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Frame-Grab Tutorial
Written by Jeremy Butler   
Thursday, 02 November 2006
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This tutorial may not be reproduced for commercial purposes. However, educational and other non-commercial uses are permitted, if proper attribution is given. Please see the Creative Commons License for details.
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Capturing Stills From Video

When you analyze a novel or poem, you need to quote words from the original to support your argument. When analyzing television, it's equally useful to be able to "quote" images--as you can see in the pages of Television.

The Bad Old Days of Frame Grabbing

The Road to Bali

Grabbing a frame from a television program or motion picture used to be a difficult and perilous task. The best one could do with television material was photograph a TV screen and hope the scan lines weren't too obvious. And to create individual frames of film prints required expensive optical devices that could re-photograph 16mm and 35mm prints.

The convergence of computers, television, and the cinema in the 1990s has changed that. I created this frame grab from The Road to Bali in five minutes--using a DVD of the film.

Capturing the Moving Image

click to view movie

Moreover, teachers, scholars, and students are not limiting themselves to still image captures. With relatively modest computer resources, anyone can capture sample clips to use for analysis and illustration--as we have done with Nothing Sacred.

Doing It Yourself

All of the images in Television and on were created digitally by the authors. We struggled with this process while producing the first edition in 1994. Digital video was definitely not ready for prime-time then. By the time the second (2001) and third (2006) editions were released, image capture had become a much simpler and much cheaper enterprise.

This tutorial encapsulates what we learned in the process of preparing images for Television and provides step-by-step instruction on how to grab still images from video. In consideration of the austere technology budgets under which most of us operate, we have highlighted the least expensive ways to accomplish this task.

Moreover, since most new(ish) computers are powerful enough now to support motion video, students and teachers can create their own motion-video clips. These may then be presented on Websites, CD-ROMs, and DVD, and incorporated into classroom presentations. A tutorial on QuickTime--still being developed--covers the process of snagging motion video to use in film/TV analyses.

Last Updated ( Monday, 24 September 2007 )
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