Q: Hi, I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. I know how to load both digital or film still photos into my timeline and use the cool "Ken Burns" effect to make them more visually stimulating in my video, but what if I want to do the reverse? I shot some great video footage of my grandchild's birthday recently, but didn't take any still photos. One video shot in particular is so darn cute, that I want to freeze it and print a photo of it. Can this be done? How?
A: Great question, Caroline. I do this all the time to different degrees of success. Most editing programs will let you extract a still image from your video. Remember there are 30 frames per second with NTSC standard definition video, so you will have many choices. Think of a flip-book that looks as if it is animated when you flip the pages. If you went in and compared one page with its joining page, the two images would appear to be very similar but they are slightly different. Same with video.
So, with your video clip on your timeline and your play head or timeline indicator over the frame you want to grab, you're ready to export. Most editing software programs will let you do this somewhere under the File pull down menu. For example, Adobe Premiere Pro has an Export option under File. Choose the Frame option and the Export Frame save box opens. Click on Settings button and under General make sure TIFF is chosen. I usually save photos to the desktop if it is one or two but you may want to make a folder if you are save a large number of stills.
Other programs will be similar, for example, the path in Final Cut Pro is File>Export>Using QuickTime Conversion. In the Format pull-down choose Still Image. Click the Options button and chose TIFF. Keep clicking the Options buttons to make sure all the Best options are chosen such as Best Depth and Best Quality. TIFFs and PNG file formats do not compress the image as much as JPEG will but if your editor does not give you the option, go with JPEG.
So now you have a still photo, or rather, a digitial still file from your video. If you shot standard definition Mini DV, your still will be 720 pixels x 480 pixels at a resolution of 72 dpi (dots per inch). This is perfect for your website or for emailing, but if you want to print this photo, your work has just begun. (HDV will only help this situation, since it gives you a much larger canvas to work with, either 1280×720 or 1440×1080, depending on the model you choose.)
A safe target size for printing photos is 300 dpi, a far stretch from our present 72 dpi. You will want to bring your photo into a photo-editing program such as Adobe's Photoshop. Most image editing software programs will be similar to Photoshop. I start by dropping a De-Interlace filter on the image (Filter>Video>De-Interlace). I rarely change the presets (Odd Fields and Interpolation). This will greatly improve your still by taking out the jagged lines that often occur when interlaced video joins the two fields to make the frame.
Next, you want to resize the image. Choose Image>Image Size. The Image Size dialog box will open. Make sure to check the Constrain Proportions and Resample Image boxes. Also make sure to choose Bicubic next to Resample Image.
Now type in 300 pixels/inch in the Resolution box and click OK. This should give you a still that will print well up to a 4 x 6 print.
You may also want to experiment with the Sharpen filters (Filter>Sharpen). Under Image>Adjustments you will find adjustments for Levels, Contrast, Color Balance and Brightness. Experimenting with these adjustments can improve the quality of your image.
Your print most probably will not look as good as a print from a good SLR camera, and that is why I always carry a dedicated still camera with me on my video shoots. But it is inevitable that you will eventually want a still from your video footage. Take the time to experiment with the filters and effects in your photo editor and you should get something you will be happy with.