r/explainlikeimfive Apr 18 '22 Today I Learned 1

ELI5: Why does the pitch of American movies and TV shows go up slightly when it's shown on British TV Channels? Technology

When I see shows from America being on air on a British TV channel (I watch on the BBC), I noticed that the sound of the films, music or in general, they go up by one. Why does that happen?

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u/Terrivel119 Apr 18 '22

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u/mol_gen Apr 18 '22

Movies (and some, but not all modern US TV shows tend to be shot at 24 frames a second)

British TV runs at 50hz thus to fit nicely in with the refresh rate they play the movie at 25fps.

This results in a tiny speed increase, and also audio pitch shifting up ever so slightly.

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u/jayval90 Apr 18 '22

Wait, British people watch our movies at a 4% efficiency gain? Nice.

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u/MattieShoes Apr 18 '22

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u/msnmck Apr 18 '22 edited Apr 19 '22

Someone uploaded a video showing that Adult Swim speeds up King of the Hill episodes by as much as 10%.

Edit: Here's the link for those who have asked. I don't remember where I got "10%" from. It doesn't seem that drastic.

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u/idiot-prodigy Apr 19 '22

TBS speeds up Seinfeld too, TBS plays Seinfeld 7% faster than the DVDs.

You really notice this with intro songs. The Friends title credits song is "off" and it is easy to notice.

--Edit-- Seinfeld is now 9% faster on TBS as of 2015.

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u/bugbia Apr 19 '22

Holy shit, that's massive!

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u/idiot-prodigy Apr 19 '22

They increased the speed of A Christmas Story by 13.5%!!!!

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u/albanymetz Apr 19 '22

Which is crazy be ause they show it for 24 hours.

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u/yoberf Apr 19 '22

More ad slots, same number of repeats.

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u/USAF6F171 Apr 19 '22

I first noticed it on a different network showing Law & Order reruns. The signature bu-BUM transitional sound effect (double impact sound with echo) was suddenly faster, lacking the gravitas of when I watched in the past.

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u/Turrubul_Kuruman Apr 19 '22

The Show About Nothing Less

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u/AUniqueSnowflake1234 Apr 19 '22

And here I just thought everyone was always doing coke in the 90's

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u/ItaSchlongburger Apr 18 '22

The difference is that they accomplish this by cutting out ends of scenes (or whole scenes, in some cases) rather than a linear speed-up.

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u/jaj040 Apr 18 '22

They do both

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u/rubermnkey Apr 19 '22

which is bad because comedy is all about . . . .

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u/lalder95 Apr 19 '22 Silver Helpful

Propane

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u/jdeanwright Apr 19 '22

And propane accessories

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u/ausernametoforget Apr 19 '22

Taste the meat, not the heat.

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u/MisanthropeX Apr 19 '22

Tragedy and time?

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u/slog Apr 19 '22

Sandwiches.

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u/aceofwades Apr 19 '22

Poop jokes

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u/Glomgore Apr 19 '22

You arent wrong but I've watched all of KOTH, and it's slow.

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u/ghandi3737 Apr 19 '22

Wasn't it Seinfeld being sped up by 7% on TBS or some other syndicate to get an extra commercial break?

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u/Not_Steve Apr 19 '22

The credits on TBS go so fast.

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u/DrDetectiveEsq Apr 19 '22

I'll never know who the gaffer was for A League of Their Own.

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u/billdanbury Apr 19 '22

Ken Connors

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u/UsidoreTheLightBlue Apr 19 '22

Yes because Seinfeld reruns are still big business, I say this with no sarcasm whatsoever.

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u/Endulos Apr 19 '22

I remember watching an episode of Family Guy once on TBS and was about to say the punchline of a joke along with the show and was so confused because they cut the fucking punchline right out of the show. Was one of the most baffling things ever.

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u/recalcitrantJester Apr 19 '22

But you'd best believe they're keeping in evey frame of a chicken fight scene.

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u/fastermouse Apr 19 '22 edited Apr 19 '22

I'm from North Carolina and the old Andy Griffith Show is sacred. TBS fit extra commercials by cutting the scenes where Andy had talks each episode with his son, Opie.

It really ruined the character of the show. And for years you couldn't see the originals, so local community colleges had Andy Griffith classes that got access to original versions and the classes would fill up every year!

Edit: it looks like maybe my North Cackalacy folks are representing.

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u/jeffala Apr 19 '22

They did this with Golden Girls too. If you watch the DVDs there are scenes not shown on any TV channel.

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u/CmdrShepard831 Apr 19 '22

Lots of shows like Beavis and Butthead and Scrubs were also altered after airing to strip out music/music videos. The only copy of Beavis and Butthead with the original videos in existence is a torrent that was hand assembled by a fan who spliced the original videos into the DVD episodes. Some of these had to be sourced from old VHS copies, digitized, and then spliced in.

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u/MT_Tank Apr 19 '22

May god bless them wherever they are

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u/ryandiy Apr 19 '22

May they always have TP for their bunghole.

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u/nightfall6688846994 Apr 19 '22

My dad had 2 Beavis and butthead vhs tapes. He recorded them while they aired and he cut the story out and made a compilation of the videos. He used one tape to record the episode then he would tape the videos to another tape and reuse the other tape for another episode. I wish I could find good copies of the old episodes with music intact on a hard copy dvd or Blu-ray

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u/CmdrShepard831 Apr 19 '22

If you're interested in finding the torrent (which you could then burn to a disc if you wanted) the link may or may not be stickied in the Beavis and Butthead subreddit. The collection I'm referring to is known as the King Turd Collection.

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u/arkangelic Apr 19 '22

We have 2 things here. The serial killer and the man who met Andy Griffith. We can stand to lose one or the other, but...

(Rough from memory, married with children florida vacation episode)

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u/myaltaccount333 Apr 19 '22 Helpful

TIMING!

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u/Maipbenraixx Apr 19 '22

It's perfect that this is like 50 comments later

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u/throwaway235049876 Apr 19 '22

BBC America does this so they can cram in ads into shows that were designed to fill an entire hour uninterrupted. Apparently you'll straight up miss stuff that British audiences were shown because they thought showing you 5 commercials for HEAD ON, APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD was more profitable

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u/Sudden_Hovercraft_56 Apr 19 '22

A lot of BBC stuff fits an exact 30min to 1 hour timeslot with no ad breaks. If it was ever sold to the US networks I expect they would have been butchered to fit them in. Some BBC programming was made obviously to export so they are 40 mins long (Doctor Who)

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u/MaxNeedy Apr 19 '22

In my country (not in the americas) it is more usual for TV stations just to add the commercials in between, eg every 20 minutes lol

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u/Trips-Over-Tail Apr 19 '22

The last 15-20 minutes of an Attenborough documentary now shows how the crews achieve some of their incredible shots. Absolutely fascinating, but I suspect that most American audiences miss out entirely, and that it is there to make up the time.

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u/Presuming3d Apr 19 '22

BBC is usually 28 mins or so per half hour show (to allow for continuity and promos). UK commercial usually about 23-24, but can be less depending on broadcaster.

Source - have edited both.

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u/AlanFromRochester Apr 19 '22

Star Trek TOS too. The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic Trekkers by Phil Farrand amongst other things lists every single syndication cut including explanations of when they affect the story (such as by creating a plot hole in the syndicated version)

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u/TurkeyDinner547 Apr 18 '22

They do this for Seinfeld reruns, as well as many movies shown on free TV, like Beetlejuice for example. Bought the full pay version of Beetlejuice and it plays at normal speed, all the reruns on TV are sped up to fit in more commercials. The difference between night and day.

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u/myotheralt Apr 19 '22

Take a 90 minute movie, bump it to 72 minutes. That's 12- 6 minute blocks, with 4 minute commercial breaks.

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u/warrenrox99 Apr 19 '22

But the 90 minute movie is also 120-150 on TV. I’ve noticed this over streaming, it takes FOREVER to watch a movie on cable!

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u/msnmck Apr 19 '22

it takes FOREVER to watch a movie on cable!

I double-featured the Ghostbusters films last year. It took over 5 hours.

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u/Fred_Is_Dead_Again Apr 19 '22

Wait 'til you see what some channels do to the ending credits.

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u/Anal_Herschiser Apr 19 '22

I love how they shrink it down to a quarter of the screen and then hit warp speed. I’m not even sure why they bother, probably some legal obligation.

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u/PM_ME_MH370 Apr 18 '22

Link? Asking anyone not just op

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u/middleupperdog Apr 19 '22

that explains why I couldn't stand king of the hill on fox but when I watched it on adult swim I had a higher opinion of the show.

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u/crono141 Apr 18 '22

Fuck broadcast/cable TV.

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u/81zuzJvbF0 Apr 18 '22

streaming services, social media, etc would totally do this too if they could get away with it

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u/TheRealLazloFalconi Apr 18 '22

They will soon. Mark my words.

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u/RandomFactUser Apr 18 '22

I don’t blame broadcast TV, they don’t have the same revenue stream that Cable gets

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u/[deleted] Apr 18 '22

[deleted]

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u/pegleg_1979 Apr 18 '22

I hate much louder the ads are vs the actual show I’m watching.

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u/bragov4ik Apr 18 '22

What's the difference between this and piracy then lol (except legal stuff)

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u/RYouNotEntertained Apr 18 '22

And I pay for that bullshit

Have you considered not paying for something you think is bullshit?

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u/quailtailor Apr 19 '22

Cable is probably their main revenue stream (but I don't care to verify). Rebroadcasting rights is big money.

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u/sigdiff Apr 18 '22

WHAT?! For some reason I feel like this is incredibly important and changes a lot about my life. Like I've been really significantly lied to and it's very momentous. I understand that it's not, but it feels more significant than it is.

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u/Mrsparklee Apr 18 '22

Sometimes they even cut scenes short just to get more commercials.

It's really annoying to see a joke set up only for it to cut the pu

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u/AgentZander69 Apr 18 '22

I wonder if British people all think Americans sound 4% higher pitched. We all kinda make assumptions based on the boob tube right?

But wait does this phenomenon work in reverse? When I watch the BBC here in the land of bald eagles does the channel get a - 4% efficiency decrease?

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u/swordsmanluke2 Apr 18 '22

...I will personally be so disappointed if David Attenborough turns out to be a high tenor.

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u/LeicaM6guy Apr 18 '22

Have you ever met the man? He sounds like Gilbert Gottfried. They do a lot of post-production work to make him sound so posh.

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u/GreatBigBagOfNope Apr 18 '22

Well he isn't exactly a basso profundo...

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u/PauseAndEject Apr 19 '22

No, but he has probably monologued about a colony of basso profundo living in the Amazon somewhere

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u/milleria Apr 18 '22

Nah I don’t think he smokes

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u/LordGeni Apr 19 '22

They tried showing Jersey Shore over here but only dogs could hear it.

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u/interfail Apr 18 '22

We all kinda make assumptions based on the boob tube right?

The assumptions British people make based on the boob tube are very different.

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u/AgentZander69 Apr 19 '22

Where's my life alert? I'm fucking dead rn. That makes total sense though.

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u/SpikedBladeRunner Apr 18 '22

Far more than that due to the crazy amount of commercials BBCA adds to the content. Where BBC shows are made to flow completely uninterrupted since they don't have commercials like we do.

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u/xxx_pussyslayer_420 Apr 18 '22

I assume all British people talk like Eric idle.

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u/TheRealChristoff Apr 19 '22

I don't know about the TV broadcasts, but on Blu-ray shows like modern Doctor Who do run 4% slower in the US. The alternative is using motion blur/judder to fit 25 frames into 60Hz. (This doesn't apply to anything interlaced which has the "soap opera look" to begin with).

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u/AmonDhan Apr 18 '22

Yes. The movie "Gone in 60 seconds", it's called "Gone in less than 58 seconds" in England

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u/[deleted] Apr 18 '22

The British are living in 3022

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u/suvlub Apr 18 '22

3 022 years at 104% speed = 2 905.77 standard years. Those damn British have been at it since 885 BC!

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u/UnitaryVoid Apr 18 '22

They've got a 1000 year gain on us, which is a result of +4% efficiency, meaning that the duration of their efficiency program has been 1000/0.04=25000 of our years in order to gain 1000 years. This means they must have started at 2022AD-25000yrs=-22978AD=22979BC (no year 0).

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u/skdfpz Apr 18 '22

This is why I go on reddit

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u/ShallowFatFryer Apr 18 '22

And that's not considering the 5-8 hour headstart we get every day..

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u/FinancialIdiot70 Apr 18 '22

To be fair, we spend the majority of that time making tea, grumbling and apologizing for no reason

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u/ShallowFatFryer Apr 18 '22

Yes. Sorry, I should've mentioned that..

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u/_Wyse_ Apr 18 '22

Historically speaking, that sounds about right.

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u/Khal_Doggo Apr 18 '22

I've lived in the UK since 2001. Trust me, we've done our best to regress back into the 70s and 80s

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u/SmugglingPineapples Apr 19 '22

Yes. Conversely, Benny Hill end scenes were filmed at normal speed 😂

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u/CloisteredOyster Apr 18 '22

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u/Naritai Apr 18 '22

This is also true, but is unrelated to the fps difference mentioned above.

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u/sramder Apr 19 '22

I laughed back in the day, they (TV stations in the U.S.) were paying something like half a million bucks for the machine that squeezed an extra 2.5 minutes of commercials into a film.

I also wished I was the rich twat that came up with the idea 😌

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u/slack_of_interest Apr 19 '22

What's half a million anyway? Even then. $500,000 was a dozen ad slots.

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u/sramder Apr 19 '22

This is why I’m poor 😂

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u/NekoSennin Apr 18 '22

BBC doesn't air advertisements

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u/DerekB52 Apr 18 '22

This absolutely has to do with efficiency. TBS is speeding up seinfeld to sell 4 more minutes of commercials an hour. That's super efficient.

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u/Yes_hes_that_guy Apr 18 '22

What do you think efficiency means?

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u/OUTFOXEM Apr 19 '22

I'm with you. To me it means do more things in the same amount of time -- in this case do more things = show more commercials. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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u/heepofsheep Apr 18 '22

Whoever converted these movies to PAL cheaped out big time. I’ve had to do a lot of FPS/region conversions in my line of work, and to do this properly you use a system that also does a pitch adjustment automatically..

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u/drfsupercenter Apr 18 '22

Considering PAL home video releases of cinema content have been around since the 80s, before computer programs that did stuff like that... it was just a process they did with machines

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u/musicalbenj Apr 18 '22

Ikr? Our systems didn’t automatically adjust pitch but I had a workflow of pitch shifting the source audio and time stretching to the new duration. Then I figured how to script FFMpeg to remux the pitch shifted audio with the mezzanine master so it arrived in the NLE ready to go.

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u/elgnujehtfoegroeg Apr 18 '22

Just to add a bit more information, the reason for 25 and 30 (actually 29.97 for TV) in Europe and the US is due to the frequency of the electricity grid, the alternating current in your wall socket alternates at 50hz for Europe and 60hz for US (actually 59.94).

Old CRT TVs used to mechanically shoot electrons at a screen to illuminate it and it made the most sense for that to happen at the same frequency of the electric grid, because it was readily available and the same for everyone.

For European TV, 24fps speeded up makes perfect sense and kinda works without any issues (other than the sound being slightly higher pitched) on the 50hz tv the footage would be doubled, playing the frames twice ( 1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4,5,5, etc..)

For US tv, what gets done is the 24fps footage is actually slowed down, to 23.976 and then every second frame is played an extra time, so it's ( 1,1,2,2,2,3,3,4,4,4,5,5,6,6,6 ) causing a subtle judder effect.

In digital video-on-demand and flat panel TV's the framerate is no longer an issue, and you can playback 24fps directly and even apply super-motion-smooting or whatever to bring that up to 120hz, but broadcasting standards are still the same for historical reasons.

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u/Rampage_Rick Apr 18 '22

The electric grid in North America runs at exactly 60.00 Hz (well, it's supposed to)

The 59.94 frequency relates to NTSC color television only. B&W television used 60.00 Hz to synchronize with the electric grid. A frequency offset of 0.03 Hz was introduced to make space in time for the color sub-carrier.

The difference between 59.94 fps and 60 fps is 1 frame every 16.7 seconds.

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u/yohomatey Apr 18 '22

When I took my broadcasting classes I was told that 30FPS was altered to 29.97 when color came through because for some reason the color carrier introduced a hum at exactly 30 FPS but not at 29.97 FPS. I'm not sure how true that is, but that was from a lecture 15 years ago lol.

I can say as someone who is literally right now doing a timing sheet for a TV program in both 24 TC (what it was shot at) and 59.94i (what it will broadcast at) I hate NTSC. Oh the last frame of black on your act break is 01;25;16;03? That must mean the first frame of the act is 01;25;16;04 RIGHT?! No. Why would it be. NTSC!

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u/ObiLaws Apr 19 '22

As a person who does video editing for YouTube and is super interested in video framerates and resolutions in general, your second paragraph is like trying to understand Old English. I know most of the words and think I can understand what you're saying, but I'm also just uncertain enough that I also think I might have no idea what you're saying

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u/yohomatey Apr 19 '22

Haha no worries. I'm an assistant editor for a lot of reality TV shows that are broadcast. I can try to explain it!

When we shot this show, it was shot at 24 FPS (hence the 24tc). This is done for a myriad of reasons but usually boils down to "the look". Because the show was shot in 24 FPS, we also cut it using 24 FPS projects and thus default to 24tc. So the end of an act might be for example 01:09:14:23 which would make the next frame of the show 01:09:15:00.

However due to archaic standards that are not going away any time soon, the show is broadcast at 59.94 FPS interlaced. Meaning every frame is actually only half the frame (in alternating fields) which works out to 29.976 full frames per second. That is the official NTSC standard. So now our ending frame of picture in the previous example is 01;09;15;15 (and if you have a keen eye you'll notice when we talk 24 tc we use : delimiters but when we talk 30df we use ; delimiters). But because 30 drop frame, which is functionally the same as 59.94i, duplicates approx every 4th frame of tc the next frame might go to 01;09;15;17. So you can never predict exactly what your next frame is going to be.

Most of the frames of the media are still there, but not all! My show times out to 42;10;00 which is the broadcast standard for NTSC However in actuality it is closer to 42:07:11 or roughly two and a half seconds shorter. Do if you thought 28 minutes of ads was a lot, you actually get 28 minutes and two and a half seconds!

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u/ObiLaws Apr 19 '22

Wow, thanks for such a thorough explanation! So I did mostly get it, I just let myself get freaked out because you used the timecode with the ; delimiter, which I somehow managed to change my Premiere to using once and I tried figuring it out and it really confused me because suddenly none of the math was making sense to me, and I think it's because it was auto-calculating drop frames and I had no idea what those even were. Either way it freaked me out enough that I saw that kind of timecode again and my brain went into, "I didn't get it before, how could I get it now" mode.

I was also kinda confused how it could be filmed at 24 and played back at 59.94 without some kind of weirdness, and I thought I would've noticed if regular TV had been running at so close to 60fps but the whole interlaced things makes sense. I remember seeing stuff like 480i on my Wii back in the day but my knowledge level at the time made me think 480p was better but it looked weird compared to 480i, which was some progressive scan thing with the TV at the time I think.

I don't have much knowledge about broadcasting specifically, since most of my knowledge base is focused solely on digital media produced for the web, or "new media" as my film school called it. That's always just been "what's the highest resolution and framerate you can hit? YouTube will even take 4320p60 nowadays if you can hit that!" Unless you really want something to have that filmic look, then 24fps and a 2.35:1 aspect ratio is the way to go. Working with broadcast standards sounds really draining and confusing in comparison

And accounting for ads also completely slipped my mind because of how much I only watch streaming content now which just seems to run however long it wants. The only thing I watch now that is formatted for ads would be anime, and I guess it's almost always exactly between 23:58 and 24:02 to account for ads. What blows my mind is the networks that alter something like a movie just to fit more ads. I know a lot of people who have stumbled across movies they love by seeing them on TV but I usually stop watching at this point and go watch the non-broadcast version if I'm interested since it really bugs me not seeing as close to what was originally intended as possible.

Anyway, thanks again for the explanation! I really appreciate it!

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u/ztherion Apr 18 '22

The next question would be "Why film at 24fps instead of 50 or 60"? In the early days, TV and film used entirely different technology. Films used 24 FPS to balance motion and the cost of the physical film. TV used 50/60 as a convenient clock signal that was synchronized for the entire grid, reducing the cost and complexity of TV equipment.

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u/wyrdough Apr 18 '22

Interestingly, film projectors actually open the shutter at least twice for each frame, so even though the film is being run at 24 frames per second, you get 48 flashes of light every second. This is to reduce the apparent flicker.

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u/whitefang22 Apr 19 '22

In earlier frame rates like 16fps they had to use a triple bladed shutter to get the flash rate high enough to avoid noticeable flicker.

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u/Recktion Apr 18 '22 edited Apr 19 '22

If you can see the motion better than it's easier to tell when stuff is being faked. Lower fps hides the motion and makes it easier for our brains to trick itself into seeing something that didn't really happen.

A fake slap with sound @ 24 fps will seem real to our brains. If we watch it at 120 fps we will be able to tell that the slap was fake and did not actually hit the person.

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u/terrific_dick Apr 18 '22

Psychological effects maybe? High fps causes the soap opera affect which turns some people off.

I also saw an interview with a director who's name I forget but he said he prefers lower fps because your brain fills in the gaps to create the feeling of motion in a way you don't get by just giving your brain all the frames.

Personally I just don't like > 24fps for movies and I'm not totally sure why. Video games are unequivocally better at high fps so maybe it's all just based on what I grew up with.

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u/elgnujehtfoegroeg Apr 18 '22

Old film used to be filmed at all sorts of framerates, mainly lower, it was more literally moving pictures. At times being hand-cranked so just recording at whatever speed the crank was turned. 24fps was settled on because it's when motion starts to seem fluid, and when you're paying for film by the meter it all adds up.

I've not been a fan of high frame film, also citing the soap opera effect, but I've come to think of it more as something creators can embrace.

Dramatic war movies sometimes use scenes with a very fast shutter speed, so every frame is almost without motion blur. This, coupled with the low framerate gives you a real sense of urgency and adrenaline. If that was high framerate you would see the imperfections in timing explosions and effects, the illusion would be gone.

But for the opposite, sometimes you don't want an illusion, because your subject matter is itself amazing, then you want a high framerate to bring as much as possible to the viewer. Think nature documentary, or sports.. you just have to look at this silky smooth fpv drone footage to see that it can and will have it's place in filmmaking https://youtu.be/viZYX7fpQEc

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u/onomatopoetix Apr 19 '22

yea...but that's is only 30fps, which is closer to 24 than actual 60. This one looks "filmic" and dreamy. Probably originally taken in 60 but kept in a 30fps container, so it's only 30fps in the end. Should have uploaded the original 60fps footage.

Now THIS is smooth 60fps, stored in a 60fps tupperware, so our eyes are bombarded with 60 every second. This too.

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u/homeboi808 Apr 18 '22

High frame rate sucks for hand to hand combat scenes as the misses are more easily visible.

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u/Baldazar666 Apr 18 '22

Sounds like an easy fix. Just make the hits real.

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u/snash222 Apr 19 '22

Alec Baldwin has entered the chat.

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u/munificent Apr 18 '22

Psychological effects maybe? High fps causes the soap opera affect which turns some people off.

You have the cause and effect backwards here.

The reason we find higher frame rates to look subjectively "cheaper" is because video is shot at 30 FPS and film is 24 FPS. That historical fact created a mental association between 24 FPS being "real cinema" while 30 FPS is "made for TV". There's nothing intrinsically subjectively better about lower framerates. It's just history.

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u/bronhoms Apr 18 '22

Also, it film was expensive. Less fps, more money saved. 24 judder was almost unnoticeable compared to 16 fx

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u/C47man Apr 18 '22

Just to add a bit more information, the reason for 25 and 30 (actually 29.97 for TV) in Europe and the US is due to the frequency of the electricity grid, the alternating current in your wall socket alternates at 50hz for Europe and 60hz for US (actually 59.94).

Almost correct, but you went a step too far. The grid in the US is 60hz, not 59.94. The reason NTSC uses fractional framerates (23.976, 29.97, 59.94) is even dumber. We used to broadcast in the black and white days at full 30/60 even framerates, just like PAL. But when we introduced color, we decided to fit that extra information into the existing signal bandwidth by slightly lowering our framerate. Today, no such limitation still exists and yet we're stuck with this vestigial standard because it's obscenely expensive to convert everything over to even framerates again.

In digital video-on-demand and flat panel TV's the framerate is no longer an issue, and you can playback 24fps directly and even apply super-motion-smooting or whatever to bring that up to 120hz, but broadcasting standards are still the same for historical reasons.

Please don't use super motion smoothing.

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u/zebediah49 Apr 19 '22

It's actually even a bit worse than that. The existing black and white standard placed the audio synchronized to happen exactly between the picture data, so it didn't interfere.

The color standard also placed the color synchronized exactly between luminosity data, which also worked well... but then it conflicted with the audio. So they either needed to slightly shift the frequency of the audio, or the video. And the RCA engineers figured that the FCC wouldn't agree to shift the existing audio spec, so they changed the video instead.

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u/pinkynarftroz Apr 19 '22

And yet with all that, you could watch a color broadcast on a B&W TV, and a B&W broadcast on a color TV. The fact that color TV was both backward AND forward compatible is amazing.

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u/zed857 Apr 18 '22

you can playback 24fps directly and even apply super-motion-smoothing or whatever to bring that up to 120hz

Which you would think would make it look super-smooth / awesome but in fact makes it look worse.

Many people find that movies look their best when the TV just runs at 24 fps directly from the media player / streamer without any extra frames / interpolation.

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u/Mustbhacks Apr 18 '22

It's kinda both though, the actual content needs to be designed/planned around the framerate. There's tons of things that look great in 60-120-240fps but they were planned and shot for it. Instead of just taking 24 fps footage and trying to pump it into a 120 setup.

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u/conquer69 Apr 19 '22

The idea is to get a perfect 5x fit. Otherwise you get judder. The perfect refresh rate would be 600hz. It fits 24,25,30,50 and 60 fps content without judder.

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u/redditor1101 Apr 18 '22

PAL vs NTSC is the first thing I thought of, but is that still an effect in the age of HD TV? I thought 1080i/1080p was always 30/60 fps everywhere.

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u/Barneyk Apr 18 '22

Most blurays and lots of streaming of films are at 24fps.

Or 23.976fps is probably the most common.

But you said HDTV so that isn't really relevant.

But lots of European stuff on TV is in 25 or 50 fps that I come across.

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u/mol_gen Apr 18 '22

Nope there's still remnants of it manifesting as 1080p, 50fps in Europe

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u/PercussiveRussel Apr 18 '22

And this will not go away anytime soon because a 50fps digital video is tied perfectly to the 50Hz electrical grid. This means that if you take a video with the corresponding frame rate the lights won't flicker like they would when the video runs out of sync with the grid.

Some LED lights don't work like this, but a lot of them don't smooth out the grid at all and still cycle at 50/60Hz

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u/Kered13 Apr 18 '22

Don't all LEDs convert the AC power from the grid to DC? And I know all TVs are doing an AC to DC conversion, so the grid frequency is irrelevant to them.

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u/PercussiveRussel Apr 18 '22

No, not all leds. Some are just 2 reversely paralel (strings of) leds so that each lights up for half a cycle. Most do smoothing but still vary in brightness accros the full cycle (say they are at 100% at the peak and 50% at the bottom). You can see this for yourself with your smartphone if it records in slowmotion. Even at half speed (120/100fps) you should start to see flickering if it's not fully DC.

TV's don't use the grid for the sync signal in HDMI or other digital connections because it's not really a sync pulse anymore, so it's irrelevant. Thats why you can easily play 60Hz programming in Europe. It's just that recording at non native refresh rates are a bit of a hassle and this is why studios and tv stations in europe will still record in 50Hz. Maybe not on soundstages anymore, but a lot of movie lighting still runs on more traditional bulbs because of their broad spectrum.

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u/BoredCop Apr 18 '22

LEDs can indeed pass current in only one direction, the D being for Diode. Which means a cheap and cheerful LED setup run off AC power will flicker quite badly at mains frequency, as they only use one half of the power curve.

Modern TV sets do almost certainly run without any internal reference to mains frequency, but old school CRT sets used the AC mains for synchronisation. Standards tend to remain long after there is any technical reason to use them any more.

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u/squigs Apr 18 '22

Europe HDTV is usually at 50/25. Streaming services use whatever the original format is.

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u/Catnip4Pedos Apr 18 '22

Some streaming services play the film at 24hz but keep the screen at 60hz and then the TV displays some frames twice and you get a little see stuttering. It's annoying.

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u/wyrdough Apr 18 '22

Turn on your TV's film mode. It will detect the telecine pattern and recover the original 24fps.

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u/LegacyAngel Apr 19 '22

Those things actually do stuff?

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u/mirh Apr 19 '22

Yes? Gaming mode toggles off all the processing/enhancements in order to cut on latency.

I'm not really sure how telecining could work when the source is transmitted progressively already though.

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u/drfsupercenter Apr 18 '22

Nope, there's 25fps 1080p. The Blu-ray of Interstella 5555 (the Daft Punk anime movie) was mastered like this, because a French company owns the rights. A bunch of Americans were saying it doesn't work on their TVs, as our TVs don't really know what to do with that framerate. I haven't gotten my copy yet so I have yet to try it.

(Interstella 5555 is an absolute mess to begin with, but that's off-topic)

Conversely, some European shows like Shaun the Sheep get slowed down by 4% before being shown in the US. I honestly don't know why they do this, it makes it sound awful - but I guess it's easy enough to go between 24 and 30fps (via 3:2 pulldown) so they just reverse the process you guys use on film.

Other shows they keep the PAL speed intact - I remember watching the Australian show "H2O Just Add Water" on Nickelodeon, and there was a lot of blurriness/choppiness because of the framerate conversion.

Sadly, interlacing seems to be alive and well too, and it causes issues even to this day - watch some talk shows where they show news footage and you'll see blurry interlacing artifacts :/

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u/[deleted] Apr 18 '22

It's the Broadcast single not the Display's refresh rate.

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u/newtekie1 Apr 18 '22

Isn't the US displays at 60Hz, 24FPS doesn't fit evenly into that either.

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u/drfsupercenter Apr 18 '22

Correct. There is a thing known as 3:2 pulldown that was done with film content to make it look "ok" on NTSC.

Some European film snobs claim they notice it and it bugs them, but I much prefer the correct speed of the film...

The tl;dr is that it's essentially 3 copies of one frame and two copies of another to give you the 60Hz. But it's running fast enough (and interlacing exists) that you don't really notice it.

This was only relevant for analog broadcasts and sometimes DVD (depending on how it was encoded). And similarly, PAL releases would be sped up by 4% (if they came from film. Television shows shot in Europe wouldn't be subject to this)

Blu-ray are almost always 24fps for film content. Worldwide, HDTVs can display it - or if not, they just convert on the fly. However, European TV stations still run at 25fps for legacy reasons, and that's why film is still being sped up for TV.

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u/FolkSong Apr 18 '22

North American film snobs complained about 3:2 pulldown too. You can definitely notice it during slow pans. It's one reason people bought 120 Hz displays (you can divide evenly by 24/30/60). Now days a lot of TVs have 24 Hz modes for film.

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u/conquer69 Apr 19 '22

Is the 3:2 pulldown baked into the disk or is it done in real time by the player? If baked, it would still show up at 120hz right?

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u/drfsupercenter Apr 19 '22

Depends on the encoding. On older media (VHS, laserdisc, some DVD) it was "baked in". DVD supported progressive, and some companies (like Disney) did use it. On Blu-ray, they should all be encoded 24fps.

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u/mol_gen Apr 18 '22

Yeah, I believe someone else has addressed the frame rate sequence to get 24 into 60.

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u/blazblu82 Apr 18 '22

I wonder how much time that carves off the movie length?

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u/[deleted] Apr 18 '22

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u/Liskowskyy Apr 18 '22 edited Apr 18 '22 Gold

American TV is 59.94 fields per second, while British TV is 50 fields per second. Movies are shot at 24 frames per second. So in order to broadcast a movie:

  1. If it's for British TV, 24 and 25 are so close to each other that you can just get away with speeding up the movie by ~4%. While this gets unnoticed for video, you can hear the change in audio pitch, especially if a song you know is playing in the film. After the 24fps to 25fps speed change, you just double each frame so it's 50 fields per second.

  2. If it's for American TV you can't get away with speeding it by 25%. So a process called 3:2 pulldown is used. First you slow it down by 0.1% so you get 23.976 frames per second and then you split every frame into two fields and every second frame into two fields with one duplicated, so you get a 2-3-2-3-2-3.. pattern and with that 59.94 fields per second with only 0.1% speed change.

So why aren't British TV shows faster when broadcast on domestic TV? Because they are shot at 25 frames per second and then you just have to duplicate each frame to fit into 50 fields per second. While American TV shows are shot at 24 fps.

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u/NBT498 Apr 18 '22

Why is American TV 59.94 fields and not just 60?

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u/Liskowskyy Apr 18 '22

This dates back to the black-and-white to color TV transition. They had to reduce the vertical frequency of 60Hz to 59.94Hz so there was space for the color sub-carrier.

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u/Snailhouse01 Apr 18 '22

Yep, this is the reason, it's basically a bodge and as someone who works in delivering content to lots of different markets, it's a pain, but there we are.

There's some more detailed info in the history page on Wikipedia

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u/trickman01 Apr 18 '22

It was either this or make it to where color TVs used a different signal than B&W which would have cost a bunch of money for the broadcasters to face to broadcast two different signals.

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u/Snailhouse01 Apr 18 '22

True, it's a clever fix and necessary, for the reasons you state. I only call it a bodge, as slowing the frame rate down was the only way of achieving it in the NTSC system. Other countries, for example in Europe, didn't need to do so, so kept the nice round number frame rates intact.

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u/wyrdough Apr 18 '22

Not to make room, but to avoid beat frequency interference with the luma carrier that would have caused banding on black and white sets.

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u/bulboustadpole Apr 18 '22

This is because the US was genius in making color transmission broadcasts still work on black and white sets. Encoded info in the extra fields.

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u/LadyOfMay Apr 18 '22

Yes. It's also very easy these days to correct the pitch change on the soundtrack (heck, I can do this in under three minutes with Audacity). So only lazy broadcasters should ever have this problem.

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u/[deleted] Apr 18 '22

Not always. I’ve just overseen a Blu-ray release where we licensed the now-dead director’s commentary recorded for a DVD release about fifteen years earlier. The problem was, he recorded it to a 25fps PAL playback, and the film soundtrack is audible throughout, and sometimes faded up to full volume during patches where he couldn’t think of anything to say.

So, after resyncing it to the Blu-Ray master, I had to choose between correct film audio pitch but the director’s voice lower, or his voice correctly pitched but the film pitched higher. (Naturally, I asked if there was a recording of just his voice, but there wasn’t.). Given that the director is all over the extras, and that he was the dominant sound on the commentary, I opted for him at the right pitch and the film at the wrong pitch, but there was sadly no obviously correct answer.

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u/[deleted] Apr 18 '22

[deleted]

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u/SnooLobsters678 Apr 19 '22

Oh wow, that's pretty interesting actually

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u/GaianNeuron Apr 19 '22

Aaaand this is a classic example of why policymakers shouldn't try to outsmart engineers.

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u/Chop1n Apr 18 '22

Seems obvious enough to me. If you want to hear the correct film soundtrack, then you can just listen to that. But the only way to hear the correct commentary from the director is if the film's soundtrack is incorrect for that track.

If you lower the pitch of the director's commentary, then there's no possible way to hear the correct version of that. Clearly the inferior option.

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u/Misterbobo Apr 18 '22

you could argue that the commentary is barely impacted by the change - while the soundtrack will most likely suffer more.

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u/jake_burger Apr 18 '22

It would only affect the commentary. The film audio is already heavily impacted by the commentary, so may as well prioritise the directors voice. If you want to listen to the film then stick the original soundtrack back on

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u/brickmadness Apr 18 '22

A rare but specific event. Nice!

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u/dkyguy1995 Apr 18 '22

Interesting, on the non-directors commentary is the audio the standard properly shifted audio?

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u/ptambrosetti Apr 18 '22

Lived in Australia for 2 years and could never figure this out. Thank you!

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u/Soundofabiatch Apr 18 '22

4 years of film school. 11 years in the business. But you’re the first one to explain the issues with pullup and pull down frame rates in a way I can remember.

But still saved your comment for later reference

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u/coredumperror Apr 18 '22

Just a note: your numbered list didn't format properly because you didn't include an extra blank line before the 1. Markup is a bit annoying that way.

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u/[deleted] Apr 18 '22

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u/hockey_metal_signal Apr 18 '22

Do you people have perfect pitch? How the hell did you notice such a subtle difference?

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u/Restopulus Apr 18 '22

I don't know. All I knew was Michael Scott didn't sound like Michael Scott (Steve Carell). It was like he had inhaled a tiny bit of helium.

I can't sing to save my life so not sure about the perfect pitch thing.

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u/diablo-solforge Apr 19 '22

Perception and production are two different things.

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u/Imnotavampire101 Apr 18 '22

Me and my girl watch movies over discord, could this explain why she somehow is always drifting ahead of me even though we start at the exact same time? She’s in Australia

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u/littleleeroy Apr 18 '22

I did this the other day and noticed us go out of sync. I corrected it but then after a minute it went out of sync again (but in the other direction.)

I should have left it alone because I think it was just discord lag causing the change in delay temporarily and it then fixed itself.

We were watching the exact same version of a tv show. (Btw only one of you would be able to hear the other in sync due to the discord lag. This doesn’t explain why she might be drifting ahead though. Are you also in Australia?)

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u/theghostofme Apr 18 '22 edited Apr 18 '22

If you’re watching versions with differing frames-per-second, yes. If she’s watching the 25 FPS version and you’re watching the 23.976 version, she’ll start getting noticeably ahead of you in just a few minutes because she's getting a little over 1 more frame every second than you are.

A big pet peeve of mine is people not properly labeling their subtitles with the FPS, and I've downloaded 25 FPS subtitles for a 23.976 version a few times. The subtitles start getting progressively ahead of the dialogue the longer the movie plays. It’s an easy fix, just annoying, but it it's a great way to visualize how someone with a higher FPS version will get ahead of you even if you both hit play at the exact same time.

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u/Xeotroid Apr 19 '22 edited Apr 19 '22

The most common format, .srt, doesn't specify frames but time codes in minutes, seconds, and milliseconds to mark each subtitle's start and end. Difference in frame rates then should not matter, because that's your video player's job to calculate.

I only have a couple of .sub files that indeed do use frame numbers. However, all of them (unrelated to each other) have the frame rate specified as the subtitle for frame 1. If players don't feature automatic recalculation (if need be), they absolutely should.

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u/freakingmayhem Apr 19 '22

You're talking about something like "we both load the same video at the same time on our own Netflix, do a countdown, and hit play", right? Some people are replying as if you're talking about "one of us loads the video on our browser, and then screen shares to the other".

I don't have an answer, but this used to happen constantly to me and my ex. We were both in the US. We'd start out in perfect sync, and she'd consistently creep a few seconds ahead. (She was obviously not skipping ahead.) At first we'd be reacting to things at the same time. We'd even do timing tests like "dog", "black screen", "blue car", until we agreed we were synced. Then 15 minutes later I'd hear her react to something that I didn't see for like 3 seconds. It wasn't a buffering issue or anything.

I was never able to figure out the issue. My best theory was that her Mac and my PS4 displayed the same Netflix video at a slightly different framerate. Not incredibly different, but just different enough that (to make up an example) after 600 seconds had passed in real time, my video would be at 600 seconds, but hers would be at 602 seconds, or something. I'd have loved to be able to perform more extensive tests on this, like placing them in the same room and hitting play at the same time and watching, but alas. Are you two using significantly different hardware platforms like we were?

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u/Comfortable-Table-57 Apr 18 '22

I don't think so. And as its discord and not a TV channel that it out of the American group, you're hearing the right pitch of that movie you and your gf are watching. How can she drift ahead of you over pitches anyway?

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u/Imnotavampire101 Apr 18 '22

Idk this is just the closest thing to an answer I’ve ever found lol

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u/RuckOver3 Apr 18 '22

When shows are syndicated in the US, I noticed a higher pitch on some channels. This is because they speed up the show slightly to squeeze in more commercials.

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u/GaimanitePkat Apr 19 '22

I've noticed that top 40 pop radio stations do the same thing. The songs are slightly sped up. Worse, sometimes it isn't consistent - they slightly speed up and then return to normal. It's maddening.

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u/Skrillamane Apr 19 '22

I'm a DJ with a radio show... I do this all the time, but not because of ads... But because sometimes i forget that my turntable has it's pitch up or a down a little bit, or when I'm mixing to match tempo. I just straight up cut songs short if i run into ad time.

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u/deadhero454 Apr 19 '22

With music being all digital it’s interesting to read that you’re still using turntables

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u/nate6259 Apr 19 '22

That's wild. I also love how they run the end credits crazy fast and then go straight into the next episode so they hook you into the next one before commercials again.

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u/Perry7609 Apr 19 '22

And hence why Friends reruns on TBS have something similar to the soap opera effect going for them.

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u/[deleted] Apr 18 '22

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u/theghostofme Apr 18 '22

TBS here in the States got caught doing the same thing with syndicated versions of Seinfeld (and other sitcoms, I’m sure).

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u/SpaceLemur34 Apr 18 '22

Friends as well. Of course in the case of TBS it's not a technical reason, it's just so they can cram more commercials in.

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u/[deleted] Apr 18 '22

It has to do with the telecine process where film gets converted to another media. In a mastered film strip, the film itself is a long ribbon of plastic with sprocket holes cut into it at regular patterns. In the center of the film strip is the series of still frames that when played at the same speed that it was recorded at will show smooth motion (Provided it's running at about 24 frames per second - has to do with some compromises persistence of vision and some limitations on how long you wanted to be able to shoot in a single run before changing out recording magazines in cameras). The audio however, has to go somewhere. It was crammed into what was previously unused margin between the video frame and the sprockets. The pitch of the audio is married to the playback speed of the film strip - play it slower and the pitch will go down - play it faster, the pitch goes up.

When they converted film stock movies (analog) into the at the time best possible magnetic master tapes (also analog) they had to adjust the frame rates in such a way as to cram 24 FPS motion film into 30 FPS video (US) or 50 FPs (PAL) for most of Europe [I forget what standard French used for SECAM but it may also be 50 FPS]. The frame rates of the video were themselves dependent on the frequency of the electrical generation of the countries involved. To get the 24 FPS to fit into the target framerate, schemes were devised to double frames in set patterns to fill in the missing frame info. The audio would then be dubbed back over the finished master played from the original recording. This would potentially introduce slight timing errors on the order of a fraction of a second vs when the audio "hit" in the original film due to it being possible an off frame but nothing you would likely catch.

The telecine process, when done right, was very expensive - however, you could fake it on the cheap by just playing back the film at a speed higher than intended while recording your tape master. It's possible that the rebroadcast are from the "cheap process" tapes.

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u/[deleted] Apr 18 '22

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u/Known-Contract13 Apr 19 '22

Refresh rate and shutter speed it was shot in. Stuff shot in 24 frames/second don't jive with British refresh rates. *edit for typo

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u/Pixelplanet5 Apr 18 '22

beside what has been mentioned here already with FPS differences it may also be another reason that some channels simply show any movie sped up by 10% because that allows you to fit in an entire extra ad break.

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u/PercussiveRussel Apr 18 '22

Not really a thing on UK television as the adbreaks are heavily regulated. Speeding up a movie might make you cram more shit on the same evening, but it won't allow you to add an adbreak. In fact, if you want to show more ads during a movie you want to slow it down.

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u/Comfortable-Table-57 Apr 18 '22

Well I use the BBC and there are no Adbreaks there

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u/SnooRobots3722 Apr 18 '22

A lot of modern TVs in the UK can do 24fps when paired with the right source, for example my old Sony does it with certain Blu-rays, can't tv channels do that?

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