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February 2002, Week 3


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Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 21 Feb 2002 08:25:13 -0600
text/plain (129 lines)
[log in to unmask] mentioned Snappy, a very handy device for grabbing video
stills.  I used it when it first came out and got excellent results.  In
fact, some students of mine are using it right now to prepare stills for

But, I'm sorry to say, its manufacturer (Play, Inc.) has gone out of
business and its assets have been bought by GlobalStreams, Inc., which has
no intention of continuing to produce Snappy.  (See below.)  This does
mean, however, that one can buy a Snappy for cheap--about US$13.  They used
to cost about $150!  Just go to and search for "Play
Snappy" to find a source.

[log in to unmask] also asked about the resolution/format needed for
publication.  This is where the numbers game gets very tricky.  Others may
chime in with more expert advice on this, but what I've found through trial
and error is the best resolution is 640x480 or 800x600 and the best format
for print is TIFF.  And I use UNcompressed TIFF because I've had problems
with compressed TIFF when crossing from Windows to Mac platforms (or vice

Here's my take on the resolution numbers game.

First, since TV's aspect ratio is 4x3, you want to use a capture resolution
that is also 4x3--as is 640x480 or 800x600. This may seem obvious, but
digital capture devices do not necessarily use this ratio.  I think this
may have something to do with the different SHAPE of pixels in TV screens
and computer monitors.

'Course, this may all change if the high-definition standard ever truly
becomes a standard and TVs shift to the 16x9 ratio.

Second, the video signal used for broadcast TV (whether PAL or North
America's NTSC) is a much lower resolution than a computer monitor's or
that of a typical digital image prepared for print.  Here're the numbers
for NTSC, which is the only format I even vaguely understand:

Number of horizontal lines in the image:  525
Number of those lines that are visible on a TV monitor:  486
Pixels per line:  720

So, you see, the functional resolution of the NTSC image is 720 (wide) by
486 (high).  When you do a video capture from an NTSC signal you may get
some of those "invisible" lines, but still you're never dealing with more
than 525 lines of 720 pixels each.  Some capture devices will store grabs
at higher resolutions (e.g., Snappy has a 1500 x 1125 mode), but they're
achieving that higher res by interpolating pixels where none originally
existed.  Sometimes this works, but mostly it doesn't.

Since 720x525 is the best you can get from NTSC (PAL is slightly higher), I
stick with the 640x480 and 800x600 resolutions because they do the least
amount of stretching/shrinking/interpolating the original image.

Now we come to the print situation.

Home-use printers now commonly print at a resolution of 300 dots (the print
equivalent of pixels) per inch.  At this resolution, a 800x600 pixel video
capture will print at 2.7" by 2".  Thus, printing it larger than 2.7" by 2"
will require that the image be digitally enlarged.  The more it's enlarged,
the worse it'll look.

And professional printers use even higher resolutions than 300 dpi--making
the situation even worse.

The solution I've used is to keep frame grabs fairly small when printing
them.  If you look at the grabs-from-film that Kristin Thompson did for
FILM ART, you'll see that a 2.5" to 3"-wide image works quite well as an
illustration and doesn't get that grainy/pixellated look.  At that size,
you can comfortably fit six images on an 8.5x11" piece of paper--good for
thesis/dissertation work.

You can get away with larger images in electronic versions of critical
pieces (on the Web or in a PowerPoint lecture, for example), where a
640x480 illustration looks quite big (depending on the computer monitor's

Sorry for the headache-inducing numbers avalanche!  Hope this has been some

----- GlobalStreams Statement Re Play, Inc. -----

Dear Play Customer,

As you may know, Play Industries d/b/a Play Incorporated, formerly based in
Rancho Cordova, California, is no longer in business, and, thus, support of
its consumer based product lines is no longer being made available to
Play's customers. The assets of Play were assigned to CMA Business Credit
Services, pursuant to what is known as a general assignment for the benefit
of creditors.

On January 31, 2001, Play Streaming Media Group, Inc. d/b/a GlobalStreams,
Inc. acquired certain assets and intellectual property of Play Inc. from
CMA, including professional broadcast products known as Trinity™. The
Trinity based technology will likely be utilized moving forward as a key
technological product for GlobalStreams. GlobalStreams does not at this
time have any plans to further develop or promote any of Play's existing
consumer products, including without limitation Gizmos, Amorphium, and Snappy.

Notwithstanding all of the above, please note that we are in the process of
collecting all requests for information concerning Play's consumer product
line and if in the future, support is available, we will pass your requests
to the appropriate contact.

>Date:    Wed, 20 Feb 2002 15:01:04 -0500
>From:    [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: Film stills
>MIME-Version: 1.0
>I use Snappy, which is a device attached to the printer port on a computer
>at one end and a video out of a VCR on another.  I read about it on this
>listserv, and it has worked for me very well for stills for class use.  I
>have not use it for publication purposes, but I do have plans in that
>direction so I am interested in hearing more about the resolution needed
>and format for publication.

Jeremy Butler
[log in to unmask]
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