I've just seen Captain America: Civil War and one thing that struck me was how choppy a lot of the action looks.

I'm aware that filmmakers often play with frame-rates to get various effects. Action is often shot at 22fps and played back at 24fps, for example. I guess that's what's happening here, but there seem to be some caveats.

If you look at the famous intro sequence from Saving Private Ryan, one trick Spielberg used was to shoot it as 12fps to imitate the cameras which actually caught battle footage in WW2. This contributes to the frenetic tone of the scene, but the images still seem "smooth" in a way that CA:CW does not.

I think the issue might be that CA:CW is lacking motion blur, as if it was shot at 60fps and 2/3rds of the frames were thrown away, or something like that. If I imagine the calculations that would be involved in adjusting motion blur in digital images by combining and splitting frames, it strikes me that it might not be possible without an exact reference frame for the background. Also, a mechanical shutter on a traditional camera could capture frames of any time length with correct results, but perhaps digital sensors are compelled to have "shutter" times which cannot be controlled.

Is this what's causing the choppy visual effect? Is it avoidable? Was this choppiness an artistic decision or a side-effect of the technology used?

  • Related: Why does the 3D movie I just watched stutter?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 9:09
  • 3
    How/where/when did you watch this film? Is there any chance that the "choppiness" you mention here could have been caused by the device/format you were watching it in, rather than by the film itself? Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 9:10
  • 1
    Also, have you seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Would you describe the action scenes in that as "choppy" in the same way? Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 9:12
  • I watched it on my laptop, I watch a lot of films on my laptop, most other action films don't seem to have this effect (quite a few do, but CA:CW seems to stick out a bit). No comment on Winter Soldier, I don't have it anymore.
    – spraff
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 10:03
  • I watched Captain America: Civil War in the theater, and also found it choppy... but I figured that was just bad directing in an otherwise quite enjoyable movie. It sort of bothered me: the choreography was great, and the stunts were great... why not SHOW them off to best effect? Of course, that's just an opinion...
    – Ghotir
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 14:09

1 Answer 1


I found this article, Why Some Scenes In Your Favorite Action Movies Look Jerky, that actually uses Civil War and Saving Private Ryan as examples. It purports that Saving Private Ryan was shot at a normal frame rate with a faster-than-typical shutter speed, while Civil War as shot at a higher frame rate and then played back at a normal frame rate, "throwing away" the in between frames (as you suggest).

Both of these techniques have the same basic effect: each frame has less than the "standard" motion blur, making the action frenetic, and seems to increase the viewer's discomfort. In Saving Private Ryan it contributes to the you-are-there feeling of landing on Omaha Beach. I can't speak for the Russo brothers, but I would say that the choice to use it in Civil War (noting that it was likely a choice as they did not employ the technique in Winter Soldier) may be to increase the viewer's discomfort because, for most of the movie, we are watching the good guys fight each other; we are meant to feel uncomfortable about not being able to root for either side.

  • Usually in video "shutter speed" is called "shutter angle" to avoid confusion with frame rate. They call it this because older film cameras had a rotating wheel where you would set an angular portion of the wheel to be opened, and the rest would be closed. When the open part moved over the film, it was exposed to the light, and then it turned off. It's odd that the article named it how they did! Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 1:11

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