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I have recently made a habit of waking up early, and as a by-product spend my mornings catching re-runs of The Donna Reed Show. I've noticed in a number of episodes, though not necessarily all of them, that the video seems to be sped up; characters either seem to speak too quickly, or their movements look rather stop-motiony. If a specific example is needed, The Foundling was the first instance of this I noticed.

Was there a habit of speeding up TV shows back in the day? Or maybe this is a choice made by the channel broadcasting the re-runs for commercial reasons?

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Old television shows were shot using motion picture film of that era, and were shot at either 24 or 25 frames per second. Television video today is played at 30 frames per second.

The speed problems you see are artifacts of the conversion process. The shows you watched might have been converted to television during the 1950's when kinescopes were largely used to do the conversions.

Most television networks that show these old TV shows are using video footage that was already converted from film. If that conversion was off or done for a different format, then correcting the problem would reduce the quality of the video (which is already of poor quality).

It's like trying to fix a photocopy of a picture by making another photocopy. You're just moving away from the quality of the original.

So the television networks broadcast the video "as is" because it's the best copy they have.

  • 30 frames per second (fps) in the USA. Most european TV is 25 frames per second (to match the frequency of the electricity supply of 50Hz (US is 60Hz). Most movies shot on film are 24 fps and need conversion to avoid aliasing artefacts when broadcast on TV. In Europe movies can be speeded up slightly to match TV; in the US more sophisticated techniques are required. – matt_black Jul 9 '15 at 23:15
  • Technically, speeding up 24fps to 25 fps is generally considered to be unnoticeable to viewers. Going to 30 fps is problematic. – Catija Jul 10 '15 at 13:17
  • @Catija In my experience of watching films (shot at 24fps and broadcast at 25fps) on TV, the speedup is definitely noticeable when there is music -- it sounds about a semitone sharp. – Rosie F Aug 21 '17 at 17:35
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Many cable channels are using video compression technology to speed up reruns so they can fit in more ads. Here's a story in the WSJ about this practice, citing as examples a showing of the movie The Wizard of Oz, and reruns of Seinfeld and Friends, the latter on TVLand where The Donna Reed Show has aired. So that channel definitely has made use of the practice.

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    If you could cite some sources that would make this answer much better. I believe this is actually done, just prove it. – Catija Jul 10 '15 at 13:18
  • @Catija I added a reference to a story in the WSJ. But there are many more, just Google: old tv shows sped up for more commercials – tcrosley Jul 10 '15 at 17:13

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