What is a Full-Motion Video?

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  • Written By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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A full-motion video (FMV) is the rapid display of a series of images by a computer in such a way that the person viewing it perceives fluid movement. An FMV can consist of live action, animation, computer-generated imagery or a combination of those formats. It typically includes sound and can include text superimposed over the video.

An FMV is pre-recorded or pre-rendered and is stored as compressed data on a disk, such as a compact disc (CD), a digital video disc (DVD) or a computer's hard disk. Compression is used in order to decrease the amount of disk space needed to store the data, which is then decompressed as the video is played back.

As in the projection of motion pictures, full-motion video images must be displayed at a rate of at least 24 frames per second for the video to appear to be seamless and smooth. Most full-motion videos are displayed at 30 frames per second, the same rate that television images are transmitted. If the computer system on which the FMV is being stored or viewed is not able to decompress and display the data quickly enough that at least 24 frames per second can be shown, the video will appear to be choppy.


The most common use of the term "full-motion video" refers to the use of pre-recorded or pre-rendered videos in games for computers or video-game consoles. Full-motion video technology also can be used to display movies, television shows, instructional videos or educational videos on a computer. The special features on some movie DVDs include short games that include the use of full-motion videos.

In full-motion video games, the prepared videos can be of higher quality and resolution than the game’s normal graphics and typically are used during a transition in the game, such as an introduction to a scene or at the conclusion of a particular event. The player often has no control while the FMV is being played but still might benefit from learning things that will be useful in the game. In some instances, the player will be allowed to make a decision during a part of the FMV that will affect the next portion of the video or even the game itself. Games that consist primarily of full-motion videos sometimes are called interactive movies.

Some businesses, organizations and government agencies employ full-motion video analysts who use computer software to help them study and analyze videos in order to ascertain specific information. In fact, some military bodies have found full-motion videos useful for intelligence purposes, mostly because FMVs can be transmitted quickly.


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Post 2

Remember what a big deal was made of full motion video by Sega when the company came up with the SegaCD attachment for the Genesis. "Lookie! Full motion video! Whee!"

It turned out the full motion video Sega bragged about was grainy, sometimes slow and the terrible basis for a game when taken too far (yes, there were whole games that relied on a user interacting with grainy, awful video).

Thankfully, modern systems can handle full motion video very well. And the games that rely on interaction with that video are few and far between these days. Technology has improved and gaming companies have learned how to use it appropriately.

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