Extracting and Printing Video Stills

Roger writes, Can you please tell me how to get a still picture or print a picture from a home movie? When my grandson was born, I used my camcorder to make a home movie. My daughter is starting a scrap book and wanted me to print pictures from the movie I made. I don't know if there is a way to do this? i have been reading and searching without success.

There are two key parts to the problem of extracting a still image from a video for printing. The first part of the problem is to grab the image. The second part is being able to print a usable image from a source that's lower than print quality. Extracting a still from the video is the easy part. Getting a good looking print is slightly more complicated.

Assuming your camcorder is digital, connect the camcorder via FireWire and import video to your computer using an app like Windows Movie Maker or WinDV. You can read more about capturing video in From Digital Video to DVD and a second article on Transferring video from camcorder to PC.

If you use Windows Movie Maker for video editing, select the movie clip containing the frame you want to export in the video collection, scroll to the frame you want to export and click the Take Picture button. This generates a 640x480 clip from your movie, which is then saved to your hard drive. Export it into your favorite photo editor to clean up the image or print.

Take picture in Windows Movie Maker

A second option is to use the free video editor VirtualDub. Open the video in VirtualDub, scroll to the video frame you want to export, and select Video > Copy source frame to clipboard from the menu.

Export clip from virtualdub

Next open your favorite image editing application and paste the frame into the image editor. For example, if you use Adobe Photoshop Elements, this is accomplished by choosing New > Image from Clipboard. You can also use the free image editor Irfanview and choose Edit > Paste to copy your frame into the application. With the video clip in the image application, choose Save As and select JPEG or JPG as the output format. Choose the maximum quality setting which results in the biggest file size and least compression of the image (in Adobe this is 12, in Irfanview the max is 100). This is necessary to make sure you get the best possible print when you are ready to print the image. The Irfanview settings are pictured below.

irfanview jpg options

Because digital video is a much lower resolution than the majority of digital still cameras, 4x6 is the maximum size you should attempt to print your image. Anything larger starts looking extremely grainy. One test for choosing a suitable image size is to run through the photo printing wizard located in the My Pictures folder. Copy your still image to the My Pictures folder and click the Order prints online option in the sidebar to step through the wizard with your image, selecting the Kodak option. This sounds strange, but Kodak does a great job indicating which print sizes work best with your photo.

Order photo prints in Windows XP