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Customer Discussions > Photography forum

Capturing still images from video/camcorder

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Showing 1-17 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 12, 2012 7:56:16 PM PDT
Matthew says:
Hi. I'm a bit confused and I'm hoping someone can explain this to me. I would like to get a camcorder and occasionally create still images from the recorded videos. Is this done on the software side of things or does the camcorder have to have this capability? Ideally, I'd like to be able to go frame by frame and then choose the best frame to make an image.

I'm not interested in a dual mode, where I can snap pictures while recording video. I was just wondering if all digital camcorders have what I'm looking for or if I need to look for something specific. For example, with this Canon camcorder (Canon VIXIA HF R20 Full HD Camcorder with 8GB Internal Flash Memory (Black)) "while playing the movie in your camcorder, simply press the photo button to capture a 1920 x 1080 still image onto an SD card or to internal memory." Are they saying that getting an image from the video software is not possible and that it has to be done on the camcorder?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2012 9:12:47 AM PDT
Any decent video editing software should be able to produce a still frame... BUT...

1) If the video was recorded in an interlace mode, a still frame consists of a pair of de-interlaced fields. Any motion will show up as alternating scan lines

2) The image resolution will be at the video resolution -- for HD, that's 2MP resolution, good for full screen monitors, or 4x6" prints, nothing larger

3) Even progressive video (non-interlaced) will tend to show motion blur. The "native" shutter speed for video is the field/frame rate, as video relies on motion blur to produce a sense of smooth motion. The higher the shutter speed, in comparison to the field/frame rate, the more jerky the video will appear*

Even the in-camera still-capture from video will have those limitations.

* At, say, 1/60s shutter (60p) an object (baseball?) that takes, say, 10 frames to traverse the field of view, will have motion blur such that if you aligned the 10 frames over each other you would have a solid line. At 1/600s shutter, each frame would have a short dot for the ball, and 9 times that length of background. If you overlap the frames, you get a staccato blinking effect.

Posted on Apr 13, 2012 5:58:33 PM PDT
Matthew says:
Thanks for explaining this. This helps a lot. I was planning on only viewing the still images on a monitor, so I think the 2 MP should be okay. I'm just a little confused about the frames per second of the video. In order to get the sharpest image possible, do I record with a high or low shutter speed? Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2012 6:33:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 13, 2012 6:40:30 PM PDT
Neo Lee says:
"high or low shutter speed"

You'll want a faster shutter speed to freeze the motion, reducing the motion blurs. Sometimes higher or lower could be confusing depending on the context.

Camcorders normally keep the shutter speed fixed at 1/60th of a second for 30 fps video, or 1/48th of a second if for 24 fps video. Video is made up of a stream of images (or frames) played continuously. 30 fps = 30 images played continuously in one second. Video standard is actually 29.97 fps but it's usually written as 30 fps as shorthand.

Some camcorders won't allow shutter speed adjustment so make sure about that before buying one. 1/200s shutter speed will freeze show motions, 1/500 to 1/1000 to freeze sportsmen, 1/2000 to 1/4000 to freeze moving vehicles, water drops. Adjustment shutter speed isn't always an option. Faster the shutter speed, more light the camera will need. If there isn't enough light for the shutter speed, the video may look dark and may exhibit a lot of noisy grains. If you're shooting under sunlight, It's doable as fast as 1/4000, but if you're shooting indoor, you'll be lucky to get a shutter speed faster than 1/60.

Posted on Apr 13, 2012 9:12:41 PM PDT
Sean says:
I do this often and I've learned that if your video camera films in 60fps (examples include GoPro, Canon DSLR's or Mid-priced Sony HandyCams) will be able to get a nice clean still image from your video...if it is shot in the standard will almost always look blurry. In my experience it's as simple as that. : )

Posted on Apr 13, 2012 10:41:11 PM PDT
JCUKNZ says:
I imagin it depends on how steady the camera is held and how much movement is in frame. When I shot my son's wedding on Sony Digital 8 I was able to select frames and pressing a button copied them onto the memory stick* ... from where I looked at them on my computer monitor and did various editing [ as from a cellphone ]. The camera is only VGA so I'd hope today's cameras will be better.
*Without hunting out the manual I think I can do this either when recording or in playback, the copies I made were when playing back. [ It is a few years since I have bothered with video]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2012 10:45:01 PM PDT
Since you are talking about grabbing stills from a captured video you have to be concerned with:

Interlace or Progressive. Interlace is/was the common video mode (the only mode on standard definition). Some video cameras are capable of capturing progressive frames.

In interlace, the camera captures the odd scan lines, then captures the even scan lines. This produces 30fps using 60 fields per second (hence the 1/60s normal shutter speed). Progressive capture records all scan lines in one exposure (30fps could actually use 1/30s shutter).

Interlaced capture appears as zig-zag for moving objects.


which has to be artificially blended when making a still image.

So... your first preference would be for a camera using progressive capture.

Now comes the matter of shutter speed. You normally can do some adjustment of shutter speed (though most video cameras don't go faster than 1/500s -- and you're going to need high sunlight to be able to use that speed). The video, using such a fast speed, will not "flow"; objects will stutter across the scene since there is no motion blur to smooth out the perception.

NOTE: to produce a sample I had to load an old (standard definition) DV-AVI shot in anamorphic wide-screen, into a project defined to be HDV; turn OFF deinterlace, and then copy the preview to the clip-board. That produced an image with obvious interlace artifacts. Sony Vegas Pro does a fairly good job of hiding them when using "blend" or "interpolate" modes of deinterlacing.

Posted on Aug 30, 2012 8:12:10 AM PDT
Am I right in thinking that, with Video Browser and the Vixia HF R20, there is no way of selecting and saving a single freeze frame, from an existing video file? Can anyone help with the minumum number of frames that can be selected and saved with this package?
Thanks, Tony Briginshaw.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2012 10:27:02 AM PDT
Pixela (the makers of the software) don't seem to have an on-line manual but... I'd suspect the software offers just the minimum capability to clean up video clips and burn a disk of the result.

I don't know about AVCHD, but the common MPEG system used a GoP of 15 frames (half a second). Most player software probably won't even touch something that short (my ancient video camera actually displays a 10-second count-down each time you start recording -- implying that it, at least, can't handle shorter clips [miniDV TAPE, so there aren't any "files" -- if finds clips by sudden changes in scene and shorter than 10 seconds might go by too fast to be detected]).

You might be able to set the start/end points down to a single frame, but since the Pixela software tries to write video files you may be unable to save it -- even if you do save it, you won't be able to load it into an image editor, since the format will be a video format.

Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum (the upper end of the low-cost home series) version 7.0 (from 2006!) has the ability to capture snapshots from the time-line. I'm pretty sure they haven't removed that feature. Movie Studio used to run from around $80 to $120 (basic to platinum) [Vegas Pro starts at over $600, and is what I currently have -- though the latest edition hasn't been installed yet].

Any such frame grab will be limited to the resolution of video -- ~2MP for HD; don't expect to produce an 8x10 print from it (8x12 is 8MP, 2MP supports 4x6 prints)

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2012 10:39:36 AM PDT
Hi Dennis,

thanks very much for your prompt reply. I may be able to invest in another editing suite, but how many of them will take Canon output and be able to edit it, I wonder?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2012 1:49:55 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 30, 2012 2:00:12 PM PDT
By now -- all of them should...

When AVCHD first came out, one had the complication that Canon had a different variation from Sony from xxx -- and Vegas Home Studio only understood Sony's AVCHD. But that was YEARS AGO.

That 6 year old copy of Vegas Home Studio I still have installed has codecs for (I'm only listing the video codecs, there are a slew of audio only codecs also):

MainConcept AVC/AAC
MainConcept MPEG-1 and MPEG-2
Quick Time 7
Real Media 9
Video for Windows (AVI)
Windows Media Video 9 (WMV)

Vegas Pro 9 handles WMV 11, and XDCAM; I think Vegas Pro 11 added RED camera format

OH -- BTW: the above the /presets/ for rendering... Under the Video for Windows preset, if you go to customize, it shows (for me) ELEVEN codecs that are valid for that file video format! (granted NTSC, NTSC Wide, PAL, and PAL Wide are four of them)
(They've apparently dropped "Vegas" from the home version)
Ignore the $50 package -- no DVD authoring.
The home version has gotten more powerful -- VHSP 7 only allowed three video/three audio tracks for editing; now they allow 20 each (by tracks, it means "in parallel" -- for stuff like green screen effects, titles, masking -- you can append as many clips into one track).

If they have a trial download (may not render files, or plasters a notice over them) try it to see if the frame capture works.

Posted on Aug 31, 2012 12:19:06 AM PDT
That is very informative; thank you. You've given me a great deal of information and a lot of avenues to pursue. As you might have guessed, I am an absolute beginner with video, but I am blundering my way to competence with VideoBrowser. I also have a package called AVS4YOU and I'll have to investigate what can be done with that.

Posted on Oct 7, 2012 4:42:22 PM PDT
Hello. I have a Nikon J1 that takes videos. Is there software that would enable me to pull still pictures from the video?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2012 9:23:58 PM PDT
Did you actually read any of the previous posts? Unless the camera has a totally proprietary video format, most video editing software should have a still-capture feature.

But, as also discussed, that capture will be at video resolution, which will be about 2MP maximum.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2012 10:00:27 PM PDT
Richard says:
Nikon J1 comes with Nikon View NX which has a basic movie editor. When you turn on the movie editor there is a option to save the part of the movie too a still image. Quality is low at 1280x720 or 1920x1080 resolution depending what you took it on.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2012 10:49:50 PM PDT
Neo Lee says:
You're unlikely to get many decent pictures by pausing the video and capturing a frame from a video. It is because the video frames are normally exposed for 1/60s or slower, and this blurs anything that moves. In a video where the frames are continuously played, the animation tricks your brain to not see the blurs, but once you pause it, you'll see it.

You can try. Playing the video in VLC, pausing where you want to capture, and click Video menu > Take Snapshot. The captured pictures could be found in your My Documents/Pictures folder. Tips: While video is paused, press e to move to the next frame.

Posted on Feb 11, 2013 8:55:17 PM PST
Nishant says:
Vid2Pix for Windows 8 could also work for you.
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Discussion in:  Photography forum
Participants:  9
Total posts:  17
Initial post:  Apr 12, 2012
Latest post:  Feb 11, 2013

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