Teaching Examples


HD video frame grabs for Page One
March 13, 2007, 4:12 pm
Filed under: future, journalism, multimedia, photojournalism, video

A photojournalist recently asked me about how this is done. I discovered that he had only part of the story — he didn’t realize that the people doing frame grabs are NOT using the “still” function on a video camera. No, no, no. They are capturing a frame out of the motion video itself. That’s WHY you get an HD video camera instead of a cheaper, non-HD model — so you can use the frame grabs in print!

Here is a step-by-step tutorial for how to do it, from MultimediaShooter.com. Both The Dallas Morning News and the San Jose Mercury News are well-known for using frame grabs as wide as five columns on Page One of the printed newspaper.

There are several thorough articles describing this practice. Here are two good ones:

Photo Finish: Will HDV define the future for newspaper photo departments? (Digital Content Producer, Oct. 1, 2006): In-depth interviews with Richard Koci Hernandez, of the San Jose Mercury News, and David Leeson, of The Dallas Morning News.

Are Video Frame Grabs Finally Fit to Print? (Photo District News, June 30, 2006): An overview story with quotes from Hernandez, Leeson, and photo editors from The Detroit Free Press, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times and The Washington Post.

Which cameras are these folks using?

Well, first let me mention that many of us are eagerly awaiting the $1,100 (list price) Canon HV20 HD, due out in April in the U.S.

What the trail blazers are using now:

* Update: Chuck Fadely says most of the newspaper shooters who are using a video camera for both stills and video are using one of these two.

If I missed any, please let me know!

Here is a feature comparison chart for four low-price models. Note that the Canon HV20 has both mic and headphone inputs! So does the Sony HDR-HC7. Hooray!

For reviews of video cameras, see Camcorderinfo.com.

Update (5:36 p.m.): Colin Mulvany was kind enough to comment:

I’m still waiting for the true hybrid camera that will give still photographers the quality they demand. Shooting stills with a video camera is cutting edge, but I’m waiting for a faster workflow and finer image quality than you get today.

Chuck Fadely commented, in part:

Most of the cheaper cameras on your list are ill-suited for a photographer who no longer wants to carry still cameras around. The cameras under $3,500 lack the manual controls needed for sophisticated work.

Update No. 2 (March 15): Richard posted a list of tips for shooting so that you will have good frame grabs. It’s near the end of this long post called “Large heterogeneous mixture” (obviously Richard does not care about Google PageRank, eh?). They include: (1) Increase your shutter speed. (2) Lower the gain setting, too much noise makes for bad frames. (3) Be still. You don’t always need to be on sticks … (4) Manual focus. AND MORE …

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5 Comments so far
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Don’t forget to mention that the AP recently (before Feb. 11) moved its first ever HD frame grab over the photo wire. Doug Fisher has more.

Comment by Murley

Yes, and for now at least, you can see two of those frame grabs (by Evan Vucci) here.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

Mindy, the prices on the Sony HDV cameras are wrong. The Sony Z1U goes for about $4800.00 street and the Sony V1U is cheaper at $4200.00. The $8700.00 price quoted is a package of camera and tape deck.

On another note, I’m still waiting for the true hybrid camera that will give still photographers the quality the demand. Shooting stills with a video camera is cutting edge, but I’m waiting for a faster workflow and finer image quality then you get today.

Comment by cmulvany

Most of the cheaper cameras on your list are ill-suited for a photographer who no longer wants to carry still cameras around.

The cameras under $3500 lack the manual controls needed for sophisticated work.

Most newspaper shooters who are using them for both stills and video are using either the Sony Z1U or the newer Canon XHA1. The Canon has the edge right now, with a slightly better lens and a better quality progressive frame rate, but the technology on all this is changing quickly.

The prices on these higher-end HDV cameras are in the same range as professional still cameras.

This is incredibly cheap compared to broadcast video gear, which ranges from $20,000 to $100,000.

Comment by Chuck Fadely

It’s still possible to capture a printable screen grab from standard definition video. Granted, you can’t run it five columns on A1. But you can run it smaller and never know it came from video–We do it fairly regularly.

Comment by Angela Grant




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