June 2, 2014

Panasonic GH4 Screen Grabs

When is pulling screen grabs from footage useful?

Post Updated January 2018: Back in around 2007/2008, I talked about how we would one day be able to pull high quality, high resolution images from footage. Pull stills that would closely match the DSLR's around at that time (the 10mp Canon EOS 40D for example).

The Canon EOS 40D produces file sizes of 3888 x 2592 pixels (10mp)

Well, it seems that we are just about there now. With the introduction of 4K video producing footage of 4096 x 2160 pixels ( 8.847 megapixels or an uncompressed size of 39,81 MB). This means you can pull high quality stills (depending on the camera) that could be used in a variety of ways which we will discuss below.

Screen Grab Go Pro HD Hero 2

Screen grab from an aging Go Pro HD Hero 2 nestled into the wall of a small church during a wedding

So how could this feature be useful and profitable for you?

Wedding Photography and Videography

Imagine you are photographing a wedding and you inevitably want to capture those "hard to get" moments such as the throwing of the bouquet or the kiss! Anything could happen to prevent you from getting that shot:

  • Uncle Bob jumps out into the aisle in front of you to grab your shot
  • Your card is full
  • Batteries fail
  • You are in the wrong position etc

You could, say, set up a 4K video camera (such as the Panasonic GH4 or even the Go Pro HD Hero 3/3+). This is as well as shooting the scene as per normal. You could relax a little knowing that you will almost certainly capture that moment at 15, 30 or even 60 frames per second with the ability to pull a decent still from later on.

You get the best of both worlds in that you can pull a great screen grab from the ultimate point of the kiss. PLUS you have some cool footage that you can use in a slideshow!

Event Photography

Based upon the above scenario, now apply that principle to other types of event photography such as:

  • Show jumping
  • Skiing
  • Skateboarding
  • Surfing
  • Motorsports
  • Extreme sports

Can you see how incredible it would be to be able to have 30 or 60 frames per second at high resolution to choose from?

But isn't this cheating?

I can guarantee that you would have already seen plenty of amazing "photos" like this one. This was taken at just the right time and probably blew you away, not knowing they were possibly a screen grab from video footage.

(We'll never really know which unless specifically told).

OR at the very least (and more likely in this case), a photo pulled from a Nikon D4 or similar shooting at 10 frames per second.

What is the difference between a Nikon shooting 10fps and a 4K video camera shooting at 30 frames per second? Not much in my opinion..

They are either both skillfully acquired images taken by a professional. One who happened to know exactly where to be, at the right time, with the right camera settings (stills or video). Or they are both cheating.

Does it really matter if the final image is great?

Anyway, all of this leads me to this point. Video footage resolution is becoming greater and closely matching that of high resolution stills. Therefore, will there come a time when many of us simply film events knowing we can pull the best possible stills from that footage?

Of course, true photography will always be around. But, as we live in a time where we want the best of everything right now, will this trend start to become more mainstream?

All you need to do is get the exposure and composition right, set an aperture for the best "bokeh". Then, add additional lighting if needed and finally set a fast enough shutter speed to capture the moment. Simply film away…

Samples of Panasonic GH4 Screen Grabs

The image below is a total cheat. Made to look like high speed photography, the cards were actually hanging from the ceiling using thin cotton (later Photoshopped out). It was a still taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR.

Panasonic GH4 Screen Grabs
Panasonic GH4 Screen Grab

The next shot was actually taken from a much smaller screen grab. It was from 1080p HD video footage (Sony PMW EX1) and then messed about with in Photoshop.

Old Boot in Grass

Next is another screen grab from 4K footage again from the Panasonic GH4, this isn’t full size.

Young Girl Digging in the Sand

Lastly, we have an actual still image taken using a Canon EOS 5D.

Woman Splashing in the Sea

So, purists will say that 4K screen grabs don't match the quality of a high resolution image from a high end DSLR and I agree. However, we are getting pretty close and 4K screen grabs are most definitely useable for prints. also for the web and maybe even photobooks and for me, that is pretty exciting.

What do you think? Will you start to embrace 4K...especially now that 4K TV's are getting cheaper (and bigger)!

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