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Archive for Sunday, June 1, 2008

Behind the Lens: Video stills create good, not great, photos

Pulling still frames from high-definition video is a new technique, but image quality is sacrificed.

Pulling still frames from high-definition video is a new technique, but image quality is sacrificed.

June 1, 2008

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Pulling still frames from high-definition video is a new technique, but image quality is sacrificed.

Pulling still frames from high-definition video is a new technique, but image quality is sacrificed.

If a caveman had to choose between a sharpened rock or a Swiss army knife, he would likely pick the rock. If a cameraman had to choose between a still camera and a video camera, which do you think he/she would choose?

Today, high-definition video has opened the door for visual communicators seeking to synthesize their collection of photo, audio and video tools into one device. Recently, I covered a story on the reconstruction efforts in Greensburg using only a video camera. I pulled frames from the HD video, and we published them as still photographs in the newspaper. One photograph ran about 10 inches wide and 6 inches tall.

The printed result proved to me that, yes, it can be done. But with new tools come new problems. Printed video frames lack crispness, contrast, tonal depth and color saturation native to images captured with still cameras. As a photographer, those are sacrifices that I'm not willing to make. Prints and enlargements are not options with video frames, which is a huge deterrent for most image-makers.

Will the day come when video quality rivals that of the still image?

Not likely. Why is this, you ask? The simple answer is that image quality is determined by the output quality. Printed materials require images of higher resolution, typically at 200 to 300 dots per inch. Televisions, computer screens and mobile devices display at 72 DPI. Unless there is a demand for even wider-screen televisions in the near future, we can all expect to be stuck with this cap in video resolution for the foreseeable future.

So until this caveman sees better printed results from video still frames, he'll continue to prefer the rock as his primary tool of choice.

Comments

Janet Lowther 6 years, 3 months ago

HD isn't by any means the high end of video: Check out the Red One camera system they use to shoot "film" for theatrical exhibition. 35mm cine size sensor, 12 bit color depth 12 megapixels. . . well into the realm of digital still cameras. Of course the varments are huge, 10 pound contraptions (plus lens) intended to displace Arriflex film cameras and the like. Still, they are no bigger than broadcast grade camcorders of the '90s.

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