MacMost Now 641: Capturing Video Still Frames With QuickTime Player

You can use QuickTime Player in Lion to capture a single frame of video and save it to an image file. By using the Edit, Copy command you can grab the current frame, and then paste it into Photoshop or Preview. You can also use this technique to quickly grab a still image when using iMovie.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let me show you how to take a still frame image from a video using Quicktime Player and Lion. So I've got a video here. I'm going to open it up in the Quicktime Player. Now I'm going to do this in Lion. This technique only works in Lion. The Quicktime Player for Snow Leopard and earlier did not have this functionality.
Now here I can play the video and I can scrub back and forth. And let's say I wanna get a still frame image from it. Another thing I can do to get the perfect still frame is I can use the arrow keys. So I can just go forward just to get the perfect still frame. And once I've got that I'm ready to capture it. And I don't have to do anything special here. And you notice there's no ability to capture a still frame here anywhere in the menu items. But if you go to edit and copy you actually get a little camera sound effect there like you're taking a screen shot. And still nothing happens, doesn't ask you to save it anywhere. That's because it's in the buffer.
So now I want to paste that into an image editing application. I could use Photo Shop if I've got that. Or just to keep things simple I'll just use Preview which comes with all Macs. Now Preview's got the nice feature that when you run it and you say new, if you have an image in the clipboard it'll say new from clipboard. So it instantly creates a new document and pastes that image in there. Now there I've got it. I've got the still frame from the video.
Great, so now when I want to save it out of Preview I can use export or I can go save and since this is an image here I can choose the format. So I can do a PNG which is a great file format. But you may want to compress it a little bit more to a JPEG. If you do that you can actually set the quality of the JPEG as well. And I could create it like that. Now if I wanted to say, change the size of this I could do that by going to tools, adjust size. And here you can see this is 640, 480. That's the size of the video. I could change it to something smaller. So say if I was taking a video of myself and wanted to actually take a smaller image to use maybe on Facebook as my icon or something, I could just scale it here. I could also, of course, use other tools inside of Preview. Like just copy and paste. Or I can, you know, do any of these things here like rotate, flip, or crop in that case to make a smaller area. And then I could do the same save, or I could do an export.
Now a lot of people want to take screen shots, still frames, in iMovie. And there's not real quick way to do that but you can use the same technique. For instance, here I've got a clip down here in my event library. I can control click, or right click on it, and choose reveal and finder. And this takes me to that video which I can then drag and drop into the Quicktime player, and do the same thing here. Find the spot I want, command C for copy, and now I can pate it into an image editing program or preview.
So there's a quick way to take a still frame image out of a video using Quicktime Player and Lion. Hope you found this useful. Till next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 13 Responses to “MacMost Now 641: Capturing Video Still Frames With QuickTime Player”

    12/7/11 @ 10:30 am


    Thanks for the tip! Good stuff!

    Peter Emery
    12/7/11 @ 3:59 pm

    Even better news, QuickTime Pro 7 in Leopard can also do this trick, but I don’t know about QT 7 (non-pro).

      Peter Emery
      12/7/11 @ 4:01 pm

      Tested with 10-year-old G4 Powermac running 10.5.8, with 2 GB RAM & dual 1.25 GHz processors.

    Peter Emery
    12/8/11 @ 8:09 am

    Further testing by Mac User Group members shows that prior to Lion, QuickTime 7 Pro is required to copy still images from movies. The ordinary QuickTime Player app does not offer this feature.

      12/8/11 @ 8:10 am

      Exactly. You could do this in QuickTime 7 Pro, but not the QuickTime 7 Player. You could NOT do this in the Snow Leopard QuickTime Player (AKA QuickTime X). You CAN do this in QuickTime Player in Lion. So this is the first time you could do it in the QuickTime Player that comes with your Mac.

    Paul Rashotte
    12/9/11 @ 7:52 am

    Got the still photo from iMovie but now have a .png file on my desktop which I can’t delete.
    Please advise how to delete. Thanks.

      12/9/11 @ 8:12 am

      What is preventing you from deleting it? Is there an error message when you drag it to the trash? What is the message?

        Paul Rashotte
        12/9/11 @ 8:21 am

        Message reads: The item “Untitled.png” can’t be moved to Trash because it can’t be deleted.

          12/9/11 @ 9:04 am

          Try logging out and back in, or restarting. Then try it again.

    Paul Rashotte
    12/9/11 @ 9:21 am

    Gary: restarted and the file was in Trash (should have tried this before bothering you). Thanks. Love MacMost and your recently issued App in iTunes.

    Michael Mikhail
    4/15/12 @ 5:09 am

    I got this message ‘The current video frame could not be copied into the pasteboard’? Any ideas how I can sort this out? Thank you …

      4/15/12 @ 8:51 am

      Does that happen with any and all videos? If there something special about that video (what is the source — is it the same source as others that you have tried). What is the exact error message? Try searching for that exact message to see what others have found (nothing comes up when I tried the one you typed, so I’m not sure if that is the exact wording of the message).

    Darryl Jensen
    12/27/12 @ 9:07 am

    Thanks Gary. Very helpful. I like the ability to move forward or back frame by frame! Cheers.

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