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October 1997, Week 1


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Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 3 Oct 1997 10:10:47 -0500
text/plain (76 lines)
On Thu, 2 Oct 1997 12:42:28 -0500 Charles Derry said:
>Re: The continuing discussion of film stills.
>What about the use of frame enlargements, or, more pertinent to what I am
>now working on, the use of video frames from a television series (in order
>to do extensive visual analysis)?  Incidentally, although I have all the
>shows I'm writing about taped, has anyone already "invented the wheel"
>and found the best way to extract specific images from a videotaped show
>for subsequent publication as stills?
Hi Chuck,
This is something I've been grappling with since beginning work in 1990 on
a television criticism textbook (shameless plug:  TELEVISION: CRITICAL
METHODS AND APPLICATIONS, Wadsworth) and I'm happy to report that there are
now many computer-based options for nabbing video images.
'Course, there's still the old-fashioned method of setting a camera's
shutter speed below 1/30th of a sec and photographing the screen, but I've
found that that often results in scanline trouble.
But, if you decide to use a computer, then what you want to do is a "video
capture."  The images you nab can then be displayed on your computer and
tweaked to look just right.  Later, you send the image files directly to
the printer of the book/journal article--just as you do the word processed
files.  The resulting images look just as good as, say, frame enlargements
from 16/35mm film (cf. FILM ART's images).
When TV:CM&A was printed in late 1993, it included dozens of captured
images.  This technology was still in a semi-primitive state at the time,
however, and I'm not entirely pleased with the results.
Today, even with a fairly rudimentary computer, you can get much better
results.  You can grab frames with:
1.  a high-end video capture board--or even a non-linear video editing
system (e.g., Avid, Media 100, Adobe Premiere)--to grab the frames, or
2.  Snappy, an inexpensive (less that $200) device that plugs into the
parallel port of your Windows-based computer.
I've become quite a fan of Snappy.  It's cheap and easy to install and you
just plug the NTSC signal directly into it using a regular RCA connector.
Thus, it'll accept output from a VCR or a camcorder.  The only drawback
I've found is that it operates on a 9v *battery* (which, of course, has to
be replaced periodically) instead of using a transformer, but I reckon a
trip to Radio Shack could solve that.
In fact, I was just using it yesterday to capture some images from RULES OF
THE GAME for a class of mine on Bazinian realism. Check it out online at:
Even with the scuzzy nth generation print on video that I was using, the
images turned out pretty decent, I think.  (The BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
still on that site is *not* a frame grab.)
Thus far, this is the best option I've come across.  If anyone knows of a
simpler, more effective, and/or cheaper system, I'd sure like to hear about
Take care,
Jeremy Butler
Associate Professor
[log in to unmask]
Telecommunication & Film/University of Alabama/Tuscaloosa
Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite