This Is Why Old Films Seem To Run Faster Than Normal

Have you ever noticed that old film footage seem sped up? If you don’t know what i’m talking about, well, just have a look:

* Video courtesy of BBC Scotland.

So, far we’ve talked on How Is It Possible For Old Films To Be Remastered In High Definition, we explained How They Colorize Black And White Films and saw How Those Cool Silent Film Effects Were Made(the article continues after the ad)

But as it turns out, the more you dig into these old films, the more questions come up. So, today, we look on “why do old films play last”? Let’s find out. 

Apparently, it all has to do with fps. As you probably know, the speed of a video is measured in frames per second (fps). This is actually the speed in which the film runs through the camera. Footage filmed prior to the 1920s was recorded at slower speeds than today’s movies mainly due to the available technology. In addition, the fact that the camera was hand cranked (the cameraman was rotating the handle) led to some inconsistencies with the recording footage filmed between 12 to 16fps.

When sound came into play in the late 1920s and technology finally moved on, the film industry switched to a standard speed of 24fps, meaning that each second had 8 or 12 more frames than previously thus, giving us a smoother and “normal” picture. In other words, with old school technology, a full second of time was kind of “compressed” during filming to about .50 or 0.67 seconds, giving the illusion of a sped up film. The 24fps was chosen because it was the minimum necessary in order to produce decent sound quality. So, is there a way to fix these movies?

Well, yes. By using a technique called ‘stretch printing’, editors print every frame twice thus doubling the fps and producing normal-speed versions of old films. Of course, the end-result may not be perfect but it’s definitely watchable.

And now you know!

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: This Is How They Colorize Black And White Films 

Photo: Martin Abegglen / Flickr
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Why is the action in old silent movies so fast? | Why Do Old Films Play Fast? | Why does old film seem sped up?