The Power of a Video Freeze Frame

by Barrett

Today’s story spans generations and species. And it all begins with a faulty memory card in my camera as I record an important video moment that foretells the arrival of our new kitten.

The memory card in my Panasonic LX10 camera blew it big time. This kind of problem has only happened one other time for me, and that was many years ago. But sometimes memory cards go bad and don’t correctly record your photo or video file.

And of course, fate requires those exasperating moments to occur when something really special happens… yes, a magic moment.
(You know, like when aliens from Mars land in front of your house looking for directions.)

An 18-Frame Conundrum
I missed this particular magic moment recording a video, which ended up having an inexplicable visual glitch every second or so.
(Actually, every 18 frames)

Here’s an example of the glitch.





The videos and photos recorded immediately after were fine. So this appeared to be a one-off problem. Nevertheless, I retired the SDXC card the next day and popped in a new one.
(I didn’t even want to consider the possibility that the culprit
was my still new Panasonic camera.)

Welcome Home, Kitty
And what exactly was this particular event? It was when my wife and I revealed to our seven-year old son that we were getting a kitten, something he’d been wanting for quite some time.

We decided not to simply tell him or reveal the cat like in a magic act.
(No, we would go to the animal shelter together to adopt our kitten.)

Instead, we brought him into the room upstairs where she’d be hanging out during her early days with us. And I had staged that room with all of the cat paraphernalia you usually need… water and food bowls, litter box, cat toys, scratching post, and a cozy bed puff.
(Thank you, Petco.)

I hoped it would be one of those Aha moments where the realization bathed over our son. I wanted to capture that happiness for posterity.

And that’s exactly what happened. It was priceless. He was so psyched. The video was amazing. Except that it wasn’t…

Keep It in Perspective
You might be thinking that this isn’t such a big deal. It’s just one of many great “moments” in a child’s life. There are literally hundreds (thousands?) of others.
(It’s not like you’re recording your own “Truman Show.”)

As a parent, you’re going to miss some along the way. Sometimes due to user error… Other times because your technology fails you.

Years from now, I know not having this video isn’t going to matter.
…I’ve already got videos of the new team in action.
(A boy and his cat)

And you move on.

The 18-Frame Solution
But for some reason I couldn’t totally let go of this.

Was the faulty video file a total loss?
Well, not necessarily…

Sure, you could still make out what happens. But it’s jarring to watch. So it’s value is limited.

But if the video glitches every 18 frames, that means there are plenty of good frames of video remaining.

Frames that could make for a good photo.

What about extracting some of those frames and using them as photos?

So I gave it a try…

How to Grab a Frame from Video
I had shot the video in 1080HD… not as high res as the photos my camera generates.
Maybe that’s another reason to start recording videos in 4K.
(Wasn’t that why I said I bought this camera over the Canon G7 X Mark II?)

There are a few ways to grab a frame off of your video file on your Mac.

  • You can do it with Final Cut Pro X or iMovie.
  • Or using QuickTime, first go to your desired frame and then to copy it… select the video window portion on your desktop with Apple/Shift/4. That creates a PNG file, which you can easily convert to a JPG or TIFF.

(Quite easily done)

Can Your Camera Do This?
Happily, my Panasonic LX10 and its new memory card have been doing fine over the past month. So I feel comfortable that the original phantom glitch is behind me, and I don’t have to worry about grabbing video frames as a back up plan.

That said, I’m not the first one to stumble upon this idea. In fact, some cameras (like my LX10) include the capability to natively generate frame grabs when you go back and review a video in-camera.

A Video Freeze Can Create a Great Portrait
Surprisingly, I’ve just realized that this technique can be quite useful when trying to capture a more natural portrait of someone who has a difficult time posing for the camera.

Sure, it’s hard to choose a frame when someone’s talking, but the trick is to grab a freeze immediately after a sentence. If it’s also at the end of a complete thought, there’s usually a second of a pause to select from.

Case in point… my eighty-four-year-old father.
He’s not one these days to happily pull off a Cary Grant smile.
(It’s usually more like a Clint Eastwood mug during his Dirty Harry days.)

So I put my new tech technique to work…
I pulled out a frame from a video I just shot of my father proudly talking about his 1962 Red MG.





I think he’s as proud of that car today as ever, and it shows!

Happy Twist of Fate
Isn’t it interesting to see how one frustrating moment of tech failure can open up a whole new world of opportunity?

Sometimes you’ve just got to go with it and see where it all takes you…
(Is there another choice?)