS or 30FPS. Why? Because the frames are pruned to a point where fast action like a punch cannot keep up in a lesser frame-rate.”
With double the frame-rate, however, things begin to develop.
“Change it to 60fps and your eye basically has double the visual capacity to capture that motion being performed as the punch is thrown, and it comes to look more realistic because you’re getting every bit of movement in the original capture of the video, making it seem more life-like.”
But of course, not all subjects are fast-paced and to some higher frame rates aren’t necessarily a good thing. When the Hobbit previewed last year in 48FPS Jackson said the movie felt “more real” and was “much more gentle on the eyes.” Some journalists, however, weren’t so keen and didn’t feel at home with this new level of smoothness.
“60FPS isn’t a globally accepted standard right now, so there are a lot of things out there, when streamed by the broadcast company, that are pushed to 60FPS even if the video framerate itself is too slow to benefit from it,” says Secludedly.
“From what I’ve personally observed, sports and fast action movies benefit GREATLY from the 60FPS variant. It’s smooth as butter, and I swear it can look better than many of the BluRays I own, and since I’m mostly just an MMA/Boxing provider, that’s fine with me anyway. I’ll cap TV shows sometimes as well, and it’s basically a draw of luck how it’ll turn out, but I’m fine with that,” he concludes.
Time will tell whether the interest in higher frame rates increase, but in the meantime we’re interested in discovering what’s out there. If you’ve found an interesting 60FPS non-TV torrent, particularly of a movie in 1080p, we’d love to learn of the details via the usual address (please don’t post links in the comments section)
This article has been updated to correct an error on the ability of the human eye to perceive images – explanation here.