With a growing number of 4K-capable consumer digital cameras and smartphones in market, the process of extracting the best movie frames into quality still photos is becoming easier, and thus an attractive option for capturing more memories.
I often extract still frames from my smartphone 4K videos so no moment is missed during family events. Sometimes, the opportunity for a great still photo is missed due to an out of focus shot, for example, or simply because I was filming video at the time and couldn't snap stills too. Some cameras allow you to snap stills as you are filming moving video. But there are ways to extract stills from video you've already taken, too.
This week, Panasonic, which pioneered the art of "4K Photo," announced its new Lumix FZ1000 II, a full-featured super-zoom camera, along with the the Lumix ZS80, a pocket-sized model with advanced 4K Photo technology. Both cameras use Lumix Auto Marking, which allows you to zero in on the best video frames by jumping to the nearest frame between scene changes. This would save time if you had to quickly find the sharpest of 108,000 frames in a one-hour 4K video. In 4K, the FZ1000 II also lets you minimize the number of frames shot in 4K video to short bursts, using 4K Burst Shooting, 4K Burst (Start/Stop), and 4K Pre-burst which constantly shoots a burst of frames before any moment you intend to shoot. This is akin to shooting in sequential modes in still photo mode, but not as fast as 30 and 60 fps 4K videos.
For the rest of us, finding the best video frame among thousands for that special moment you missed in camera still mode can be a grueling process. Newer mid-priced digital cameras, as mentioned, allow you to capture still photos as your video plays back in the camera. But older cameras and most smartphones require third-party software like the free Catalyst Browse or pricier apps like Adobe Premiere for Mac or Windows which easily extracts still frames you can pre-examine for quality.
Each 4K video frame from phones and cameras is the equivalent of any 8.3MP camera, good enough for magazines and quality online publishing. 4K videos shot on smartphones with smaller sensors are not as good as you would get with dedicated digital cameras with larger sensors. Each 4K video frame is 3,840 x 2,160 pixels or a 4,096 x 2,160 pixels option in better dedicated cameras. 4K stills take a lot of room at more than 30MB per frame.
Also known as CinePhotography, pulling stills from 4K video has its challenges. Here are some tips to assure you get the best still 4K photos from your videos.
Mostly available in cameras, choose a faster 4K shutter in manual mode. The rule of thumb is twice the frame rate, so a 30fps video would require 1/60th second shutter setting.
Shoot as close as possible to "full frame," meaning get closer to your subject leaving little space around them. Shoot vertical if the subject warrants it for tighter composition.
Since there is no audible shutter click when capturing "stills" while shooting in video mode, make your own audible sounds so your subject has a sense of when footage that will presumably be turned into a still photo is being taken.
Although camera phones can shoot acceptable 4K video in poor light, still frames will show more digital noise than in dedicated cameras, so try to shoot in better lighting when possible. You can achieve this by asking the subject to change his position, for example, or by moving so there's with better light behind you instead of behind the subject.
Turn off any smooth motion controls in your camera to keep individual frames sharper.
Now, can you imagine what kind of still photos your next 8K camera will be able to produce? A whopping 33.2MP (7,680 × 4,320) still photo. I can't wait!
Photos by Steve Makris.